Deadlift Mastery Or “How the f*ck do you pull so much?” PART 2

By: January 26, 2012 7 Comments
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In the first part of this series, we went over frequency and all the little ways you could manipulate the shit out of it to your advantage. But not in the same way you would manipulate the opposite sex, of course. In this next instalment, I’m going to take you through the most effective technique (in my opinion). Oh and the carry-over exercises along with deadlift variations will come in during future instalments. I haven’t decided whether to split this into 3 or 4 parts, so stay tuned.

And on a side note, for some stupid reason there were a small batch of dim witted fools who jumped to the conclusion that  because I talked about frequency first, it must mean I think it’s the most important. As such, they felt compelled to say that I’m wrong. I guess it makes sense how morons would come to a moronic conclusion, but the fact of the matter is that everything listed in this article and everything that will be listed in the future of the series is important. It’s kind of like a car. Is the transmission more important than the engine? Nonsense. So remember that as you read along… not that you have to, because you weren’t one of the morons, right?

The Stance

Let’s talk about how you should stand. There are many schools of thought on this and while I’m going to lay down what works best for me, I highly suggest  you play around till you find a stance that works the best for your body’s natural biomechanical structure. If there is anyone that says one stance is absolutely better than another, punch them in the throat. There are no absolutes; except for the fact that the deadlift is awesome, and so am I.

I personally have long legs and therefore a hip-width stance works the best. I’ve tried the really close width stance, and the theory behind it is that if you were to do your most powerful, explosive vertical jump, you would have your feet close together. But this theory doesn’t always lend well to application – although there are dudes who pull monster weights with a close stance.

Then there are some who go slightly wider than hip-width but not quite shoulder width. I switch back and forth between this stance and hip-width just to keep myself entertained. Sort of like how people still pleasure themselves even thought they have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

This stance is rare but I can see it’s appeal. First, it marginally decreases the distance you need to pull the bar which can be a huge plus for short dudes/dudetts. Next, it increases the surface area of your base and the bigger the base, the more stable you are. The more stable you are, the more confidence you’ll have when there is a fuck tonne of weight on the bar and it’ll be easier to pull. The down side is that you might buckle your knees inward and besides making you look completely retarded, it will rob you of all power.

The next thing we need to address is the angle of your feet. Again, there aren’t any “absolute” angles but the general rule of thumb is that your toes should be pointed outward anywhere from 10-15 degrees. That’s right, bring out that protractor from grade 9 and draw out those fancy lines. It has to be perfect. Not.

The Distance

Look at the legs of some of the most brutal deadlifters. What do you see? That’s right, long ass fucking socks. The reason being is that when you’re about to set, your shins should be right up against the bar. As in, touching. deadlift-distance-fail

What this does is it forces you to sit back. When your shins are too far away, you can drop down lower and then you are essentially squatting the weight. This ain’t no squat, it’s a pull. Walk right up, sit back and let the bar travel up your shins, hugging every inch. And if you don’t have long ass socks, fear not because bleeding shins are the sign of a successful, bad ass pull.

Another key area where distance is important is near lockout. There are plenty of people who get the bar up and then forget that this is a PULL and as such, there is distance between their hips and the bar. Useless. You aren’t just lifting the bar vertically, even though it may look like so. You are actually pulling that shit into you. Always, always remember this fact.

The Grip

I’ll try not to make this too complicated. First, keep your arms as close to your body which will help you reduce the distance the bar has to travel and choose a mixed grip. I train double over hand (or pronated) grip sometimes, just to tickle my fancy but when I need to quit fucking around and pull like my life depends on it, the mixed grip is my go-to.

And get some fucking chalk already. Leather looks good inside a car, or on a horse but not on your hands during a workout. Calluses are mandatory to develop as far as I’m concerned. If you claim to be a deadlifter but when I shake your hands it feels like marshmallows dipped in Oil of Olay, I will slap you.

Finally, I had fallen into the bullshit of believing that if you don’t switch your mixed grip every now and then, your arms will end up looking retarded due to once bicep being bigger than the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. I sustained a thumb injury on my right thumb and as such, pronating my right hand during a deadlift (even at 135lbs) caused severe pain. So I had to use a mixed grip where my right hand was supinated and my left pronated. I figured if I ever saw my right bicep get out of proportion, I’d do some bro-curls on my left side to make up for it.

Well, this thumb incident happened well over a year ago, my thumb is still slightly fucked (due to repeated injuries from BJJ and gymnastics), I still use the same grip and I don’t have one retarded bicep that is bigger than the other. Conventional grip wisdom can go fuck itself.

Another plus is that if you practice one grip all the time, you’ll get really god damn good at it – just like anything else you manage to do a shit load of times. Go figure. If you want to be awesome at the dead, pick a grip and stick with it. You can change it up for fun from time to time, but have one main go-to.

Fuck The Flatback…

…at least near the top part of the lift, before lockout. This is another area where I fell victim to conventional wisdom at a young age and never questioned it because the advice came from “pros”. Turns out these “pros” were weak as shit and would probably have a harder time lifting their inflated ego off the bar than some actual weight. So here’s the conventional wisdom: Keep your back nice and flat throughout the entire lift. A rounded or hunched back = disc herniation and other horrible injuries.

