Bar Floating Away From You In the Deadlift? Try This!

A quick change to your deadlift training can pay big dividends for fixing this issue!

Bar path is key for strong deadlifts regardless you pull sumo or conventional. In the deadlift, if bar path is a problem, then likely leverages are not being optimized. Think about the last time you tried to lockout a heavy deadlift and the bar floated away from the body, remember how hard it was to finish that lift?

There are multiple reasons why the barbell might be floating away from the body, and two of the most common reasons is poor lat engagement and mental cuing.

The bar floating away from the body is problematic because besides making routine pulls feel monumentally tougher, it can put added stress into areas like the lumbar which is obviously far from ideal for consistent deadlift training. An easy way to start working through this issue is with the use of reactive neuromuscular training (RNT).

Is Sumo Deadlift Cheating?

What Is RNT?

RNT is the concept of using an external resistance to train the body to cue itself and execute desired movement patterns through certain ranges of motion.

Using RNT can be useful when verbal cues and hands-on coaching aren’t getting the job done. Sometimes cues just don’t click and the use of an opposing resistant to facilitate a reaction and learned position is the right call.

For this article, we’re going to discuss how to use RNT with training the body to keep the bar close in the deadlift and cue strong lat engagement.

RNT Bar Path Deadlift Training

The bar floating away from the body in the deadlift is usually a byproduct of two things and these include:

  • Lats/upper back losing tightness when breaking the floor and moving through the concentric (lifting) movement pattern.
  • Faulty hip hinge mechanics when beginning to perform the eccentric (lowering) portion of the deadlift.

Author’s Note: There could be other issues at play like lagging upper back/lat strength, but for the purpose of this article we’re only going to reference the two above performance characteristics.

For this RNT method, a light band will be used to create an opposing force that is pulling the barbell away from the body. In return, this will force the lats to engage even more and bar path will be a point of hyper-focus due to the band pulling the bar away from the body.

What often ends up happening is that the over-exaggeration expressed keeping the bar tight throughout the RNT sets will have a carryover effect to normal sets. It’s similar to over-cueing someone in the squat when the knees are collapsing with something like “force the knees out”. The hope is that the over-cueing helps the knees land somewhere in the middle so they track properly.

How to Setup

  1. Attach a light band to the center of the barbell and anchor it in front with a heavy dumbbell, kettlebell, or rack.
    • The tension the band creates should be light and just taut enough that it pulls the barbell forward slightly. If the barbell is flying across the floor — there’s too much tension.
  2. Setup for your deadlift as you normally would. Make sure there’s the previously discussed tension being applied to the barbell.
    • If you’re not sure where to setup, let the slack out of the band, then setup and pull the bar into you and create the previously mentioned tension. Remember, the tension should be light!
  3. Over-exaggerate your setup and really focus on contracting the lats. A useful cue here is to think about putting the scapula into the back pockets.
    • Perform your strong setup position as you normally would and use a slower tempo to ensure strong mechanics are still being reinforced. 
RNT Deadlift Training
RNT Deadlift Training

Example: In the photo above, the band would be slightly too loose as you want a level of tautness to it to ensure it’s applying enough opposing force.

Programming Tips to Consider

When using this RNT methodology on deadlifts there are a couple tips you can apply and use to leverage your training to its fullest extent. 

The first tip is that it’s always a good idea to have a coach, friend, or camera setup to the side of your deadlift when using RNT. This way you can either have someone else check your form, or self assess with your own camera. Since there’s a band pulling the barbell away, form needs to be locked down!

The second tip is to use this method for technique days and for single block (mesocylce)  use. The goal is to not add a ton of extra pulling volume, but to add a few strategic sets in an already balanced program. So saving this method for technique days or for a dedicated block focused on fixing the issue will generally pay the highest dividends.

The final tip is to keep weight lighter and to over-exaggerate cues to keep the bar tight. Since there’s an external force pulling the barbell away from the body, the last thing we want is to put the body into a compromised position on purpose with a heavier, less easy to manage load.

Deadlift RNT FAQs

What is RNT?

Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) is the use of external resistance to create a reaction or desired change in movement patterns. Essentially, it’s the concept of using resistance to create an internal change that results in better movement mechanics, as opposed to using verbal cues.

Should beginners use RNT deadlift training?

Not particularly. Generally, beginners simply need more reps and coaching to perfect their movement patterns and RNT training can be a little much for them.

When should I use this deadlift RNT method?

If the barbell is consistently getting away from the body and there’s not a glaring and obvious strength issue, then the employment of this RNT method can be useful for reworking mechanics and mental cuing.

Wrapping Up

Is this form of RNT deadlift training for everyone? Not at all. For example, beginners generally just need more reps and to work on mechanics and their foundations before implementing this method.

However, if you’re lifter that has a strong foundation built and are struggling with keeping the bar tight, then using a little RNT deadlifting training can be a great step forward for remedying forward bar path.