Tip: For Deadlifts, Put Your Armpits Over the Bar

This puts you in a safer, more efficient position for big pulls and new PRs. Here's why.

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Connect Your Lats to the Bar

Yes, your hands are grabbing the bar. But it's where your armpits are located – in relation to bar placement – that plays a huge role in deadlifting performance. Your armpits are where the lats insert.

I'm a decent deadlifter. I've pulled 3x bodyweight: 570 pounds at a bodyweight of 190. For years I've set up with my shins as close to the bar as possible, and while it led to some success it also led to some pesky back issues. Why? When setting up as close as possible to the bar, think about what's happening.

Deadlift 2

  1. The shins are more vertical.
  2. Because the shins are more vertical, the armpits are in front of the bar creating an awkward line of pull the lifter has to overcome (as shown by the arrows in the photo above). This puts the lifter in a mechanical disadvantage, forcing him to recruit his lower back to a higher extent, and has been the impetus of more than a few back injuries.

How to Fix It

Overhaul your setup so you're a little further away from the bar. The bar should be located about mid-foot. In doing so, your shins can translate forward a bit more, which then allows you to get you armpits directly over the bar (use the bar as a counterbalance to "pull" the chest up), which places you in a better line of pull.

Deadlift 1

Your hips will push back a bit so you'll feel tension in the hamstring, and then it's go time. Much like squatting, there's no one right way to deadlift, but this concept of "armpits over the bar" has a universal carry-over to most lifters.