Deadlift

The Best Deadlift Warm-Up: A Step-By-Step Guide

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A muscular man about to powerlift after doing the best deadlift warm-up
A woman who who did a deadlift warm-up before her workout

Deadlifts are one of the most performed movements at the gym and one of the exercises with the most benefits, but for some reason, few people know a proper deadlift warm-up.

The greatest athletes and performers are advocates for long and effective warm-ups before training sessions. It shouldn’t be any different when it comes to deadlifting or any other compound movement.

A comprehensive warm-up for deadlifts should include the following:

– Foam rolling

– Deep tissue massage

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– Joint mobility drills

– Dynamic and deadlift-specific warm-up 

– Deadlifts based on percentages 

Throughout the article, you’ll learn how to prepare your deadlift warm-up, what movements to include, and what you should avoid.

Let’s jump in! 

The Importance Of Warm-Ups

The goal of deadlift warm-ups is to access the mobility you already have while increasing the range of motion of the prime movers, and it does so by increasing the muscle temperature and blood flow around them. 

Deadlift warm-ups are also crucial for priming your central nervous system (CNS) before any activity. It sets your body for the physical demands and your mind for the mental challenges ahead. 

Great athletes are known for having more extended warm-ups than actual workouts. In the case of the best deadlift warm-up, lifters spend several minutes mobilizing their hips and low back to increase deadlift performance.

This is an excellent opportunity to look for tight muscles (glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors) and implement activation drills to raise the core body temperature and get them loose before the lifts. 

How To Warm-Up For Deadlifts

Although there are no specific ways to warm-up for deadlifts, there are main pointers you should be aware of, which should maximize your training session.

The next steps are meant to be followed sequentially. One step is designed to prepare you for the next one, and so on until you’re ready to start the first main set of the deadlift session.

Step 1: Foam Rolling & Soft Tissue Massage

The goal of foam rolling and soft tissue massage (lacrosse balls) is to locally decrease muscle tone (more relaxed) in order to access the mobility your body already has

You should spend at most 20-30s per muscle group while doing these; otherwise, you may experience a slight strength loss. Keep them short!

Aim to foam roll your glutes, hamstrings, adductors, lats, and spinal erectors. Do each muscle for no more than the 30s (each side), and you’ll feel better for the next part.

Step 2: Joint Mobility

Deadlifts are a hip-dominant exercise, so taking care of your hip mobility should be a priority before deadlifting. 

Hip mobility drills can increase synovial fluid inside the joint, making movement easier and smoother.

A few that you can try are the following:

90/90 hip external/internal rotations

Hip airplanes

Bowler squats

Adductor dips

You can include these in any order of your preference, but make sure to spend 1-3 minutes on each movement to get your body prepared for the next step.

Step 3: Dynamic Warm-Up

Dynamic warm-ups are responsible for moving your body in different planes (frontal, sagittal, transverse) to increase body temperature. During this part, people are encouraged to jump, jog, and sprint short distances. 

A woman following the best deadlift warm-up before her workout

During a deadlift dynamic warm-up, you can find some of these movements:

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Inchworms

Heidens

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUMo_4wKlZQ

Broad jumps

Mountain climbers

Burpees

You can tell how these movements don’t follow the exact same pattern as the deadlift, and that’s why it’s called dynamic. Try 1-2 sets for 5-8 reps of each movement before moving on.

You don’t have to include them all and it doesn’t have to be these ones specifically. The goal is to move the body in different planes to keep it sharp and ready. 

Step 4: Deadlift-Specific Warm-Up

A deadlift-specific warm-up includes exercises with the same movement pattern as the deadlift. Contrary to dynamic warm-ups, here you’ll notice more hip hinging, glute and hamstrings activation, and low back engagement. 

All the powerful muscles required for the actual deadlift will be targeted with the goal of priming them for the lifting session.

Below are some examples:

Glute Bridge

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Floor Back Extension

Hollow Rocks

Empty Barbell Deadlift

For best results, do 1-2 sets on each movement for 5-8 reps. After you’re done, your body should feel ready to put weight on the barbell and attack the main lift.

Step 5: Deadlift Based On Percentages

This is where you begin deadlifting and progressively increasing the weight until you reach the desired load for the first set. 

Before the deadlift session starts, you should have a goal weight you’d like to lift and call that 100%. Based on that weight, you can calculate the previous percentages that will allow you to build your best deadlift warm-up.

For example:

– Warm-up set #1: 5 reps at 60% of your 100%

– #2: 4 reps at 70-80%

– #3: 3 reps at 80-90%

– Main set #1: 100% 

Although this may vary, it could serve as a north star on ramping the weight before the main lift. The goal here is not to get tired or fail any rep but to give your muscles and CNS a chance to be ready for heavier loads. 

What Not To Do During Deadlift Warm-Ups

Warm-ups are straightforward in terms of the movement sequence you should do. However, there are certain limits that you might want to avoid if you’re looking to get the most out of it. 

Get Tired

The best deadlift Warm-ups prime your body and mind for the main lifts ahead. Getting tired would be detrimental, not only for your deadlift form but for your spine health. 

Fatigued muscles may increase injury risk before the main sets. To avoid this, keep the warm-up at lighter weights and be mindful of how your body feels throughout the session.

Lift Too Heavy

If your target weight for the deadlift session is 100 pounds, using the warm-up to lift heavier than that before the main set might be counterproductive.

As a maximum, you should stay within 90% of the weight goal. Otherwise, you’re risking getting fatigued before the actual lift.

Long Static Stretching

Costa et al. (2009) conducted a study on recreational female athletes demonstrating that static stretching of the knee flexors (hamstrings) for approximately 8 minutes reduced strength by 9%.

Although more research is still needed, today’s consensus recommends limiting long static stretching before lifting. Instead, you could focus on foam rolling, deep tissue massage, and dynamic warm-ups. 

FAQ

What Muscles Should You Warm-Up Before Deadlifts?

Before doing deadlifts, you should prioritize warming up the lower back (spinal erectors), glutes, hamstrings, lats, and adductors. These muscles will help you maximize the benefits of deadlifting.

Should You Stretch Before Deadlifting?

The consensus is that you should only stretch after deadlifting. Stretching diminishes muscle tone, which is counterproductive regarding heavy lifting. Foam rolling (15-30s per muscle group) and dynamic warm-ups have shown more beneficial effects.

How Many Warm-Ups Sets For Deadlift?

It all boils down to how heavy you’re deadlifting. The heavier the load (80-95%+ of your rep max), the longer the warm-up should be. This will allow your body and primary muscles to act appropriately before engaging the lift, keeping injury risks at a minimum.

About Mauro Castillo Gonzales

I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.