Pulling the Slack Out of the Bar Is Key for Strong Deadlifts

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A strong deadlift is the culmination of strength, power, coordination, and technique. An athlete needs to possess a baseline level of all of these variables to efficiently perform strong deadlift singles and sets.

When it comes to technical efficiency, there are a lot of cues one can use for the deadlift to be successful. One of those cues — and, arguably, the most important — is pulling the slack out of the bar. This concept and cue is a skill that should be trained heavily for both the sumo and conventional deadlift during every training session.

If you’re brand new to deadlifting, or you’re starting to get serious about your strength training, then it’s important to spend some time understanding what it’s like to pull the slack out of the bar.

What Is Pulling the Slack Out of the Bar?

Pulling the slack out of the bar is the relationship you create with your body, the floor, and the barbell to create tension before physically lifting weight. Essentially, it’s how we signal to our body that we’re getting ready to exert force and lift a heavy object. 

An easy way for beginners to visualize pulling the slack out of the bar is to think about it as a very light isometric hold. You’re pulling the bar and creating tension with the body ever so slightly without exerting energy to the point of fatigue. As a coach, if I came up to you and lightly pushed your shoulder backwards, and you’re pulling the slack out, then you wouldn’t really move or have your mechanics change.

Beginners, it’s worth pointing out that elite athletes will have different means of pulling slack out of the bar that they’ve developed over time. Sometimes you’ll physically see the barbell bend (often deadlift bars) due to the weight being lifted, but that’s not a necessary mechanism/visual for your success when first learning this concept and properly pulling the slack out. For most people, the act of pulling the slack out will be imperceptible to bystanders: it’s you creating tension in the body by pulling ever so slightly on the bar.

Pulling the slack out the bar is important for three main reasons:

  1. Maintaining strong technique when breaking the floor (initiating deadlifts).
  2. Ensuring setup is consistent and every rep is fluid.
  3. Priming the nervous system, muscles, and joints for external loading.

It’s common to hear that pulling the slack out of the bar is simply, “pulling up on the barbell before deadlifting”. And that’s not a wrong way to think about it like that, but it can be a bit limiting, especially for newer lifters. The whole body needs to be aligned when pulling the slack out of the bar.

After all, this cue isn’t really observable from an anatomical point of view, it’s something that is felt on a much more internal level.

For a true beginner, the concept of pulling the slack out of the bar can be difficult to understand at times, and it becomes much more important as weight gets heavier. That’s why it’s a useful skill to learn and sharpen early on in lifting careers.

Pulling Slack Out of the Bar
Pulling Slack Out of the Bar

Sumo and Conventional Deadlift Slack Pulling Tips

One of the best ways to approach pulling the slack out of the bar for the sumo and conventional deadlift is by creating a string of cues that create consistency during every rep. This can be extremely useful for mindset when pulling singles, and more importantly, multiple reps.

If you can create a string of cues for your lifting, then you can get into consistent positions quicker while achieving the benefits of pulling the slack out of the bar. Below, we’ve provided a few strings of cues you can try out for the conventional and sumo deadlift.

Remember, these cues are for creating tension with the body, floor, and barbell, and they’re not just simply “pulling up on the barbell”. 

Pulling the Slack Out of the Bar for the Conventional Deadlift

  1. Screw the feet into the floor.
  2. Hinge at the hips.
  3. Pack the lats (this will pull the bar into you).
  4. Belly breathe into the obliques.

Pulling the Slack Out of the Bar for the Sumo Deadlift

  1. Screw the feet into the floor.
  2. Wedge the hips behind the bar.
  3. Pack the lats (this will pull the bar into you).
  4. Belly breathe into the obliques.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter, pulling the slack out of the bar is crucial for success when pulling heavy weight. It’s a skill that should be sharpened regularly and can be make or break when moving maximal loads.



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