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The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
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StrikeBack Offline
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The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
TL;DR

As promised in a recent post, this thread will be a place where I post tips on deadlift - the setup, the lift itself, programming and related assistant exercises. Also, feel free to ask any questions about the deadlift.

Note: this isn't about whether the deadlift is a good exercise or not, although I might mention some of that in the context of novice training, or people who play other sports.

Background info

I'm a competing powerlifter who's been in the sports for 4.5 years, and been lifting in general for about 6 years. I also coach at my club, mostly working with intermediate to advanced lifters. As I compete myself, due to time limitation, I usually don't write their programs (except for a few) but offer technique coaching and tips instead. Currently I happen to be fixing a lot of people's deadlifts, which inspires me to write some of those down.

The deadlift is special to me. When I first started lifting, I heard from a coach I trusted that newbies shouldn't be deadlifting, but should build general strength from a variety of exercises. While I did a kind of linear progression on other lifts, I didn't get to deadlift until much later (9 months into lifting), and my first pull was 120kg at 80kg bodyweight. On the same day, I saw a big ripped guy (on drugs, as he kept telling us all what he used) barely pull 180kg (4 plates) with straps, and thought that if I ever pulled that much in my life, I'd be a happy man. That Christmas, I saw a video of a 63kg pretty girl pulling 140kg (3 plates), so I loaded the bar up with 140kg, gave it a good go and barely got the lift. I started adding the deadlift to my training, but only about once a month as a demonstration of strength. Around 6 months later, I pulled 185kg, more than big ripped gym bro, and started powerlifting soon after.

I made some decent progress at first in powerlifting, and about a year later, at the end of a lifting cycle, I was pulling 185kg for 3x5. Unfortunately, my technique was horrible (didn't see it at the time) and the coach I had couldn't care less, so I ended up pushing myself way too far in that last set that I should've skipped... Long story short, I injured the right side of my back and hips, and the injury was so weird (nerve related) that many sport doctors couldn't fix it completely. For the next 2.5 years, I could not train normally. One day I'd feel very strong and squat & deadlift well, the next I might fail to lift 2 or 3 plates. At my worst, I even fell over with an empty bar.

To make matters worse, I'm built rather poorly for the deadlift. I have a weak low back, long-ish femurs and short arms (this will feature heavily in my technique tips). I looked horrible doing conventional deadlift and barely managed to look not so retarded in sumo. However, I had a few advantages. I was a very good dancer before I started powerlifting, thus I have good hips and I'm well above average when it comes to learning movements.

Instead of quitting the sports, I spent the down time reading as much as I could about the deadlift, both conventional and sumo techniques, and all related training. I bought books and DVDs from the best deadlifters I know: Ed Coan, Brad Gillingham, Mike Tuscherer, Andy Bolton etc. I watched video after video of the top technicians like Beylaev, Pozdeev, Tuscherer etc. I observed, in person, the best deadlifters in training and competition, asked them questions and tried to see the good things they do naturally that they themselves can't explain. I spent my time training the deadlift without a normal program or progression, because nobody would write one for an injured guy, but as a sport skill akin to a punch in boxing, or a kick in football. I lost count of how many sets of doubles and triples I did between 140-150kg, because that's all I could lift while maintaining a half decent form. While that might seem good to some, at a powerlifting club, that's pretty weak.

Through my learning, I've amassed a huge amount of tips and principles to a solid deadlift, some rather unconventional in the Anglosphere world as they originate from other parts of the world. I got lots of looks and jokes when I first applied some of those tips in training. Months went by, and slowly, the little practice sessions started to bear fruits. Every 3 months or so (i.e a powerlifting cycle), my deadlift would go up by 5-10kg, not much to get noticed at first, but the small, consistent gains added up quickly. Today I have a 3xBW conventional deadlift and 3.3xBW sumo deadlift at ~160lb (close to 73kg) bodyweight, my techniques look a world of difference to past ones and my leverage suddenly looks fine.

If you come here expecting to see a "definitive deadlift setup" summary article or a tip that will magically add a big poundage to your deadlift next week, I'm afraid you're in the wrong place. Firstly, I've never learned, nor known any powerlifter who does learn, how to deadlift from a single video or article. Like a fundamental sport movement, it takes lots of learning and practice to master. Secondly, nobody has the brain power to think about all of those little things at the same time while performing a set.

Each of these tips typically will take between 3-6 weeks to practice and become part of your setup or lift. Most people I've mentioned them to (I'm always about sharing knowledge) don't have the patience to learn them, as they want results NOW, but 3-6 weeks later, they're still at the exact same place they were, while the ones who do practice have already made some small progress. As I mentioned above, if you make a modest 5-10kg (10-20lb) gain every 3 months, a couple of years later (do the maths), you might just be the strongest guy at your gym, drug-free.

