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Cleared a nice round number today, so I figured I’d ask for a quick form check to see if I’m on the right track. I put my first two work sets on Imgur. (My battery was dying so I didn’t do all of them.)

Things that come to mind that I’m personally unsure about:

  • Shoulder engagement: I used to let them hang in regular deadlifts since they were relatively weak, I’m trying to avoid that esp. with deficit DLs by resetting between reps but I have no idea if it’s working.
  • Sometimes my knees snap back into lockout, nfi if that’s bad and where it comes from. (My first guess was the bar being off-balance but I can’t quite see it in these vids.)
  • My lower back rounded a bit when finishing the last rep of the second set. I believe a bit of back rounding is deemed okay in deadlifts, but I’m not sure if that’s the case here.
  • General setup: I use one plate under each foot and a wideish but not awkward grip, does this count as a deficit? (I did manage to do a set from two plates once but I definitely felt the effect of starting from a full hinge, and I’m worried this would cause me to round my back too much in response.)
  • What the heck are you supposed to do with your neck during bent over exercises. Mine is way too back because bad posture, but I don’t know the cue to avoid just staring into the mirror by default.
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Shoulder engagement: I used to let them hang in regular deadlifts since they were relatively weak, I’m trying to avoid that esp. with deficit DLs by resetting between reps but I have no idea if it’s working.

Resetting between the lifts on a deadlift is an excellent strategy. The idea of a deadlift is to lift the weight from a dead-stop and resetting really works the muscles harder. Shoulder engagement: you want to aim to pull your shoulders into your back pockets and push your chest out. It looks to me like you're doing this just make sure to keep it tight.

Sometimes my knees snap back into lockout, nfi if that’s bad and where it comes from. (My first guess was the bar being off-balance but I can’t quite see it in these vids.)

Honestly, I think you just have more mobility in your knee that others do. I can't really push my knee back into that spot. One thing I can see is that you look like you're driving through your heels; you often rock back on lockout and your toes come up. If that's the case, try thinking about your foot like a tripod and focus on driving through the anchor points. It will help with stability (and possibly the knee-snap-back). Deadlift can be thought of as a leg press -- you're just pressing the earth away from the bar.

My lower back rounded a bit when finishing the last rep of the second set. I believe a bit of back rounding is deemed okay in deadlifts, but I’m not sure if that’s the case here.

A bit of back rounding is fine in the deadlift. A neutral back is more like a range and the larger idea is that whatever position you find works best for your leverage, you maintain that position.

General setup: I use one plate under each foot and a wideish but not awkward grip, does this count as a deficit? (I did manage to do a set from two plates once but I definitely felt the effect of starting from a full hinge, and I’m worried this would cause me to round my back too much in response.)

You want 1-2" deficit usually, so 1 plate under each foot is good as long as that makes a solid and safe lifting platform.

Your grip is really wide. This is the first thing I noticed when I saw the video. You're almost doing a snatch-grip deficit deadlift. You want the setup for a deficit deadlift to be the same as your regular deadlift: you're only extending the range of motion through the use of the platform (or plates-under-feet). I would personally try using a more narrow grip, if that's comfortable for you, as that will let you pull your shoulders back more.

What the heck are you supposed to do with your neck during bent over exercises. Mine is way too back because bad posture, but I don’t know the cue to avoid just staring into the mirror by default.

Neutral neck. As much as you can try not to look up into the mirror; this rounds your neck and just causes some soreness over time. I usually stare at the floor at some point in front of me.

You can place a tennis ball under your chin if you really need a hard cue. Usually people look up to check their form in the mirror. You can also try: set up form > check form in mirror > look back to neutral and perform lift > check lockout form at top. Just do the lifting portion with a neutral neck.


Overall, they look like good reps to me. I would narrow your grip and focus on pushing through the entire sole of your feet. It can be hard to think of using multiple muscles at the same time but remember that you need to drive with your quads, hips, and back together.

