Your technique stinks.
Put a bar on the floor, bend over, grab it, and pick it up. How hard can that be?
Pretty hard, actually. Beneath its rough exterior, the deadlift is a surprisingly subtle move, requiring careful attention to a dozen different details to get it just right. That’s one reason many lifetime powerlifters set personal records decades into their training: it takes them that long to perfect their form.
Some of the highest-payoff technique tips, says Shallow, are proper stance and correct hip action.
“Most people don’t understand what hip width means,” he says. “They think it means the outside of their leg.” The actual hip joint, Shallow says, is several inches closer to your midline. So if you struggle with losing proper form in the move, experiment with a narrower stance, which creates a straighter line of pull off the floor. While you’re at it, Shallow adds, activate your arches: “Grip the floor with your feet,” he says. Your feet will roll slightly outwards, towards your pinkie toes.
Many lifters also don’t know how to hinge properly, he adds, which causes their low back to round whenever they bend at the hips. “You can address that problem using a dowel,” says Shallow. Hold the stick vertically against your spine—tailbone to the back of your head—one hand holding it against your low back, the other holding the stick near your neck. Unlock your knees and fold forward: your tailbone, upper back, and the back of your head should remain in contact with the dowel the whole time.
If it does, you’re good to deadlift—lightly at first, making sure you maintain the same form with weight in your hands. If you lose the points of contact with the dowel, then lay off deadlifting until you can complete this drill.