Skip to main content

The Question

One of my workout staples is the deadlift. Can you give me a few tips on form? For example, should the weight touch the floor?

The Answer

Their are two basic types of deadlifts. In one, your knees bend as you perform the exercise. In the second, your knee angle stays the same throughout. Both work the muscles of the posterior chain (hamstring, glutes and lower back).

Within each type, many variations exists: You can adjust stance, weight and grip. In all variations, your range of motion should always be determined by your ability to maintain proper form. Before you lift any significant weight, you must ensure you've mastered proper form. You can hurt your back performing the deadlift incorrectly.

Standard Deadlift: Stand, feet shoulder width apart, barbell in front of you. Bend your knees and grab the bar at a width slightly greater than your knees. Look forward and keep your back straight as you use your legs, pelvis and core to stand up and lift the bar toward your knees. To finish, use your leg muscles and lower the bar back down in a controlled manner.

Modified Romanian Deadlift: Stand, feet parallel and hip distance apart. Hold dumbbells in front of your thighs. Bend your knees slightly. Keeping your knee angle constant, hinge at your hips to bring the weight toward the floor. Lower the weight as far as you can while maintaining a neutral spine – don't let your back round. Use your hamstrings, glutes and lower back to return to your starting position.

If you can't complete the exercise in good form, modify the exercise so it fits your current fitness abilities. This will probably involve decreasing the weight and/or working on your flexibility.

Trainer's Tip

A great way to improve your range of motion and perfect form for the standard deadlift is to practise the exercise using only a dowel rod.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.