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Q&A: Deadlift Leg Drive

Blog Article ImageQuestion: “When I’m deadlifting and the weight gets heavy I notice that my leg drive goes away and I start lifting my butt in the air.  What are some things I can do to help fix this and are there some good cues to use?”
There are several things you can do to fix the problem of lack of leg drive or lifting the hips too early in the deadlift. The coaching cues on this are to drive the feet/legs  (via the heels) through the floor, pull the shoulders back, keep the hips down, and lead with the chest. Simple coaching cues such as these may fix the problem, but it is unlikely. It is more likely the case that the lifter with this problem lacks strength in a specific area and will need to correct this weakness in order to fix the problem. Hips rising early can mean several things. It could be lack of core strength, leg drive, upper back strength, or even lower back strength. Here some suggestions:

  • Deficit deadlift (for both sumo and conventional pullers): stand on mats 2-4” thick for deadlift off of the floor (I usually use 3” mats).
  • Front squats (for sumo and conventional pullers): use narrow stance for conventional deadlift and wider stance for sumo.
  • Box squats (for both sumo and conventional pullers)
  • Trap bar deadlift: this places the weight closer to your center of gravity and is much easier to focus on driving with the legs, through the heels to start the lift.
  • Croc rows – pick the heaviest DB in the gym and do it for as many reps as possible (goal is 20-30 reps): a stronger upper back will keep you in a better position to start the pull
  • Keep the bar close to the body: the further away it is, the harder it is to keep the hips down.
  • Lose the gut: sometimes a larger mid-section will prevent the lifter from even getting into a good starting position with the hips down
  • Improve hip mobility – Kettle bell goblet squats and pause back or front squats are great for this. Also, dynamic mobility for the quads, hamstrings, hips, and groin (for sumo) will help. Here is a video with some movements that will help with hip mobility and activation -

-Bryan Dermody, powerlifter/strength athlete

Posted on December 16, 2013


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