For size and strength, it can be hard to argue the deadlift is one of the best bang for your buck exercises out there. Like many things in life with great reward, there is often a great risk. The deadlift when executed improperly can be problematic to even the most experienced lifter.

Here are 5 tips to ensure you dominate your deadlift and reap all of the rewards without any of the risks.

1. Cut Your Shoe in Half

The first step in a proper deadlift is setting up your feet. Most people set up either too close (shins touching) or too far away. In either case, this is going set you up for failure. Lining up the barbell about 1-2 inches away from your body where it would cut your foot in half is a great place to start.

This will allow you enough room to bend down and utilize your legs during the lift without dropping the hips too low and pushing the barbell out in front.

2. Pull Your Body to the Bar

Once your feet are set you want to bed at the waist ( in a bad position) and grab the barbell with straight arms. You want to pull your body down toward the bar as opposed to rolling the barbell forward or backward. This will ensure once your shins touch your hips are just low enough for you to utilize your legs in the pull and not just your back.

It is very important to keep your arms straight to keep your biceps and elbows protected. Pulling yourself down to the bar will also help keep your “chest up” and spine neutral as you approach the starting position of the pull.

3. Hear the Click

Right before you initiate the deadlift you want to hear the “click.” Rather than jerking the barbell off the floor, you want to build up tension and pull the slack out of the barbell while trying to break it toward you once your shins have contact (making sure not to roll it forward or back).

Once you hear that click and your back and hamstrings are on tension, you are ready to start to lift the weight off the floor.

4. Push the Ground Away

A good cue is to think about pushing the ground away. Think of doing a leg press with the weight. You want to utilize your quads to help initiate the pull and allow your back to remind in a solid neutral position through the lift. If you pull too much with your back your hips will shoot up and your back will round, making the lift very difficult and putting you in a vulnerable position.

Make sure to focus on driving with the legs off the floor and be patient. It may take a second or two before the weight breaks off the ground. Then you can focus on building momentum and accelerating toward the lockout.

5. Drive the Hips Through

Once the barbell gets to about your knee height your quads have primarily finished their job. It is now time to drive the hips forward. Think about wedging your hips under the barbell versus pulling the weight over the top of your hips. This will allow your glutes to do the hip extension and take the stress off your lower back.

It will ensure you don’t overextend as you pull and you will finish tall with a powerful glute contraction. Once it gets to your knees think about driving your hips forward to finish.

To watch these tips in a real coaching scenario, check out my YouTube Video here!

 John Gaglione is the owner and founder of Gaglione Strength. A private Long Island strength training and powerlifting gym located in Farmingdale, NY. Specializing in group training for athletes and adults of all levels looking to improve performance, build lean muscle and drop body fat. To email John, visit his website or follow him on Instagram @gaglionestrength!