In agreement with @Frank, I think a form-check on your standard deadlift would be helpful. I'm not sure if your hips are too high or if that's just the deficit deadlift.

After thought, it looks like you're just doing a double overhand grip? You're coming up to the point where grip is going to start failing you. Your options are hook-grip, mixed-grip, or wrist straps. You might want to look into the pros/cons of all those options and learn earlier in your lifting career.

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  • Yeah the rockback I remember from a while ago taking a vid. I did hear “heel drive” as a cue, so that might contribute; also the plates aren’t perfectly level - they have a slight bump around the opening which probably affects stability - but I think it happens without a deficit too. If and when I get around to taking better vids on the conventional I’ll post them. – millimoose Sep 14 at 10:52
  • re: the round back, like I think it stays fine most of the time, pretty sure half the other guys I see DLing do “worse”, I just don’t know how much is too much – millimoose Sep 14 at 10:54
  • I’d dropped straps because I didn’t really need them when lost most of my DL strength during a year-long hiatus and they were kind of falling apart. I actually have a new pair coming in a day or two because I did start feeling the grip problem after my first work set or two, so the plan is to do warmups and maybe one work set strapless, then straps. I don’t like mixed grip because it just made my shoulders feel weird being rotated in opposite directions and it’s hard to make sure I alternate evenly; and hook grip is… well… It worked and I did kind of get used to it but I’d still rather not. – millimoose Sep 14 at 11:03
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    1) That can be an issue with plates, if you do have a platform or something else that can always work too. I use plates too but my gyms have one embossed side and the other is perfectly flat. 2) From what I saw I don't think I ever saw you round too much -- all safe levels. 3) If you never plan on competing, work straps or hook grip into your heavy sets and keep double overhand as long as possible on warm-ups and accessory. I do hear that hook grip gets better. I think those people are liars. – C. Lange Sep 14 at 11:46
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    4) Put a tennis ball under your chin? lol. "Look up" is used as a cue but in the same way as chest out, you shouldn't actually crank your neck up. 5) Absolutely! If you don't want to post conventional that's fine. I was just wondering if you're setting your hips high in the deadlift (but it's probably just because it's deficit). – C. Lange Sep 14 at 11:48
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Shoulder engagement: I used to let them hang in regular deadlifts since they were relatively weak, I’m trying to avoid that esp. with deficit DLs by resetting between reps but I have no idea if it’s working.

I can't tell from this what you intend to do or why. But what you should want is your shoulderblades a little back and a lot down. C. Lange has the correct cue: put them in your back pockets. You're not doing this and it's an error. Specifically, letting your shoulders hang forward negates the point of deficit deadlifts with a wide grip. The exercise is meant to work your upper back, so why relax it? The exercise is meant to force your hips/hamstrings into a longer range of motion, so why cheat that ROM?

Sometimes my knees snap back into lockout, [not sure if] if that’s bad and where it comes from.

I see this, and it's not great but not yet a major fault. Others might have more insight.

My lower back rounded a bit when finishing the last rep of the second set.

I don't like your lower back on any of the reps, frankly. I'd like to see an attempt to arch the back a little in your resets, because you're just a hair short of proper position as I see it.

I use one plate under each foot and a wideish but not awkward grip, does this count as a deficit?

Yup, looks great.

I did manage to do a set from two plates once but I definitely felt the effect of starting from a full hinge, and I’m worried this would cause me to round my back too much in response.

That's probably correct. It makes me suspect you should focus on regular deadlift and Romanian deadlifts until you have better lower back proprioception.

What the heck are you supposed to do with your neck during bent over exercises.

Neutral position in relation to the spine. Your gaze shifts as you hinge.

I noticed your grip had some issues. I strongly recommend a chalk brick (keep it in a double bag, don't make a mess, never let gym staff see it) and a hook grip.

