Deadlift Better Part 1

Deadlift Better (Part 1)

Almost every day I receive messages or comments on how to improve your deadlift.  The answer is incredibly simple… deadlift better. What I mean when I say that is… deadlift better! It’s as simple as that, in order to get stronger in the deadlift you must maximize everything about the movement; including positioning, trunk and hip strength, and flawless execution.

The deadlift is an incredibly stubborn movement that often cripples those who aren’t prepared, and destroys the hopes of a massive total. For example, my first powerlifting meet circa 2008 I deadlifted 600 at 198. Now fast forward to May 2016 I lifted 727 at 220. That’s a huge increase, but it took nearly 8 years to get there. What’s even more frustrating I first attempted 700 in 2011 and could not break the 700 barrier for almost 5 years from that point, so you can see that strength takes time.  With that being said, don’t expect to pull a PR after reading this article but instead evaluate your own training and technique and see what needs to change.

Here are some of the key components to my recent success in the deadlift. These have helped me break the 800+ deadlift barrier.

  1. Proper Set Up.

In my opinion, the success of your deadlift begins before the weights ever leave the ground.  A familiar phrase or terminology that you’ve heard or seen thrown around the internet is “Pull the slack out of the bar.” Now this may seem simple enough, but, in reality this one of the most difficult aspects of the deadlift and can lead to lifters having trouble breaking the weight off the floor. This is due to the lifter applying a vertical force on the bar (through hip extension, not elbow flexion or lumbar extension) but when the lifter drops their hips into the pull they more often than not release the vertical tension they just created, and as a result their hips often shoot upward first resulting in a poor movement pattern. They utilize more relative effort and place greater stress on the back (specifically lumbar extensors).  I admit that this was one of my biggest obstacles when learning sumo and re-learning my conventional deadlift.  


For me, I utilized sumo stiff leg deadlifts (the idea works the same for both sumo or conventional) with relatively light weight (35-45%). I would practice bracing my trunk and try lifting the weight using only my hip extensors. As I felt comfortable with my form, I would slowly add weight each session. I would keep the reps between 2-3 and usually between 6 to 8 sets, keeping rest to a minimum and always resetting after each rep. This helped me to utilize my hips extensors to a much greater degree and create a false eccentric phase during the drop to the bar that allowed me to utilize the stretch shortening cycle and aided in my initial pull off the floor. Below is an example of how I look like from when I first set up on the bar (top image) and how I look when I begin the initial pull from the floor (bottom image) after loading my hips and dropping into the pull. As you can see, the distance from the floor and the apex of the bar increases as I apply the vertical force on the bar. This helps optimize your starting position, decrease the distance the bar travels (a small degree) and allows you to develop more tension or force before the initial pull.



  1. Beltless Training.

One of the greatest things I have ever done for my training was to get rid of the belt. Not only for deadlifts, but is also just as beneficial for squats. Beltless training allowed me to focus on creating a much tighter or rigid trunk and more efficient setup.  Plus, I can now see abs, which is kinda cool (yes I know that’s more diet but I can still see them so chill out). When increasing the rigidity of the trunk through abdominal bracing, the force created from your legs can be transferred to the bar more efficiently, thus allowing you the potential to lift more weight and you are less likely to have increased trunk flexion during the lift, which often leads to a more difficult lock out because this can limit glute activation.  


For the past year I have only utilized a belt during meet preps, which runs 8-10 weeks at a time with 1-2 reload/deloads in each. This past year I have competed twice, and so 12-14 weeks out of 52 weeks I will use a belt. For so many people, they use the belt as a crutch and often never want to push themselves without it. However, in all reality, as long as your program or your coach has any common sense and start at a safe weight, you can easily acclimate yourself to beltless training with little to zero difficulty.


