The deadlift is a versatile lift that not only develops maximal strength but can also pack on muscle mass. Because especially heavy weights can be used in this exercise – the current world record is over 1,000 pounds! – particular attention must be paid to performing it with optimal technique. And the best place to begin is with the start.
Because you want to generate the most force at the beginning of the lift, your foot stance with should be about the same with as you would use if you were performing a vertical jump. For an average male, this distance is about 10-12 inches. Taller individuals, or those with exceptionally wide hips, will be more comfortable with a wider stance. The feet should be pointed slightly out.
One of the key technique points in a deadlift is to keep the bar close to the body throughout the entire lift, including the start. Although some individuals may be comfortable with the bar touching the shins at the start, such a position often causes the bar to move forward, away from the body’s center of mass.
From a standing position looking down, you should see that the front of the bar is lined up behind the base of the big toes (which translates into about 1 to ½ inches for an average male). That way, when you grasp the bar to begin the lift, your base of support should be towards the arch of the foot, not the toes.
With the feet in position, you can now grasp the barbell. Use an overhand grip so that your palms are facing your body. The grip width should be adjusted so that the arms (and thumbs) are just outside the knees. A wider grip would make the exercise more difficult as you would have to pull the bar a longer distance. Most Olympic barbells have a set of markings about 8 ¼ inches from the center of the bar. When you determine your optimal grip, you can use these markings as a guideline to ensure that your set-up is exactly the same with every lift.
Powerlifters often use a variety of foot stances to enable them to lift the most weight in competition. Those with a long torso and relatively short legs, for example, often prefer an especially wide stance called Sumo to enable them to use their legs more effectively. However, for athletic training purposes and the optimal development of overall body strength, use the conventional method described in this article.