Some Common Deadlift Faults

Brent is a pain in the ass, so let’s pick on him today. Here is a video of him deadlifting 405 for 8. It isn’t a limit set, but it’s tough.

On a side note, Brent was asking if he looks more swole in the picture (remember, he’s been focusing on swollertrophy as of late). I really can’t tell because he’s wearing white, the one color that reduces swoleness.

Irre-fucking-gardlessly, let’s talk about some mechanics. If you watch the first few reps, you can see that Brent doesn’t get a good squeeze in his chest prior to pulling. Since he doesn’t extend his thoracic spine to the potential that he can, there is some slack that gets yanked out as he starts the pull. Brent habitually does this for some reason (I noticed it on his Olympic lifts, and he was doing it in an Olympic weightlifting meet in March to deleterious effects), and I think training alone all the time is the culprit. As you can see, Brent is strong enough that the loose starting position doesn’t prevent him from pulling the bar off the ground, affect his low back, or change the bar path. This looseness can allow the bar to swing forward as it comes off the ground, and when the bar is in front of the middle of the foot (the balance point) it’ll be exponentially harder (and cause a missed lift if it’s heavy). Letting the bar swing out front also can cause the low back to round since the lever arm is less efficient.

As Brent gets tired, you can see his hips raise before the bar gets past his knees. Ideally the back angle shouldn’t change until after the bar passes the knees. His back angle changes (hips rising, chest dropping) because his hamstrings are getting tired. The hamstrings isometrically hold the back angle in place, and since he’s doing higher reps they are getting fatigued and not doing their job. You can clearly see this as the bar passes his knees. Brent pushes his knees forward and the bar doesn’t move upward. As a result, the hips extend without applying any force to the bar, and this makes the back more vertical. In other words, the bar doesn’t move that much and the hamstrings are no longer helping, so the lockout becomes primarily a knee and back extension without including the normal hip extension.

If you’re doing a 1RM, you should pull the bar however you can. But when you’re trying to get as much musculature strong (or maximally jacked), you’d want to keep your knees back so that the hamstrings maintain their role in the movement. Brent isn’t horribly sloppy here, but if he were, there would be significant stress on the lumbar spine. If you already have back problems then you’d want to be careful with this common form fault. I’ve coached lots of people that have lumbar disc problems and they have never re-injured the existing injury. However, I’ve heard several stories recently of people hurting their backs deadlifting, and this form issue is probably the problem. Any time you change a movement mid-lift to use less muscle mass, you’ll increase the injury potential.

A coach should take care of your form faults, but if you don’t have one, a friend or camera can identify your problems. You should have already learned enough about the movement that you would be able to see major errors. Once they are identified, you can cue yourself. At most you’ll think about one or two cues. In Brent’s case, I would verbally cue him to squeeze his chest up before the lift starts. This would fix his little “hips raising” issue as well as the “pulling the slack out” issue. Since 405 is relatively lighter for him, his lack of tightness isn’t detrimental, but he looks like a poon doing it. Next, I would cue his knees to stay back on the second portion of the pull. This will prevent his knees from falling forward and will keep his hamstrings tight, thus giving him a wonderful set of hams that will create the road map for a woman’s eyes to travel up to his prominent glutes he got from FedEx and squatting.

Next I would cue him to do pull-ups in his underwear.

Brent’s roommate does a fantastic job of giving him adamantly loud, yet non-descriptive cues.

25 thoughts on “Some Common Deadlift Faults

  1. That second video is a little mis-leading; Brent isn’t actually doing pull-ups, he is stationary while pulling the wall down and then using his massive trapezius to lift it back up….for REPS!

  2. He’s got an interesting style of deadlifting. It almost looks like he’s dancing the way he scoots his hips forward. I coincidentally made a video to check my deadlift form over the weekend. Unfortunately I was not wearing my 70s Big shirt that day.

  3. Brent almost looks like he’s doing clean deadlifts instead of PL deadlifts.

    but his traps are lookin swole

    What do you mean by “clean deadlifts”? Low starting position?

    We deadlift and pull cleans the same, so maybe it just looks that way because he’s a loser.



    – brent

  4. @Maslow,

    nice PR on the deadlift video. The only fault I saw was that you didn’t finish the video with either calling someone out, dedication of video, or 70sbig face made.

  5. I hurt my back doing deadlifts back when I was young and naïve (about 5 months ago now) when I was misinformed and doing crossfit all the time. I hurt it doing high volume deadlifts for time, and this form issue was no doubt the cause of my misfortune. It still aches from time to time, but never hurts like it did when I injured it. Now I’m a bit smarter and versed on the subject via Starting Strength and this site, I realize I had no business doing what I was doing. I’m actually surprised I didn’t hurt myself earlier. I need to get some tape on my deadlift to check myself but I know it feels a lot better then it used to and the weight is increasing slowly.

    @Gregor – COW nomination!

    Everyone else, just an FYI, with all the football talk on Friday we started up a 70s BIG fantasy football league if you’re interested:

    through Yahoo!:

    League ID #:ID# 522420
    password: squat

    70s big related team names are not required but highly encouraged, as is trash talk and lifting talk, join up!

  6. I’m not impressed.

    Brent, Let’s have a competition of some sort. Spice up training a little ya know? How bout only training in rain boots and a thong?

    . . . No but seriously let’s have a challenge between you and I. Thoughts?

    I’ll text you about it today.

  7. @Justin

    by “clean deadlifts” I mean “a deadlift performed in the identical posture to the pull of the clean but at normal deadlift tempo”

    If you watch the first rep Brent pulls his knees back out of the way and then has a “double knee bend” like one has doing a clean, and he also keeps his back angle constant until the bar passes the knees.

    example vid:

    By your definition, I guess he’s doing a “clean deadlift”, but we will keep calling it a “deadlift”. Keeping the back angle constant until the bar passes the knee is a trait of a deadlift.


  8.’s my first time commenting on the 70’s big site.I’m already a big dude,albeit not 70’s big. Which is why i come here for my daily dose of manliness and reminder to get strong in order to one day, fight a bear.

    I felt that it is imperative to point out what brent kim and his roommate are trying to re-create in that video. You’ll notice that at one point his roommate shouts “you wanna beat him!” with a crack in his voice. I have seen that same scenario occur in the documentary “pumping iron” where lou ferrigno is doing shoulder presses in his basement, saying the same thing to arnold. Which leads me to one conclusion. Brent”ferrigno” kim wants to challenge justin shwarzenegger to a 70’s big Pose off throwdown. Looks like the feathered hair needs to make a comeback.

    I’m glad you caught that reference. That has been a staple in my group of friends’ dialogue for at least half a year, so it’s standard ops for us to use it.


  9. you guys should do a piece about how to bbq meat. I want to smoke a pork shoulder this weekend on my weber charcoal grill, any tips?

    I’m a bbq noob. Go back and do a search on Gant and smoking on this site. He has some videos up and is the master.


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