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I would like some feedback on my DL form please. My lower back seems to round a bit immediately right after I pull the weight off the floor. The rounding isn't as bad as it looks like on a cat when it arches its back, but it does make me feel like my lower back isn't tight enough. What do I need to do to fix this? And please point out any other error/deficiency on my form/technique.

My DL set-up is based on the Five Steps in Starting Strength (SS). Any flaw you see in my video is my failure to execute the technique and the steps properly.

Work set (46 sec video): 1 x 5 r @ 255 lbs (BW=215 lbs)

Warm up set (46 sec video): 1 x 5 r @ 225 lbs


Additional information: I (BW = 215 lbs) started lifting weights in August 2020 to get strong for martial arts (which is on a pause now due to the whole Covid-19 pandemic).

My best so far: Squats = 220 lbs (3s x 5r); Bench = 120 lbs (3s x 5r); Deadlift = 255 (1s x 5r).

I know my numbers aren't great. I have been going to the gym like twice a week. And I have missed many sessions. After looking at my log, I see I have managed only 22 sessions for Squats and 20 sessions for DLs since I started in August. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing this: my numbers are sluggish and I don't see any real change in the mirror. This demotivates me. But I guess this is just self-inflicted; had I been more consistent, my numbers would be much better.

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    Are you using a hook grip? What are your goals for lifting; just get stronger for martial arts? Or are you looking to hit 1 RMs for powerlifting? – C. Lange Dec 15 '20 at 1:33
  • @C.Lange I am using the regular double overhand grip for my warm-ups (up to 225 for now). When I am doing my work set (255), I am using the hook grip. In terms of powerlifting, I am not thinking of competing now as my numbers are too low. Maybe when I get to the "400" club. I haven't ever tried doing my 1RM. To be honest, after doing 3 work sets, I don't have the courage to perform a 1RM. This is interesting, a challenge maybe I can throw at myself. – RoundHouse Dec 15 '20 at 4:35
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The good news is that you've correctly identified the only issue I see. That's two positive things: the rest of your deadlift form is good, and you're able to see/feel what you're doing wrong. That's pretty great.

My lower back seems to round a bit immediately right after I pull the weight off the floor. [I] feel like my lower back isn't tight enough.

I agree. I think what's happening is that you're rushing the initial pull off the floor, and either not getting fully into position or losing position during that crucial first quarter-second. This is a common problem. The traditional fix is to focus on squeezing the bar off the floor, emphasizing a smooth lift rather than jerking it up. Let the speed wait until the bar is above your knees. The "squeeze" approach usually helps people find and maintain correct low back position in that transition between set-up and the lift.

Another fix that you might find useful is Romanian deadlifts. By starting at the top and never letting your lower back get out of proper natural curve, you improve position-specific strength as well as self-perception of your body position. Usually these are done for higher reps (8-12) for much less weight (start at 60kg, don't go heavier than 100kg, aim for 12 perfect reps of 1/2 or 2/3 your regular deadlift). Beware hamstring soreness.

I know my numbers aren't great... Sometimes I wonder why I am doing this.

Your numbers aren't bad. As you said, you've been a little inconsistent -- understandable during these times -- but you are getting better. You're doing this to get stronger and less injury-prone and it looks like it's working. Don't rush it. Give yourself some time.

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  • Thanks for the great answer, Dave. Very helpful. When you say "focus on squeezing the bar off the floor", does it mean the same thing as "taking the slack out of the bar"? I do try to take the slack out of the bar in the 4th step when I lift my chest up, but I do feel that I am not able to do that consistently or properly after a few reps. I will put more focus and effort on squeezing my back. And the RDL idea sounds great. Would it be a good idea to put RDLs in the warm-ups? Or should I do them on a different day? – RoundHouse Dec 16 '20 at 5:30
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    I'd say that squeezing the bar off the floor includes taking the slack out, plus maintaining that slack-removing without any sudden changes as it comes smoothly off the floor. On rewatch you're already doing a pretty good job of this — it might help to focus on arching the back more during this step. (That is simultaneous with chest-up.) Getting into correct posture with your low back will naturally lift the bar off the floor. – Dave Liepmann Dec 16 '20 at 9:23
  • I would do RDLs on a different day. Start slow because they can produce amazing hamstring soreness. – Dave Liepmann Dec 16 '20 at 9:24
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These are looking great and I think there are a few small tweaks we could make here and there to improve them even further. I'm looking at the from the power-lifting point of view.

