Sunday, April 18, 2010

Deadlift form and hamstring flexibility

I've been thinking about deadlift form and wanted to note down a few things.

There are some good points here, especially Mistake No 10 - Starting with the Hips Too LOW:

This is the king of all mistakes I see. Too many times lifters try to squat the weight up rather than pull the weight. Think back to the number of times you've seen a big deadlift and thought to yourself how much more the lifter could've pulled if he didn't damn near stiff-leg it. I see it all the time. Someone will say, "Did you see his deadlift?" Then the other guy will comment, "Yeah, and he stiff-legged the thing." Am I telling you to stiff leg all your deadlifts? No, not at all.

All I want you to do is look at your hip position at the start of the lift when you pull and watch how much your hips move up before the weight begins to break the floor. This is wasted movement and does nothing except wear you out before the pull. The closer you can keep your hips to the bar when you pull, the better the leverages are going to be.

Once again, next time you see a great deadlifter, stand off to the side and watch how close his or her hips stay to the bar throughout the pull. If you're putting your ass to the floor before you pull, your hips are about a mile from the bar. You're setting yourself up for disaster when the lever arm is this long. This is also the second reason why lifters can't get the bar off the floor. (The first reason is very simple: The bar is too heavy!)

That got me thinking about Pavel's advice on deadlifting:

  1. Look up towards the ceiling, and *not* at the mirror. This will keep your back from "rounding".
  2. Reach back with your butt, like you're trying to sit in a chair that's too far behind you.
  3. In addition to this, try to imagine your spine stretching out. This will further straighten your back.
  4. Tighten your abs as if bracing for a punch, and *then* inhale. This will protect your back.

Somewhere in Power to the People Pavel also talks about keeping your shins near vertical. So you hinge at the hips, pushing your butt way back.

It struck me that this is like the hamstring stretch position described in Relax into Stretch and which appears at about 1:35 in the video below:

Talking of high hips, Bob Peoples (best deadlifter ever!) lifted that style:

Consider then, Bob's following statement, made over 20 years ago. "On October 4 I finally made a new world record deadlift record of 700 pounds. At this time I was lifting on normally filled lungs. However, I then started lifting on empty lungs and with a round back - that is I would breathe out to normal, round my back, raise the hips, look down and begin the lift. I feel this is much safer than following the customary advice of the experts. By breathing out you lessen the internal pressure and by lifting with a round back you lessen the leverage - all of which adds many pounds to your lift. I have used the reverse grip and also the overhand hook grip but I have now changed to the palms up or curl grip (with hook) and will experiment with it for a while to see if it helps."

While I'm on is a video of Lamar Gant. If you have realy long arms it makes this easier!


Asclepius said...

In terms of my own training this is a very timely post!

Cheers! :)

Shrinkx said...

In terms of my own training, this tells me I have a long way to go... :)

Chris said...

just to clarify - I have now corrected the post. The error mentioned at the start is having the hips too low. The hips need to stay relatively high. You are not squatting but hinging at the hips like in a swing. The joint is the hip

Anonymous said...

One complaint I have about "Body by Science" is a photo of a barbell deadlift (pathetic) - perfect example of how not to do it!

John Sifferman said...

I just wanted to point out that when Pavel says to look up to the ceiling during the deadlift, I think he means with your eyes - not with your head and neck. One of the most common deadlift technique problems is extending the head backwards, which puts unnecessary strain on the cervical area of the spine. It's good to have your eyes looking upwards, which will assist with the lift, but the head should be aligned with the rest of the spine. "a long spine is a strong spine."

E.M.R said...

Seems like Peoples and Pavel differ when it comes to deadlifting. Having read Power to the People a few times, Pavel advises a straight back while looking at the ceiling the entire time.

Peoples says he lifted his best with a rounded back and looking down? Unless "rounded back" is different from what I'm thinking of (which is probably the case), this seems to be contrary to Pavel. Not to mention the looking-down part. Pavel says you can't even look down at the bar when you're lowering down to get your grip.

The last thing I noticed about these two deadlift methods was the difference in breathing methods while performing the lift. Pavel says to lift with a full chest of air to increase the pressure of your abdominal area which will help stabilize your lower back. Peoples, on the other hand, suggests lifting on empty lungs because he wanted to lessen the internal pressure?

Hopefully it doesn't appear like I'm criticizing the article; I just started deadlifting about a month and a half ago, so I'm trying to make sure I'm getting my deads up right.


John said...

It's impossible to "start with the hips too low," unless the shins are shifted forward, which they shouldn't be...if the shins are perpendicular to the ground, and the hips are "too low," the lifter would simply have "slack" in his arms until his hips were high enough...

Peoples doesn't actually recommend rounding the low back, does he? Rounded, the low back cannot keep up with the hips, so the deadlift would become all back extension--I would think almost every1 would be weaker this way. Many round the mid-upper back, which decreases hip flexion to get to the bar, but then the erectors need to make up for it--I guess it all depends on where you're strong...

Micheal said...

Hi:) have a good day. Thank you for informative.

Scott W said...

I wonder how cavemen picked up rocks and logs and antelope hindquarters without all of these techniques and coaching? Kinda makes you wonder...if the weight is so high that you need close-to-perfect form to avoid injuring yourself, are you working too far outside of human potential? I'm not saying it can't be done, of course it can. Just like someone can take simple running and through strict discipline and nutrition turn it into a marathon, which if repeated often enough might wear out a body that is not designed for it.

I'm a deadlift weenie compared to the rest of you. I use dumbells at home and don't lift very much but I still do it. And I even try to apply the techniques that I see outlined in various places to be safer. But I really like going out to my garage and picking up a sack of sand or concrete mix more.

Scott W

Anonymous said...

The topic of good form comes up in the gym and how some people manage to carry on without it. Are they genetic freaks and, as such, poor role models for the rest of us? In the case of round backs the disks are under tremendous compressive forces that are mitigated with neutral spine. As for me, I know I won't be emulating Bob Peoples.

Mike T Nelson said...

Good stuff!

I agree with the comment above, that you can look up with the eyes, but not the neck.

Many times locking up with the neck will result in weaker hamstring and lats since the nerves can be compressed a bit.

Rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
Extreme Human Performance

Doug McGuff said...


For the thousandth time, I apologize for the free weight photos in BBS. We tried to replace with better photos during the final editing round and it didn't make it through. I cringe every time I see those photos (especially squat and deadlift).

Doug McGuff

Viagra said...

you have to known all your weak and strong point if you are going to practice this sport,remember the several time that someone has end injured for a incorrect practice of this sport.