How to Correct Your Deadlift Technique: The Anti-shrug

Improving your deadlift technique and increasing the amount you can deadlift is as easy as engaging your lats.  Being able to engage your lats while dead lifting will make or break your ability to pull heavy weight. Up until last week, I was struggling to maintain tension in my lats throughout the whole pull. This problem had single handedly slowed my progress for the upcoming power lifting meet. If you can’t fire your lats while deadlifting, you don’t have a prayer to keep your chest up or be able to drive throughout the entire pull. An inability to keep your chest up will result in flexion of the spine (think Hunchback of Notre dame). Any flexion of your spine can lead to damage to the passive support structures; in other words, low back pain, chronic injuries and so on. 


The Fix: The Anti-Shrug

So what is the best way to fix this problem? Welcome the anti-shrug. The anti-shrug is simply depressing your shoulders and pressing your shoulders away from your ears. To feel it in action, slide your elbows away from the mouse and keyboard, and forcefully pull your elbows down towards your hips and depress your shoulder (pressing away from your ears).  Bam, you should have just felt tension within your lats. The amount of tension you feel is dependent on how forcefully you depressed your shoulders. If you do it long enough, the tension you feel could quickly turn into a cramp within your sides just under your armpits.

Anatomy of the Lats 101

Latissimus dorsi ANATOMYTo further understand how this idea will help keep your chest up, protect your spine, and ultimately bring your dead lift to new weight; let’s take a look at the anatomy of the lats. The lats insert onto the intertubecular groove of the humerus. The lats cover a large area of the back and have many sites of origin. They include the thoracic spine, lumbar spine, thoracolumbar fascia, iliac crest, inferior 4 ribs, and the inferior angle of the scapula. You don’t need to be an anatomy wiz to realize your lats cover a huge portion of your back. The lats play a large role in the movement of your spine and the direction of movement is dependent on the origin of the specific area of the lat.

Since this massive network of muscles all inserts on the humerus, it is clear to see how simply depressing your shoulders by using an anti-shrug can create tension throughout your whole spine and sides. This simultaneously protects and strengthens your spine, while eliminating energy leaks from your sides.


Firing Up The Glutes

To take this a little deeper, the thoracolumbar fascia feeds directly into your glutes. By activating and creating tension within your lats, you are essentially revving up your glutes. This revving, which I will call tensing, further enhances the amount of pull you will get from your glutes. Why do you need a big pull from your glutes? Well, deadlifting is a posterior chain exercise. Posterior chain exercises require a large amount of force to be generated from your GLUTES and hamstring.  

posterior chain

So by performing the anti-shrug your are not only protecting your spine and improving your deadlift biomechanics, but you are also creating more tension, and recruiting more fully from your glutes. Results=stronger deadlift!


Now that you understand what the anti-shrug is, go out and apply it to your deadlift. When should you apply it? On every single rep.  Whether you're warming up, or positioning yourself before you crush a new 1rm, apply the anti-shrug. The greatest power lifters in the world treat each rep the same. To truly own the movement and prepare yourself neurologically for each lift, remember all reps were created equal.

deadlift old

Train Strong!