Leaning Back On The Deadlift, Starting and Lockout Position?

February 17th 2020

When you are talking about leaning back on the deadlift, are you talking about the top position or the bottom position?

For most lifters, myself included, I automatically refer to the top of part of the deadlift, the lockout position.

However, with more research, some lifters also refer to “leaning back” on the starting position of the deadlift as well.

So, we will go over the two different types of leaning back and whether or not you should be doing them while you deadlift.

Deadlift Lean Back

Lifters should not be leaning back at the top of the deadlift because hyperextending your back at the end of the lift has no added benefits.

However, depending on your experience level, some lifters may find that leaning back during the starting position can better initiate the deadlift.

However, beginners should opt for a more static starting position so that they can practice the deadlift with very little variations.

Starting position lean back

This is when the lifter grabs the bar and leans back into a better position to start the deadlift.

This can be seen here:

With that in mind, you can see that before he leans back, his shoulders are way in front of the bar.

His back angle is not great.

His hamstrings are not very tight.

By leaning back, he corrects all these errors and creates a stable position to initiate the deadlift.

By if you are already familiar with some of my articles, you may have seen this how-to video about deadlifting form:

You can see that he does not need to do anything with his body except to just drop down into position and start the deadlift.

There is no lean back.

Just pushing hard with the legs and pulling the barbell.

Should beginners lean back before starting the deadlift?

Beginners should follow the tutorial video I posted above.

That is the most optimal form that will be most consistent for novices.


Because for a beginner, they have none or very little experience with deadlifts.

So, in order to create an efficient movement, we need to practice it.

Practice it the same way over and over again.

That way, we create more efficient neural pathways to activate your muscles when performing the deadlift.

This makes the deadlift a smooth, fluid motion as opposed to having a dynamic start to the deadlift.

When you have moving parts, a lot can go wrong and timing will also be a factor as well.

For a beginner, it is just not worth the time to teach them that technique.

  • Get adequate hamstring mobility
  • Figure out how to get into the best deadlift position with as little movement as possible
  • Start the deadlift

I see a lot of strong guys do it, why can’t I?

Do not follow anyone with thinking logically first.

Richard Hawthorne (in my first video) does this sort of leaning back when he starts the deadlift.

However, the difference between him and you is that he has been deadlifting for over a decade.

He has the training experience and knowledge to know his leverage and what is the most optimal way for him to start the deadlift.

And his PRs speak for themselves.

For a beginner, you should work on your form.

You still have years of learning ahead of you.

And for the experienced lifters who have been lifting for years, it will be a judgment call.

Like for me, 6 years of consistent lifting going onto seven, I have no back lean in my starting position.

However, another lifter may opt to learn how to lean back during the starting position because for his/her leverages, it just works.

I do not know.

And when you keep training consistently for years, you will eventually figure out what works for you and what does it.

You can expand on existing knowledge or even break sub-branches that can benefit your specific case.

But this is only possible after years and years of training.

And even then, you are only a student of this game.

Deadlift sit back

Some people might give you advice on sitting back during the deadlift.

This can cause you to move and do a leaning back motion.

Sit back too much, however, you will be introducing a lot more quads into the movement, something very specific to Strongman deadlifts.

But we will not dive on the deep end of those deadlifts.

We will just talk specifically about sitting back a little, just so that you eliminate the slack out of your hamstrings.

As you shift your weight onto your heels, depending on your mobility, you should feel your hamstrings tensing up.

This is good and the best position for you to be is when your hamstrings are most tense.

And you have the barbell to prevent you from falling.

But there is a catch.

If you have your shoulders way behind the barbell, you are leaning back too much.

This is a poor starting position as well because more leaning back to get your hamstrings extra tight will not translate into a stronger pull.

In fact, you will be weaker because you cannot push directly down into the floor since you are at an angle instead of being able to stand straight up.

Overall, the point is that sitting back should be done in advance before you initiate the pull.

This allows newer lifters to have better control and consistency over their form.

Lockout position back lean

This is where the lifter leans back when finishing the deadlift.

This is not safe because you are hyperextending your back for no added benefits other than increasing your risk of injury.

With that said, the best thing for a lifter to do is to stand up straight with a neutral spine.

And for some younger lifters, this may be difficult to do because you feel so strong and alpha after finishing a hard set or setting a new PR.

You just want to show everyone that he got that weight and it was easy.

But as those lifters will learn, you will be a better lifter with a longer health bar in the iron game if you minimize doing risky movements.


You should have concluded that leaning back both during the starting and lockout position of the deadlift is bad.

Not so much for the starting position but you should not do it at the top of the deadlift.

Depending on your training experience and attention to detail, you can tweak your deadlift form, before initiating the pull.

However, for beginners, stick to what works and what can allow you to repeat the deadlift again and again without tons of variations.

This will help build up your strength and technique. 

You can focus on what the pros are doing later on.

Right now, just focus on building a solid foundation so that you can break all your current strength limitations.

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