Deadlift issues are often caused by imbalances, whether a lifetime of over-under grip, or just poor form.
The way to fix a deadlift (without a gym) is to start from the floor up.
What to Test - Ankle, and Feet
- Post tib - Stability view
- Even mobility test
- Star excursion test
- Calcification via Ankle injury
You would be a very lucky person to get through a lifetime without twisting, rolling or bending an ankle. Very very few people take the time to resolve ankle issues, and let them heal completely.
The SMALLEST roll in on an ankle drives your knee in. You think you have weak glutes, but you actually have a bad ankle.
This is a super exaggerated view - but you get the idea, one ankle rolling in
Basically, stand and get someone to check from behind, or take a photo, check photos where you are lifting heavy. If your ankle is weak, its way weaker with load.
The solution, first of all, deadlift in slippers, barefoot or deadlift shoes. The WORST thing you can do is deadlift in sports sneakers, your foot rolls around in there.
Lucky for you, the fix is pretty easy. Given the timelines, this is a useful thing to do every other day, whether you think you have the issue or not
Thow a tennis ball, massage ball, whatever, as show and do 10-15 SLOW up and down calf raises. Its harder than you think. You will be surprised how much better deads (and squats) feel with strong ankles.
The mobility we talked about in our squat article, but to summarise, you need equal dorsiflexion in both sides in order to get down to the bar even (logical right). Search for that article for a full run down on how to fix mobility.
Star Excursion Test
Proprioception (know where your joints and appendages are), range of motion, and strength influence your ability to produce force. If you are wobbly, you body won't produce force, it's fancy like that.
Increasing ankle stability (or difference from leg to leg) makes you more stable. The star excursion is (above) is super common in NBA, soccer etc, and is a worthwhile addition until you can balance and move your leg in each plane. It's (much) harder than you think.
If you get sore knees and back after walking, the above few things may change your life. Again, to be obvious, if each step you take is uneven, you cause back issues.
Lastly, a lot of people have actual calcification or scar tissue. If you can't get your ankle into certain positions even with your hands, or its creaking, cracking and feels terrible, you can try to massage gun our scar tissue, but calcification (if chronic) might require medical intervention.
The Hips Don't Lie
It requires significant planning in order to resolve anterior or posterior tilt, or more commonly, tilt on a single side, or commonly, a unilateral weakness
This may be an issue if you get back or hip pain caused during heavy load, poor or ‘twisted’ form, single side groin or ql issues.
Resolution of issue:
Step 1, equalize left right mobility
Step 2, Build the musculature to ensure hips remain in even plane
Step 3, equalise application of force
Step 1 - Even the functional range of
- Hip flexor
Pick a stretch for each - there are plenty - and commit to stretching the bad side until even. Take deep breaths, measure each side. Stretch whatever is tighter side. You can literally be watching Netflix with your foot on the couch, and keep stretching whatever hammy is tight, then into a lunge, then into a heel to butt.
Step 2 - Build Slowly
Suitcase deadlift (KB, one hand)
Single leg deadlift (KB, one hand)
You can use a heavy jug of water, a bucket from burnings, a dumbbell, a KB, it only needs to be 8-10kg.
Nothing too heavy, 5 sets of 15, loaded on one side.
Step 3 - Become a functional person
BW squat (force dorsiflexion/stay upright) - warm up
20 reps of below
- Alternate reverse lunges - worst leg first
- Reverse lunges single leg - worst leg first
- Lunges walking - worst leg first
- Wide out step lunge
- Side plank (weak side first)
For most powerlifters, that's a pretty hard day. We don't do a lot of functional work.
Bonus if you have the equipment
- Hanging leg raise, ball between legs (forces groin to engage with hip flexors)
These are the best thing in the world when it comes to making your hips feel in line.
- Pallof press (best bang for buck)
- Heavy hammer curl single arm progression
You are ONE musculature, you are one machine, you are a chain of muscles working in relation to others. All of the above will make you link together without 'kinks' or weaknesses.
Here are some big clues you should take the above on
- you wake up from squats, and your groin hurts more than anything else
- your hips hurt when you wake up
- you can't run, you say your knee hurts when you walk too far
Let us know how you go!