Muscle priming for deadlifts

Muscle Priming and Mind Muscle Connection for Deadlifts

First things first, muscle priming, priming is the process of getting something prepared for use. Thus in our case, muscle priming is getting the muscles ready for deadlifts. You could then ask, is that not the same as warming up. No, it’s not. You’ll see why as you continue reading.

Mind-muscle connection is the ability to properly connect with the muscles that will be performing work in your deadlift. You could then ask, don’t they just do the work? Yes, some muscles will do the work, but the question then is, are they working optimally, are you contracting all the muscles that can do the work, are you protecting your structure in the best way possible and so on.

If you repeat a certain action correctly often enough then you will be able to easily call upon that same action. On the other hand, if you’ve not yet programmed your system properly, you will have to think more, you will have to connect more, you will have to drill more. This is where MMC comes into play. Without going into too many details, let’s dig into the reason you came here, how to prime your muscles for deadlifting.


Caveman Deadlift Priming Routine

I’ve designed the Caveman Deadlift Priming Routine or CDPR for seasoned athletes but especially for newcomers to deadlifting. The one recurring problem I see with newcomers to deadlifting is that they lift with their back, they understand the muscles I called out, but they simply can’t connect with them. This routine primary objective is to connect with those muscles, hence the reason most reps are performed slow, there are also some additional options that are to be performed faster.

The expected performance result is that of a better mind-muscle connection, everything else is considered a bonus. The deadlift covered is the conventional deadlift (hip hinge deadlift).

I’ll quickly run through the routine and then go into details on each.


  1. Laying prone back hyperextensions (short range)
  2. Laying prone knees bent and hip hyperextensions (short range)
  3. Plank (isometric)
  4. Imaginary abdominal punches for abdominal bracing (isometric)
  5. Quarter squats for knee extension (short range)
  6. Calf raises for plantarflexion
  7. Shrugs


1) Laying prone back hyperextensions

Perform 5 reps, hold for 5 seconds on the 5th rep. Repeat 2 times.

This exercise is included not for the movement but for the engagement of the erector spinae, the movement allows the athlete to feel and connect with them. The muscles felt are those that need to statically contract throughout the deadlift.

You can end with 8 faster reps.


2) Laying prone knees bent and hip hyperextensions (raising the knee)

Perform 5 reps on each side. Repeat two times.

This exercise is included to feel the area that should be doing the bulk of the pulling work.

You can follow this up with some faster bodyweight hip hinges for maximum effect.


3) Plank

Hold the plank for 10 seconds.

This exercise is included to feel how the shoulder and chest area should be packed. How the lats protect the shoulders. but also to understand the end position of the deadlift (minus the arm position). You can also use the plank to illustrate the desired trunk/neck posture/alignment throughout the lift.

Perform the plank with a transition from loose/inactive into an active/packed shoulder and chest area with a focus on the lats to pull the ball of the humerus in the socket. Repeat 5 times.

Repeat the whole plank sequence three times.


4) Imaginary abdominal punches for abdominal bracing

Go ahead, if you got keen athletes and want to make the whole thing look tough, then actually throw some punches, but the effect we want can also be reached with imaginary punches and talking the athlete through the desired action.

No set amount of reps just take the time to talk through this and explain why the abdominals are supposed to be braced, which is to protect the spine, to create a rigid solid protective structure around the spine while it’s raised by the movement of the pelvis which is powered by the hip extensors.

Cover breathing deep/low behind the tension.


5) Quarter squats for knee extension

Perform 5 fast reps, 5 medium reps, and 10 slow reps.

The hip hinge for weighted deadlifts is commonly performed with bent knees, this is for counterbalancing and to add another muscle group to the movement. That movement can be compared to a quarter squat. This exercise is included to connect with the quadriceps.

You can follow up with 8 faster quarter squat jumps.


6) Calf raises for plantarflexion

Perform 10 calf slow raises. Rest 10 seconds and repeat.

The body will be pulled forward by the weight at the front, to counteract this pull the calves need to contract, or to be precise, contraction of the gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior, flexor digitorum longus, flexor hallucis longus, and plantaris. The calf raise also mimics part of how the ball of the foot should be pressed into the ground.

You can follow up with 8 faster reps.


7) Shrugs

Perform 10 reps with a kettlebell or kettlebell on each side. Rest 10 seconds and repeat.

This exercise is included to connect with the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, and rhomboids, pretty much most of the upper back. Even with a packed chest, the shoulders can come forward or down, they should be held up with these muscles.

You can follow up with 8 faster reps.


Perfect Deadlift Workout

Let’s put everything together in one session/workout, the Caveman Deadlift Workout.

  1. Deadlift warm-up
  2. Deadlift muscle priming (above)
  3. 4 to 6 sets of 12 explosive kettlebell swings approx. 1/4 bodyweight with 10 to 20s rest in between (priming and warm-up)
  4. Sets of 8-6-4-2-1 reps of deadlifts
  5. Spend 3 minutes performing mobility exercises between each set
  6. Spend 5 minutes performing mobility exercises before your last and heaviest rep
  7. End with stretching

Deadlift weight
The first set starts with at least 1/2 of your bodyweight. Aim to be doing at least 1 1/2 of your body weight on the last set.
Increase the weight on each set with the last set being the maximum weight you can lift for that session.



  1. How to Deadlift Properly
  2. Caveman Mobility Program
  3. Hip hinge definition

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