3 Common Deadlift Errors and How to Fix Them

Having trouble with deadlift errors? Try some of these fixes to improve your pull!

Ah, the deadlift — a lift loved by many and loathed by some. The deadlift is simplistic in nature, but can become incredibly complex when things are not going swimmingly. Typically, the deadlift is more troublesome for beginners who are trying to nail down consistent and efficient movement patterns when working with heavier sets.

Often times, if there’s an error present in the deadlift, then the problem isn’t always reflective of what exactly is going wrong, but something else that is causing the error to be present. In this article and video, we addressed three different errors including,

  1. Knees going valgus in the concentric and eccentric.
  2. The hips rising too quickly. 
  3. Gripping the barbell inefficiently. 

One thing to remember when improving compound movements like the deadlift is that errors can be incredibly complex at times and the below fixes are only a few options worth trying. It’s always a good idea to experiment and try a few different methods when working to improve form.

1. Knees Going Valgus

What Is It?

Knee valgus is when the knees cave inwards. In the deadlift, this can happen in both the concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) portions of the movement. Valgus can vary in terms of severity and can fully shift knees in, or present itself as a light wavering of the knee joint.

Why It Can Be Problematic

Knee valgus can be problematic in the deadlift for two reasons. First, it will reinforce inefficient movement patterns in respects to knee tracking. If the knee are going valgus during a deadlift, then there’s a good chance the hips will also experience issues with maintaining their hinge in eccentric and hitting a strong extension in the concentric.

Second, knee valgus can increase one’s potential for injury at this joint. If you’re loading the deadlift heavy and performing multiple reps, then knees caving inwards can put unwanted stress on the medial sides of the knee.

How to Fix It

In the video, we discuss two different ways to potentially fix knee valgus. Both of these fixes come down to one’s overall deadlift form.

  1. Assess Grip Width: If grip is too narrow, then the arms could knock into the knees. A good rule of thumb is to ensure the inside of the elbow joint is sitting flush with the knee before beginning a set.
  2. Assess Foot Position: Are the toes turned inwards, or are they turning inwards during the pull? This is a possible indicator of a weak glute medius. If this is happening, then try screwing the feet into the floor before pulling.

2. Hips Rising Too Quickly

What Is It?

The hips rising too quickly is a common form fault seen in beginner deadlifters. In respects to appearance, this form fault resonates when one’s hips shoot up well before the barbell moves from the ground. Ideally, the hips and barbell will move together in one sequenced motion.

Why It Can Be Problematic

Similar to knee valgus, the hips rising too quickly can result in an inefficient deadlift and dissipation of power. Once the hips have risen completely and the barbell still needs to be lifted a majority of the way, then a majority of force is shifted to the back, as opposed to evenly distributing the deadlift weight across multiple joints. One way to visualize this error is to think about lifting a heavy rock off the ground without losing the legs. This about how inefficient that would be.

Another problem with the hips shooting up too quickly is the increased likelihood for injury. As stated above, efficient pulls will distribute weight across multiple joints (hips, back, etc.). If the hips are out of the equation before a deadlift is completed, then force will be unevenly distributed throughout the body.

How to Fix It

One of the easiest ways to check and fix this problem is assess the set of the deadlift. Typically, hips rising too quickly is a good indicator that slack is not being pulled out of the bar. The art of pulling slack out of the bar entails exuding force into the barbell without physically lifting the weight. This can help prep and signal the body to get tight and properly brace.

[Learn the finer points with these 4 ways to cue the deadlift.]

3. Gripping Inefficiently

What Is It

For this error, we’re only going to discuss how to better sequence the double overhand grip. If you want to learn more about the different deadlift grip styles and how to use them, then check out the video below!

Why It Can Be Problematic

The last point is probably the most controversial because grip varies a lot based on one’s strength, palm sizes, and finger lengths, and the grip sequence below will not work for everyone. However, gripping the barbell in a manner that utilizes the knurling to one’s strengths is better for preventing the barbell from rolling out of the hands.

How to Grip

The next time you approach the barbell, try sequencing your grip a bit differently. Instead of simply bending down and gripping and ripping the barbell — try this,

  1. Wrap the fingers
  2. Spin the barbell into the hands
  3. Wrap the palm and thumb

Will this grip sequence work for everyone? Unfortunately, no. Athletes will smaller hands may find that this gripping method doesn’t really help. At the end of the day, grip the barbell in a way that works best for you! If you’re unsure, check out our article on how to determine which deadlift grip is right for you.

Wrapping Up

If you’re experiencing any of the above deadlift errors, then it’s always wise seeking out a coach for hands-on help. Experimenting by oneself can work, but often times, a third party’s eyes will always be best when improving and cleaning up form. It’s also worth acknowledging that these are only a few common deadlift errors that can go wrong. In reality, there are many errors that can be present and they will differ from beginners and experienced athletes. Continue refining your form and don’t be afraid to ask others for help.