Avoid the 5 Most Common Mistakes In the Deadlift Set-Up
Written by Michele Vieux

We often see people come into our gyms afraid of the deadlift. It can be a scary movement. It can also be one of the best barbell lifts out there if done properly. Here are some things to look out for on your set-up to make sure you are safely attacking your deadlifts.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you are committing one of these mistakes and you don’t have another set of eyes on you, shoot a video of your deadlift from a side angle, then go down the list and check them off.


Making sure to be in the perfect set-up position is important because it helps prevent injury and also puts you in position to lift as efficiently as possible. If your bar is too far from your shins or your shoulders too far in front of the bar, it’s harder to get into the proper brace of the spine. And if the hips are too high or too low, you are not utilizing the proper – and strongest – muscles for this hip hinging movement. Look out for these mistakes on your deadlift to set you up for a stronger and safer lift.

Deadlift Set-Up Mistake #1- Bar too far from shins.

This mistake keeps you from your ideal pulling position and also puts your lower back at risk of injury. To fix it: once you are in your set position, roll the bar as close to your shins as you can without drawing blood, then lift.

Deadlift Set-Up Mistake #2 – Shoulders too far in front of the bar.

You’re missing out on the full recruitment of your posterior chain if you commit this mistake. Check your hip position – they may be a tad too high. Try sitting back onto your hamstrings and see if that puts you in a better position where the bar is under your armpits.

Deadlift Set-Up Mistake #3 – Shoulders too far behind the bar.

Most of the time when people commit this mistake, it is because they are setting up like they would for a clean, which requires a higher chest position and lower hips than the deadlift. To fix it: send your hips up and back until your shins are vertical and you are looking at the ground a couple feet in front of you.

Deadlift Set-Up Mistake #4 – Hips too high.

The level of the hips should be a little lower than that of the shoulders. If your hips, or even calves, are tight then this will be a hard position to achieve and should be a regular focus of your mobility plan, especially on deadlift day.

Deadlift Set-Up Mistake #5 – Hips too low.

If this is you, ask yourself if it’s just a matter of cueing or if your tight hamstrings are keeping you from elevating your hips so that your shins are vertical. If it’s just a cueing thing then each time you set up for a deadlift, cue your shins to vertical. If it’s your hamstrings, attack them with vigor always (and especially on deadlift day).

So you see, there’s no need to fear the deadlift! You will figure out your “problem area(s)” with the lift by using this checklist and once you do, that becomes your cue to yourself every time you lift!

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