“There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do dead lift” - Jon Pall Sigmarsson While this statement is somewhat an exaggerated view of the deadlift’s importance in the grand scheme of the universe, I do have to admit, the man has a point. If you don’t have the requisite strength and mobility to lift something off the floor in a mechanically efficient manner then you, my friend, are missing a very valuable part of life! Her at Cardiff Sports Nutrition we all agree that Jon Pall Sigmarsson was a world class Strongman. He died whilst performing -you guessed it - a deadlift. I guess we should all hope to be so lucky as him, to die doing what we love. But before he was putting the dead in deadlift, he was a brutally strong son of a bitch, and his view of the deadlift being at the heart of every good strength program is something with which I wholeheartedly agree. Sigmarsson (right) arm wrestling with Bill Kazmier (left). Kaz was arguably the strongest Strongman in history. The deadlift is fundamental to your development as an athlete, pure and simple. The reason for that being is that whether you need to be able run fast, jump high, throw far or, as in the case of the NFL draft, do all of the above in quick succession, you need to be able to do the deadlift. Click here to read more about looking after your body post workout! The muscular recruitment of the deadlift is second to none, and the level of strength and technique it takes to keep your spinal alignment via top level posterior chain recruitment is insane. All in all, picking stuff up off the floor may not be as sexy as a deep ATG (arse to grass) Squat, but it is one of the most under-utilized tools to add wicked size and freaky strength. First off, the deadlift is a hinge movement. It is not a back movement; it is not a leg movement, it is a hinge movement. What I mean by that is, without complete utilization of the entire posterior chain, as well as the entire anterior chain you cannot complete a successfully locked out deadlift. Granted, pulling Sumo is a different kettle of fish, but Sumo was created to get around mobility issues and reduce your range of pulling motion, so I am not going to address any other style of pulling than the conventional Deadlift. Secondly, the deadlift is awesome! Seriously though, what is more animalistic and awesome than ripping a barbell off the floor and knowing that you have conquered an obstacle that is standing in the way of your athletic potential. Tell me it’s not a hinge movement. Go on… I dare you. So how does one create a Deadlift that would make the late great Sigmarsson proud? You start from the floor. Foot positioning is key to developing a monster deadlift and will ultimately decide where you pull from, how high you set your hips and where you set your grip. With this in mind, my first piece of advice is to find a foot position that is comfortable and work from there. Don’t force yourself into a foot position that, while it may be more optimal, is going to force you into an uncomfortable start and will put you at a structural disadvantage. You need to understand that while a more optimal foot position is something to work towards, you are set up at your current default position, and your tissues are aligned to work in this default position. Your default position can be changed, but it needs to be done over time rather than forced straight from the get go. Different foot positions for different people. If it's comfortable, then just start from there. Then start from a hip-width stance with your feet facing completely forward. From there, reach down to the bar and take a mixed grip with one palm facing away from you and one palm facing towards you, as close to your shins as you can but not so close that you feel trapped. From there, pull your chest up as high as you can, and sink your hips back and down, almost like you are sitting down. You will feel tension running through your back and hamstrings, but we will get to that later. Right now just focus on the feel of where your feet lie. Are you comfortable? Do you feel stable? If you don’t feel stable you won’t feel confident, and if you don’t feel confident you’re screwed from the start because any big lift starts with confidence. If you don’t feel stable, adjust your foot position and stance width as required. Now that we have your foundation sorted, let’s move up the chain to your knees and hips. The act of sitting back and down while pulling your chest up leads to the loading of the hamstrings, and this is vitally important as recruitment of the hamstrings is key to posterior chain activation. If you feel a pull in the hamstrings, that is a good place to start. View our website for nutritional information, tip and tricks! Your knee position in relation to your shin angle is entirely dependent on the level of tension you can achieve within your hamstrings and glutes. Some people have their knees over the bar with a forward shin angle, others with a vertical shin angle. Now, we could chew the fat over what is more mechanically efficient, but it really comes down to what position you are comfortable in and what position allows you to achieve maximum tension in your body. Tension is the name of the game! However, all the tension in the world doesn't matter if you cannot keep a neutral spine. Keeping a neutral spine is not just key to having a mechanically efficient and sexy looking deadlift, it is also key to keeping your body intact. There are three cues that I believe are key to coaching an athlete in the deadlift. For more information on how to perform better view our website here.
- Tight abs – For most, flattening out your spine and finding a neutral position is not the main problem; it is keeping it that way. By bracing the abs out and tightening your core all the way round to your spine, you create a natural weight belt.
- Pull the slack out of the bar – Don’t bum rush the lift! Aggression is good, and confidence is even better, but trying to rip the bar off the ground so fast you lose stability or position is not cool and will not just compromise the lift but also your safety. Don’t rush your pull and make sure that you pull all the slack out of the bar and get tight before everything kicks off.
- Chest first, hips second – When you are set and ready to pull, make sure that the hips don’t shoot up and become level or higher than the chest. The chest and upper back must start the lift and keep tension in the hamstrings, staying above the hips the whole way through the lift until the hips are pulled through and set all the way to lockout.
Here comes the important bit; practice with a weight that is challenging enough to force you to keep form, but not so heavy that you lose your structural integrity. Do this over many reps and many sets. Take the time to work your way towards a structurally sound deadlift and a technique that you are comfortable with. The Deadlift is a scandalous wench and is not easily mastered, so give it the time, love, and attention it deserves. Go out there and make life worth living. GO PICK SOMETHING UP! Later Team CSN! Train Strong Live Strong Be Strong Rogan Allport – Personal Trainer