The Deadlift For Beginners | How To Perform Without Pain

This deadlift for beginners guide is for anyone new to strength training or looking for solutions to chronic joint pain. For many, deadlifting can be an intimidating exercise. You’ve probably heard stories of someone injurying their back while lifting. Maybe you’ve seen videos of huge guys lifting 500 lbs and thought…’ehhh…not for me’. If you’re someone who has been dealing with joint pain I 100% understand the hesitation. 

With that being said, the deadlift is the most effective exercise to build full body strength to limit impact on our joints. It needs to be part of any plan to solve joint pain with strength. In this deadlift for beginners series I will teach you how to perform, common mistakes, and different variations to help you master your lift.

Deadlifting For Beginners – How To Perform

Before attempting to deadlift it’s important that you have a solid movement foundation. If you haven’t already, please check out our step-by-step guide to learn how to transition your hinge into the deadlift. Once you’ve built a solid movement foundation it’s safe to move to the deadlift. 

I start beginners with a kettlebell lift (vs. a barbell lift) because it’s safer and easier to control. To perform the kettlebell deadlift:

  1. Place your feet on the outside of weight. Hands should fall directly over weight.
  2. Reach your hips back until tension is felt in hamstrings.
  3. Once tension is felt, then bend your knees to reach the weight. This helps you avoid rounding your lower back.
  4. At the bottom of the position, be sure to keep your hips down and chest up.
  5. Develop tension in your hamstrings by slightly lifting hips (keeping chest up).
  6. Brace your abs.
  7. Press through the floor to lift the weight and return to standing position. Avoid raising hips before your trunk (see in mistakes below).
  8. Lower weight back down with the hinge, bending knees to get weight all the way to floor.
  9. Reset and repeat.

Watch the video below for a video demonstration of how to perform the deadlift.

Common Deadlift Mistakes And How To Fix Them

While a seemingly simple movement, there is a lot that can go wrong. Especially when we get to heavier weights and more repetitions. I’ve worked with a lot of deadlift beginners over the years and seen a lot of mistakes. The following are a few of the most common mistakes beginners make below:

Starting With Feet Too Far Back

When dropping down to pick up the kettlebell, your hands should fall directly over the bell. If you line up too far behind the kettlebell you’ll be forced to reach forward – which increases tension on your back and can lead to an injury.

Chest Falling Forward (Hips Too High)

Keeping your chest up while performing the deadlift ensures we on’t use our back to lift the weight from the ground. Be sure to bring your hips down and chest up before pulling from the ground.

Not Controlling Spinal Movement

Too much spinal movement can lead to more much impact on our joints. Bracing your abds before lifting will lock your pelvis and spine in place to prevent too much force from going through the strictures of your spine.

The ‘Stripper’ Deadlift

When lifting from the ground your hips and trunk should raise at the same time. Raising your hips first, followed by the trunk resembles a dance move and why it has become known as the ‘stripper’ deadlift (see video). This altered movement pattern can cause more force on yoru lower back and lead to injury.

Not Setting Weight Down With Care

When performing a deadlift, it’s important to place just as much care setting down the weight as you do picking it up. Slopily setting the weight down is one of the most common ways beginners injure their lower back.

Deadlift For Beginners: Deadlift Variations

Once you’ve mastered the kettlebell deadlift, you can further challenge yourself with different lift variations variations. Here are just a few more fun ways to practice the hinge to build strength and protect your joints.

Elevated Kettlebell Lift

We use the elevated kettlebell lift to further ingrain the hip hinge pattern and transition to the deadlift movement. But this variation (also called a rack pull when performed with a barbell) is a great way to lift heavier weight and build more strength.

Barbell Deadlift

The traditional barbell deadlift is one of the most effective tools to improve movement patterns, increase motor recruitment, and build full body strength to limit the impact that goes through our joints.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

As the name implies, the stiff leg deadlift is a variation that limits hip and knee bending. It’s used to target your lower back extensors and postural muscles (posterior chain). Be careful with this variation if you have concerns about hip or back pain.

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift starts from a standing position and requires an eccentric contraction of the glute hamstrings and back for building strength. It’s another great variation for building posterior chain strength (glutes, hamstrings, and postural muscles).

For anyone new to strength training or dealing with chronic pain, the deadlift can be an intimidating exercise. However, it is one of the most effective exercises at building full body strength to limit impact on your joints. I hope this deadlift for beginners guide gives you the guidance and confidence to incoporate some sort of lifting into your routine. Give it a try and email me at if you have any questions.

And be sure to download our free program ‘Solving Pain With Strength’ for an approachable, step-by-step guide to improving movement and strength.

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Solving Pain With Strength: An Approachable, Step-by-Step Strength Program For Adults Limited By Joint Pain

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