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« 4.1. Execution | 4.2. Factors affecting the style of the lift | 4.3. Potential issues and their solutions »

4.2. Factors affecting the style of the lift

Foot placement

Foot placement is highly individual. Some lifters will be stronger with a very close stance, allowing hamstrings and back to do most of the work. A slightly wider foot stance will make it more of a "squat with the bar", allowing for more legs to be used. Foot position is also a matter of mobility. Some lifters can't have a narrow foot stance and hold a flat lower back.

Hand placement

For the shortest distance to lift, the hands should be placed right where they fall down and not wider. If placed more narrow they're typically in the way of the knees.


Gripping with a double overhand grip is only valid until you get so strong – eventually the bar will fall out of your hands. There are two ways to get around this:

  1. Use a mixed grip. One hand is overhand, the other is underhand. Inevitably this will create imbalances. It’s therefore advised to switch which hand is pronated and which isn’t during warm up sets. Use the strongest on working sets.
  2. Use a hook grip. This is favored by Olympic weightlifters. The lifter will use a double overhand grip but not wrap the thumb over the rest of the fingers, instead gripping around the thumb. It can be a bit painful at first so work your way up to it over time.

Grip width is almost universally where the arms fall down naturally. Special considerations are only made if the lifter use a wider than normal stance, in which case the knees could be in the way of the hands and the grip needs to be wider.

If the lifter has a strong enough grip it’s usually advised to grip the bar in the fingers rather than in the palm of the hand. It might feel odd at first but it helps against nasty calluses.

Lastly, one has to decide between a strong grip with squeezing the bar hard compared to letting the arms act as ropes and the hands as hooks. While the former might seem the better approach at first (more tension generally means more strength) it can come with the side-effect of trying to lift with the arms too much which is a very bad idea, both for strength and for risk of injury. For most people, simply letting the hands act as hooks and controlling the bar from drifting away from the body with the upper back is the preferred choice.


Pumping is achieved by grabbing the bar bent over and then rapidly “pump” the hips into starting position a few times (two or three is common) and on the final pump initiate the lift. There is some theoretical evidence to as why this might help. It’s valid to try and a valid style to use but isn’t necessary.

Rolling the bar

Some lifters prefer to start the bar away from the legs, roll it back towards them and then immediately lift. The idea is to give the bar momentum. Like pumping it’s a personal preference.

Squat or hinge?

A low starting position with a slightly wider foot stance may benefit lifters who are strong squatters, using a fairly upright, somewhat narrow stance squat. For lifters who squat more with their back, a higher hip position and less bent legs is beneficial in the deadlift.

Pull or push and drive?

There are two primary ways to deadlift: the first is to pull backwards, like a teeter totter. The second is to press the floor away (as in a leg press) and right when the bar is about to reach the knees to aggressively drive the hip forward. The latter is preferred as a standard for most most people. It often results in a more explosive lift and less strain on the lower back.

The function of the back

The back is quite obviously highly involved in the deadlift. It’s not really necessary to explain the load on the back in this case but it is worth mentioning the following two points:

  1. The upper back also help stabilizing the spine, i.e., keep it from rounding.
  2. The upper back is largely responsible for controlling the bar, i.e., keep it from drifting away from the body.