Consider this the intro post... I'll write more tomorrow and later this week when I have time. Meanwhile, if you have any burning question, ask away.

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04-13-2015 09:36 AM
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RexImperator Offline
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
I have the hardest time figuring out how to properly flatten my back. I squeeze like hell and it never seems to be good enough when I look back at the video.

Rippetoe says not to drop the hips further once shins are at the bar, but other coaches say you should drop the hips. I have a strong urge to drop my hips. What's your take on it?

I have long arms and legs with a relatively short torso so my setup looks very horizontal.

If only you knew how bad things really are.
04-13-2015 09:56 AM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Longwinded intro, waste of time. Provide tips.
04-13-2015 10:10 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Thanks for the thread and I look forward to reading your future posts.

Just a couple of questions if you don't mind, first of all could you touch on rounding the upper back? I was watching Andy Bolton pulling recently and he seems to be able to round the upper back while keeping a neutral lower back, but when I try, rounding the upper back seems to prevent me from being able to keep my lower back in a safe position.

Also are there any fairly low volume singles programs that would be good for an intermediate? For an idea of where I'm currently at, I pulled from the floor the other day (had been pulling from blocks previously after an injury) for the first time in ages, and got up to 160 kg at around 70 kg bodyweight for a comfortable single. I'm currently running 531 and only doing the prescribed reps (no AMRAP sets as I feel like I let my form slip if I push too hard), but I really hate deadlifting for reps, and much prefer singles.

Thanks in advance
04-13-2015 10:19 AM
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Fortis Away
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Elephant, that was a very constructive comment.

I think OP is letting us know who he is before the uninformed attempt to tear Him down.

I am looking forward to some deadlifting tips from a man who can do 3x BW. I have been stuck at a little over 2x body weight on my DL for a while.

I will be checking my PMs weekly, so you can catch me there. I will not be posting.
(This post was last modified: 04-13-2015 10:20 AM by Fortis.)
04-13-2015 10:20 AM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Thank you StrikeBack, I am checking this thread everyday.
04-13-2015 11:05 AM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
I personally can't deadlift. It is the most unnaturally feeling exercise I've ever done in the gym. Everything about it feels wrong, and my knees, back, neck, arms, and butthole all feel like their gonna shoot off in different directions at once. Maybe its all the years of 'old man' lifts where I'm picking up ballistic armor, concrete bags, ect, and my body is fighting the form, but the risk/reward isn't worth it for me. I do envy guys with the body types that can pull it off. Deadlifts can bring good results in the gym. Good contribution from the OP.
04-13-2015 11:19 AM
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StrikeBack Offline
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-13-2015 09:56 AM)RexImperator Wrote:  I have the hardest time figuring out how to properly flatten my back. I squeeze like hell and it never seems to be good enough when I look back at the video.

Rippetoe says not to drop the hips further once shins are at the bar, but other coaches say you should drop the hips. I have a strong urge to drop my hips. What's your take on it?

I have long arms and legs with a relatively short torso so my setup looks very horizontal.

I can get into more details on this when I tell you about my model for the deadlift starting position. But here are a few things to think about:

Firstly, don't automatically assume that just because you appear to be built in a certain way that you can't set up with, say, a better back angle. At my gym there is a guy just a little bit taller than me with an over 4xBW deadlift (ex WR holder). He appears to have long arms and we all assumed that this is why he looks so good in the starting position. I thought I had really short arms compared to his, and I look horizontal. One day, I was just joking around and compared mine to his. It turned out that his arms were barely longer than mine. Upon observing more closely, I saw that his shoulders dropped way low in the starting position, which allow him to have a better back angle. Learning how to drop my shoulders (among other things) has given me the appearance of someone with long arms.

There are many things you can do to give yourself better leverage, and this thread is precisely about that. I tend to fix people's deadlifts from their first contact point with the bar which is their hands, followed by arms, shoulders and upper back. The hip position tends to get taken care of automatically after those.

Secondly, with the hips, vertical position doesnt matter as much as you think. Higher simply is more back dominant, and lower is more leg dominant. Rippetoe teaches a very American style of deadlift which is more back. I prefer coaching a slightly lower hip position to use more legs, to reduce low back stress.

What matters is horizontal position of the hips i.e how close your hips to the bar. The closer, the more force you can produce.

Iĺl write more about that tonight.

