In my pursuit of a bigger deadlift, I've made just about every mistake you can make. Improper programming, the X's and O's of technique, even messing with my previous night's eating schedule. Yes, I'm what you might call "superstitious."
But the biggest and most consistent mistake I've made - and continue to make - is going too fast on the beginning of a deadlift. It's ruined many of my own lifts, and worse, it continues to ruin other people's attempts too. So while I'm quick to recognize and correct this mistake, know that I don't pretend to live in a glass house.
But going too fast doesn't just apply to deadlifts - it applies to every strong movement. And when people go too fast, they're generally trying to compensate for something.
On a get-up, it could be the inability to separate one's hips and shoulders, or the inability to actually roll. On a deadlift, it could be the inability to stay back, balanced, and use their anterior core (abz). On a squat (as well as a deadlift), it could just be the fear of muscular tension. The list can go on but you get the point. If it looks too fast, it probably is.
The bigger problem is that when you start with too much speed, and not enough control, it puts you in a bad position for the rest of the lift. With deadlifts, going too fast will often put you in a more horizontal position, make your legs longer, and put you at a mechnical disadvantage (#nerdalert). Most of the time, you'll end up rounding your back into the finish - a problem I like to call "the resurrection."
Instead, the best lifts resemble a rocket ship. Start slow, then accelerate as you finish. This approach requires attention to detail and body awareness. But it also demands mental discipline to remain controlled under fatigue and a heavy load. And if you start feeling nervous, that's when you really need to slow everything down.
Of course, this doesn't mean every exercise should be performed at a snail's pace. It all comes back to expressing speed at the right time. When you're performing a kettlebell swing or a 5 minute snatch test, throw "slow" out the window (yet keep your patience). But if you're trying to build a better, stronger and more resilient body with deadlifts and get-ups? Slow is strong.
Below is one of my clients and friends, John S. He reached his goal of a double bodyweight deadlift this past weekend, and exemplifies the "slow is strong" mentality.