One question that I get asked a lot when teaching deadlifts is about the optimal position of the neck in deadlift. Some say the spine should be neutral. Looking at deadlift pictures on ypsi.de you see that everyone has a slight extension of the neck in the starting position. Which already gives the short answer to the question.
In theory a neutral cervical spine and therefore neutral neck position is ideal. In the real world it's not though. Because slightly extending the neck will improve the position and increase the stability of the lumbar spine. Since the lumbar spine has greater priority and takes the much greater load during deadlifts I favor an optimal position of the lumbar spine. Over the cervical spine which bears a much lower loads during deadlifts. Keep a neutral cervical spine in the bottom position is for guys that deadlift 60kg or some Powerlifter who use an unfavorable slouch technique for deadlifts that favors weight moved over increase in muscle recruitment, performance, health and longevity.
To deadlift heavy use a slight extension of the neck to optimize and secure the optimal position of the lumbar spine under higher loads.
There are thousands of videos of elite level weightlifters such as Pyrros Dimas, Ilya Ilyn, Dmitry Klokov and Naim Suleymanoglu that impressively prove this clinical pearl.
Ilya Ilyin with the Clean & Jerk World Record (242kg in the 105kg weight class)
Dmitry Klokov - Cleans with 215kg in training
Naim Suleymanoglu - "The Pocket Hercules" - 180kg Clean & Jerk (in the 60kg weight class)
All the best optimizing the neck position during deadlifts!
Image: YPSI Coach Goran Sirovina in the starting position of the deadlift with a slight extension of the neck.