Devil Lift (Deadlift) Possession

Early in my lifting “career” I was obsessed with the bench press. It was the lift I trained the most diligently and, as a result, it is definitely my best lift (relative to the other powerlifts, namely the squat and deadlift). Most recently, which is to say, over the past two years, I have become possessed by the Deadlift Devil and can’t stop obsessing over what Owen Smith recently called the “Devil Lift.”

I am writing this Blog because I had a dream about the deadlift last evening … I’m dead serious (no pun intended); I am literally dreaming about the deadlift (no petting the cheetah this time) – perhaps I need to cut down on the post-midnight Tagalongs.

Deadlift Obsession

Several years ago I read an article written by Dave Tate entitled, The Dead Zone: The Top 10 Deadlift Mistakes and How to Fix Them. Here is an excerpt from the article:

    Mistake #5: Not pulling the bar back

    The deadlift is all about leverage and positioning. Visualize a teeter totter. What happens when the weight on one end is coming down? The other end goes up. So if your body is falling backward, what happens to the bar? It goes up! If your weight is falling forward the bar will want to stay down. So if you weigh 250 pounds and you can get your bodyweight to work for you, it would be much like taking 250 pounds off the bar. For many natural deadlifters this is a very instinctive action. For others it has to be trained.

    Proper positioning is important here. If you’re standing too close to the bar it’ll have to come over the knee before you can pull back, thus going forward before it goes backward. If your shoulders are in front of the bar at the start of the pull, then the bar will want to go forward, not backward. If your back isn’t arched the bar will also want to drift forward.

    For some lifters, not being able to pull back can be a muscular thing. If you’re like myself, I tend to end up with the weight on the front of my feet instead of my heels. This is a function of my quads trying to overpower the glutes and hamstrings, or the glutes and hamstrings not being able to finish the weight and shifting to the quads to complete the lift. What will happen many times is you’ll begin shaking or miss the weight. To fix this problem you need to add in more glute ham raises, pull-throughs and reverse hypers.

The question I wrestle with (am obsessed with) is how far “back” is pulling back? Am I supposed to be pulling so far back that I am risking a chaotic event (i.e. borderline falling backward)?

I am definitely seeking feedback here … make no mistake about it, this is a cry for help. Comments please!!!


For me, the deadlift is like a bad relationship; when it involves someone else, I can typically see what is wrong from a mile away – he/she’s a toxic person; you need to get out. There is no doubt about it.

I can coach the deadlift. However, when it comes to my own training, understanding what I am doing wrong and improving my deadlift performance has been akin to a bad facebook status – “it’s complicated.”

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