Squat University and Strongman Martins Licis Share Top Deadlifting Tips

Dr. Aaron Horschig, DPT, of Squat University and World’s Strongest Man Martins Licis make a strong team. Dr. Horschig has helped Licis bounce back from pain and injuries, especially as he recovers from being hit by a car. The duo is back together again to show off the components of […]

Dr. Aaron Horschig, DPT, of Squat University and World’s Strongest Man Martins Licis make a strong team. Dr. Horschig has helped Licis bounce back from pain and injuries, especially as he recovers from being hit by a car. The duo is back together again to show off the components of a perfect deadlift in a new tutorial video.



a person holding a sign: Dr. Aaron Horschig, DPT, of Squat University, and Strongman Martins Licis demonstrate the tips and techniques you should follow for a perfect deadlift.


© Squat University – YouTube
Dr. Aaron Horschig, DPT, of Squat University, and Strongman Martins Licis demonstrate the tips and techniques you should follow for a perfect deadlift.

“One of the big things I always try to tell young athletes that are learning to deadlift for the first time is to get extremely stiff and create a lot of tension through your core and upper body before the barbell is ever moved from the ground,” says Dr. Horschig as Licis lifts the barbell.

And on the way down, Licis does the same thing with this technique.

“You’ll notice on the way down he’s going to breathe and re-brace his core as he brings the barbell back down. He’s not just going to relax the bar back down. He’s going to lower with intention,” says Dr. Horschig.

Licis gently taps the ground with the barbell, maintaining stiffness and control—not bouncing it off the ground, which would decrease the tension.

“It feels very good,” says Licis. “I’d like to definitely reinforce that learning to control he bar path smooth and slow on the eccentric is crucial to building a strong deadlift. This will help teach you to brace your back tighter and doing that eccentric slowly also promotes a better bar path.”

For his second set of deadlifts, Licis puts more weight on the bar. This rep, they’re focused on lats.

“He’s going to lock his lats down, pulling back and trying to engage those big muscles,” says Dr. Horschig. “What that’s going to do is create a ton of stiffness before the bar is moved from the ground. A lot of times athletes don’t engage their lats enough, and what those do is they extend the arms enough to keep the bar nice and close to your body. If that bar travels away from your shins, it’s going to put a lot more stress on your back and it’s going to be that much harder to complete your lift.”

Licis also drives his knees out to the sides when he is down in the bottom position before the bar meets the ground to engage his hips.

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“A deadlift is just as much of a pushing motion into the ground, and by engaging those hip muscles, engaging those knees out to the side, and pushing the feet into the ground, you’re going to guarantee that you’re lifting and engaging those legs and the upper back, pulling both ways,” says Dr. Horschig.

Licis notes that he uses that creating back tension is essential to prime for the lifts.

“I’m always tensing up as much as I can before I initiate the lift so that way there is very little to no dip of my upper back or shoulder blades,” says Licis.

Importantly, if you ever find your back rounding, it’s time to shut down the lift.

“If your back is rounding as you lift the bar from the ground, it just means at this time you should drop weight and really focus on stability of the core and technique,” says Dr. Horschig. “Focus on maintaining that brace of tension and going slow and building up as your body is able to maintain that capacity.”

Licis adds more weight for the final set. This time, he focuses on his legs.

“When I grab the barbell, I like to set up so the crease of my hips is half of the distance between my knee and my shoulder. If you were to grab a ruler, my hips would be right a the midway point,” says Licis. “Not too high, and not too low. Too high you get way too much of an RDL and you don’t get enough activation of the quads. And too low it’s impossible to pull.”

Dr. Horschig points out foot position for his final pointer.

“Martins isn’t just going to be driving only from the heels, but he’s also going to have those big toes jammed out and try to spread his entire bodyweight across the tripod,” says Dr. Horschig.

Licis adds a note as well about alignment.

“The bar is about midfoot, and your shoulders should be directly in line with the bar as well,” says Licis.

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