So, like I said at the beginning of this rant, it’s very simple to deadlift better. I didn’t say it would be easy and it would happen overnight, but I can guarantee if you put the time into developing your starting position and focus on keeping a rigid trunk it will start to get easier and you will slowly chip away at the deadlift monster the hides under your bed at night.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Molly's 5 Keys To Strength

1. Food

2. Rest & Recovery

3. Positive Atmosphere & Support System

4. Proper Technique & Programming

5. Sheer WILL


1. Food

     Now I love eating pizza, ice cream, burgers, burritos, and basically anything fried or with sugar more than most people, but over time I have learned that if your nutrition and water intake isn't on point you will NOT perform well. If I'm being honest, I get most of my calories from eating straight up garbage foods, but there are days I do clean it up. Since we are talking about strength and not aesthetics, CARBS are your friend! I've had people message me asking why they aren't getting any stronger after they've cut most carbs out of their diet and are eating clean foods. If you aren't into eating junk like me and you're more of a chicken, rice and veggies person, that's completely fine. You just have to understand when training for strength, in order to get enough calories you just have to eat bigger portions and more frequently. The only thing more important than eating enough (and obviously drinking lots of water) is getting enough protein. Whether you're a meat eater or a vegetarian or vegan, you MUST get your protein in one way or another. Protein shakes are great when you're in a hurry or too lazy to cook, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat REAL food and not get suckered into all the supplement hype. EAT, and eat A LOT, or trying to get stronger is going to feel like shit (trust me).

2. Rest & Recovery

      Everyone has their own day-to-day routines and issues in life outside of lifting weights. Obviously this shit doesn't pay our bills (except for some who are THAT good) and work always comes first. Rest/proper sleep and keeping up with your recovery is extremely important if you want to see progress in your training. If you ever find yourself having time to take a nap, TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE. If you ever feel like your body is off, something hurts or the weights are feeling extra heavy, don't be afraid to take a day off or take it easy. It's really important to listen to your body as well as maintain it so that you don't get injured. I personally love to roll out my entire body on a PVC pipe (foam rollers don't do shit for me) as well as a lacrosse ball to really dig into my shoulders, pecs, arms, glutes, hips etc. and I stretch as often as I can. There are many different ways to keep up with your recovery depending upon your own individual needs. Some people see a chiropractor regularly, or get deep tissue or graston, get cryotherapy, cupping therapy, dry needling, and the list goes on. If you have an injury, I would suggest trying everything in your power to get it fixed and keep it from getting any worse. If you don't have an injury, keep up with treating your muscles, joints and tendons well and just know that NO ONE is safe from injuries but there are many ways to prevent them.

3. Positive atmosphere & support system

    I understand that some people enjoy training on their own because I do too sometimes, but there is nothing like the feeling of having a solid group of like-minded people to train with. When I first started, being part of a powerlifting team was one of the best feelings in the world. Everyone was very supportive of everyone, no matter the age, sex, height, weight or experience. That's what I loved so much about the sport, it was constant cheering, helping each other spot or load the bar and everyone had each other's backs. As competitive as the sport may be, it's just as supportive, even if they are your competition. Surround yourself with people with positive attitudes who work their asses off and have similar goals as you, it will make all the difference.

4. Proper technique & programming

    There isn't one human body that is made exactly like another, everyone has different mechanics and leverages. It's EXTREMELY important to learn YOUR own body's mechanics  to figure out which form works and feels best for YOU. I don't pull sumo because my body is better built for conventional. Just because some popular strong dude (or woman) on instagram can pull sumo and looks really cool, doesn't necessarily mean that will be the case for you. If you haven't seen progress in one of your lifts, it could never hurt to tweak your form or try something new in your programming. Now when it comea to programming, it's really important to find a solid program that works for your body and level of experience and STICK TO IT! (5/3/1, Sheiko, Cube, Westside, Smolov to just name a few).


    It's simple, how bad do you want it? How hard are you willing to push yourself to get to where you want to be? Through all the bullshit and tough times in your life, lack of sleep, lack of food or water, stress, kids, dogs, relationships, laziness, illness, injuries, too many hours at work and not enough time to get into the gym...  will you still drag yourself in at the last minute just to get SOMETHING done? I know I will. I TRULY fell in love with this sport and I TRULY want to be a champion and one of the world's strongest women. If you take PED's or not, nothing beats hard work. Nothing beats being all heart and having a passion for something so much that you will do whatever it takes to be the best, or at least be the strongest and best version of yourself.

Molly Mullikin has the #8 all time highest total in her weight class with 1,179.5 pounds.