At first glance, deadlifting may seem easy to master. You might think that all you need to do is bend down, grab the bar and stand up. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. In fact, with that type of approach, you have a better chance of straining your back than growing it. To deadlift productively, several major muscles (spinal erectors, lats, traps, quads, glutes) must work in concert, aiding the lift just enough and at just the right time so that your lower body and upper body lift in perfect harmony. That won’t happen by itself: You need to make it happen. The following dos and don’ts will guide you through proper deadlift form and explain how to best use this crucial lift to supersize back thickness.

DO Use a sturdy weightlifting belt.

DON’T Don’t use a powerlifting suit or shirt; special clothing will make you depend more on momentum than on muscle. Although slim-soled shoes, talcum powder on the thighs and ammonia capsules are all staples of powerlifting, they are unnecessary distractions for bodybuilders.

DO Stand near the barbell with your feet approximately 10″ apart.

DON’T Don’t use the sumo technique (feet far apart, toes pointed outward), as this emphasizes legs, hips and glutes and minimizes back action.

DO Grasp the bar with an alternating grip (one hand overhand, the other underhand), with or without training straps, or use an overhand grip with straps. The space between your hands should be slightly wider than that between your legs.

DON’T Don’t vary your form for your warm-ups and working sets. Always practice flawless technique.

DO Bend your knees, lower your buttocks, keep your back flat and focus on something above and in front of you throughout the lift. Steadily pull the weight off the floor, letting the bar brush against your thighs on the way up.

DON’T Don’t round your back. Instead, keep your back flat and your shoulders tensed throughout.

DO Pull the bar with you as you stand. Your back and legs should work simultaneously throughout the lift.

DON’T Don’t lock out your legs too early. If you do, you’ll be forced to straighten your torso with only back strength – a weak position with a higher probability of failing the lift or straining your back. Your legs should not be straight until your torso becomes perpendicular to the floor.

DO Stand straight or lean back slightly at the completion of the lift and let your shoulders roll back into their natural position. Tense your scapulas.

DON’T Don’t lean too far back at the top, as this is more likely to strain muscles than build them.

DO Return the bar to the floor in a controlled fashion, but not so slowly that you struggle to slow its descent.

DON’T Don’t do deadlifts more than once per week. Too many maximum sessions are counterproductive to back recuperation.

DO Anticipate both being stronger and looking stronger, as deadlifts will thicken your entire back from your glutes to your neck.