5 Conventional Deadlift Cues that Suck

Written by Keith Hansen

May 29, 2018

Conventional Deadlift

I wrote 7 Squat Cues That Suck so it made sense to write the conventional deadlift companion article.

These 5 cues are outdated, unnecessary, and can be downright dangerous.

If you're making any of these mistakes you should read The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift.

If your coach, boyfriend, or trainer uses these cues you should hire a strength trainer.

Let's go.

Look Up

This one is the most common miscue I hear given, and it's the easiest to fix.

It is wrong because when deadlifting (and almost all lifting) we want to perform with a neutral spine. This means your spine is in its normal position with a slight S-curve. This includes your cervical spine (your neck).

Looking up disrupts the neutral spine position. It can also cause you to drop your hips too low, move your knees too far forward, and ruin your deadlift form.

The fix: place a tennis ball or softball under your chin and keep it in place while you deadlift. This will ensure you maintain a neutral head position.

Lift with your legs

This is one of those unnecessary cues. The deadlift is a full body lift, and the hamstrings & glutes produce the majority of force necessary for the hoist.

But they aren't the only muscles lifting, and this cue draws your attention away from the rest of your body.

Most people that "lift with their legs" move into a squat position to deadlift. This pushes the bar too far forward, and turns the lift into a sloppy squat. 

Conventional deadlifts are dominated by the hip hinge pattern, and this is not a leg only movement.

The fix: master the hip hinge pattern and learn the conventional deadlift step by step.

Lift with your back

Lift with your back in a jerking, twisting motion (obligatory Family Guy reference).

I'm not sure if anyone actually says this, but it should go without saying.

Deadlifts shouldn't be considered a back exercise, and they aren't really for leg day. There are tons of exercises that do both of those better (rows for back, squats for legs).

Deadlifts are for deadlift day. Give them the credit they deserve.

Grip it and Rip it

This is a big no-no. This implies you will lift the bar by jerking it off the ground, and this is a road to ruin.

Until you have perfect deadlift technique you should take your time with the deadlift.

Creating all of your force at once is almost guaranteed to take you out of optimal position. This makes injury much more likely.

The fix: get into a good position and then create force gradually but swiftly. This will ensure you create tension in the correct muscles & joints at the appropriate levels to maintain form. Imagine you increase force the way a car increases speed. You can't go from 0-100 instantly. You must pass 10, 20, 30, etc. on the way to top speed. Use this concept when you deadlift.

IT's A Squat but from the floor

This is wrong. It's wrong because the deadlift is a hip hinge pattern. Squats are a squat pattern. 

This difference is due to the placement of the bar. When the bar is on your back you can drive your knees forward as you descend without worry of crossing the path of the bar.

In the deadlift you must move your body around the bar, and this means your hips must dominate the lift as your knees stay out of the way.

The fix: learn good deadlift mechanics. Watch videos

Want some good cues?

Read the Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift.

Then follow a training program that makes you deadlift regularly like our beginner program (it's free).

Download the Seriously Strong Beginner Program