The deadlift and power clean are two very popular exercises among athletes for good reason—they are excellent for developing total body strength and power, while simultaneously emphasizing powerful hip extension. The problem is that many athletes have mobility restrictions through the hip, knee, and ankle and corresponding trunk stability issues in the trunk that cause them to lose position during the initial stages the pull from the floor.

As coaches, we must minimize injury risk and maximize sports-specific performance in the weight room. 

Rather than avoiding these lifts, use the deadlift as an alternative exercise that can be incorporated into an athletes training program. This exercise is helpful in teaching and reinforcing proper starting position when pulling from the floor. Additionally, the dead-pull is an excellent exercise for development hip and trunk stability and power.

Overview of the Dead-Pull: The dead-pull trains three of vital components for better performance in the weight room to optimize transfer to sports: 1) It teaches the ideal starting position when pulling from the floor; 2) It challenges the core under load to maintain integrity; and 3) It reinforces stabilization through the trunk and hip.

How to Dead-pull:

  1. Keep the feet approximately shoulder width apart with your bodyweight evenly distributed on each deadpull1foot.
  2. Perform a hip hinge, similar to when performing the Romanian deadlift exercise, until the hands
    reach the bar, grabbing with a double overhand grip.
  3. Drop the hips, retract the shoulder blades, and assume a conventional deadlift position.
  4. To initiate the upward movement, “Drive the feet through the ground” and stand up until the bar reaches just below the knee, with the hips and shoulders rising simultaneously.
  5. Pause for 2-3 seconds while maintaining rigidity and stability of the trunk (i.e., trunk integrity).
  6. Slowly return the weight to the starting position using the same movement pattern described during the ascent.
  7. Repeat for the prescribed number of sets, reps, and rest periods to achieve your desired goal.

Note of Caution: If the heels rise up before attaining a solid starting position, do not dead-pull – there may be other restrictions through the hips and ankles that need to be addressed first.

Programming the Dead-pull: The dead-pull should be performed after a general and dynamic and warm-up and any other forms of movement-based training (i.e. speed, agility etc.) – taking place during the day. Ideally, use submaximal weight (50-75% 1-RM) for three sets of 3-5 reps while holding a 3-second pause just below knee height. Program the dead-pull as a core strength exercise or an ancillary movement with lighter loads and longer pauses at mid-shin position to help build a more resilient core and better starting strength.

Wrap Up: The dead-pull is a great exercise to teach proper position in the first pull of the clean and initial pull in the deadlift, creating stronger and more stable athletes in the weight room and on the playing field.  Most importantly, the dead-pull teaches dynamic trunk stability under load to allow safer, more productive training for you and your athletes.

To see Loren’s video demonstration of how to properly perform the dead-pull, go to


Loren Landow, CSCS, MAT Specialist, USAW, is Director of Sports Performance, Steadman Hawkins Clinic – Denver. and Director of Sports Performance at Elite Sports Services.


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