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ZachPSU

Screwy Deadlift Issues

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Hello NF,

 

I'm not currently focusing on my lifting as I have other stuff going on (link to challenges below), but I reset my lifting to GSLP because it is pretty autopilot and requires very little of my mental space to give me a good workout.  I cheated it a bit and I've got some of my lifts started higher than others right now just because some I am more comfortable with.  I have a funky congenital partially fused L3/L4 issue that has caused me problems intermittently when deadlifts get heavy (usually 225+ for me) and when low bar squats have gotten heavy (usually 185+) (Cool MRI Pic Here).  I've found other ways to do those movements that put me at less risk (SLDL's, Front Squats, Bulgarian Split Squats), but they just don't hit you the same way as a good old deadlift or squat.  

 

My squat I know what some of my issues are at this point (tight hip flexors and external rotators from doing front squats for a few years now), so I am doing mobility work to loosen that up.  My deadlift, I'm less sure on.  I lack a little bit of extension because of losing that L3/L4 space, and the demands on L4/L5 and L2/L3 to compensate worry me some.  I think I need to improve my core bracing, and breaking with my hips first.  Below is the video of what I did this morning just for a form check.

 

GSLP currently has my work weight at 75lbs, which I did 10+ on this morning so will move to 85 next.  However, that is still pretty light for me so I put 115 on the bar which is at least warmup worthy to try to highlight form faults.

 

I did 3x3, each set I used different internal cues to see changes in form.  First set I was focusing on glutes tight, second set I focused on keeping chest up, third set I tried to focus on slow and controlled movement with a tight core.

 

They're all back to back but its a light enough weight that I didn't feel fatigued at all.  When I got upstairs and looked at the video I saw how awful my workbench light messed it up.  I will fix that next time and take another video on next Wednesday after Deadlifts, or maybe even this Friday if I have time after I'm done with the squat day; with the light off back there so you can see torso/back/hips more clearly.

 

For now you can at least see bar path and I'm wondering which of the 3 sets you think looks best from the bar path and smoothness of the movement at least.  Next video I can get a clearer picture of my back angle and hip placement.

 

 

 

 

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The strongest pulling position is with the bar beneath the shoulderblades at liftoff.  In contrast, you're setting up and pulling from behind the bar.  Do you pull like this because it's more comfortable to your spinal issue?

 

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1 minute ago, Hazard said:

The strongest pulling position is with the bar beneath the shoulderblades at liftoff.  In contrast, you're setting up and pulling from behind the bar.  Do you pull like this because it's more comfortable to your spinal issue?

 

 

I'm not sure, maybe.  Are you thinking a good way to try (since its a safe weight right now) to get my torso a little more horizontal to achieve that getting further over the bar?  I will check and see if my shins are starting in contact with the bar.  I think in my setup I usually look down and get the bar over my midfoot, but perhaps I could scoot a little closer if that distributes the load more efficiently and safely.  Will consider that for the next tape, thanks for the thought.

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It kinda looks like your knees are getting in the way of the bar. I'm not really sure why that happens, but my best guess from the video is that you're leaving the hip hinge too late, and doing a little bit of a squat. If this were the case, I assume the solution would be to start with the hips a tiny bit higher. But I am no trainer, so it's really just a suggestion for further research.

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Okay, did a few reps (again at 115 just for some resistance) at the end of the squat day today just for video sake (and doing it with okay lighting this time that doesn't make me look like I'm deadlifting up to heaven).

 

I took what both of you said into consideration.

 

On 6/24/2020 at 9:06 PM, Harriet said:

It kinda looks like your knees are getting in the way of the bar. I'm not really sure why that happens, but my best guess from the video is that you're leaving the hip hinge too late, and doing a little bit of a squat. If this were the case, I assume the solution would be to start with the hips a tiny bit higher. But I am no trainer, so it's really just a suggestion for further research.

 

I started with the hips higher, more consciously on the second mini-set in this video.  It felt a little weird, like I was doing more with my back than my legs, but it felt way smoother, for sure.

 

On 6/24/2020 at 10:31 AM, Hazard said:

The strongest pulling position is with the bar beneath the shoulderblades at liftoff.  In contrast, you're setting up and pulling from behind the bar.  Do you pull like this because it's more comfortable to your spinal issue?

 

 

I took a closer look at my set-up, and tried walking my feet further under the bar, but this wasn't the right approach it seems, rather, starting with my hips a bit higher shoved my shoulderblades further forward anyway and I think I was more centered.  