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04-13-2015 10:46 PM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-13-2015 10:20 AM)Fortis Wrote:  Elephant, that was a very constructive comment.

I think OP is letting us know who he is before the uninformed attempt to tear Him down.

I am looking forward to some deadlifting tips from a man who can do 3x BW. I have been stuck at a little over 2x body weight on my DL for a while.

Fair enough. I was out of line and apologize to StrikeBack for my crude expression of impatience.
I remain eager to hear what he has to share about the exercise.
04-13-2015 11:02 PM
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StrikeBack Offline
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Cheers guys, appreciate the patience.

(04-13-2015 10:19 AM)Kieran Wrote:  Just a couple of questions if you don't mind, first of all could you touch on rounding the upper back? I was watching Andy Bolton pulling recently and he seems to be able to round the upper back while keeping a neutral lower back, but when I try, rounding the upper back seems to prevent me from being able to keep my lower back in a safe position.

There are two types of upper back rounding.

There's a specific technique to really round the upper back to shorten that lever, bring the hips closer to the bar and amplify abs and quads involvement. Think Bob Peoples, Vince Annello and Konstantin Konstantinov. I will not teach this technique, as it is very high risk high reward type specific to powerlifting competition, and very hard to perform safely. If you want to learn it, you need someone coaching you in person, not via the Internet.

And then there's a slight upper back rounding you get from pulling really heavy weights (inevitable). It can largely come from the heavy bar pulling the slack out of your lats, which gives the appearance of upper back rounding under load. It can look pretty bad if you make the mistake of pulling your shoulder blades back at the start of the pull. If you set up right, you can start with this slight rounding - it's akin to the rounding you get in a lats spread (bodybuilding pose) or the hollow body position - and maintain it through even a massive pull. This type of slight rounding is natural and safe to perform. I will elaborate on this in a later post tonight.

Quote:Also are there any fairly low volume singles programs that would be good for an intermediate? For an idea of where I'm currently at, I pulled from the floor the other day (had been pulling from blocks previously after an injury) for the first time in ages, and got up to 160 kg at around 70 kg bodyweight for a comfortable single. I'm currently running 531 and only doing the prescribed reps (no AMRAP sets as I feel like I let my form slip if I push too hard), but I really hate deadlifting for reps, and much prefer singles.

Ah, I have just the right stuff for you, as I in fact train 5/3/1 (have done so for the last couple of cycles) for my deadlift, both styles (twice a week).

How I do it:

For most of the training cycle (all the prep blocks, think about 9 weeks out of 12):

5/3/1 work set (1 top set, usually just 1 more rep than the prescribe)
No drop set
Straight to the primary assistant exercise.
Then do secondary assistant exercises.

For conventional deadlift, I use the Stiff Leg Deadlift, usually 3x8, increasing weekly.

For sumo deadlift, I use front squats, or paused low bar squats, for 2 to 3x5.

In the last 3 weeks before competition (comp block), I'd do a few drop sets with x2 or x3 reps, and 5-10% weight off the bar, and also take the assistant exercises off the menu. This is simply to work on specificity for my sport skills.

I've trained with low volume on the main deadlift (sumo or conventional) for a while now. Before 5/3/1, I used to do The Rule of 10 from Easy Strength (Pavel + Dan John) for my deadlift e.g working up to 2x5, 5x2, 3x3 or 6x1. Due to being built not that great for deadlift, I don't want to do too much volume, but build my strength via other exercises instead:

- lots of squatting
- deadlift variations using light weights
- heavy KB swings (I'd do 3-5 sets of 20-25 reps with the 40 to 48kg KB)
- lots of abs work (Ab wheel rollouts, hollow body position)
- upper back work: pullups, rows (barbell and cable), lat pulldowns
- barbell hip thrusts

You can pick any that suits you, as long as it addresses your weaknesses. Work hard on them, as that's where you build strength, primarily. Use the actual deadlift (conventional or sumo or both) as a skill practice and demonstration of strength, and always leave some in the tank in every set. e.g do 3 reps although you can probably do 5 if you go all out.

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04-14-2015 02:29 AM
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Post: #11
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
The Deadlift Movement

Alright, here's the big one.

The Deadlift for me is a sport skill and movement, like a punch in boxing, or a free kick in soccer. I have a general model for this movement, built upon observing strong deadlifters, and all my tips revolve around this visual model.

There are three parts to a good deadlift:

1. The starting position aka the setup

- How to find this ideal starting position for your leverage
- (Optionally) how to enter this position dynamically

This is by far the most important. The rest flow from it.

