Last updated on November 5th, 2022 at 12:01 pm
I decided to search, “Do Deadlifts Have to Touch the Ground?” on a number of popular online forums.
I have my own opinion of this subject, but I just wanted to see what others had to say.
My forums of choice were Quora, Reddit, and Bodybuilding.com, as this exact question had been asked and answered by many.
As it turns out, the answers given to this query were pretty much unanimous.
Plus, I’m pleased to say that they were in line with my own point of view.
Table of Contents
Do Deadlifts Have to Touch the Ground?
The exercise is called the deadlift because it involves lifting a dead weight from a dead state on the ground. There are many deadlift variations, but the conventional deadlift will typically involve the weight coming to a dead stop on the ground before you perform your next repetition.
The Two Types of Deadlifts That Touch the Ground
There are a vast array of deadlifts, but when performing the conventional deadlift the weight will always touch the ground.
That being said, there are actually two ways in which you could place the weight on the ground.
The Dead-Stop Deadlift
I would hazard a guess that the dead-stop deadlift is the most common format of the exercise.
It’s definitely the method I use most frequently.
This also seemed to be the most popular deadlift among the members at Reddit and Bodybuilding.com.
The dead-stop deadlift will involve getting into position, lifting the weight, lowering the weight, and then resetting yourself at the bottom to lift again.
It appears that the majority of people on the forums I visited perform the dead-stop deadlift in a similar way to me.
Once the bar has touched the ground (or weight plates to be exact) I take a couple of seconds to reset myself, and get into the correct position again, before performing my next rep.
I noticed that a number of people mentioned that they took a complete break from the bar prior to their next rep.
This would involve letting go of the bar, walking away, returning to the bar, gripping, resetting, and then lifting.
Each to their own I say, but to me this is far more akin to performing single reps.
Okay, you probably won’t be taking as much rest as when you’re pulling your 1-rep max, but you’re still taking a longer “rest” than normal.
I like to keep my hands on the bar, simply reset my position, contract the muscles, and lift.
The Touch-and-Go Deadlift
The touch-and-go deadlift is another popular way to use the conventional deadlift, but it’s not one that I perform with any regularity.
Don’t get me wrong, I have done touch-and-go deadlifts many times, but I much prefer the dead-stop.
The touch-and-go appeared to be far more popular with the people over at Quora.
As the name suggests, this involves the plates touching the floor briefly before lifting the bar right away.
So, in effect, you are literally lifting, lowering, lifting, lowering as one fluid movement.
Therefore, a set of 5 reps of touch-and-go deadlifts can be completed much quicker than 5 reps of dead-stop deadlifts.
One of the main reasons that those over at Quora seemed to like the tough-and-go deadlift so much is because they believed it allowed them to lift more weight.
I will agree that this in some cases is true, but does that make it the better version of the deadlift?
When Should You Perform Touch-And-Go Deadlifts?
Which “Conventional” Deadlift is Better?
As I’ve mentioned, two of the three forums I encountered preferred the dead-stop deadlift over the touch-and-go variety.
And as I say, I much prefer the dead-stop deadlift too.
There’s a few reasons why some may be more inclined towards the touch-and-go deadlift and I think Lee Boyce at T-Nation does a great job of explaining these.
However, I can certainly provide counter-arguments for the points that he makes.
Before I do, I think it’s important to say that I have huge respect for Lee Boyce, and he is certainly someone I have avidly followed for many years.
He still acknowledges that the dead-stop deadlift is an awesome exercise.
Anyway, here’s what I think about the points Lee has made in favour of touch-and-go.
Firstly, Lee says that dead-stop deadlifts are concentric only.
Basically, he means that we typically only perform the lifting phase of the deadlift, and the eccentric phase is typically neglected, as the bar is dropped to the floor.
This may be true if you’re simply aiming for your one-rep max.
However, I tend to perform deadlifts in sets of 3-6 reps.
So, I definitely complete the eccentric phase (lowering) under full control and gently place the weight on the ground.
Lee mentions that the nervous system and the muscle fibres “get the most action” during the negative (lowering) phase.
I completely agree with this.
So, as long as you’re performing dead-stop deadlifts for reps you should be completing the eccentric phase.
Lee speaks of the dead-stop deadlift being more like 5 sets of 1 rep when performing 5 reps.
So, this means that it’s harder to train grip strength.
He goes on to say that the touch-and-go deadlift requires you to maintain a solid grip on the bar without ever slackening it.
But, once again he is assuming that you’re dropping the weight, typically from hip height, without ever completing the eccentric phase.
Now for those that choose to walk away and completely reset themselves in-between reps of the dead-stop this may be true.
However, from personal experience, my hands never leave the bar and my grip never loosens.
When I “reset myself” I’m simply talking about how my body addresses the bar in preparation for my next rep.
I guess you could argue that with the touch-and-go deadlift you are almost “carrying” the weight throughout your set.
But, I believe grip has more to do with how and where you hold the bar.
Lee claims that you’re essentially doubling your time-under-tension with the touch-and-go deadlift.
Again, I disagree.
I would urge you to watch the pace at which someone completes dead-stop deadlifts compared to touch-and-go.
I can pretty much guarantee that the touch-and-go variety is performed at a more frantic pace.
Plus, I would also argue that you can easily increase time-under-tension with the dead-stop deadlift by simply performing the exercise slower.
Additionally, if you completed both variations with a standard 2-second concentric and 2-second eccentric, is that not the same?
How does time-under-tension differ here?
Just in case you weren’t aware, a stretch reflex involves a muscle involuntarily contracting straight after it’s been quickly stretched.
Okay, I’ll probably have to admit defeat on this one, LOL.
The touch-and-go deadlift is definitely better for a stretch reflex.
BUT, only when performed correctly.
Many people have a tendency to “slam” and then “bounce” the weight off the floor during touch-and-go’s.
As long as you perform the eccentric phase at a slow pace, literally just touch the ground, and then lift again, you’re good to go.
The Types of Deadlifts Which Don’t Touch the Ground
Everyone agrees on this – Me, Quora, Reddit, Bodybuilding.com, and I’m guessing even Lee Boyce.
When performing stiff-leg or Romanian deadlifts you WON’T touch the ground.
Well, not unless you have some unbelievable flexibility in your hamstrings.
Both these deadlift variations are generally performed with lighter weights.
Plus, they are typically aimed at providing more glute and hamstring activation.
That being said, the Romanian deadlift uses a lot more hip extension, but the bar won’t go as low as the stiff-leg deadlift.
But, I think it’s safe to say that most of us with normal, and even very good, flexibility will not be touching the floor.
Romanian Deadlift vs. Stiff-Leg Deadlifts
So, in answer to whether deadlifts have to touch the ground you can see that we all agree that they do when performing conventional deadlifts.
You have a choice of dead-stop and touch-and-go with the traditional deadlift.
I prefer the dead-stop, but that is obviously just my opinion.
I’m sure that something else we can ALL agree on is that deadlifts are an awesome exercise when it comes to building size and strength.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.