Sure, “pulling” is part of the movement, but that’s not why. The real reason has to do with “pulling the slack” out of the bar. But what does that mean? Why do we do it? Let’s dive into it and take a closer look at how conventional slack pull makes a big difference for deadlifting.
As you’ve probably heard before, there are two parts to any movement: the eccentric (lengthening the muscle), and the concentric (constricting or “flexing” the muscle). On deadlifts, the eccentric movement would be lowering the bar, and the concentric would be the actual pull.
But, most people negate the eccentric and only focus on the concentric. This often leads to an excessively rounded back (AKA a cat-back deadlift) which not only puts excessive amounts of force into your lumbar spine but also results in poor technique and the inability to lockout. How do you focus more on the concentric part of the deadlift and keep those negative effects from happening? Well, you learn how to pull the slack out of the bar.
In a well-executed conventional deadlift, you will see a good amount of bar bend happening before the plates leave the ground. This is more noticeable with a deadlift bar and about 500+lbs on the bar.
How do you pull the “slack” out of the bar? To successfully pull as much slack out of the bar you must have a solid deadlift technique to begin with. Solid technique may look different from person to person but ultimately follow these basic principles:
Once you have these principles down, you can focus on pulling the slack out of the bar.
To pull the slack out you start at the top—before you even reach for the bar—by keeping your arms long, maintaining a neutral spine, and pushing your hips back in an RDL fashion. Once you’ve pushed your hips back, you should feel a lot of tension on the hamstrings. Your torso should be basically parallel to the ground. After this, you bend your knees as needed to reach the bar.
Lastly, you drop your hips while putting weight on your heels and try to extend through your mid-back. If done correctly, you should feel the bar bend in your hands and an insane amount of tension at the bottom position.
The most common mistake I see is taking too long with this set-up. Now like anything else in life, you may have to take things slowly at first to get better at it. But once you understand the crucial steps, you can’t take your sweet time with that much tension on the bar. It is simply too taxing on the body.
You may benefit from practicing this with 50-60% of your max until it becomes more natural and then start using this setup with maximal weights.
Pulling the slack out of the bar is essential to a well-executed conventional deadlift. If done correctly, you will set yourself up for success. Lastly, don’t forget that just because your favorite IG powerlifter can get away with suboptimal technique doesn’t mean you can. Now go pull the slack out of that bar and become a better deadlifter.
It's one thing to read it; it's another to do it. And when you're training without a coach, you need to make sure you know what you're doing.