2. The actual lift

- How to break the bar off the ground
- How to lock it out

3. Repetitions

- How to perform reps so that subsequent reps are identical to the first rep, thus getting the most out of skill practice i.e all your reps (and sets) should look like the same single rep on replay.

I will cover #1 in this post, and the rest in subsequent posts.

1. The starting position

The starting position is a very visual thing, for me. The best way to learn is to find a great deadlifter who has similar levers to you and observe / copy his setup. Luckily, with Youtube, this is very easy.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJdeAqQ...pMMP6f-bIQ

Above is the Youtube channel of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). You will see hours upon hours of competition videos, and most of the recent ones would be raw lifting (or Classic). These are the best lifters from all over the world, with many different body types and many lifting style variations. You will see some familiar styles popular in the Anglosphere, but you will also encounter style that are very foreign yet potentially much more suitable to you.

While these guys deadlift here as a showcase of strength, 99% of the time, a technique that makes you strong is also one that keeps you safe. You can learn a lot from observing them.

To get the most out of this, you'll need to know what you're supposed to be looking for. While these lifters are the world's strongest and are at least above average with techniques, some can get to that level simply by being brutally strong. I advise finding the technicians who take a lot of time to set up carefully before the actual pull. You'll find that the very best (top 3, including record holders) tend to be guys who are both genetic freaks and great technicians.

It will also help to see the commonalities hidden behind the many setup variations. So here are the common things all good deadlift setups have (described from points of contact with the bar all the way up to the shoulders, down the back, through the hips and down to the feet):
  • Hands and fingers tightly secured on the bar, gripping as hard as possible
  • Arms are like ropes pulled taut, hanging directly down from the shoulders. No bent, no slack.
  • Shoulders down, NOT back
  • Neck in line with torso for maintaining a neutral spine (where you look isn't important as long as the line is maintained)
  • Shoulder blades in a lat spread (bodybuilding pose) position, NOT pinched back (this is the biggest cause of rounding, more on it later)
  • Back tightly braced, maintaining a neutral spine, NOT trying to over-arch.
  • Hips as close to the bar as possible
  • Quads flexed tight (like a bodybuilding pose)
  • Feet planted hard against the ground, like you're trying to leave imprints

Note: there's nothing here yet about hamstrings or glutes, as they don't get involved that much until the second part of the lift off. There's also nothing about the chest either, as it's really about the torso angle.

What I'm describing here is the observation of a system of levers around your arms, torso, hips, thighs and lower legs, and to select the best balance for you.

Earlier, RexImperator asked me about how to flatten his back and where his hips should be. I get asked this question a lot by people who have done Starting Strength and the likes. This is because they have been taught that the deadlift is a lower body, posterior chain dominant exercise (which isn't wrong) so naturally they think of the setup in that way: how to set up the posterior chain.

I take a different approach. I look at the arms, shoulders and upper back first. Think about it this way: if you magically have longer arms (i.e longer reach downwards in this particular case), you will have a better, flatter, more neutral back (aka advantageous torso angle), and your hips will be closer to the bar. Look at your positions in a rack pull vs pulling off the ground, if you want to visualise the differences.

When I fix most people's deadlifts, what immediately stands out is how much slack they have in their arms, shoulders and upper back. The moment they try to break the bar off the floor, the weight will pull the slack out of their arms, shoulders and upper back, in that order, and throw them off their starting position completely, which compromises any position they might have tried to force their lower body into. Imagine playing tug of war or pulling a car, and yanking on the slack rope trying to get the pull to start.... not very strong, right?

I'll show you just how much slack you have. Use the mirror or photos to compare. Take note of your arms and shoulders positions in each of the below poses:

1- stand up in a neutral position, hands down by your side.

2- set up in your deadlift starting position (without lifting the bar off the ground).

3- grab 2 kettlebells (DBs not ideal), should use somewhat heavy-ish weights for this to make sense i.e 2x24kg for girls, 2x32kg for average sized guys, heavier for bigger guys.

With these KBs, stand up like in #1 (or do farmer's walks) for a bit of time. What's going to happen? You'll see this:

- The KB weights will pull your arms taut like tight ropes (if you don't let your arms hang down, you'll fatigue quickly)
- Your hands (and fingers) will act more like hooks than wraps around the weights
- Your shoulders will come way down, NOT back nor forward, packed tightly in the sockets
- Your traps will stretch out and down
- Your lats will flare and lock tight
- Essentially your reach downwards will be a lot longer

And more:

- Your chin will get pulled back, your neck will be in neutral position to your spine (else you'll get a sore neck fast)
- Your abs will brace tight
- Your rib cage and pelvis will compress towards each other, as braced by your abs and erectors
- Your glutes will squeeze
- Your feet will start to static-stomp the ground

Now, why don't you set up your deadlift more like that? Wink

If you can feel all of these with 2x32kg = 64kg or 135lb, imagine your usual working weights with a deadlift bar.

