Should you roll the bar before deadlifting

January 4th 2019

As deadlift workouts come, I was thinking about this, should you roll the bar before deadlifting?


After doing some research, it looks like it depends on the lifter and his/her training experience. If you have been deadlifting using the rolling technique and it feels natural, continue to use it. If you are a newer lifter, it might be easier to teach you how to deadlift from a static starting position since it eliminates excess movement. Overall, it comes down to the lifter’s preference as there are no major advantages for rolling the bar before doing a deadlift.

Deadlift form

When I was first learning how to deadlift, one of the videos I used to learn how to deadlift was from Elliot Hulse. I have linked the video down below:

Tips to conventional deadlift from Elliot Hulse

  • Maintain three points of contact with the broomstick.
  • Thoracic extension - I found a helpful article for those who need more help with thoracic extension. It is common to have poor posture if we sit all day in front of a desk or computer. It promotes poor posture and improper movement patterns. You can find thoracic extension exercises, drills and stretches here.
  • Accessories - Bent over rows


One of the main points I got from that video was to keep your head, midback and butt all in the same plane. In the video, Elliot Hulse uses a broomstick illustrate how you should maintain contact at those three points while using your hips as the hinge.


Another deadlift video that really helped me was this deadlift instruction video by Richard “The Ant” Hawthorne. I have linked his video down below:


Tips to conventional deadlift from Richard “The Ant” Hawthorne


  • Bar placement  - In the middle of your foot
  • Stance width - Shoulder width or just inside shoulder width
  • Grip - Based off your preference. If you use a mixed grip, your dominant hand will be your underhand (palm facing the bar). Grip the bar in your fingertips. Don’t worry about getting a full grip because it will roll anyway. Do a thumb-index finger lock.
  • Hand placement - Stand over the bar, relaxed. Wherever your hands are, that is your hand placement on the bar


    • If your knees are touching your arms, try not to let that happen. It will interfere with your lockout


  • Shin placement - Have them straight. Do not have them over the bar.
  • Butt placement - Have the butt up higher. You do not want to sit down.
  • Front delts and head position - Over the bar
  • Rear delts position - Inline with the bar
  • Deadlift motion mechanics - Deadlift is not a pull, it is a push


      • Upper body stays tight, let your legs do all the pushing


  • Deadlift hand mechanics - Before deadlifting, make sure to dry your hands out. Wash them thoroughly. Get out all the dead skin and excess oils. Get your hands rough by grinding your hands against the bar knurling. Use chalk.
  • Bar speed - Do not worry about being slow


      • “I do not believe in explosion” - That is instant. It does not last. Boom and it is gone. It is chaos. This is where things get hurt.
      • I believe in drive - It is constantly going and going


  • Deadlift preparation


    • Decide which hand grabs the bar first (I always grab the bar with my left hand first). As soon as I grip the bar with my left hand, my left foot is already pushing against the ground. When I grab the bar with the other hand, the other foot is pushing into the ground. This is not even the final form yet. When you finally lower your hips into position, you are pushing, with both feet, even more.


He emphasized the importance of pushing during the deadlift and to always maintain perfect form during training. Two very key training strategies if you want to maintain longevity in the sport of strength training.


Another great video I enjoyed that helped my deadlift was one by Johnnie Candito. I have linked his video down below:


Tips of conventional deadlift from Johnnie Candito

    • Keep your upper back tight
      • Common mistake - lack of upper back tightness. Solution? Do snatch grip deadlifts. Snatch grip deadlifts are deadlifts performed using a snatch grip, which is a very wide grip on the bar.
    • Butt back with neutral lower back
    • Drive the weight with your glutes


  • Stance width  - Depends on the lifter.



Here, he is concise and very descriptive about what to look for during a deadlift and goes over very common mistakes that people make during the deadlift. It was a greater refresher for me.

What if I sumo deadlift?

I have not developed my sumo deadlift and do not sumo deadlift at all. I have tried to sumo deadlift a total of twice during my entire six years of training. But, I have thought about it for some time.


