Taking A Look At The Deadlift Exercise

I was recently reading the article titled “Improving the Deadlift: Understanding Biomechanical Constraints and Physiological Adaptations to Resistance Exercise” that was published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal in 2010 and thought I would discuss some of the key messages.  If you would like to read this article in full, please click here.

Key Messages

  • The deadlift exercise like any other exercise, may look simple, but much time and practice should be spent perfecting it.
  • The article reports that being good at the deadlift involves a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as training methods, lifting styles and programming.
  • There are 2 types of deadlift styles: conventional and sumo.
  • One style of deadlift does not seem to be more advantageous than the other due to their being both conventional and sumo stance deadlift record holders.
  • One should explore the two types of deadlift styles to determine what best suits them as an individual.
  • An individuals lifting style should be based on their anthropometrics.
  • Technique is important when deciding whether one should lift the barbell using a leg lift, back lift or modified back-lift for a maximum effort.
  • The vast majority of research with the deadlift has used inexperienced deadlifters working at submaximal loads.  Therefore all information from these research articles should not be taken as gospel and one should make an informed judgement.
  • The article highlights that when individuals are performing a maximal effort conventional deadlift, the lifter often exhibits a back lift or modified back-lift technique with a a slighly exaggerated thoracic spine kyphotic curve.  A modified back-lift means that the barbell is placed closer to the hip and lumbosacral joint which reduces the external flexor moment.  High stress is placed on the spinal ligaments as a result of this.
  • The sumo stance deadlift differs to the conventional stance due to the individual adopting a wider stance, resulting the the upper body being closer to the barbell and there being a reduced flexor moment at the knee, hip and lower back.
  • When performing a maximal lift with the sumo stance, the lifter often adopts a leg-lift or modified back-lift strategy.  One is likely to maintain lordosis in the lumbar spine though.  Less stress is placed on the posterior ligament system as a result of this.
  • Those individuals with a long torso/short arms, short torso/short arms, average torso/short arms may find the sumo stance to better suit them.
  • Those individuals with a long torso/long arms, short torso/long arms, average torso/long arms might find the conventional stance better suited to them.
  • Those individuals with a short torso/average arms or long torso/average arms may find either technique to better suit them.
  • Maximal deadlifts should be performed with caution and performed on a limited basis.


This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.


Principle Four Osteopathy

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD leading Osteopathy clinics. At the clinic we treat a wide range of clients, ranging from the office worker, exercise enthusiast to athlete. We have 3 experienced osteopaths working across both of the clinics.

The Melbourne City CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place (basement), close to the corner of Elizabeth St and Little Bourke in the Melbourne City CBD. Our premises adjoin the Jon Weller Personal Training Studio, a fully-equipped training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

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