  1. Tighten up the starting position

Your lower back is a bit rounded in your starting stance and you look a bit unbalanced. This can be fixed by pulling yourself into the bar more, as mentioned by Dave Liepmann. Another possibility could be that widening your stance a bit. The deadlift is often thought of as "leg-pressing the floor", don't be afraid to use your legs and sit into the deadlift a bit more. The deadlift is a hip-dominant movement more than a back exercise. A great exercise for working on the position of the floor is Paused Deadlifts. Bring the bar 1-2" off the floor, no more than mid-shin, and hold that for 3 seconds then complete the rep.

While you're standing/sitting right now, bring your shoulder back and down and feel how your lats tighten up. You want to feel that in your starting position. The proper starting position for a powerlifting deadlift is tight; it is not comfortable.

  1. Directly above the bar

If you watch your first rep from the 225 video, you can see that immediately after you pull the bar travels forward. You want to make sure your shoulder lines up above the bar so that the direction of travel is straight up and down.

  1. Drive through your whole foot

In the first rep of 255 you can see that at lockout your toes come off the ground. When you're driving the bar, you want your feet to be firmly rooted. When doing so, you want to drive through your whole foot, equally:

Tripod Foot

Image found here: barbell-strength

Next time your deadlift, think about how those points on your foot feel before you pull the bar off the ground. Additionally, your shoes might be impacting the lift (they look pretty squishy). If you're allowed, you can deadlift in socks. I don't suggest on hardwood though; I've had bad experiences.

  1. Shrugging at lockout

I can't quite tell but I'll just mention it. There is no need to shrug the bar up at lockout. Back straight, shoulders back, knees locked out is the finish position. You don't need to pull it back any farther than that.


  1. Overall

Overall, they look like really good reps. Your hips and shoulders move in tandem which is excellent, a big fault I see often are people doing the deadlift in two parts. Props for learning to hook-grip, you're a braver man than I. 22 and 20 sessions since August is not a lot of volume. I'd be aiming for hitting squats/squat variations and deadlift/deadlift variations twice a week if you'd like to see faster progress. The fifth rep of your 255 lift moved fairly quickly though and I'd estimate that you had another 2-3 in the tank (to absolute failure). If your goal is general strength building, then any progress is great progress. Track your lifts and review your progress over the years, not weeks.

If you are interested in testing a 1RM, it is fun and I encourage it. I would not say you're a novice so you know what not to do. I might guess that you're hovering around the 300 lb mark for a 1 RM. If you wanted to try, I'd suggest something like:

  • Warmup: Bar x 10, 95 lb x 5, 145 lb x 3, 185 lb x 1, 225 lb x 1, 255 lb x 1
  • 1RM Test: 265 lb x 1, 275 lb x 1, 285 lb x 1, 295 lb x 1, 305 lb x 1, 315 lb x 1

Essentially, starting with the fact that we know you can do 255 lb x 5, let's work up from there in 10 lb increments. Stop when you can't perform the lift without majorly sacrificing form. I also suggest filming because I find that during a very heavy lift I feel like my back is rounding but it isn't. Additionally, this would be instead of your working set (don't perform this after).

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  • Wow I totally missed how the bar swings forward in the first rep of the 225 lbs set. I guess my eyes have been dead locked at my lower back. Thanks for the careful form check. Lots of great advice here, esp the 1RM test. That is something I am looking forward to for my next deadlift session. The calculator online shows my 1RM is 287 lbs. – RoundHouse Dec 16 '20 at 5:21

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