Do You Squeeze at the Top of a Deadlift?

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To squeeze or not to squeeze, that is the deadlift question.

And here is exactly what you need to know.

Yes, you should squeeze your glutes at the top of a deadlift. However, this should involve an isometric contraction of the glutes while maintaining a neutral lower back position. Unfortunately, many trainees tend to overextend their hips, tuck their butt, and pull their shoulders back too. This will lead to lumbar flexion, which means that you’re finishing the movement with your lower back and not your glutes.

Why You Should Squeeze Your Glutes

Deadlifts are typically viewed as one of the best posterior chain exercises.

Basically, they work just about every muscle at the back of the body.

Plus, they certainly work a fair few muscles at the front of the body too.

That being said, the main muscles that you’re looking to use during deadlifts are the glutes and the hamstrings.

And this is best achieved by pushing your feet into the ground and then explosively hip-hinging in order to lift the weight from the floor.

Yes, that’s right, you should be using your glutes and hamstrings to lift the weight and not pulling with your arms when you deadlift.

You need to correctly use the glute muscles to stabilize the hip joint, while simultaneously creating hip extension.

However, your glutes will be more loaded at the top of the deadlift so “squeezing your glutes” will actually help you through the full range of motion.

Essentially, if you don’t squeeze at the top you won’t have completed the deadlift movement in its entirety.

This is much the same as contracting the working muscle by squeezing it at the top of ANY movement.

So, as an example, you’ll always squeeze your biceps at the top of curls, squeeze your quads at the top of leg extensions, and squeeze your abs at the top of crunches.

It’s exactly the same principle with your glutes and deadlifts.

The Biggest “Squeezing” Mistake

Now, telling a trainee to squeeze their glutes at the top of deadlifts is all well-and-good.

However, in truth, the deadlift is one of the most butchered exercises in the gym environment.

And this is especially true of the glute squeeze at the top.

Hips  too Far Forward.
Shoulders too Far Back.
Curvature of the Lower Spine.
= Poor Deadlift Form

What I often see is people overdoing this and pushing their hips past their maximal range of extension.

The hips actually only have around 20 degrees of extension.

Therefore, if you try to move past this range you’ll start using other muscles to lift the weight.

This over extension of the hips is clear to see if your hips are forced in front of the rest of your body.

Then again, it’s quite common to see the shoulders pulled back behind the line of the hips.

This is the typical “lean back” that you see some people use during deadlifts.

What has happened here is that you;ve tucked your butt in, whilst creating posterior pelvic tilt.

So, the front of your pelvis is up, while the back of your pelvis is down.

If you find yourself in this position during deadlifts you’ll end up using your lower back, as opposed to your glutes, to finish off the movement.

And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how dangerous it is to be using your lower back to deadlift.

Practice Proper Form First

Your aim is to squeeze your glutes in order to finish the movement, but without leaning back.

Furthermore, you also don’t want to force your hips too far forward.

Never mind your local back for a moment, forcefully extending your hips past their maximum capacity can also lead to hip pain from deadlifts.

Basically, you want to squeeze your glutes, stabilize the pelvis, while maintaining a neutral lower back position.

This simply involves contracting the glutes isometrically so that they harden, but you should do so without forcing your joints to move.

My suggestion would be to practice the movement with just your body weight initially.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been deadlifting with poor technique for a while now you’re going to have to be extremely wary of how you “finish” at the top of the movement.

Play special attention to where your hips, shoulders, and lower back are at the top of the movement.

Remember, you don’t want to be leaning back, your shoulders and hip joint should be in line, and definitely no curvature of the lower back.

Should You Activate Your Glutes Before You Deadlift?

I often see people warming up for deadlifts by simply performing a few light reps first and then getting straight into their working sets.

In fact, this is how many trainees warm up for all their workouts.

However, in truth, performing a few light sets should actually be the final part of your warm-up routine.

Deadlift Warm Up - Soft Tissue Work, Light Cardio & Dynamic Stretching, Shoulder & Upper Back Stabilization, Perform Light Reps of Deadlift

Realistically, you want to be doing some light tissue work first in the form of foam rolling.

Move onto some light cardio, which should involve getting your heart rate up and breaking into a slight sweat.

Next, perform some dynamic stretches, especially for your glutes and hamstrings.

From here you can perform some shoulder and upper back stability work, which should include stabilizing the back and shoulder muscles.

After this you are now ready to perform some light warm-up sets before moving onto your real workout.

So, as you can see, activating the glutes should certainly form part of your warm-up routine, but it is only a fraction of what you should be doing.

Key Learning Points

  • Squeezing your glutes at the top of the deadlift will “finish” off the movement and take you through the full range of motion.
  • Be wary of pushing your hips past full extension, which will mean that you’re lifting the weight with your lower back and not your glutes.
  • Ensure that you squeeze your glutes in order to stabilize your pelvis while maintaining a neutral lower back position.
  • Practice the movement with just your body weight.
  • Warming up for deadlifts should include foam rolling, light cardio, dynamic stretches, shoulder and upper back stabilization work, and a few light sets of deadlifts.

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