Because form is so important when it comes to this total-body movement, there are many cues and tricks that trainers and coaches use to help set people up for success. “My top cues are to lead with your chest—imagine there’s a mirror in front of you; you should be able to see the neckline or emblem on your shirt—if you can’t see that, you’re leaning over too much,” says Noam Tamir, CSCS, owner of TS Fitness in New York City. “Make orange juice with your armpits to engage the lats, and keep the weight close to the body,” he adds.
As you may have guessed by now, visualization is a key way trainers offer form cues in addition to verbal instructions as they can help people picture how to do certain movement patterns until they understand what it feels like in their own body. Case in point, certified trainer, Tara Laferrara, CPT, encourages her followers on TikTok to pretend like the sun shines out of their bum and let the rays reflect straight behind them when they hinge forward. Silly, yes. but also effective.
In her video, Laferrara demonstrates what she means by wrapping a headlamp around her glutes, and explains the reason she gives this cue: “If you have a tendency to round your back on your deadlift, you’re going to stick your butt out.” And that flaring of your sitz bones is going to help you nail your form by engaging your glutes, while preventing you from putting unnecessary pressure on your lower back.
However, Tamir says this tip is better for a Romanian style deadlift, where there is minimum bend in the knee, and your shoulders and hips are at the same level in the bottom of the movement. “When it comes to a conventional deadlift, you still need a flat back, but your shoulders should be higher than your hips in the bottom position of the movement,” he says. So that light beam may shine more at a 45-degree angle to the floor, FYI.
When you’re ready to take your deadlift to the next level, try this single-leg variation:
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