Don’t deadlift like this! Reset with each rep to help athletes’ performance

By: David Wu


We’ve all seen deadlifts go wrong in the gym. Some people don’t even have the form down to begin with. Reseting the deadlift by standing up after each finished rep will not only make teaching the deadlift much easier, but it will greatly enhance learning movement, fixing postural dysfunction and aid in sport performance as well.

Let’s take a look at what I usually see in the gym:

The issue here is that holding onto the deadlift for the whole set:

–          Is jarring on the body. Especially when you don’t realize you rely on the bar bouncing off the ground to break inertia on the next rep.

–          Is tiring for your grip, breath and especially upperback. Deadlifts like these get ugly fast and turn uglier as the set progresses. Hip, knee and back angle go to hell. The fatigue in those muscles makes it easy to pull a upper back muscle or rupture a bicep tendon since you will try to shift over to lifting with passive tissues.

–          Each “bounce” off the ground is a shockwave of destruction to your awesomeness and athletic ability.

–          It’s called a DEADLIFT after all. Lift a Dead weight. You miss out on muscle preloading to strengthen the early ranges of the movement.

Here’s a demonstration by RKC chief instructor Pavel Tsatouline on what I mean by resetting the deadlift by standing up between reps:

(Click  this link to skip to 7min 30 secs)

Notice how he takes a breath and tightens up before descending, deadlifts, releases the weight and tension from his body and then stands back up again and shakes it out. Then he repeats.

His 1 set of 5 look instead like 5 sets of 1.

Waterloo strength warriors conditioning

Resetting the deadlift has so many benefits that I don’t even think that it should be performed any other way if you’re a) trying to teach movement or b) looking for athletic performance. Here’s why:

–          Core relaxation and engagement. We are doing a disservice to our athletes when we are not taking advantage of this phenomenon. Athletic ability is largely dependent not only on the ability to contract muscle, but to RELAX it and then re-engage as well.

This is not just core, but whole body as well: the grip must re-engage, and thus the rotator cuff (rehab anyone?), and the shoulder/chin must repack.

Rehearsal of the core engagement with each rep makes sure that whenever an athlete is exerting force, the motor control is there to sequence the core first. A sustained deadlift just builds strength, but resetting will teach your athlete an important skill that transfers over to the athletic world.

–          Reinforces the starting position. Every time you reset the deadlift, you must do all the steps to get back down into the starting position: hips back, chest up, lats tight, chin in. More importantly, you must reassess your foot and body position relative to the bar. Doing this will imprint the starting position into your athlete’s brain by making them consciously think about it each time. This is especially useful to prepare an athlete for 1 rep max or powerlifting competition or for the ready position in most sports.

Stronger off the ground and in early stages of the movement. Like I said before, this will train muscle preloading to overcome inertia off the ground. The muscle must have more tension early on than with a sustained set. This is what you do when you need to pick things things (or people) off the ground for the first time in sport.

–          More reps of the hip hinge. When you stand up between reps, you get 10 hip hinges instead of 5. This means more practice with the movement for your client/athlete as well as 2x you can watch their movement or cue them.

–          Did you just give them more hip/t-spine mobility? Or teach their core to engage? The athlete/client with the stubborn kyphosis will get 10x more practice keeping their chest out. Reseting just makes sense if you’re trying to fix postural dysfunctions or poor movement.

Waterloo strength conditioning

–          Our goal with deadlifting is to build strength NOT endurance. Resetting will make you less fatigued and therefore allow you to generate more tension and use more weight. This also prevents blood occlusion and allows muscle to reoxygenate between reps. No “hanging” off of the ligaments and passive tissues which significantly reduces risk of injury.

More weight, less injury, better form = Awesomeness!

References and Resources:

Gray Cook & Brett Jones – Kettlebells from the Center – Dynami

Pavel Tsatouline – Power to the people

How have you been deadlifting and will this change the way you coach? Feel free to comment and ask any questions.

Be sure to check us out at our facebook page and post below!

warriors strength
David Wu is  VP of WARRIORS S&C and an editor at The Personal Trainer Development Centre. When he’s not trying to uncover the TRUTH behind health and fitness, he’s busy training clients out of Waterloo & Toronto. He has a fanatical interest in sport performance enhancement and getting people moving well and out of pain. He’d love for you to add him on facebook and email him with any questions. Check out his blog, The KINESIS project.



Filed under Articles, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Don’t deadlift like this! Reset with each rep to help athletes’ performance

  1. This makes a ton of sense; even though I know to reset between reps, I never thought to stand. I’ll try it out.

  2. Pingback: Good Reads – Vol. 4 | Jeremy Smith

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