If I were to give advice for someone looking to sumo deadlift, here are some suggestions I would recommend. They would be the same recommendations I would give to someone looking for conventional deadlifting tips:


  • Find someone who you think has the perfect sumo form. Try and copy that.
  • Find someone who has broken a world record.


Really, those are the only two criteria I have for looking find a perfect deadlift form. So, if I was forced to sumo deadlift, I would look at Stephanie Cohen, Ed Coan and Cailer Woolam.


Tips for the sumo deadlift from Stephanie Cohen:


    • Stance width - Whatever feels comfortable. Girls are able to get away with a wider stance due to their anatomy.
    • Foot Angle - 45 degrees or pointing towards the plates
    • Shin angle - Perpendicular to the ground and have your knees out
      • From this, we can assume that Stephanie Cohen starts with the bar right against her shin. She emphasized how important it is to have your body not get in the way of the bar path vs having the bar needing to go around you


  • Hand Placement  - Where it feels comfortable


    • Chest - Have it inline with the bar, not over the bar
    • Shoulder position - inline with your wrist. Overall, your chest, shoulder, arms, and wrist should be in the same line.


  • Butt position - It will vary from lifter to lifter. Stephanie used a tip from Chris Duffin, another legendary sumo deadlift puller. Use 60-70% of your 1 rep max and sumo deadlift it up and slowly lower it down. Wherever your butt ends, that is your butt starting position. No higher, no lower.
  • Sumo deadlift execution - Thinking about pushing your butt down as your chest comes up. This will help avoid you coming too far forward and the bar coming too far away from you.
  • Use a static start - Helps her build tension
  • How to know if you should sumo deadlift? - Stephanie saw this chart to calculate whether or not you should be doing a conventional deadlift or a sumo deadlift, based off your body proportions. You will need three measurements, your arm length, from the tip of your middle finger to top of your chromium (shoulder), your torso length, from the top of your head to the top of your hip, and your height, from the top of your head to the bottom of your ankle. Next, do the following calculations and plug it into the chart:


      • Arm length divided by your height
      • Torso length divided by your height


  • Is sumo deadlift cheating? - No. Why?


    • Approved deadlifting style in competition
    • If you ask a room of 100 experienced lifters, no one will say that the sumo deadlift is “easier” than the conventional deadlift. They will say that the deadlifting style you choose is based on your preference.
    • If deadlift records have been broken in the past using a conventional deadlift, why did they not use a sumo deadlift if it was an “easier” deadlifting style or if it could be used to pull more weight?
    • For the most part, the sumo deadlift is a shorter range of motion. But based on research on the energy demands of the muscles, any exercise which is done between 5-15s long will use the energy supply from your muscles. And research showed that your muscles will have enough energy supply to support a 10-15s long sumo deadlift pull. So, the energy demands of the muscles do not favor one lift over the other.


Tips for the sumo deadlift from Cailer Woolam:

    • Warmup using the hip circle. (Amazon) This is to get your glutes firing.
    • Goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell. Get the groin and abductors firing.
    • Kettlebell swings to warmup the groin, abductors, glutes, and hamstrings
    • Use a band to pull your legs apart. Put the band over one leg at a time and get into your sumo deadlift stance.


  • Where to place your feet during the sumo deadlift?  - Start of neutral. Find something comfortable. If you are just starting to sumo deadlift, do not put your feet all the way out.


      • One good test after you have found your feet placement and toe angle is to stand up strong. Feel comfortable and strong in that position. Pretend that someone was trying to push you over. It should not be easy to do that.


  • Toe Angle  - The wider your stance is, the more you should angle your toes.
  • Where should the bar be relative to your foot? - Line the bar up so that the bar is right up against your shins
  • How to set up the rest of your body? - You will use the bar to help you. First, you grab the bar with a comfortable grip. Your hips will be high and your shoulders will be in front of the bar. Then, you will pull your hips into the bar. When you do this, your hips will begin to sink into your ideal starting position and your shoulder will move back so that you are inline with the bar.



