YOUR Deadlift Questions Answered!

This past week, I asked a very simple question on both my standard Facebook page, as well as my Fan Page:

I’m writing an article on the differences between trap bar, sumo and conventional deadlifts. What questions do you guys have about these lifts?

The response was overwhelming, and not everything fit into the article.

However, I didn’t want to leave you guys hanging. So if you asked a question, I’m going to answer it right here. Enjoy!

(Please note: A lot of these are modified from the original text so they’re actually in the form of a question.)

I strain my adductors when pulling sumo. Any thoughts?

This could be causing your adductor strain.

This could happen for one of two reasons:

  1. You need more groin flexibility/extensibility, or
  2. You’re in too much anterior tilt.

If the answer is 1, I’d start by:

  • foam rolling your groin,
  • incorporating more dynamic stretches into the mix,
  • doing some static stretching at night,
  • and then trying to strengthen the glutes to a high degree in the frontal and transverse planes.

If the answer is 2, read Hips Don’t Lie.


What is the risk vs. reward of training the deadlift with each style for athletes?

In general, I feel you have the most room for error when trap bar deadlifting. In contrast, you probably have the least room for error when performing conventional deadlifts.

I cover this in the article, though, so you’ll get a more thorough answer there!

If you’re not competing, is any form of deadlift from the floor really worth it (vs. rack deadlifts, for example)?

You pick stuff up off the ground in daily life, right?

rounded back DL
If your DLs look like this, you may have a point abour risk-to-reward ratio.

I see your point – there is definitely a risk-to-reward issue here. But who says you have to lift with crummy technique?

Or with too much weight?

If you have good mobility and stability in the proper areas, and you’re realistic about the amount of loading you should use, I think you’ll be fine.

I have flexibility issues when performing the sumo deadlift. What should I do?

See the above response.

What is the efficacy of the rack pull as a viable substitute for the DL?

I like rack pulls initially, as you can often make them very hip-dominant while simultaneously minimizing mobility demands. If you don’t have a trap bar, they make for a great substitute.

Over the long haul, though, I think you need to work your way progressively lower and lower. Remember that if you have good mobility and you strength train through a full range of motion, you’re cementing that good mobility.

Might someone’s specific proportions (e.g., femur vs. tibia vs. torso length) render all forms of deadlifting biomechanically infeasible?

I answered this to some degree already, but I’m going to answer it in a bit more depth here.

You don't have to have arms this long to have a 700-lb. DL. But it helps.

The word infeasible doesn’t really jibe with me. If you have a really long torso and short arms, sure, deadlifting isn’t going to be easy. You’re going to have to work that much harder to get into a good starting position and maintain it throughout the lift.

And along those same lines, you’re probably not going to be as acclimated to moving heavy weights as someone with a short torso and long arms.

Let me put it this way, though. One of my good friends, Jim Laird, has the prototypical T-Rex body style. Seriously, he may have the worst deadlifting levers I’ve ever seen. And yet, he’s figured out a way to deadlift 700 lbs.

I guess it all comes down to how bad you want it. Maybe you won’t set world records, but you can work with what you’ve got and make it a hell of a lot better.

The choice is yours.

How do gains in one variation translate to the others? Also, how is lockout and off-the-floor speed influenced by choosing different variations?

I answer both these in the article, but I’ll answer the second question briefly here.

As we discussed in my podcast with Mike Tuscherer, either you’re good off the floor or you’re good at the lockout. This is largely influenced by your starting position.

Again, I don’t want to give away all the secrets now, but be sure to listen to the podcast, as it should help!

Please explain the different grips and why it’s important to switch them up. Also the negatives and benefits of lifting straps in each.

First, the only type of deadlift where I use straps is Romanian deadlifts. This is typically because the sets are somewhat prolonged and I like to use a traditional pronated grip, so fatigue sets in rather quickly.

For all the different types of grips, please read my Deadlift post from a few months ago as I give pictures and descriptions of each.

I’d like to know whether wearing a Lee Mazurek tank top helps results.

A bit of background here…

In college I lived in a fraternity house. Lee Mazurek was known for having a collection of tank tops, and to take it a step further, he actually hung them up to keep them nice and pretty.

tank top
Be sure to hang them up for maximum gains!

