When it comes to weak, or “sticking” points on a deadlift, the overwhelming majority of athletes fall into two categories:
1. Weak off the floor. This generally means that getting the bar off the floor will be the most difficult part of the lift for the athlete. For me personally, if the bar leaves the floor, I know I will lock it out.
2. Weak at lockout. This generally means that the athlete will have a relatively easy time getting the bar off the floor, but once the bar passes the knees, they make have a very difficult time sending the hips through to lockout. Matt Falk had this problem for a very long time until he fixed it, which I will explain how to do below.
While there are many, many factors that can negate weaknesses on a deadlift, here are some general tips that can help you with your respective weak area:
Weak off the floor: Deficit deadlifts are my go-to exercise to combat this issue. lighter weight is typically used to get the athlete feeling more comfortable, and to reduce injury risk. 2-3″ deficits are perfectly adequate, anything more than that, and it turns into more of a “let’s see if I can do it” lift, instead of a corrective movement. This increased ROM will help the athlete improve that weak point off the floor, since the distance “off the floor” has increased, and this will help target the hamstrings and lower back more: another great bonus.
Weak at lockout: This weakness always pains me to see, because the athlete is SO close to finishing the lift. This usually means that the athlete is suffering from hip weakness, and can be remedied with exercises like block pulls w/ bar just below knee. While it SEEMS like doing block pulls above the knees would be better, it isn’t. By starting below the knee, you are giving yourself time to slightly emulate the fatigue that happens during the deadlift, whereas starting above the knee is going to give you the impression that your lockout is improving, when in reality it may just be teaching you to hitch your deadlifts. Another way to improve deadlift lockout is to practice locking the knees once the bar passes your knees, and then immediately shooting your hips through. Dan Green-Powerlifter is a great example of this technique. Thinking about shooting hips through to lockout, rather than “rolling shoulders back” is another great cue, since your shoulders absolutely are not the best tool for lockout out a deadlift. You can see this especially when someone is “locked out” and leaning back, but their quads are soft and not flexed.
While there are many, many exercises that can help you perform better with your deadlift, these are just two of the deadlift exercises that I have seen give the most benefit to the athlete that is suffering from their respective weakness.