How To Barefoot Deadlift

How to Barefoot Deadlift

How To Barefoot Deadlift

Arnold Schwarzenegger Barefoot Deadlift

How to Barefoot Deadlift

When I’m lifting in the gym, this was a common question I got asked a lot, how do I Barefoot deadlift? Is it safe? I will keep the answer simple, sort out the warm-up before you begin, the set-up for the lift (the right form) and the execution of the movement.

How to Barefoot Deadlift: To execute the Deadlift, you walk up to the bar barefoot, with a nice flat back, bend over and grab the bar with a hook grip. Keep your shoulders over the bar, lift the weight until it gets above your knees, and your hips are fully opened. Now you can return it to the floor. That’s it Deadlift done.

From my personal experience getting set up for a deadlift can be done in a multitude of ways. As far as the choice of footwear goes, it is always a choice between using weightlifting shoes or trainers. With footwear of any kind on you tend to tip forward when we get into the deadlifting position due to in part the elevation of the shoe. Also, you will also have to factor in your level of hip mobility, knee mobility, and ankle mobility.

It’s often a bit of a fiddle to get correctly set up for deadlifting with any of these wedged shoes on. This can present a bit of a challenge if we do not have the joint flexibility I have just spoken of.

In my other posts, I’ve laid out many drills, they go into a bit more detail. I encourage you to have a look at them. Overall they will give you more guidance on the flexibility, mobility and core stability that is required to execute these Olympic lifts with success.

Let ‘s get started.

First of all, understand and look at the choices that we have as far as Barefoot deadlifting footwear choices go.

The choices are:

  • Barefoot no shoes
  • Barefoot with socks
  • Barefoot/Minimalist Shoes

For example Vibram I use five fingers, you can use whatever the minimalist shoe you choose.

Warm up

Remember that the Deadlift is a compound movement: A compound movement is a movement that requires the activation of more than one complexes. So we have the hip complex activated from the Hips. Then we have the knees, the ankles in combination with the thoracic spine involved as well.

This means it affects and benefits the whole body, and I will explain the benefits of the deadlift later on back to warm up.

Lacrosse Ball Foot Smash

The primary target of the foot smash is the three arches in the foot.

  • Start with no shoes or with socks on.
  • lacrosse ball placed on the floor we do the foot smash.
  • To begin the foot smash, we keep the heel planted on the floor, and work the lacrosse ball along the middle, the outside and also along the inside of the arch.
  • Make sure the heel planted firmly on the ground as you do this and then you can put as much pressure on your foot as you can bear.
  • If you are more experienced in doing the foot smash, then you can put considerably more pressure work to the lacrosse ball in a circular of criss-cross motion taking your time as you do so.
  • When you get to the balls of the feet, attempt to wrap your toes around the lacrosse ball as you move it from side to side putting weight on the ball as you do so.
  • This can sometimes be painful if this is your first time of doing this drill but don’t worry your foot will love you for it eventually
  • Finally, swap it over and now with your toes firmly on the ground, work the heel area of your foot slowly but deliberately.
  • Start with the inside, then the middle, lastly the edge of your foot.
  • When you have done that, then do the same with the other foot.

This quick drill will take you about a minute for each foot; once you’re done we can move on to the next drill.

Air Squats

The point of the Air Squat is to open up the hips ready for the deadlift movement.

The idea is to get the body prepared for that range of motion which is primarily sitting down and standing up.

To do this movement all you need to do is starting from the standing position to squat down as low as you can and stand up with proper form and alignment. Begin doing the movement slowly to start with and increase the speed of the squats as you do more repetitions for that set.

You will usually get this done with no weights as it is a warm-up exercise. I would say that the recommended number of reps is ten reps for two sets, in other words, ten reps twice.

Now you’re almost ready to begin the deadlift movement. Do a quick visual check and make sure you have everything that you need. If you usually use a lifting belt then have it ready.

The Barefoot Deadlift

To set you up for the deadlift I will take a ground-up approach and look at each piece of the movement.

Then I shall summarise the key points so that you can follow it successfully if you have never done the deadlift before.

If you have done the deadlift before then, this will be a good reminder

The Barefoot Deadlift Setup

Approach the bar feet point forward shoulder width apart. Bend down with your shins close to the bar. , Make sure you have your weight on your heels, and your feet are pointing forwards. Point of note is when you begin the movements we are looking to screw the feet outwards or way towards the dumbbells.

Ensure that the weights you have on the bar are light, to begin so that we can warm up for the movement to get the form correct in the beginning

Now that you are at the bar and your feet set up correctly bend down to grab onto the bar. The grip should be a little bit wider than shoulder width. Hold the bar with a hook grip, the line of your back should be flat and in the lumbar position.  What this means is your lumbar spine should be in the natural S-shaped not rounded or hunched over with your back in the optimal position and make sure that your shoulders are over the bar.

The Lift

Keep your eyes up, looking at the horizon all the way through the entire lift. Before we again in the lift remember to tighten your core and abs which is the core of your power. Proceed to lift the bar and stand upright with your shoulders back away from your chest.

The Return

Proceed to do this with the bar as close to your thighs and legs as possible slowly lowering the bar back to the ground

Points Of Performance

  1. make sure that your feet are flat on the ground and that you are generating torque by twisting your feet outwards during the lifts
  2. Ensure that your back is in the lumbar position
  3. Ensure that your shoulders placed over the bar
  4. Ensure your eyes are on the horizon you lift
  5. As you  lift the bar keeping the bar as close to your legs and thighs as possible running the bar along your thighs is a good thing
  6. At the top of the lift ensure that you keep your head and shoulders back
  7. Always lead the lift with the head and shoulders first moving up first
  8. Closely followed by the glutes and you should be standing upright
  9. Make sure your hips are fully opened up
  10. Lower the barbell back to the ground

So those are the Mechanics of the Barefoot deadlift

Now you can do several more reps and begin to add weights before you get you your working set.

Hopefully, you have successfully lifted Barefoot and found out that you’ve lived to tell the tale and that it wasn’t so bad after all. Did you notice that you lifted with a bit more confidence?

Did you notice that you felt a lot more connected to the floor and that you were a bit more stable?

Benefits of Deadlifting Barefoot

Let me tell you about the benefits of lifting barefoot.

As I’ve said it many of my articles always take a gradual approach to your warm-up drills and to the warm-up of the movements before you start attempting to lift heavy pulling a muscle in your back sucks.

By now you should have a better understanding of all of this and have walked through The Mechanics of the movement the benefits of the deadlifts.

The number one reason why the deadlift has been a staple lift is that it’s a compound movement as I said earlier. Along with the squat, it’s the fact that the central nervous system gets activated and fired from every level when you deadlift. 

During the deadlift, you exercise your glutes which are the biggest muscle group in the body for overall strength and well being. Deadlifting Barefoot give you a greater feel and sense of balance too


It’s never a good idea to skip leg day, I for one always do so in my five fingers or barefoot. I highly recommend it as I do most thing barefoot.

So give a try  and keep at it you will undoubtedly ask yourself how come you haven’t done this all this time

Enjoy the process, take it one step at a time and have fun.