A huge problem a lot of beginners face with the deadlift is that they don’t know how to properly grind through a lift. I knew one client who literally just didn’t want to grind the first time he tested it, he was practically afraid of it. He gave it a try, got the bar moving, and then dropped it as soon as the lift started to get hard. The second time around, he was less afraid of the bar, powered through the lift, and kept adding more and more weight until he shocked himself with a max that was literally double his previous max. Unfortunately, this is pretty common.
The deadlift is different than any other lift done for strength. Unlike the highly technical olympic lifts, and the more explosive squat (and to a lesser extent the bench press) the deadlift can be a bit forgiving on form so long as you’re willing to keep grinding it out. Where a squat might go wrong and cause you to fail in a split second, a deadlift often has a lot more tolerance for deviation, meaning it can take a relatively long time for the lift to fail.
Also unlike the other lifts, that means that deadlift form can get really ugly, potentially leading to injury. If your form gets significantly off track and you power through it, you can put yourself in a bad position under a ton of weight, and you're gonna go home with a bad back.
Understand that grinding a deadlift does not mean sacrificing form. If you start the lift and your back starts to curl up like a leaf, grinding is not what you should be trying to do. Grinding plus bad form is a recipe for disaster. If you have form issues, focus on working those out before adding weight or grinding a rep.
But if you’re not experiencing form issues, and you’re able to maintain good form or something close to it even under a max effort deadlift attempt, chances are you need to learn to grind out your reps. Here’s how.
Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and film your lifts with your phone. If your form isn’t an issue, but your lift only takes a couple seconds or less, you need to practice increasing that time. Shoot for three seconds, four seconds, five seconds. Each time, film the lift and count in your head how long the lift takes. Really give it a try, and don’t let go of the bar until you’re absolutely spent. I can guarantee you, you can probably handle more weight than you thought you could.
Focus on your cues. Take a long, deep breath before you initiate the lift. Keep your shoulder blades down towards your back pockets, act like you’re squeezing a pair of oranges in your armpits to activate your lats, keep your arms long, and your gaze forward. And - don’t stop until you’re absolutely done. That’s how you do it.
f you're properly grinding out a deadlift, a max effort attempt should be slow, should drain you completely, and leave you exhausted to the point of failure. But that's what it should take to complete a single rep max deadlift - giving it all you've got, not holding back.
Interested in coaching? Inquire here. If you don’t have the money or interest in purchasing long term coaching, consider donating a small monthly amount to my Patreon, which also nets you a copy of my book, the UpLift Method. You can also subscribe to my mailing list, which gets you the free GAINS exercise program for maximizing strength, size, and endurance.