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Correcting The Deadlift by Rachel Medina - CrossFit Journal

Correcting The Deadlift

By Rachel Medina

In CrossFit, Exercises, Videos

March 27, 2009

Video Article

Rachel Medina is the co owner of CrossFit South San Clemente, she is also a part of CrossFit HQ’s traveling Level 1 seminar team.

In this clip from Jordan Gravatt of CrossFit by Overload, Rachel “Funky-Cold” Medina teaches the deadlift to Level 1 participants at the CrossFit certification seminar at CrossFit San Diego on Saturday, February 28, 2009.

The deadlift is a functional movement. It is nothing other than picking something off the floor. When picking up a barbell, there are three setup conditions that create efficient, effective and safe mechanics: weight on the heels, maintaining solid midline stability, and having the shoulders just in front of the bar. The bar should travel vertically without having to move forward around the knees.

Many athletes set up too vertically, with the hips down, knees forward, and shoulders behind the bar. Rachel corrects this and other common flaws in the deadlift.

5min 34sec

Free Download


25 Comments on “Correcting The Deadlift”


Jennifer Conlin wrote …

Jen here from Potomac Crossfit. My question is what do you mean when you say "tracing the Knees"?


Phil Hamar wrote …

I'm from edmonton canada, the cold only makes us stronger.


replied to comment from Jennifer Conlin

Tracing the knees means having the bar travel around the knees. It's a flaw. The knees should move out of the way of the bar, which should travel vertically.


Ned Ferguson wrote …

There was some debate about "shin scraping" on the boards a while back. Some were saying that constant contact with the bar is not necessary for all body types. I have read this elsewhere as well. Could I have final clarity on this? Is the CF position 'constant contact with shin to bar in the deadlift' regardless of body type? That does seem to be the teaching point.


Rob McBee wrote …


I don't think the athlete should be 'scraping' the shins but I get your point. If an athlete is habitually scraping their shins, I've found that they usually have the weight displaced too much on the heels. Center of gravity should be focused on the mid-foot and distributed through the heels. Go for a millimeter short of actual shin contact. Probably unavoidable on a max or near max attempt but undesirable on high rep efforts.

those killer knee-high tube socks help too


wrote …

It's amazing how most people (myself included) naturally try to start a deadlift with hips way too low. One of the biggest things that helped me was focusing on hamstring (and lumbar) tension in the setup and throughout the lift.

Also LOL @ bag dick of dicks on the ceiling. Rachel is lucky, I don't think it was that cold in Edmonton during the last cert, 0 degrees celcius? Could've been -40c/-40f, that would've been a shocker. I was in Saskatoon for work in February and it was about -35c with the windchill, a co-worker I was with had never experienced sub-zero temps before, walking out of the airport was quite entertaining for me.


wrote …

"shoulders are directly over the bar and not in front of the bar"?
i remember coach rip's article about the shoulders being in front of the bar being the most efficient way to pull, with the arms actually angling inwards. correct me if i'm completely misguided -

if your shoulders are directly over the bar, and the bar is as close as possible to being directly in front of where your shin bone meets the foot, then the majority of your body's weight is behind the plane where you should be balanced over. if you draw an imaginary line in a profile view of the setup- only the head and neck are completely in front, and all of the torso, hip, most of the femur etc are behind. this only works when you have a significant weight on the bar, and you end up dragging the bar up and against your shins when you pull. with a pvc pipe if you tried to take that position you would either topple backwards or you would balance by either 1) moving your shoulders forward of the bar 2) move your knees too far forward, which would prevent you from lifting in a straight line unless you raised your hips


wrote …

i just noticed, the the short blurb describing the video says shoulders slightly in front of the bar, contrary to what she says in the video


wrote …

Have problems with heavy deads the bar is usual 5 inches or so away from body about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way to finish.

Try to start the lift with shoulders in front of bar and use a sumo stance on heavy loads. However the end of lift is mainly done with back only. Also on max DL the back is always rounded, but isn't that because of the load

Is there a way I can improve technique wise??

However, I will not sacrifice load or time for technique, because it is in the work performed (intensity) that leads to fitness.