Cailer Woolam summarized the video himself using these two hips:


  • Find a good foot position
  • Determine the starting position of your hips by using the weight of the bar to pull yourself into position.

Tips for the sumo deadlift from Ed Coan:


  • How to set up for a sumo deadlift?
  • Shin position - Right against the bar


      • Foot stance - Depends on the person.
      • Look forward and squat down to the bar
        • If you have mobility issues, play around with your stance
    • It is very technical lift. If you misgroove, that could cost you the lift. There is no room for error.


  • Accessories


    • Bent over rows
    • Dead stop reps for all sets and reps with the sumo deadlift
    • Grip work - Barbell holds, for time

Deadlift head position  

There are two schools of thought on the head position of the deadlift.

  • Head in a neutral position with the neck inline with the body (chin is tucked)
  • Head is tilted up (chin is lifted)


So, which is better? Well, I did some research and found that it is up to the lifter’s preference. There have been world records that were broken using a head up technique and the neutral head technique.


For me, I find I like to keep my head neutral. Lately, I have been changing my head position by looking further away during my deadlift. I used to look a couple feet away from the deadlift bar, which put my head at a weird angle and my neck appears to be super tucked.


But there is one deadlift head position tip that seems to be universal - do not look straight up or straight down while deadlifting. This will put your head at an extreme angle.

Should you tuck your chin?

By tucking your chin, you are directly impacting your head position. If you tuck your chin in, you will find that your head position is more neutral.


And as I explained earlier above, the best head position for you is one where you are most comfortable. So, if you are following an instructional deadlift video that teaches you to tuck your chin and you enjoy that, go for it!

Rolling your shoulders back?

I have also wondered about that and decided to find that information for you. Here is a video by Chad Wesley Smith from Juggernaut Training Systems,



I found this to be the best advice. So, yes you are supposed to try to keep your shoulder back by “rolling your shoulders back.” But if you are going for a max effort deadlift, your shoulders will be pulled out of position. It will just happen since your lower body is much stronger than your upper body.


So instead, you should focus on engaging your lats. Chad Wesley Smith uses the que, “protect your armpits.” I found that really helps as you really flex your lats and promote your body to get into a better starting position. He even added a couple of accessory movements to help you develop your lats:


  • Rows
  • Chin-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Shrugs
  • Snatch grip deadlifts

Deadlift - pull up, backwards or both?

I have also wondered about this question. But from all the expert advice I gathered, I came to this conclusion.


For the deadlift, you will want the bar path to be in a straight line. Essentially, you are just standing up with the weight in your hands. And this appears to be the most optimal strategy for deadlifting.


I have also noticed that some lifters are able to muscle the deadlift due to their brute strength. And this will look as if they are pulling the deadlift backwards.  Sure, you can do that but it is not something you should rely on. From a technique standpoint, you will need to just drive your legs through the floor and continue to pull upwards.


Doing the deadlift with proper technique will allow you to make bigger and more efficient deadlift gains. You may be able to get away with some ego lifting from time to time but in the long run, great form and technique will always reign supreme.

Twisting during deadlifting?

If you twist during a deadlift, you are probably using a mixed grip while deadlifting. I have not experienced this problem myself but I am curious about the answer. Based on my research, your underhand is so used to pulling underhand and your overhand is so used to pulling overhand that it is causing your body to slightly rotate. Your body is creating a muscular imbalance. And the solution?


There are plenty.

  • Starting using hook grip
  • Start using a double overhand grip
  • Use straps


But if you want to build massive strength and tap into your untapped potential, you must train with the double overhand grip. By training your grip strength and eliminating the worry of any asymmetrical muscular development, you are growing your strength and power potential.

Elephant bar deadlift vs regular deadlift


The elephant bar is just like a standard Olympic bar, except it is much longer. The Rogue elephant bar can hold up to 12-13 of Rogue custom-made 2” thick 45lbs (20.5kg) plates.


The elephant bar is typically used in Strongman events where contestants pull massive deadlifts, frequently over 1000 lbs.

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