Top 6 Factors Affecting the Deadlift

travis jewett

In this episode of the podcast, I discuss 6 big factors that affect deadlifting

Factor 1 - Knowing how and body awareness

If an athlete doesn't fundamentally know how to hip hinge, then this is the most relevant thing to work on.

No stretch or accessory exercise can take the place of fundamentally learning how to hip hinge.


Factor 2 - Body Proportions

The height of a person, their torso:leg ratio, and ape ratio will affect deadlift form and stance and the stress to the back.

The longer a torso, the longer the level is from the shoulders to the hips. This means the lever arm is longer, multiplying the force through the lower back.

Basically, longer torso is harder to keep stiff, shorter torso is easier to keep stiff.

For arm length, the longer the arms the less range of motion you need to get to the bar. The shorter the arms, the more range of motion you'll have to get somewhere, either your hips, low back, knees, ankles, elevating the bar, or taking a sumo stance.


Factor 3 - Hip Anatomy

Different hip anatomy can change when your hip joint runs out of flexion range as well as the width of stance that allows for greatest flexion.

If hip anatomy is determined to be a limitation, there are a few things that can sometimes help:

  • Toeing out a little bit
  • Taking a little wider stance
  • Starting from an elevated position

Factor 4 - Posterior Chain and Adductor Flexibility

The tug of war is between the posterior chain that is above your pelvis and the posterior chain below your pelvis to help dictate your pelvic and spinal positioning.

If your hamstrings and parts of your adductors (depending on stance width) are not flexible, then they'll pull on the pelvic attachments and make your back round instead of stretching/lengthening and allowing for as close to neutral spine as possible.

Generally, the wider stance you take, the more you will bias the adductors. A sumo stance will require greater adductor flexibility. A narrower stance will require more hamstring flexibility.

To read more about this specific topic: The basic anatomy of stretching the hamstrings


Factor 5 - Posterior Chain Strength vs Anterior Chain Strength

If your lower back is weak, your back will round when the load gets heavier than you can sustain.

If your posterior chain is weak compared to a stronger, more dominant anterior chain, the tendency will be to attempt to make the torso vertical and bend the knees more in order to vertically stack the spine and load the quads.

There isn't anything necessarily wrong with this, it's basically the 2nd pull in an olympic lift.

It's a problem if you are trying to train your posterior chain and do that habitually. You will miss out on maximizing your posterior chain training.


Factor 6 - Style & Equipment

We have an in depth article and video on this topic: Different deadlift styles load the back and hips differently. 


Additional Resources:

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