How to Modify the Deadlift

For those looking to build strength, power, and daily living capabilities – the deadlift is a must! This compound exercise engages multiple muscle groups as you bend forward in a hip hinge motion. The hip hinge is a powerhouse exercise that serves as the basis for many other strength-based movements. It’s a great way to improve active daily living movements such as grocery lifting or simply tying shoe laces with ease! Deadlifts, in particular, can be incredibly beneficial – but not without proper form and consideration of one’s individual capabilities! When done correctly, deadlifts are an amazing way to increase overall fitness, so let’s learn how to perform (and modify) them correctly!

Our hips hinge hundreds of times each day, allowing us to move about freely. So why not make that movement stronger and sturdier? That’s where the deadlift comes in! But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation- everyone has different body structures and unique amounts of “mileage” which can affect our ability to safely get down into position for the deadlift. With an individualized approach, we can create tighter hip hinges with greater resilience.

Back Limitations

Having a restriction in the thoracic spine, which is located between your belly button and sternum, can unfortunately leave you with poor posture. With a limited range of motion, or ROM, movement becomes difficult and it’s hard to focus on building strength or power. A mobility specialist will be able to help unlock this restriction that is typically caused by rounded shoulders or a slumped posture, opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to movement!

in the middle of a gym, a man on his hands and knees arches his back up to mobilize his spinal vertebrae

Lower Body Limitations

If you’re looking to accommodate stiff knees or limited ankles, try bringing the object closer to your center. An example of this is a kettlebell deadlift – by placing an item below it before lifting, you can reduce the range of motion and make sure that even if flexibility might be lacking, the technique isn’t! Don’t just jump into heavier weights- instead use these lifts as a chance to hone in on key skills like stance, breath control, and posture. Taking the time now will translate well later when performing similar movements in your daily life that often go overlooked, such as closing the car door when your hands are full!

a woman sets up to perform a kettlebell deadlift

How to Keep It Safe

You have likely heard it is important to keep your core tight and squeeze your glutes a million times, and while that is absolutely true, here is the real inside scoop: the height of the weight should reflect your largest deficiency. For example, if your ankles and hips allow you to go to the floor, but at a certain point, your torso starts to round, you should set the target just above that level.

And while we can safely plan and accommodate for limitations, be sure to continue working on increasing your safe movement ranges when possible. It’s not an easy task, but luckily we know a few mobility specialists who would love to help if you need it! These simple yet effective techniques can help improve your range of motion, allowing you to perform the exercise safely and effectively.

a loaded barbell is elevated for a shorter range of motion

Tap into your fullest potential with the deadlift! This powerful exercise helps develop strength, endurance, and resilience to take on any challenge. But if you don’t have flexibility that allows for proper form then fear not – a few modifications can go a long way toward improving technique, mobility, and overall fitness. By elevating objects closer to center-of-gravity, maintaining an upright posture, and continuing to work on any limitations, your range of motion could be optimized without compromising safety or effectiveness. So put in the time- learn the proper technique & make modifications tailored to your individual needs, because how we train today will ultimately show up when it matters most tomorrow!