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Cool Deadlift Tip – Best Way To Lockout the Deadlift

Cool Deadlift Tip

Best Way To Lockout the Deadlift

One of the biggest mistakes when I see someone trying to perform deadlifts is over pulling the lockout. Nine times out of ten it is just a form issue.  But sometimes it is a strength issue.  They aren’t strong enough to lockout the weight without losing their neutral lower back position (bracing while maintaining the natural arch in their lower back) which causes them to round their back.    If you remember my popular “How to Deadlift Without Wrecking Your Back” video, you’ll know that there is a very specific technique once you start the second pull.

The second pull is defined as the phase once the lifter reaches their knees.  In the beginning, the lifter is just focusing on locking the weight out instead of forcibly contracting the right muscle groups to finish the movement. In the end, tension is lost at the lockout when they try to “regroup” after the pull and they “relax” OR the pull is done too far just because they don’t know any better.

Over Pulling the Lockout

The lifter typically ends up finishing the movement by hyperextending their lower back and relaxing their upper back (rounding forward) at the lockout.  Again, this is sometimes a form issue where they over pull the movement and they don’t know how to keep full body tension throughout the entire duration of the movement.

Tension must be maintained through the breathing and bracing.  Not only taking the tension out of the bar before the movement is started, but transferring this tension throughout the arms into the lats, down the spinal erectors and across the hips, glutes and hamstring.s

Once movement is engaged, do not think about pulling, but rather pushing the ground away.

Locking Out the Weight

Once the barbell reaches the knees, the lifter should only think one thing.

“Straighten My Body Out”

That is it.  You are still pulling the weight but it is a coordination with extending the hips.  The pull for most people becomes dominant.  When in fact, like I said, it is a coordination of both.  By focusing on the hips, in addition to the pull, the lifter can immediately improve their lockout.  Everything begins with tension and ends with tension.  This tension starts with taking the “slack” out of the barbell before the movement even begins and it ends when the bar is back on the floor; NOT at lockout.

Once the bar gets past the knees, the lifter should forcefully contract their glutes and hamstrings while bracing the spinal erectors and abdominals.  The head should be in neutral (i.e. in line with the spine) and the body should lock into place.

Supplemental Exercises to Improve Lockout

Heavy Shrugs


Rack Pulls


Good Mornings

Back Extensions

Glute Bridges

Hip Thrusts

Kettlebell Swings

Fat Gripz


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By on January 30th, 2011


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Comments (6)

  1. Posted by - grant on January 31, 2011

    Great tip Smitty, I find when coaching clients the lesser cues the better.

  2. Posted by - Dale on January 31, 2011

    Great tips Smitty. I like it :).

  3. Posted by - Trevor Lea-Smith on January 31, 2011

    I agree, these are some handy tips, and simple coaching cues. I don’t know how much KB stuff you guys do, but I love swings because they teach that hip pop, and if taught right the shoulder blades are pulled back and down, while the back and abs are braced. I use them with all my people, I won’t get them on a bar until they can get the right hip movement, after they get that and they nail the deadlift. Another quality video!

  4. Posted by - Todd on January 31, 2011

    I was thinking the same thing, Trevor…I don’t coach anyone except my wife (and now my kids) but I told her to use the muscles you use on the KB swing to lock out.

  5. Posted by - Scott Jones on January 31, 2011

    Thanks, Jim, I’ll try this. I probably am extremely guilty of overpulling at the top. Just focus on straightening up. I’d like to put this on my blog, if you don’t mind. I think it would be great advice for beginners just starting out with a great exercise – the dead lift. As always, thanks for your great work.

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