Reality: Andy Bolton (who has deadlifted over 1000lbs) and Konstantin Konstantinovs (who set a world record lift of 939lbs @308 BW) deadlift with rounded-backs.

In fact, Konstantin has been doing the round-back deadlift for the past 16 years and says that if anything, it makes him feel stronger during the pull. Below is a translated quote.

That I will break my back is something I heard from as long as I started to deadlift, or for the last 16 years. I have always deadlifted with a rounded back. My legs have always been lagging in development, but results in deadlift have always been increasing. My back is prone to injuries only when I squat with a heavy weight, but when I deadlift, my back remains in the same rounded position throughout the lift, irrespective of whether I can lift the weight or not, and this protects it from injury. But you need very strong abs if you want to deadlift like that.

However, you need to understand that there is a big difference between knowing the proper round-back technique and being a noob that doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing. It is because of this reason, that I coach people to deadlift with a flat back. What happens is that as they get stronger, the body naturally starts to round their backs near the top range of the lift. It’s just more mechanically advantageous to do so, and therefore your body does. Plus, by the time you end up naturally rounding your back, your lower back will have developed nicely and your lockout should be bang-on.

For those looking to master the round-back technique, Matt Perryman has written an excellent article on it HERE. Below is a quote from the article about the technique.

That’s the basic sequence of events to follow: exhale and round the thoracic spine, grab the bar, inhale into your gut and brace the spine, then pull. There is one thing we can all agree on: to make this work, you need devastatingly strong lower-back and abdominal muscles. Bill Starr has long suggested doing Good Mornings, Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, and high-rep back hyperextensions to build the strength of the spinal erectors.

This is not unlike the suggestions from Westside, as Louie Simmons has also recognized the value of having a very strong midsection, suggesting a healthy diet of glute-ham raises, reverse hypers, and assorted ab-strengthening work. If you want to be a round-backer, you need to work the lower back and the abs. When is say work the abs, I don’t mean 100 crunches and then those leg raises where you hang from the sleeves on the bar. Use loaded exercises.

^^ Go ahead. You tell him that round-backing is stupid. I fucking dare you.

I am personally just starting to get the hang of the round-back technique myself and the results are promising. My back isn’t broken and my pull is increasing. Win-win.

Head Position And Footwear

Unless you have weight training shoes, everything else should be dumped. The reason being, is that most shoes give you a heel lift, and when your heels are lifted, you cannot sit back properly to active the hamstrings, glutes… actually your entire posterior chain for that matter. In layman’s terms, your posterior chain in composed of all the muscles on the backside which are involved in “pulling” something.

Barefoot is the absolute best way to go, period. If you cannot go barefoot, use socks or grab some Vibram Five Fingers. If your commercial gym gives you shit, tell them to STFU and that they need to pick up an anatomy book. Then throw your shoes at their face and begin lifting.

As for the head, it should ideally be down with your chin tucked to keep your spine neutral… but that never happens when you’re pulling really heavy. Though Eric Cressey is an exception – his form tends to be textbook perfect. Personally, I try and start that way but I always end up looking straight ahead or slightly higher than I should. So try your best with this, but don’t lose sleep over it. It’s not going to make or break your lift. Do whatever if fucking takes to get…

The Lockout

Saved the best for last because I really wanted to go in-depth and detailed with this shit. So here we go: Just hip thrust the damn bar!

Well that was easier than I thought. However, a word of caution – DO NOT hump the bar while compromising your lower back. You don’t want to do what you see in the picture below – that is a called a spinal hyperextension, and doing it while deadlifting heavy loads is not a smart idea.

deadlift-lockout

What you want to think about is squeezing your ass so hard, that you end up hip thrusting the bar. The golden rule to finish the deadlift (or the squat for that matter) is that GLUTES ALWAYS FINISH THE LIFT.

If your ass ain’t squeezed at the top, it’s not a complete lift.

Now go pull some shit and join my ass next time where we discuss the most effective deadlift variations along with assistance exercises you should always be doing.

READ PART 3 HERE

About the Author:

Turns fat asses into good looking bad asses. Also a National deadlift record holder and the undisputed flip-cup champion. If you want to train under him, Click Here to fill out an application, and he just may consider working with you.
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  1. Deadlift Mastery OR "How the f*ck do you pull so much?" PART 3 | February 3, 2012
  1. Andrew says:

    I enjoyed the article – just one thing I’d clarify – “round back” refers to the UPPER back – where it is perfectly fine to be rounded. But the lumbar (lower) spine should never be rounded.

    Totally agree about going barefoot – and “hump the bar” is one of the best cues in my experience as well. Good stuff.

  2. Interesting… never realized everyone was using a rounded back on purpose.

  3. linkplayer36 says:

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  4. linkplayer36 says:

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Deadlift Mastery PART 1 (or “how the fuck do you pull so much FJ?”)

This is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately, and I’m going to start this off by stating that...

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