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Gain Strength and Size With These Tips for Maximizing Your Lift

Goal: Strength
Bodyparts: Back, legs

In the strength game, there are few names that are more respected than Marty Gallagher. Let's be honest: A man who can deadlift 744 pounds from the floor at a bodyweight of 235 pounds commands a little deference. But Gallagher isn't just strong -- he's obsessive about technique. He knows that even the slightest deviation from the proper range of motion can destroy your chances at completing a max lift. But this attention to detail is what has made him one of the most sought-after strength coaches in the nation. If you're ready to build all-over strength and size with the deadlift, it would seem that he's a man to talk to. So we did. And he gave us four ways that you can start improving this fundamental lift--starting today.

Most people think your feet should be shoulder width apart. And because of a hundred fitness models who can't do the conventional deadlift, many people think that the sumo variation is best. But to break a heavy, loaded barbell from the floor, Gallagher likes to go narrow. "In general, you want your heels to be no farther than a 12 inches apart." Gallagher keeps his feet as close as six inches.

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If you've ever seen a thick-backed, seasoned deadlifter, you may have noticed chaffing and powder on his thighs and bruising or even abrasions on his shins. Why? Because he's doing it right. "Guys are uncomfortable with touching the bar but you need to be touching the bar with your shins at the start of the lift -- you should be that close," he says. "Because for every inch the bar has to move forward to clear your knees, you can add 40 pounds to the force you need to produce." Keeping the shins flush to the bar keeps the direction of the bar as close to vertical as possible -- right where you want to be.


If you just go from a dead stop to trying to yank the bar from the floor, you may end up leaving your lumbar on the platform. To avoid injury, before each rep, Gallagher recommends infusing a little bit of upward tension on the bar to get everything in your body nice and tight. This provides the support structure you need to safely complete a lift with heavy weight.

When you're deadlifting, you're not training your grip -- you're training everything else. So there's no shame in using straps to add some poundage to your heaviest sets. "Not using straps is limiting," says Gallagher. "You're never going to get proper overload if your grip is a limiting factor."

>> For more from Marty Gallagher, order his book "The Purposeful Primitive," at