Repeat the above #3 while bending over a bit to be more like a barbell deadlift, and feel your position there.

Do these during warmups and between sets of deadlifts to mobilize your upper body and get into a better position.

Bonus 1: to mobilise, slightly shrug up with the weights then breathe out and let the weights pull your shoulders and arms down a tiny bit more each time. You can also do this with a lightly loaded barbell (60kg or 135lb is more than enough for most people) - I learned this from Pavel's Strength Stretching - but the KBs are more effective, I've found.

Bonus 2: if you stand in the sumo stance performing this #3 with KBs, check to see where your shoulders naturally end up. You'll find one of the major differences in the setup between sumo and conventional. To sum it up:

- Conventional: shoulders down, put them in your side pockets
- Sumo: shoulders down, put them in your front pockets
- Horrible deadlift: shoulders back, put them in your back pockets

This post is to help you visualise and feel the position you want to be in, before the bar leaves the ground. The last part with the KBs will help you mobilise your upper body to some extent for this purpose. There are many ways to get into this position (as the Youtube channel demonstrates). I will show you my setup in a later post as an example, with a few tips on setup in general.

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(This post was last modified: 04-14-2015 03:54 AM by StrikeBack.)
04-14-2015 03:50 AM
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Post: #12
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
The Deadlift Setup

This is how I think about my deadlift technique.

1. I visualise the ideal ending position - what it should look like, what it feels like
2. I do the same with the starting position
3. I figure out how to move from #2 to #1 in the most efficient manner

The deadlift setup is simply a way to enter the ideal starting position as described above. There are many ways to do so, but I'll show you mine as an example. You can copy the whole thing, or adapt parts of it to suit yours. All I'm doing is to attach myself to the bar with maximal tension and wedge myself between the ground and the bar with maximal tightness. That is the intention.

Please note that the setup I'm about to show you consists of high tension techniques. The tension you can build on the bar will make it only applicable to relatively heavy weights, as you need the bar to be of at least a certain weight or else the tension from the setup alone will make the bar pop off the ground. To give you an example, when I do this as a 73kg (161lb), I need the bar to be at least 110kg (242lb) or around 1.5xBW, or else it would simply get squeezed off the ground. If you apply it to a light weight, it will not work particularly well.

A common mistake before setup even begins

Here's something very special about the deadlift. Unlike squat or bench (or many other lifts), there is no eccentric, as the bar starts from a dead position on the floor. You can set up with 110kg the exact same way you would with 300kg. Before the bar leaves the ground, there is no difference between the two. Logically, this is simple.

However, in practice, as I fixed my own deadlift and looked at others, one thing jumped out: most would look very good with a light weight in the starting position, but with a heavy weight, they look retarded. It is as if gravity from the heavier bar already sucks them into it: their back rounds, their chest collapses, their arms are too bent and tense, everything looks horrible. And the bar has yet to move, so it can't be the weight!

What causes it? Fear. As the bar is very heavy, they get super tense before even grabbing the bar, which makes it impossible to get into a good position. All those tensions they built before grabbing the bar? They're in the wrong places, and would be the slack in arms, shoulders, back etc. that I mentioned before in the starting position. The moment the bar leaves the ground, their tightness would be gone in a flash.

What fixes it? Relax your body, shake your arms and legs out. Especially, relax your shoulders. I remember reading that in many deadlift manuals, including Andy Bolton's, and found it really odd at the time. Relax, get into the good starting position, THEN tighten up. This is exactly why your setup with a warmup weight looks better than your work sets, before the bar even gets lifted. Relaxing before setting up will also improve your confidence with the weight too, as I've found.

With that in mind, here's my full setup for a conventional deadlift (my sumo is similar for the upper body):

* Check that plates are loaded evenly
* Stand centered of the bar - pause (1)
* Set right foot (straight, maybe 5 degree turn out) - pause
* Set left foot - pause
* Stand up tall - pause
* Relax shoulders and upper body, shake the arms loose - pause
* Screw shoulders down and put them in the side pockets, flare the lats - pause
* Slow descent while keeping the shoulders in that position, with chest up and only glancing down with the eyes, only go down just enough to get the bar
* Hook right hand, pull the slack out of right arm - pause (2)
* Hook left hand, pull the slack out of left arm - pause
* Flare the lats again to tighten up
* Up to here, you should look and feel very similar to the position with the 2 KBs, except that you're now bending over.
* Big air into the abs, NOT chest (3)
* Hip kick, big explosion in abs, kicking hard with the feet into the ground at the same time (my feet burn when I lift) -> lift off the ground
* Quads stay tight to provide a platform for the glutes to slam through as soon as the bar clears the knees.
* Pull chin back (aka give yourself a double chin) at lockout to finish with authority

Note1: adding pauses (1 sec is good enough) to your setup makes each step deliberate, and easier to reproduce & diagnose. Try it with any lift, and see the difference.
Note2: I hook-grip
Note3: from here onwards is the lift-off, which I'll cover in more details in the next post.

