Create More Tension For A Better Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the best exercises out there. Terms and Conditions apply.

These terms and conditions include having the requisite mobility to move well before you load the pattern, and the physical awareness to maintain that quality of movement under heavier loads.  Appropriate mobility and kinesthetic awareness are the building blocks of a solid, strong deadlift.


Today I’m going to share one of my favorite coaching strategies to improve that awareness for a more solid, stronger deadlift.  This is something that I share with the Ninjas that I train at MFF, and I use it so that they can feel and hear what’s going on when they deadlift.

As a coach, I love to provide feedback that can provide additional feedback for the Ninjas in the future.  This particular tip focus on creating tension during a deadlift, a form of intrinsic feedback.  It also allows you to listen to the bar while lifting, and that extrinsic feedback can help you hear the tension if you’re not feeling it right away.

For the record, I’m a pretty big fan of slamming weights around, provided you create tension while doing so.  If creating tension is still something you’re working on, try this cue for more tension and a better deadlift:

Keep the bar quiet.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  Keeping the bar quiet throughout a set can help you keep tension through your hamstrings, hips, lats, and abs.  That tension can prevent you from jerking off the floor, which can easily beat up your lower back, shoulders, and elbows.  Let’s check this out in action:

In the first four reps of that set, the bar is relatively quiet.  Each time I return to the floor, the plates touch the ground, but I’m keeping tension throughout my body.  During reps 5-9, I’m letting the plates clank around a bit more.

When that bar does the “double click,” that’s the sound of the plates hitting the ground, then the bar banging back into them.  That’s a sign that I’m letting out all of that beautiful, strong tension from my body.

On the last three reps, 10 through 12, I turn that tension back on, recreating that strong platform to pull from. The deadlift isn’t about working a specific part of your body; it’s about getting your entire body involved in the pull.  This is all about tension.


No, no, not that kind of tension.  This should be about feeling everything between the bar and the floor getting as tight as possible.  That’s from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes.  That tension is what keeps our hamstrings, hips, lats, and abs engaged, and what keeps that deadlift from becoming a lower-back exercise.  Remember, if you feel it in your lower back:


It’s not the end of the world, but let’s focus on creating tension from the first rep to the final one.  Let’s focus on pulling that bar off the ground and keeping it quiet throughout the entire set.  Let’s get stiffer and stronger while we’re lifting, so that we can be better both inside the gym and out.

Use this simple strategy to get stiffer in a hurry.  Create more tension, keep that bar quiet, and find yourself with an almost instantly better feeling, stronger deadlift.  Don’t forget to let me know how it goes!

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