You can’t make this stuff up.

Now, to answer your question.

Yes, wearing a tank top has been proven by research to increase your strength levels by at least 11%, and testosterone has been shown to increase at least 3-fold over wearing traditional gym clothes.

Bottom line? Suns out, guns out my friends. Get your tank tops off the hanger and gets to lifting!

What rep ranges do you use for specific cycles, e.g., power, strength, hypertrophy for each type of lift?

Tough question. For strength, it really depends on how strong the lifter currently is, how long they’ve been training, etc. I’d refer you again to the Deadlift post linked above.

I doubt I would use the deadlift as my primary exercise in a power cycle, though. In all honesty you’d probably get more out of jumps, med ball throws, and O-lift variations than you would even from speed pulls.

Do you use “Fat Gripz”?

I own them, but I don’t use them on deadlifts. I probably should, though, as I have the forearm girth of a small child.

What is the efficacy of each type in relation to training for powerlifting?

I have a saying – well, it’s not mine, but I use it a lot. It goes like this:

Practice how you play.

If you pull conventional in a meet, you should practice your conventional pull.

If you pull sumo in a meet, you should practice your sumo pull.

Now as you get more advanced, the rules can and will change a bit. But early on, you need to get used to the specific lifts you’ll be performing in meets.

Finally, with that being said, if you’re a powerlifter, I wouldn’t spend too much time and/or energy on trap bar deadlifts.

Which one provides the least strain for a guy with shot lower back (aka becoming an old man)?

The trap bar is probably going to put the least amount of stress and torque on your back.

How about common errors in each and proper regressions and progressions?

This was covered in detail in the Deadlift post.

Which variation is best for individuals with limited ankle, hip mobility, knee pain, shoulder pain etc.?

If you have limited mobility, start with a trap bar or rack pull variation. If it’s really bad, just do a pull-through or RDL for the time being.

If you have knee pain, focus on keeping the tibia vertical.

I can’t think of anyone with shoulder pain who couldn’t deadlift, unless it was subluxed or something like that.

What does the literature say on each movement as far as kinematics, kinetics, and RFD?

Good question, and I’m not sure I’m the person to ask as of right now. I have a ton of deadlift research that I need to go through.

What about breathing technique/belly breath during lifts?

GREAT question. I like to take a big, deep belly breath before I go down and approach the bar. I don’t think you can do it once you’re down there, as you’re just too compressed to get that big breath.

If you are working with an athlete who has only done one style, say conventional deadlifts, is there a danger of progressing them too quickly when transitioning to sumo or trap bar?

I think this is a really individual question. What would be too fast for one person would be too slow for another.

Basically, I’d have to examine this on a case-by-case basis.

Would you recommend that someone perform all 3 styles at various times of the year? And if so how would you periodize it? ‎

This is a really broad question and almost impossible to answer without knowing the person at hand.

For a fat-loss person, they’d probably never sumo or conventional deadlift.

For a powerlifter, they’d probably never do a trap bar deadlift.

For anyone else, the answer would be “it depends.”

I was actually wondering on the stability requirements of the trap bar DL based on its design. It seems that at lockout, the bar rocks back and forth, so you have to contract specific stabilizers not to let this happen. Anyone else notice this phenomenon at lockout when using the trap bar for DL?

I think a lot of your stability comes from your lats, and when your hands are further away from your body, your lats can’t contract as strongly to stabilize your torso.

What is the best way to set up, with regard to foot positioning? I have developed a pretty stable scheme for my other DL setups, but I’m still trying to find the best blend for the trap bar DL.

For the trap bar, I tend to set up my feet hip- to shoulder-width apart (wherever you would vertical jump).

Furthermore, make sure your toe flare is approximately the same as your stance width – i.e., the wider your feet are, the more toe flare you need.

Thanks for all your great questions! I hope these answers helped you guys out. Good luck and good pulling!

All the best,



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  1. are you still taking questions ?
    for reasons of age, back comfort etc I prefer to dl exclusively with a trap bar
    assuming I am not into powerlifting, am I missing out on something by not doing conventional or sumo dl ?

  2. help my form just gets worse. my belly is an issue so i dont feel right in any stance..which is best for xl guy with ave arm and leg length??

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