It’s the biggest lift in the gym, and it only takes one step to complete. Who would have thought it had so many particulars to make your reps the most effective? Well, the truth is, it does. Using some of these directives on deadlift accessories will help you break a plateau you may not have even realized you were in.

Shoes

Many people think deadlifting barefoot or with very minimalistic shoes is the way to go. In theory, it makes sense, but people who have fallen arches or poor foot stability aren’t going to get more out of their heavy deadlift without attempting reps with proper support and structuring. Buying a pair of solid lifting shoes (not Olympic lift shoes!) would be a smart choice. Reebok and New Balance are good brand options to look into.

Straps

Let’s be honest – you can only lift as much as you can hold. That doesn’t mean straps can’t be beneficial for targeting muscles of the trunk and lower body and taking stress off of the grip – but if your ultimate goal is to have a stronger deadlift, then you should make a general habit of lifting raw. It will have more of a payoff long term and probably improve your arm development at the same time.

Belt

If you’re someone after a strength goal, and you’ve had a history of back injuries, then belt up. You’ll be safer when approaching heavier loads. If you’re wearing the belt as an accessory to rely on despite having a healthy body, then lift raw instead. Lifting with a belt can help increase intra-abdominal pressure that can’t be produced otherwise. If you allow yourself to lift heavy while using a belt you don’t necessarily need, you’ll never get your core to its true strength potential – even if your lift numbers rise.

Grip/gloves/chalk

Wearing a pair of lifting gloves is a go-to practice for many old-school lifters, or for people who are just concerned with keeping their hands soft to the touch and callus-free. The problem is, as far as deadlift accessories go, the use of gloves creates a surface between two other surfaces (your hand and the bar). When your hands start to sweat, the hand can often slide and shift under the glove, causing irritation or a lack of full grip strength. In order to avoid this, a better solution is to use chalk. The chalk will help dry your hands and create a strong bond between your bare skin and the bar. If you’re concerned about your calluses, there’s always another option: Don’t deadlift at all.

What grip should you set up using?

Many lifters set up with a mixed grip (one hand gripping overhand, and one underhand). Truthfully, it’s wise to think about how this would affect the entire body, and not just the hands and arms. In a mixed grip, one arm is internally rotated while the other is externally rotated. Applying repeated force with this configuration may make the grip feel strong, but promotes uneven force production throughout the body. This can lead to some pronounced muscular imbalances over time, if you practice this method often. Better to save the mixed grip for your heaviest sets, and go double-overhand for as long as you can before it’s no longer a viable option.

Muscular man holding a dumbbell and performing grip strength exercises and demonstrating curling mistakes

Bars

As far as deadlift accessories, there’s really nothing special here. You have the option to deadlift using a straight bar or a hex (AKA trap) bar. Both are perfectly fine, but just know that the trap bar setup generally allows for a lower seat position, taller torso and more quad-driven reps. This is due to the fact that there’s nothing to block the shins from traveling forward, allowing for the change in geometry.

Dead stop vs touch and go

Pulling from a dead stop (allowing the bar to completely settle on the ground between each rep) is often viewed as a “true” lift since there are no transfers of forces. It also gives you the chance to reset your hands, re-tighten your back position and prepare for another pull. However, the touch and go method (lightly glancing the bar off the floor and directly into the next rep with no stoppage) has benefits also. Eccentric control becomes much more of a factor and this also increases a lifter’s time under tension. The grip gets no chance to relax, and it demands better overall technique for such a sustained effort with no chance to reset. The tip to all lifters isn’t to polarize towards one method or the other – it’s to practice both.



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By GIL