This is the setup I mostly learned from Reactive Training System deadlift technique seminar, minus the part about the hook grip and relaxing prior to setup. If you want to see the full breakdown with analysis, I suggest getting their DVD, or trying searching on Youtube. It was taught by Jeremy Hartman.

I realise this is something best done with a video example, but I don't quite want to put mine in public at the moment. If you want to see how I actually do it in conventional and sumo (real training videos, not instructional), PM me.

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04-14-2015 09:37 AM
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The Beast1 Offline
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Just did a 250lbs deadlift. Feels good man.

Going for 300 lbs one rep in three more weeks!
04-14-2015 10:22 AM
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Post: #14
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-13-2015 09:56 AM)RexImperator Wrote:  I have the hardest time figuring out how to properly flatten my back. I squeeze like hell and it never seems to be good enough when I look back at the video.

Rippetoe says not to drop the hips further once shins are at the bar, but other coaches say you should drop the hips. I have a strong urge to drop my hips. What's your take on it?

I have long arms and legs with a relatively short torso so my setup looks very horizontal.

I've found that practicing in the mirror helps. For me pushing my ass out as far as I can, keeping a big chest, and looking straight ahead works well.

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04-14-2015 10:33 AM
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Post: #15
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
What is the proper order to put the weight down? Hips first than legs? Also how do you maintain the posture lowering the weight as well?
04-14-2015 05:37 PM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
What are some good resources on learning the Hook grip properly? I used to do supine one hand and pronated other hand but I don't want to cause muscle imbalances. My dead lift is stalling at 2x because I've been doing double overhead grip instead of the mixed grip.

Thanks man

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04-14-2015 05:48 PM
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Post: #17
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Good thread for those interested. I've been planning on starting a thread on lower back strengthening without deadlifting. It will be a lengthy OP and I haven't taken the proper time to sit down and write it. Been to busy working on the new Vespa Smile

You starting this thread this and I starting mine soon will be a good way to keep conflicting opinions separated. Meaning pro and contra deadlift.

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04-14-2015 05:59 PM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
Great thread idea StrikeBack, would rep again if I could.

Really looking forward to the tips for guys with short arms, since body type differences don't usually get the attention they need.

Out of curiosity, what kinds of dance did you do in the past?
(This post was last modified: 04-15-2015 01:12 AM by LeBeau.)
04-15-2015 01:11 AM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
My deadlift's been 'off' for a bit.

Last session I really focused on removing all slack from my arms and shoulders at the set up stage, and it felt so much better.

Minor technical fixes are so important, the feeling when the bar seems to lift under its own power is magical.

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04-15-2015 04:03 AM
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RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-14-2015 05:48 PM)Fortis Wrote:  What are some good resources on learning the Hook grip properly? I used to do supine one hand and pronated other hand but I don't want to cause muscle imbalances. My dead lift is stalling at 2x because I've been doing double overhead grip instead of the mixed grip.

Thanks man

Personal opinion: get straps, they cost about $7 for a pair, and continue to lift double overhand. The hook grip is a pretty technical grip, that hurts like hell, and requires a significant time investment to master (Assuming you have no competitive goals as a strength athlete). If you do want to compete in powerlifting, then it is skill training and you should absolutely do it. If you just want to keep building a big, strong back, get straps and keep pushing on.
04-15-2015 04:06 AM
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Post: #21
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
The Deadlift Lift-Off

After such an elaborate setup, we're ready to lift the bar off the ground!

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of deadlifters: back dominant and leg/hip dominant. Huge weights have been lifted either way, and a back dominant lifter will use plenty of legs and hips, and vice versa. The key difference between the two types is how they get the weight off the ground, for that is the hardest part in the deadlift.

A back dominant lifter uses, well, a lot of back. They tend to set up in a position that puts the back to its best use (if they set up well that is). You will see a rather violent "yank" through the back on the bar, and their back typically will round a bit. It is the easier to learn way on how to pick up a heavy weight off the ground. You see it even in everyday people who bend over and pick up, say, a box.

