Last updated on November 5th, 2022 at 02:58 pm
It’s definitely a hotly-debated lifting topic, “Should You Tuck Your Chin When Deadlifting?”
If only the deadlift was as simple as lifting a heavy barbell off the floor and then putting it back down again.
However, you know as well as me that there are many technical aspects to the perfect deadlift.
Not only will good form ensure that you lift as much weight as possible, it also means that you can do so without risk of injury.
So, allow me to explain what you need to know about both chin and neck position when deadlifting.
Should You Tuck Your Chin When Deadlifting?
You should tuck your chin when deadlifting as this ensures you maintain a neutral spine. However, this simply means you shouldn’t be looking straight ahead or up above. If you exaggerate a tucked chin you’ll have difficulty in keeping your chest up. This can often lead to your back rounding, which must be avoided when you deadlift. Many lifters tend to look in the mirror when they deadlift, but this leads to extending the neck, which means that the spine is unlikely to remain in a neutral position.
1. A Neutral Spine is Key While Deadlifting
First things first, when it comes to deadlifting the most important factor is that you maintain a neutral spine.
So, this means having a natural inward curve of the lumbar spine, just above the butt.
Plus, you’ll also want to maintain the natural curvature of the upper spine too.
If you deviate from either you’ll typically find that you’ll place undue pressure on the spine, which of course can lead to injury.
I guess the number one deadlift form error is rounding the back.
Therefore, you will have an excessive forward rounding of the upper back.
This also means that you won’t have that natural inward curve of the lower spine.
So, before I even talk about chin or neck positions, your main focus should be to ensure that you’re not rounding you back during deadlifts.
Now, the same holds true of the cervical spine, or the neck region.
You don’t want to see excessive rounding or overextending of the neck either (more on this in a moment).
So, when it comes to deadlifting, yes you should tuck your chin, but only ever so slightly.
A tucked chin will help you to maintain a neutral spine while you deadlift.
Realistically, you’ll want to stare at a target approximately 10-15 feet in front of you on the floor.
Not only will this allow you to keep your neck in the perfect position, but it actually helps with creating tension throughout the body.
And it is this full-body tension that allows you to power your way safely through a heavy deadlift.
2. Don’t Exaggerate “Tucked Chin”
Now, it’s more than likely that you’ll come across deadlifting advice which categorically states that you shouldn’t tuck the chin.
However, keeping a neutral spine is still the main goal by the “non-chin tuckers”.
The reason that you may hear this is simply because many people overdo it.
Basically, the chin-tuck is exaggerated to such an extent that the chin comes in contact with the sternum.
If you think about it, by doing this your neck will no longer be aligned with your spine.
Plus, by tucking your chin in so far you’ll automatically round the upper back.
So, in effect you’ve got yourself into the worst and most dangerous deadlifting position.
This is why I’ve mentioned that you should only slightly tuck your chin in.
You definitely don’t want to be rounding your upper back.
You certainly don’t want to be looking at the barbell or even your feet.
This is why it’s so important to pick that spot on the floor slightly in front of you and keep your gaze fixed there.
3. Never Look in the Mirror When Deadlifting
Something I see all too often is lifters watching themselves deadlift in the mirror.
This is yet another mistake.
In fact, you should never watch yourself in the mirror when you squat or deadlift, and yet so many of us do.
Firstly, if you’re mirror watching to check your form then you’re doing it from the wrong angle.
You won’t be able to tell if you’re perfectly in place to deadlift from a head-on position.
Plus, you don’t want your head cocked to the side, gawping in a mirror, while you’re attempting to lift a few hundred pounds off the floor.
That’s definitely asking for an injury to happen.
Additionally, if you are mirror watching while you deadlift then you’ve gone to the complete opposite of perfect chin and neck position.
You know for a fact that if you’re staring straight ahead and that your chin won’t be tucked.
In fact, your neck will be extended, which once more takes your neck out of alignment with the spine.
Now, I’ve often heard people say that this position allows them to lift more weight.
They’ll even say that it ensures that they keep their chest high.
Okay, I’ll agree that you can keep your chest high if you’re looking straight ahead or even slightly upwards.
Perhaps you may even be able to lift a little more weight.
However, you’ll end up putting a huge amount of pressure on your cervical spine from this position.
You are literally one pull away from a serious neck injury.
So, please do not look in a mirror while you deadlift.
4. A Case For the Max PR Deadlift
There are actually a number of different cues for optimal neck position during deadlifts.
And with each of these your chin ends up in a different position as well.
You’ll often hear lifters saying you should “pack the neck” during deadlifts.
I guess the best way I can describe this is as trying to make a double chin, while it looks as though you’re straining your neck.
I have even heard of coaches saying that you should “look out to the horizon”.
So, with the first example you’ve tucked your chin so far that it’s almost touching your sternum.
And with the second example you’re overextending the neck.
Personally, I don’t think either method is particularly great, but these cues have been used by world-class powerlifting coaches.
So, who am I to argue?
With that being said, these specific cues of either exaggerating chin tuck or overextending the neck are both aimed at lifters trying to hit a one-rep max.
Then again, it could be someone trying to hit a new max PR.
Once again, I’m not going to say I completely agree, but it does seem as though perfect form goes out of the window when you’re lifting extremely heavy weights.
I feel this puts extreme pressure on the cervical, upper, and lower spine.
Therefore, it is definitely not something you should do if you’re deadlifting for reps.
Okay, I understand that there is occasional back rounding and different chin positions when you’re deadlifting so much weight.
But, I still say that you should always tuck the chin ever so slightly when you deadlift.
As an example of what I mean about “looking out to the horizon” here’s John Cena hitting a heavy one-rep max.
John Cena 638lb Deadlift
So, as you can see, I personally believe that you should tuck your chin when deadlifting.
However, you should ensure that you don’t exaggerate this by having your chin touch your sternum.
The main aim is to keep your neck and spine and their perfect natural alignment.
This means you should maintain a neutral spine throughout.
So realistically, you should be looking at the floor 10-15 feet in front of you.
You definitely shouldn’t watch yourself in a mirror while you deadlift.
However, I appreciate that form can take a hit when lifting a one-rep max.
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.