Correcting Medial Rotation in the Shoulders during Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a great exercise, mainly for athletes, due to the corrective nature of the movement. However, these benefits can only exist if the movement is done properly. So it is important that we are observant of how we perform the deadlift in case there are any errors with our form.

A common problem with people that are deadlifting – especially with professional baseball players – is an extensive rotation of the upper arm. This is a medial rotation, which causes tightness in the biceps, shoulders, upper traps, pecs, and the scapula abductors. This causes the biceps to shorten, shoulders to roll forward and the scapula abductors open up due to a lack of muscle tissue.

The basic reason for this problem is a pattern overload. There is overdevelopment in the biceps, pecs, and upper traps. This also occurs with baseball players as they believe that they shouldn’t be weight training, especially bench pressing and overhead pressing. However, that doesn’t make sense unless they have a major muscle imbalance and/or a strength and conditioning coach that can’t help them properly.


Force Extension with the Deadlift

The problem with the medial rotation is that it causes a limited extension of the muscles. If this extension can be forced, then (over time) it can be corrected. The deadlift is the perfect movement for that.

So, look at the different steps of executing the deadlift and think about the weak link that can be improved to enforce the extension for this exercise-particularly the shoulders being pinned back.

What to Do

  • Approach the bar with a supinated (underhand) grip.

  • Voila, upper back extension has been forced.

  • Now pick up the bar and hold it with the shoulders pinned back.

  • This may last for a few seconds…

  • So do it with a coach, get them to put a finger on each shoulder blade.

  • Now try to draw their fingers together.

  • It’s not going to be easy, but it will force continuous extension.


How Does That Work?

It’s a static movement that enforces a greater range of motion for the tight upper traps, neck, and bicep muscles. It enforces a natural back extension. Plus, it strengthens the hands and grip strength.

It’s not just baseball players that need to re-assess their deadlift form. Most people end up making an error without even knowing. Making sure that the proper muscular extensions are in place is essential to prevent muscle imbalance.


The very first step involves going into the deadlift with a supinated grip. This is a form that most do not use. However, even when just standing up and trying it out, there’s a noticeable difference. As soon as the hands rotate to face the palms up, it naturally lifts the pecs up and straightens out the upper back.


Can We Still Deadlift with an Overhand Grip?

Overhand and supinated deadlifts are two different beasts. It’s understandable if there’s a preference to one type of grip. However, an overhand grip is going to further worsen the medial rotation and muscle tightness. In return, this will increase the muscular imbalance.

Therefore, it is not a good idea to try and do the overhand grip deadlift right away. Instead, it would be good to try out this static movement at the end of every deadlift workout. It can also be used for the heavy working sets. Then, the overhand grip can be used for the lighter sets. This allows us to take the extension concentration we learn from the heavy sets and apply it to have perfect form on our light sets before transitioning into all overhand grip.

Remember, if we are inherently at risk of a medial rotation beyond this fix then we must continue to combat it. What this means is if there is a pattern overload, such as with a pitcher in baseball, then corrective movements like this one are definitely a must.

In the end, the deadlift is a very effective movement that not only helps build muscle but to increase overall body strength and core stability. It is a must-have for any professional athlete, but it absolutely must be performed right or else it will just do more harm than good.