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  • What I meant by the shoulders is I uhh… intend to do what you said, because I know I hadn’t in the past, but apparently I need to do it moreso. Same for the knees/bar path probably - a thing I think I’d improved somewhat on over say a month ago, but want to avoid false security on. – millimoose Sep 14 at 15:55
  • I’d mentioned in other comments I jumbled up instructions where some site or another described the deficit deadlift as “use a very wide grip”; right now I’m thinking ditching either the deficit or the wide grip or just doing conventionals twice in the rotation if the variations don’t offer anything that might help with any of the issues. (Say, idk, wide grip sans deficit being a better way to practice shoulder position.) Hopefully my lower back is better during conventionals, I’m guessing the fact hips have to close more during these is adding to the difficulty there. – millimoose Sep 14 at 15:58
  • It depends why you're doing it. Mostly I think RDLs would be a better choice than doubling up the DL or doing deficits. – Dave Liepmann Sep 14 at 16:00
  • I have RDLs somewhere in the rotation, I can record those too when I get around to them. No particular reason for DDLs beyond “routine said so”, “routine seems to work”, “less boring to have variations of the Big Lift Of The Day”. I use liquid chalk, hopefully grip issues are just because I’m at the limit of double overhand+chalk alone. (OTOH this did get me to being able to lift this much sans straps at all where I definitely couldn’t before.) Were the grip issues apparent in the first set or did they only show up in the second? I’m getting new straps, so I want to see when to put them on. – millimoose Sep 14 at 16:09
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    @millimoose The grip issue I noticed is your need to totally reset it between every rep. The grip itself looks relatively tight. – Dave Liepmann Sep 14 at 17:39
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The bar does not appear to be making contact with your shins. It’s a bit difficult to tell for sure, but that definitely needs to happen. Imgur sucks for form checks because you can’t slow the video down.

Personally, I wouldn’t be doing deficits if I were you until my regular deadlift was over at least 400 pounds. There’s no need to, and I believe you probably have a way to go until that point.

A little bit of lumbar flexion isn’t a one-way ticket to Snap City, but the problem is that the muscles that need to contract in order to make your back erect have a short range of motion. Might not be a big deal at 225 pounds, but get back with me at 400+ and see how you feel.

Let your shoulders hang. Your arms are toe ropes in the deadlift.

Your knees are snapping back because you’re lifting “around” them. Knee flexion is what moves the bar off the ground. Your knees are still quite bent when the bar is above them meaning that the bar didn’t follow a straight path, but rather moved around your knees. This is worsened by the possibility that the bar does not appear to be in contact with your shins, making the bar path suboptimal.

I’d like to see your regular deadlift setup because I suspect you’re not setting up properly for it either.

Check out Starting Strength and how to deadlift. They have a 5 step process that makes it pretty simple.

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  • Yeah I had a hunch about the bar position, but my ladt videos of the regular DL were before I figured out how to position the phone off the floor. I’ll see if I can get a vid from the side next time and ask for a check of that specifically. – millimoose Sep 13 at 22:58
  • as for deficit+grip, thanks for clearing that up; I was probably mixing up instructions from different sources, IIRC one described a deficit deadlift as “use as wide a grip as possible” – millimoose Sep 13 at 23:00
  • Also: Imgur lets me download videos at least on iOS, I figured that’s better than locking them in on YouTube? Not sure what the “best” alternative is here. – millimoose Sep 14 at 10:50
  • I deeply do not understand your point about wide grip + deficit. They're both ways to increase ROM thru the hips, deficits by putting the bar further away and wide grip to make the rest of your body do more to reach the bar. They don't cancel each other out at all; they complement each other. I also strongly disagree with "let the shoulders hang" — that's not letting the arms be ropes, that's letting the scapulae come forward out of position. – Dave Liepmann Sep 14 at 15:31
  • "The much wider grip creates the effect of much shorter arms, thus lengthening the range of motion at the top of the pull – a deficit deadlift, performed while standing on a block, extends the bottom-end range of motion." startingstrength.com/article/the-snatch-grip-deadlift-x – Dave Liepmann Sep 14 at 15:42

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