The 6 Most Common Deadlift Technique Mistakes

Written by Keith Hansen

May 31, 2018

Heavy deadlift

Everyone loves the deadlift because it seems so simple.

Grab the bar, pick it up, and then set it down.

But it isn't that simple. There is a lot going on with the deadlift.

Read The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift to learn the right technique.

Read this article to learn the 6 most common deadlift faults.

1. Twisting

Twisting happens when the bar does not stay parallel to your feet. One end of the bar gets farther away from your body and loads you unevenly. This is very dangerous for your back.

There are two ways this happens.

The most common is when people use an over/under grip on the bar and fail to keep it close. Pay attention when you use the over/under grip and avoid this mistake (and potential injury) by keeping the bar CLOSE.

Another time this happens is when there is asymmetrical strength in the body. Your body will always take the path of least resistance, and it may twist the bar to load up your strong side. You can use the mirror, unilateral work, and a friend's eyes to identify strength/development asymmetries in your body. Fix them using unilateral (dumbbells, single leg work) exercises.

2. Gapping

This is the most common fault I see in beginners and failed deadlifts.

Gapping occurs when the bar separates from the body. In a great deadlift the bar will maintain contact with your body the entire way up and down the lift. This is the reason long socks are a requirement for powerlifting competitions--it keeps competitor's flesh out of the knurling.

When viewed from the side the bar will start over the mid-foot and travel perfectly vertical.

This gapping can occur because of an incorrect starting position where the bar is too far forward (not over the mid-foot). This is easily fixed by adjusting your starting position.

This guy didn't get close enough to the bar when setting up.

It can also be caused by a lack of tightness in the lats. To fix this ensure you are actively pulling the bar into your body by activating your lats. 

3. Yanking

Yanking is guaranteed to throw your deadlift form off. It's painful to watch, and it can be incredibly painful if it causes you to pull a muscle.

That same guy from above did yanking.

Yanking happens when you go from zero effort to max effort all at once. It creates a distinct clanking sound on the plates. It's a sound I associate with bad technique.

Read more about it under the "Rip it from the Floor" cue in the article 5 Conventional Deadlift Cues That Suck.

Apply force to the bar swiftly but gradually. You want to increase force on the bar until it lifts off the ground. Don't try to yank it off the floor.

4. Hitching

Hitching occurs when the bar stalls above the knee. People will then set the bar on their thighs to rest muscles for an instant before trying to jerk the bar up the rest of the way.

CrossFit has been made famous for this as it is legal in competition. Powerlifting federations do not allow hitching. In fact, powerlifting competitions will disqualify a deadlift if it stops moving up at any time even for an instant, with or without hitching.

Hitching is no good because it means you broke form at the beginning of your lift. You rounded your back and straightened your legs instead of extending your hips to get the bar off the ground. 

That same, poor guy, hitched because he yanked and gapped.

5. Slipping

This just means the bar is slipping out of your hands. 

If your grip isn't 100% locked in it will distract you from focusing on the rest of your deadlift.

Use chalk. Train your grip. Use straps when you need to.

Trust me. A solid grip makes an enormous difference in your ability to deadlift well.


This means you aren't finishing the deadlift. You're slacking.

Full range of motion in the deadlift consists of fully extended (locked out) knees and hips with your shoulders behind the bar.

Anything short of that doesn't count in competition, and it means you aren't getting everything you can out of the deadlift.

Most people have an issue with reaching the "finish" position of the deadlift if they made any of the previous 5 mistakes.

Touch & go deadlifts are an acceptable time to short the lockout, but if you are setting a PR or lifting in competition you must reach lockout. 

This guy didn't reach lockout.

Fix Your Deadlift

Check out The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift to learn proper technique.

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