96 Hodgson Rd #2, Fredericton, NB E3C 2G4
Ph: (506) 450-4382
96 Hodgson Rd #2, Fredericton, NB E3C 2G4
Ph: (506) 450-4382

“UnBREAK” Your Deadlift

#2: “UnBREAK”  Your Deadlift

April 7, 2016

The deadlift is awesome…Period!

Confession…I have a personal love and deep attraction to the deadlift, likely because it has been one of my best lifts and the one I love to train the most.  I also find the deadlift, along with its family members such as cleans, power cleans, tire flips and all other pull variations from the ground, to be the most rugged and aggressive exercises that one can perform.

Pulling a solid, safe, and in turn big deadlift, requires many things:

  • proper breathing and an ability to create coordinated tension, across the entire body, from the feet and ankles all the way up to the neck and out to the hands
  • grip strength, the stronger the grip the greater the tension you will get to transmit all the way up your arm, in turn creating a more stable shoulder girdle to “lock in” the upper body for the pull
  • adequate mobility at the ankles, hip capsules, lumbar and thoracic spine
  • sufficient strength in the glutes, hamstrings, quads, lats, and spinal erectors and all associated core musculature
  • understanding leverage and how to maintain a good bar path and tight barbell-lifter connection, leading to optimal leverage
  • an aggressive attitude
  • following a sequence to set up the same way on every lift

This list may seem long for a seemingly simple task- take an object and pick it up!  However that could not be further from the truth and there is a lot going on, beyond what is often thought about on most lifts.

With the deadlift and its variations being my favourite lift, I must also mention that it is also the lift, that when injuries do arise in my body, mainly from the years of abuse I have placed on it, that I notice the biggest decrease in power and where I feel I need to focus on all aspects of my set up and what I am actively doing during the pull and until I park that sucker back on the ground.

So, the purpose of today’s blog is to shed some light on something I call the 4 deadlift break points. This is a great concept I have started using recently, and applies to helping new lifters, coaches and training partners have some specific points to look for when assessing their own or someone else’s deadlift.

The 4 deadlift break points involve keeping an eye on 4 major positional breaks, which can commonly occur on the deadlift.  When any of these 4 points are “broken” or initiated from the rest of the barbell-lifter complex, it creates both poor leverage, a weaker pull and drastically increases chances of injury or wear and tear on parts of the body.

Check out the 5 photos below.  The first photo is a picture of an ideal set up, the 4 following pictures represent  “breaks”, which one should watch for.

At STC, our coaches are always trying to build the strongest, most efficient AND technically sound lifters.  Without proper attention to detail, and cues given at the right times and in the right context, aberrant and dangerous lifting patterns can and will quickly become apparent.

Ideal set up position (conventional pull used for example)


  • Neutral spine
  • Packed neck
  • Bar in contact with shins in bottom position
  • Armpit positioned directly over or just slightly in from of bar (will vary slightly depending on limb lengths)
  • Tension in entire body

Break # 1:  Shoulders/Upper Body 


  • Neutral spine (correct)
  • Neck slightly extended beyond neutral due to upper torso initiating pull
  • Bar drifted forward due to increased upright torso position (alters pulling path and leverage)
  • Loss of power from the glutes, hamstrings and back
  • Less efficient pull

Break # 2:  Hips 


  • Neutral spine compromised due to increased pull along the posterior chain
  • Pelvis forced into slight flexion beyond neutral (vulnerable position for intervertebral discs and potential for posterior bulge/herniation)
  • Bar will often lose contact with the shins due to the hips lifting
  • Loss of power from the quads and increrased reliance on lower back musculature to recover lift
  • Less efficient pull and compromised spinal position overall

Break # 3:  Rounding/Mid Back/Unravelling


  • Spine position globally compromised (neck extended, thoracic and lumber rounded or flexed forward)
  • Pelvis forced into excessive posterior tilt
  • Loss of contributing tension in the lats, spinal erectors and hips
  • Total body tension compromised due to inefficient torso position
  • Extremely vulnerable position for spinal discs, ligamanets and other surrounding structures
  • Less efficient pull

Break # 4:  Bar Break


  • Spine position maintained was maintained in this example, however will typically lead to Break #3 above due to decreased upper back/lat tension and poor line of pull
  • Tension lost in the lats as the bar drifts forward
  • Line of pull less efficient
  • Increased shear forces on the lumbar discs
  • Barbell-lifter system broken as the bar disconnects from the shins on initial lift from the floor


As you can see, although the deadlift seems pretty straight forward, there are a lot of things going on in order to keep things in check and to keep that ideal line of pull and maintain a safe position for the spine and rest of the body.

Here is a final video showing a sequence of reps where I demonstrate each “break”.  The first rep is performed correctly with the torso maintaining neutral, shoulders and hips moving as one structure and you can see the clear push from the floor and the extension of the hips and legs to complete the rep.

Overall, I am using my body and the barbell to create a unified system that moves as one rigid structure, with no breaks or disconnects.

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Drop a comment if you have any questions and share with your friends and lifting buddies in order to spread the word.

Remember, a broken deadlift is no good for anyone, including your own body!




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