The deadlift taught by Rippetoe and others, very common in the Anglosphere, is a back dominant technique. This is what I started out with. After my injury and realising that I have a weak back and bad leverage to be a back dominant lifter, I wanted to change my technique so that I'd use my strength in abs and legs to get the bar off the ground. This is what I will show you here. It will be a conventional deadlift technique, and while the sumo one is very similar, it has some unique differences, which I'll cover in a future post.

Please note that you will still use plenty of back in my setup, but the muscle intention (to borrow a term from bodybuilding) is to use the abs and legs (quads/ankle flexion in particular) to get the bar off the ground. Those muscle groups work harder so your back doesn't have to do everything. If they fail (i.e a failed deadlift), they will do so way before your back hits breaking point.

Here's the lift-off:

* Take a sharp breath of air into your abs and low back - think down and out (diaphragmatic breathing) - do not breathe into your chest or your shoulders will rise and thus loosen up your tight setup
* Simultaneously, these things happen:
- Your quads flex
- Your feet press hard down to the ground, the most pressure is under the big toe
- Your knees press slightly inwards
- You feel a violent explosion in your abs, which break the belt (yes I recommend wearing one) in all directions (360 degree)
- With this explosion, you hit the bar hard and break it off the ground
* Don't think about using your back at any point. Your back simply forms a plank here, and you are leg pressing the ground a way
* As the bar travels up passing the knees, keep the quads flex tight.
* The moment the bar passes the knees, slam your glutes through (think the violent hip snap in a KB swing), tuck your butt under (or posterior-tilt your pelvis). The intention is to wedge your lower body between the bar and the ground.
* Pull your chin back (give yourself a double chin) to force a neutral spine, and lock out the weight with authority.
* There is a slight lean back as you come to the top, simply due to balance (with a heavy weight slightly in front of your centre of balance)


This setup and lift-off is similar to what you would do in a tug of war, or pulling a car with a rope. You don't yank on the rope with your back to get things going, right? No, first you pull the slack out of the rope, brace your body tight against the ground, your torso is like a plank, then you drive your legs hard against the ground violently to get the object (car or opponents in tug of war) moving. That's the feeling you want to aim for.

The lift-off happens when your body is in the ideal starting position described earlier. However, you can enter this position in a few different ways:

1: pull straight up from the ideal starting position
2: enter the starting position dynamically via a hip kick i.e you slightly raise your butt backwards, then come down to hit the bar hard the moment your body is in the starting position
3: enter the starting position dynamically by rolling the bar forward then back towards you; you meet the bar in the starting position with the above hip kick, and lift off
4: come down into the starting position, grip the bar in an instant and go.

I recommend starting your training with #1, then eventually trying #2, as #2 is stronger. #2 also is more repeatable, as you can do rep after rep with it.

You will only see #3 and #4 in powerlifting competitions, they're for 1RM attempts. High risk but potentially can get you a few extra kilos.

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(This post was last modified: 04-15-2015 07:01 AM by StrikeBack.)
04-15-2015 06:54 AM
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Post: #22
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-14-2015 05:37 PM)kbell Wrote:  What is the proper order to put the weight down? Hips first than legs? Also how do you maintain the posture lowering the weight as well?

Good question, in fact I was going to address this specifically with a post. I've recently fixed a few guys' deadlifts simply by teaching them how to put the bar down properly.

Here's a video of a friend of mine, he taught me how to put the bar down at first:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otGMD-U2QA4 (that's 605lb x5)

The simplest explanation is (which should've gone into my lift-off post above):

Find a spot to look at (up or down - personal preference, as long as your spine is neutral) and keep looking at it while you lift the bar up, or when you put the bar down. This tends to take care of everything.

If you want to understand more, here's a lengthy one.

The common mistake I've seen and fixed recently at my club was guys dropping the bar down hard after each rep, by dropping their chest and letting the bar free fall. See the last rep in the above video as an example, although that's the last rep so it's OK, but if you do that every rep, you will keep fucking up your starting position little by little. This is because by doing so, you will lose back tension and arm tension - all the good stuff you worked hard to build during the setup - and have introduced a lot of slack into the next rep.

You really do not need to bend your neck and drop your chest to look down to see the bar, either during the setup or lowering the bar after a rep. The ground is always in the same position, and the bar is always at the same height, don't worry! Just a little glance down with your eyes is good enough during setup, and during lowering phase, you don't need to look at all.