Thanks a head of time for any help you can provide.


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

Yes, shoulders will be slightly ahead of the bar in a deadlift because the shoulder is located in front of the scapulae, which is the part of you that has to be right over the bar. This will put the arms at a slight angle back towards the body.

Using PVC and having one lower themselves into position while holding the 'bar' seems an odd approach to teaching the dealift.


replied to comment from Alex Mintzer

Nothing odd about it. It's just another way of teaching a movement. Some people understand things better when the concept is reverse-engineered.


wrote …


I'm pretty sure she said "His shoulder is directly over the bar... if not a little bit in front of it". So, it's all good.



replied to comment from Michael Hom

Fair enough.

As a powerlifter it certainly wouldn't be the approach I'd use, but then again, I don't know her reasoning, and nobody asked me.


replied to comment from Eric Christensen

aha you're right
thanks for the correction


Jennifer Conlin wrote …

Tony, Thanks. That clears it up.
As for the shin scraping. I would rather scrap my shins and be in my heels then not.
"Go for a millimeter short of actual shin contact." If I give the people I'm training a millimeter they take 10 so I like them to have contact. I understand that the weight should be mid to heel drive but people go forward more then back on these, so I have to kinda play mind games with them. Get them inton their heels and they still end up mid to front of there feet if they are doing more then two reps.


wrote …

Hi kevin,

If the bar is drifting out in front, it could be that you are letting your hips rise faster than your shoulders. Hips and shoulders should rise at the same speed off the floor in order to maintain the constant back angle while the legs extend. Tough to critique your technique without a visual though, so I would encourage you to post a video to the coaching forum on the message board.

Also, you are incorrect in thinking that work performed is intensity. Intensity is power (work done over time). A heavy (max) deadlift will always be slower than a deadlift at light or moderate load ,and in addition fewer reps of a max deadlift can be performed in a given timespan. Both these factors extend the time component of the effort of doing the work and therefore reduce the average power.

Maximum intensity (power) at deadlifting would be achieved at a load that you can perform many rapid consecutive repetitions, not in the max strength effort domain.


replied to comment from Fern Webb

Hey Fern,

Thanks for info. Will try and concentrate on moving shoulders back more during the early parts of the movement.

You are also of course right about the definition of intensity.


wrote …

Awww, another Southern Californian gets a dose of real winter weather. That stuff makes us tough up here in Caaaanada.


wrote …

Get over it Canada - the CF games winner is from California now, not Canada.


wrote …

I think she said "if not in front of the bar" not " not in front of the bar". I think she meant it can be over the bar or in front of the bar. Since she's an HQ trainer I'm erring on the former.


wrote …

Good point, Kris, I shall never speak again. All hail America.


wrote …

Just a quick clarification about the shoulder position. Technically, as Rip has pointed out extensively, the shoulder's are ideally slightly in front of the bar, placing the scapulae over the bar.

Practically, for learning the deadlift, particularly with light weights, the cue shoulders over the bar generally leads to the same results as shoulders in front of the bar. As the athlete becomes more proficient, refining the starting position to align the scapulae can make a difference.

But as you can see in this video and throughout gyms all over the world, the subtle difference between over and slightly in front is not the primary concern.


wrote …

Do you have any relation with a someone named Julie Greenwood?
You have the SAME EXACT facial expressions as her.. and she has curly hair as well... coincidence?


wrote …

LOL I think it's funny on how many different opinion their are on this subject. I think there are certain tecniques that must be followed to prevent injury. However somethings are going to change with body types. For example I am taller and if I don't take a wider stance I have to strugle to keep my back from rolling forward when I setup. I would love to improve my tecnique, but think it would help to have some one with the same body type as me instructing. Maybe I'm wrong, but thought I would throw my opinion out there for a change.


wrote …

I can honestly say that I am much tougher now having survived yet another harsh Canadain winter. It will put hair on your chest. You won't find too many Canadians who shave their chests here in Canada over the winter. We need all of the insulation that we can get. But really if I had my choice I would much rather be working out in Califorina. What does this have to do with deadlifts??? Nothing I guess.

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