Deadlift Correctives — Part I: Standing - Upright Health

Deadlift Correctives — Part I: Standing

Recall that proper deadlift form essentially has you ask yourself three questions:

  1. Can I form a neutral spine?
  2. Can I take my neutral spine with me, as I bend over and reach down?
  3. Can I take my neutral spine with me, as I stand up and pull back?
Kettlebell deadlift neutral spine

Why a neutral spine?

Because the curvatures of a neutral spine allow for the most balanced loading of each segment of the spine. Neither the backs, the fronts, nor the sides of any segment are unevenly compressed.

Being able to direct your spine towards a "neutral curvature" on command... enables and reinforces:

  1. the most balanced activity of all “spine muscles” to stabilize your spine (and reduce the likelihood of injury)
  2. the freedom of all other muscles to move your body (since they don't have to work double duty as primary spine stabilizers)

Thus is the benefit of being able to form a “neutral spine”, and why it’s a key component of proper deadlift form.

In this lesson, we’ll cover why forming a neutral spine requires access to adequate:

  • hip extension
  • shoulder extension
  • rib rotation
Hip extension donkey kick

Hip Extension

Shoulder extension

Shoulder Extension

Rib rotation lateral breathing neutral spine

Rib Rotation

Hip Extension

Adequate hip extension allows your pelvis and thigh bones to return to parallel with each other. This is essential in being able to form a neutral spine (while standing).

Anterior pelvic tilt resting hip flexion angle

When your pelvis and thigh bones can't return to parallel with each other, your low back gets stuck in an exaggerated arch.

My key pose for hip extension is lunge pose".

You may use additional exercises to master this pose. Regardless, keep it simple in your mind. Let your exploration of the pose be the tool that mediates your success.

Lunge Pose Hip Extension Gluteus Maximus Adductor Magnus
Shoulder Extension

Adequate shoulder extension allows your arms and upper spine to return to (near) parallel with each other (when your arms are by your side). This is essential in being able to form a neutral spine (while standing).

Hunchback posture resting shoulder flexion angle

When your arms are stuck in front of your torso, their mass may drag your spine into a hunchback.

My key pose for shoulder extension is “lounge chair pose”.

You may use additional exercises to master this pose. Regardless, keep it simple in your mind. Let your exploration of the pose be the tool that mediates your success.

Lounge chair shoulder extension neutral spine
Rib Rotation

Adequate rib rotation allows for your individual ribs to align with each other... and for your ribcage to align with your pelvis. This is essential in being able to form a neutral spine.

ribs pelvis ribcage neutral spine scapular skull

Each of your ribs attach to a vertebra of your spine. 

Thoracic ribcage shapes

How your ribs align with each other affects your spine curvature.

Neutral Spine vs Flared Ribcage Rib Flare

Your ribcage and pelvis are segments of your spine.
Their alignment with each other affects your spine curvature.

My key pose for rib rotation is “gate pose”.

You may use additional exercises to master this pose. Regardless, keep it simple in your mind. Let your exploration of the pose be the tool that mediates your success.

Gate pose neutral spine lateral flexion ribcage erectors obliques QL

So which of these pose explorations did you find most enlightening to your limitations? Take note of this for later, as you move onto the next article.

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About the Author

Vincent's first passion is powerlifting. Over the years, his desire to master his body and mind have led him into deep explorations in stretching, mobility, and mindfulness.