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The Best Deadlift Cues You Aren’t Using

sandbag training


I often give deadlifts a hard time here, but hopefully it has become obvious I have nothing against deadlifts. In fact, I think they are great and they are often how we start much of our DVRT level 1 programs. It is just a bit of the overvaluing of them that seems to get people in trouble. As of yet, deadlifts haven’t solved the worlds issues, at least not yet;)

Even as popular as deadlifts are, I often hear coaches discuss how difficult it is to get people to do them well. That is the ONLY reason that the trap bar has seen a resurgence. I don’t have a problem with that, but let’s face it, the trap bar often becomes much more of a squat than a deadlift, but digress.

There are really two fixes that make deadlifts so much easier and effective to teach. The first is ensuring people are using their feet. As I often explain at our courses, if you have a weak foundation, everything up the chain is going to have issues (okay, not that catchy, but you get the point). Getting people to use their feet not only makes them stronger, it makes them more stable making achieve the hip hinge that much easier.

sandbag deadlifts

At our recent DVRT course in Seattle we demonstrated how to get people to create more “active” feet in more unstable deadlifts by looping a band around the front foot. 


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 DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, shows how getting people to achieve active feet through the use of active feet helps stabilize the pelvis and saves the low back while building stronger glutes. 

That is why we start everything with the feet, but as I often tell our DVRT students, that’s half the equation. There is always a lower body and upper body connection that has to be made. We’ve discussed a lot about creating tension against the handles to active the lats which helps us achieve our proper plank.

DVRT Master, Steve Holiner, explains why gripping your Ultimate Sandbag properly is the difference between being strong or weak. 

Okay, we got feet, we got the grip, but what I wanted to spend the most time about because we just really haven’t is what we do if those things are working well, but we just aren’t still NAILING those deadlifts. Typically if those two things are going well, we just have to clean up a little and that goes to teaching how to create MORE tension in the lats and core, but how do we do it?

While some coaches make these things really complicated, I try to make them as simple as possible. In fact, one of our tips we created almost a decade ago (man I’m getting old) has become pretty common with the barbell deadlift but people miss why the Ultimate Sandbag offers such a better way of teaching these concepts. That is adding a band to Ultimate Sandbag (one of the original reasons we actually created the Ultimate Core Strap)  and because we can make our body part of the load we can easily teach these tensions and stability concepts.

This concept becomes more and more important as we change body position to keep our stability through greater core stability.

You can see by what Jessica demonstrates below, these concepts are not just for deadlifts but any hip hinge movement. More importantly they teach the concepts that make you great beyond just deadlifts.


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“But Josh, those are good mornings, not deadlifts?!” True, but they are both hip hinges and sometimes using this holding position in our DVRT system helps learn these concepts easier, that is why patterns are more important than exercises. However, we can also then apply this to deadlifts to help build the exercise, but then to add complexity to it as well!

You can see by DVRT Master, Sean Lettero’s demonstration that this forces one to keep the weight close to the body and makes the feet really engage as well!

We can use these strategies for feedback, but we can also use them to challenge deadlifts and make them more than one dimensional. DVRT Master, Paige Fleischmann shows a great way we can build lateral strength while using these strategies of the deadlift.


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Sharing posts like this I hope inspires you that making great strides in your own training, but also the idea of teaching others isn’t as overwhelming as you may think. If we focus on how the body moves and think of strategies to teach these concepts to anyone we come up with some pretty awesome ways to train hard and smart not just for the short, but long-term!

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