Rolling the Bar Back in the Deadlift – When Is It Okay?

Rolling the bar back in the deadlift - is it okay? We address when, why, and how you should roll the bar back as well as when you definitely should not.

Rolling Start Deadlift

You’ve likely seen world class Strongmen roll the bar back before they deadlift massive amounts of weight. They’re strong, we want to be strong, so we should follow their example, right?

Wrong.

Horizontal movement in the set up does not contribute to vertical movement up against gravity. Some speculation exists whether a bit of a stretch reflex exists, but we won’t weigh into that discussion.

A likely reason for the roll is that these men are quite large and the set up is difficult. Rolling the bar back in the deadlift prevents the need for setting up in that uncomfortable bottom position.

It comes with some problems.

The bar may bang into the shins, which hurts. It also requires practice so the pull begins over the midfoot, otherwise the issues of the bar being too forward or to far back arise. Lastly, it becomes more difficult to have a consistent bottom position.

We recommend a simple, consistent 5-step set up. More advanced lifters may decide to deviate it for various reasons over time, but if you’re a beginner you should stick to it.

So when is rolling the bar back in the deadlift okay?

Rolling the Bar Back After Rep 1

You can and should roll the bar back in a deadlift if the bar is forward of midfoot after rep 1.

This is a fairly common problem, as people lower the bar quickly and it tends to end up forward of midfoot.

If this occurs, roll the bar back. Then, continue with the remaining steps of the set up as you normally would: shins to bar, set your back, push the floor away and drag the bar up your legs.

You may also work on cleaning up how you lower the bar, so the bar arrives at or at least closer to midfoot.

The eccentric portion of the deadlift should be a reverse albeit fast version of the concentric part of the deadlift. This means you send your hips back and don’t let your knees move forward until the bar has cleared them.

You push the floor away to begin the deadlift to extend the knees. This means the knees extend early in the deadlift, so the flex or bend close to the floor on the way down.

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