Many lifters have trouble engaging their hamstrings when deadlifting. They lack "hamstring awareness." This usually ends up going one of two ways:
- They don't feel like they're getting any benefits from it and decide deadlifting isn't for them... which is hugely upsetting.
- They carry on anyway, their form breaks down easily, and they put up with constant back pain after every deadlift session.
If you're someone who struggles with one of these issues, here's a great way to become more aware of the hamstrings AND make them infinitely stronger.
The Hamstring Slider
Place a few furniture sliders or similar on a smooth surface and press your heels into the ground to lift yourself up as much as you can. Now curl your legs up towards you while keeping your hips completely extended.
This exercise leaves no room for compensation. If you do them right you can't avoid feeling your hamstrings. The harder these are for you, the less hamstring awareness you have. Ideally, everyone should aim to build themselves up to doing 3 sets of 15 reps with minimal rest.
Use this exercise as a deadlift warm-up and primer. After, set up for your deadlift and see if you can you use your hips in a way that makes you feel aware of your hamstrings before you lift. It's very important to have this feeling nailed down; many people can look like their back is straight when actually their lower back is doing a ton more work than it should.
Building good hamstring strength and awareness now will help you keep making gains in the long run.