While staring at the spot with laser beam eyes, unlock the hips and knees to descend, keep the same tension on your arms and back like during the setup (most important), bring the bar down by lowering your hips then letting the bar go slightly around your knees (if they're in the way). Place the bar on the ground with control, not a free fall. This doesn't have to be slow (as seen in the above video).

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04-15-2015 07:14 AM
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Post: #23
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-14-2015 05:59 PM)Spike Wrote:  You starting this thread this and I starting mine soon will be a good way to keep conflicting opinions separated. Meaning pro and contra deadlift.

You get me wrong, Spike.

I'm actually NOT a pro-deadlift person for novices. This can be inferred from my background story in the opening post.

My first coach said that novices should use a variety of exercises for general strength instead of using the deadlift, that it is more for a showcase of strength instead. I have followed it ever since, even now, as I have a big deadlift myself. My deadlift training volume is very low compared to most powerlifters at my club, and I always leave a couple of reps in the tank. If you look at my training program, you'll see that I squat about a million times the frequency and volume of deadlift.

If I were to coach you, you would not deadlift anything off the ground for a long time. My father did not deadlift at all until two years into his training, starting out as an untrained novice. I don't get to train complete novices much though (except family and close friends) because most people who seek out a powerlifting club tend to already have lifting experiences. They will come in ready to deadlift, and they need to learn how to do it well. I don't want to see retarded injury-prone techniques under my watch as a coach.

That is the point of this thread. You will not find a post here arguing about whether it's a great and effective exercise or not. I leave it up to other people to decide. Personally I consider it a showcase of strength, which means it is also equally effective as a showcase of weakness, and is an important exercise to consider.

I will cover my thoughts on training novices and programming for the deadlift in general in a later post.

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(This post was last modified: 04-15-2015 07:28 AM by StrikeBack.)
04-15-2015 07:27 AM
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Post: #24
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-15-2015 04:06 AM)H1N1 Wrote:  
(04-14-2015 05:48 PM)Fortis Wrote:  What are some good resources on learning the Hook grip properly? I used to do supine one hand and pronated other hand but I don't want to cause muscle imbalances. My dead lift is stalling at 2x because I've been doing double overhead grip instead of the mixed grip.

Thanks man

Personal opinion: get straps, they cost about $7 for a pair, and continue to lift double overhand. The hook grip is a pretty technical grip, that hurts like hell, and requires a significant time investment to master (Assuming you have no competitive goals as a strength athlete). If you do want to compete in powerlifting, then it is skill training and you should absolutely do it. If you just want to keep building a big, strong back, get straps and keep pushing on.

I intend to cover the hook grip in details very soon.

I personally introduced the hook grip to my powerlifting club (and a few other clubs around Australia). I learned it in person from the best and most famous hook-grip deadlifter of all: Brad Gillingham (and his protége, when they were down here for a competition). It takes an average of 2-6 weeks to convert to the hook grip (like every tip I'm posting in this thread) although novices-intermediates tend to take just 2-3 weeks (the heavier you're already lifting, the harder it is to switch) and the longest case was a guy who already pulled over 4xBW. Most people learn it wrong, which is why their thumbs hurt like a bitch.

I have very soft fingers and thumbs (growing up playing classical piano). My fingers and thumbs can bend the other way by a lot. It took me 4 weeks. I have coached small girls (52kg - 63kg weight classes i.e 115lb - 137lb) to hook grip, and they're now pulling over 220lb for reps with it.

There's nothing particularly wrong with straps if you're not a powerlifter, but since learning the hook grip is relatively easy, I can't see a reason why not. In fact, using straps is an important part of training the deadlift if you're a hook gripper, due to certain inherent weaknesses of the grip.

Anyway, I'll cover this in a lot of details next time.

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04-15-2015 07:38 AM
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Post: #25
RE: The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
(04-15-2015 01:11 AM)LeBeau Wrote:  Great thread idea StrikeBack, would rep again if I could.

Really looking forward to the tips for guys with short arms, since body type differences don't usually get the attention they need.

Out of curiosity, what kinds of dance did you do in the past?

I will get to that short arms stuff soon, as I'm somewhat obsessed with it Smile

That thing with the 2x KettleBells I described in the post about The Deadlift Setup is a fantastic stretch for short armed guys, although there are more. You can immediately start with this and see your arms (your reach, really) grow longer by a few inches (just like those penis spam ads! tard

I did and still do many dance styles: swing, blues, tap, waltz, hip hop, african, tango, bachata, kizomba, {insert a billion other latin dances here}. Used to perform and teach, but I don't have time for that now. I do the vast majority of my pickups through dancing.

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04-15-2015 07:42 AM
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