The 6 MOST Common Deadlift Mistakes Women Make

Deadlifts are bad for your back… Just kidding. They’re not. Bad form while deadlifting is.

For example, look at my client Jess. In the video below she’s slaying 170lbs for 4 reps. With this form, she’s got  minimal to no chances of injuring her back.

Being a powerlifter myself, I fucking love deadlifts. That said, not all of my clients deadlift crazy amounts of weight, because I realize that not every one dreams of throwing 300lbs around like it’s nothing. And it’s totally cool.

But many women have goals of reducing back pain, or feeling better, or building a perky butt, or feeling like a total badass, or picking up their kids without throwing out their backs. That’s where mastering the deadlift comes in.

To help you minimize your fear of deadlifts, to reduce risk of injury, and to maximize your level of BADASSARY, I’m sharing the most common mistakes women make while deadlifting and how to fix them.


 #1.Standing too far away from the bar.  


The distance between the bar and your feet determines whether you pull the bar with your butt & legs or your lower back. As you already know, you don’t want the latter.

To avoid pulling with your lower back, have the bar directly above the middle of your feet. This set up ensures your lower back is in a safe position and that your butt does all the work.


How to fix it:


To practice the movement and get comfortable with the position of the weight, try to do a KB deadlift, which allows you to keep the weight directly below your center of mass. Make sure that you start with the bell in between the arches of your feet. You can also throw in some hurdles, to make sure your knees don’t travel forward.

KB deadlift with hurdles.

#2. Excessive lower back arch at the bottom of the movement.

While it’s true that women have a greater low back arch than men, we tend to over do it on multiple occasions. 



When I first introduce a client to strength training, I often refer to two types of posture: “Beyonce posture,” which is excessive arching, and “sad puppy posture,” which is a flatter back and more neutral position of the spine.

“Beyonce” posture

“Sad” puppy posture.

In a deadlift set up, you want your back in a sad puppy position. With this posture, you’ll be less likely to throw out your back— and more likely to lift heavier weights.

How to fix it:

I recommend starting with a KB goblet hip hinge against a bench. Be careful, however don’t move through your spine. Make sure that you start with your back in the sad puppy position, and then move your hips towards the wall, without breaking the straight line of your spine.

Do this:


Not this:


#3.Hyper extending at the top.

In the video below video, you see my client Melissa leaning back.This sure isn’t the best way to go about deadlifting. With the heavy load and the repetitive motion, this positioning can easily lead to  some sort of low back pain.


So which position is safe for your back? The almighty straight line, head to toe. At the end of the lift (called lock out), you want to thrust your hips into the bar as hard as you can, while maintaining a fairly flat back.

Check out my friend and co-athlete, Hilary murdering the lock out


How to fix it:  

Too much arching at the end of the movement usually happens because of arching too much in the beginning of the movement (refer back to the previous point). After you fix that problem, I’d recommend doing a KB or barbell deadlift with a resistance band. The band makes it harder at the top of the lift, forcing you to squeeze your butt as hard as you can.



Universally, there are two types of deadlift stances: sumo and conventional. As with anything in life, things are not so black and white. Besides the two common ones, there is also an in-between stance, or as I call it, the co-sumo.

The best way to choose your stance is to accommodate the lift to the way you’re built. Some people are best suited for conventional, others for sumo. And then there is a co-sumo cult. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Whatever your stance,  you still need to make sure the position of your feet and knees is in synch with the stance width. Often, I see women take a similar stance to what they’ve been taught in group fitness classes for squats.–aka, “place your feet shoulder width apart, toes looking straight forward.” 

Aka “Squinge”

When deadlifting this way, your knees have no other way to go but to travel forward and collapse in, leaving your back the last man standing for all the work.

How to fix it:

Since co-sumo is the in-between stance, let’s take a look at both conventional and sumo stances. The first one is a narrow stance. In this case your feet and knees point either straight forward or slightly out, thus helping you recruit the muscles of the posterior chain to perform the lift.

In the sumo stance, the placement of your feet is wide, with your feet and knees pointing at the same outward angle. If you keep your feet pointing straight, or point your toes out without bringing your knees with them, your knees will collapse and you’ll fail to engage the muscles of your legs.

The co-sumo stance is no different. If you take a wider stance, you want to place your feet pointing slightly out, and pushing your knees east and west, so  they also look in the same direction as your feet.

Look at my client Kim, she’s a perfect example of the co-sumo stance.



#5.The choice of shoes.

If you walk into Lady Gym when I train my girls, you’ll see me and my clients hanging out shoeless. What can I say? We’re a weird bunch.

What’s up with shoes, tho?

I’d like you to grab your workout shoes and take a look at them. If it’s your typical running/crosstraining shoe, it has some sort of cushion and a heel. When you run, this is the type of stuff you’d need to protect your joints from excessive pounding.

But when you deadlift in these shoes, the heel causes your weight to shift forward, moving your center of mass from the pelvis to the lower back. When this happens, instead of using your posterior chain, you end up using your lower back.

Deadlifting barefoot or in Converse helps you create a better mindbody connection. Keeping your feet directly in touch with the floor gives your brain an opportunity to maximize muscle recruitment.  

How to fix it:

Take your shoes off when deadlifting. Make sure the socks are clean, though.

#6. Pulling the bar versus pushing yourself away.

The deadlift is not a pull exercise, but rather a push. I didn’t know this concept until I did my internship at Cressey Sport Performance. Since I did, it’s been a game changer for me and my clients.

Here is me deadlifting 305lbs.

By pulling the bar, you lose engagement in your lats, failing the lift and compromising your low back. By pushing the floor away and standing up, you maintain the lat engagement and use the posterior chain.

Also, when you push the floor away, you have less of a chance of yanking the bar and tearing your biceps. No one wants a torn bicep.



Next time you deadlift, pretend you are Superwoman, and you’re about to take off up into the sky to fight the bad guys. In order to do so, you want to push yourself away from the floor.

Take away?

Want to become a savage with the buns of steel?  Do deadlifts, but do them right

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