Grip: The grip is twofold. First I think it’s most important to crush the bar with your grip regardless of the weight being lifted. That tension or irradiation will help engage the lats and promote keeping the rest of the body tight. If you’re not focused on really gripping that bar during your set up each and every set, start now. Second, a stronger grip will allow for a bigger deadlift. Don’t let your grip be the limiting factor. When I was in college I used straps when deadlifting heavy simply because I didn’t know any better. A few years later I can remember attempting some lifts at near maximum and failing because I couldn’t hang onto the bar. I no longer use straps and over the past several years, when pulling heavy weights, I have never once considered if I could hold onto the bar or not during a heavy lift. It’s automatic. I’m not saying that specific grip training should be a priority, although it depends on your goals, but your grip strength is something to be aware of. On the simplest level, it does appear that training regularly with the thick handle of a kettlebell is beneficial.
Change Your Stance: I love deadlifting. It feels manly and it is one of the movements I am strongest at. About 3 months ago I attempted my first ever sumo style deadlift. I had never done it before because it wasn’t “conventional”. However, I found out pretty quickly that it simply “feels” better for me. I feel like I can use my hips and legs more and my back a little less. I may not be setting PR’s left and right but I feel and recover better on a regular basis so I have stuck with it. Regardless of your style, if you haven’t tried something different, perhaps ever, give it a try. If you are feeling really inspired use biofeedback on a regular basis to see which style may be best for you day to day. (Article talks about squat stance but the same rules can apply to the deadlift)
Keep Your Head Down: I frequently see people trying to keep their vision straight ahead at the same height as their head. I believe that a more neutral head position, which commonly means staring at the floor only several feet in front of you if you are hinging your hips correctly, is far superior to extending (or more commonly hyperextending) the neck and looking up. In evaluating a virtual beginner it appears that the head down keeps the person pulling with their hips and lats where as the head up position looks as if the person is trying to lift the bar from the ground with their shoulders. Finally, cervical hyperextension affects the strength of the posterior chain making you weaker. For more on that see here.
Build A Wedge: This is a slightly more difficult concept to explain but if you can pick up (much like a deadlift) what I’m putting down then it can certainly be helpful. I first heard about the wedge concept from Pavel a few years ago. There are potentially two ways to look at it. First, during your set up, try and wedge your body between the bar and the floor. Much like when pressing overhead, you don’t want to reach for the ceiling, you want to press your body down under the bell. Make sense? I hope so. Second, I personally envision building a wedge between my hips and ankles on my backside. This visual helps me get into the correct position and use my legs/hips much more effectively.
Deadlift More Frequently: This is a tricky one, and many people have written with incredible insight over the years so I’ll keep it simple. If you are only deadlifting once a week, twice a week might be better. Or perhaps two quick sessions per week as opposed to one long intensive one. Be smart, but practice, it’s a skill.
– Mike Baltren