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4.1. Execution

Gripping the bar

The bar should be gripped evenly, typically at the point where the lifter’s arms hang down naturally. The starting position is the bar touching the shins, a flat lower back, and not too much bend in the knees (it's not a squat and regardless of what you've heard from your mom and dad, you should lift with your back at least to a degree). Before starting the lift, the lifter takes a breath as described in section ‘1.4. Power breathing'. This can be done before or after gripping the bar, it's a matter of personal preference. At this point the shoulders are over the bar (or very slightly behind) and the hips are lower than the shoulders.

Pulling the slack

Before initializing the lift, it's important to pull the slack out of the bar, it especially helps against rounding the back. To do so, pull slightly upward and/or lean back a little (but not too much) creating tension on the bar and making sure it's not loose. You will hear the bar hit the inner part of the weight.

Lifting the bar

The bar is lifted by pushing the floor away with the legs and just as it approaches knee level the hips are aggressively pushed forward to finish the lockout. There are other techniques described later in this manual but this is the preferred method for most people. In the final position the lifter is fully erect and not leaning backwards. It's an important point to stress, drive the hips forward but do not lean back! It could do damage to the lower back. It helps to try and crush a walnut between the butt cheeks as you finish the lift.

Keeping the bar close the legs is of the utmost importance! Even a cm drift away from the body makes the lift significantly harder. In competition it’s common to see lifters put baby powder on their legs to let the bar slide more easily – that’s how close it should be.

Lowering the bar

Hold the top position briefly. In competition the lifter waits for the down signal at this point. Do not drop the bar but unless trained for a specific reason there's no need to focus on lowering the bar slowly either. Instead "drop under control", meaning hold on to it and don't resist it on the way down.

Sumo deadlift specifics

A sumo deadlift should not be done the same way as a conventional deadlift. Foot position should be as wide as the lifter can stand flexibility wise while still being able to get the bar from the floor. The wider the stance, the harder it is to get it from the floor. The lift is initiated by pushing the feet outwards and as soon as the bar approaches knee level the hips are pushed aggressively forward. A correctly performed sumo deadlift should not fail due to lockout.

Because there's less stress on the lower back from sumo deadlifts than from conventional deadlifts, powerlifters using the sumo style will have to complement with extra lower back work.

Quick checklist:

  1. The bar is gripped evenly.
  2. The slack is pulled out of the bar before the lift.
  3. The back isn’t rounding significantly.
  4. The knees aren’t caving in.
  5. The lift is finished with hips aggressively pushed.
  6. There’s no overextending at the top of the lift.