 

This said, now I'm wondering if starting with my hips higher means I should induce a slight lordosis to my back, to prevent a rounding and cat-back when the weight gets heavy?  I should have tried this with heavier weight, maybe another 30-40 lbs just to see what it would do to the movement which still felt pretty light.  I'm wondering if I start cueing for pinching my shoulders back, if I'm going to end up tilting backwards again.

 

 

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You could also try DLing with dumbbells instead, which will help keep the center of gravity more balanced and reduce load on your spine. If you're not already, I'd also recommend incorporating some hip thrusts and glute-activation drills to help ensure that your posterior chain is 'pulling it's weight' so to speak. ;) 

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That would be a consideration, but I'm wanting to program for strength right now and the only dumbbells I have is a 5-25lb set, so that won't do for right now.  

 

It's a good point on the posterior chain, and I have added in some accessory work of currently single-leg bridges on one day, and HS bridge + curls on a stabilball on the other day.  Those HS bridge/curls are wicked.  My last clinical instructor showed me those for a football player post-ACL we were working with, and he was acting like a big baby about it so I got down and tried em.  Damn, my hamstrings felt whipped and then when you stand up you can feel the glutes too.

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Wow, that second video looked far improved.  I mean overall, the motion is pretty smooth but I think that the unifying theme here is that you aren't relying enough on a "deep" enough hinge (butt not far back enough.)  I think this is relevant with the more upright posture and pulling from behind the bar discussed in the first video.  However, I think this is also relevant to the way that the bar comes around your knees on the way down.  It seems that you're bending the knees too early on the way down or perhaps relying too much on them to put the weight down.  I would think about keeping the tension on the hamstrings on the way down by keeping your knees locked (although "soft" with a little bit of knee flexion) and sticking your butt back in order to start lowering the weight.  You'll get to a point where the bar goes lower then your knees.  Then you can simply bend your knees and unload the weight.  

 

But I don't want to just say "hey man stick your butt back, you're welcome forever."  As I look at the video I wonder if you are trying to stand with a lot of your weight over the heels.  And while this is the idea orientation for a lot of movements it isn't what we want for the deadlift.  Here you are going to want to feel your entire foot with most of your weight targeted through the middle of it or over the arch.  

 

I like two cues for this: either 1) screw your heels into the ground.  That little bit of "torque" will help to create firm contact with your whole foot and will allow you to drive through it.  Or 2) try to rip the floor apart with your toes.  This one is easier to demonstrate and harder to type but rip a crack in the floor between your legs by pushing your toes outward.  You don't actually go anywhere but it will create that same "torque."  

 

You had mentioned that when you brought your hips up you felt it more in your back.  This was my same experience for a long time.  Its hard to find the sweet spot.  What has now worked for me is to get down to the bar, stick my butt way up, as high as I can go...and then back down.  I back down like an inch or something that feels miniscule.  Its just enough to create enough slack that I can really SQUEEZE my hamstrings and feel them "preload" the weight of the bar.  You can think of it like sort of taking all the slack out of your body but lifting your butt up and then shifting that tension you just created by feeling yourself prepare the hamstrings for work.  This also connects with what I said above because feeling that sweet spot meant, for me, really sticking my butt backwards.  My shins were vertical and I know that vertical shins is a cue a lot of coaches use.

 

One other thing you had mentioned was the rounding of the back.  And indeed the more horizontal you go the more your upper back is going to be responsible for keeping that spine in a strong position.  For this, you can think about "bending the bar forward" ya know, pulling on it and bulging it out in front of you.  Sometimes I'll hear the cue of putting an imaginary sponge in your armpits and squeezing the water out of it with your arms coming down against your torso.  That one works for a lot of people too.  Either way, this idea of activating your lats and pulling your shoulders down against the "sponge" or down to bend the bar will help create a lot of spinal and scapular stiffness.  

 

So the tl;dr for me is 1) stick your butt back into that hinge, that way you can find the right height for maximal hamstrings involvement and 2) bend the bar.  

 

One last thing, if you are familiar with the Good Morning exercise that can go a real long way in both strengthening the posterior chain and "grooving" that hinge pattern that will get your hips far back behind you.  It may be an accessory that could do a lot of good for you.  

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Your second video is improved.

 

5 hours ago, ZachPSU said:

but this wasn't the right approach it seems

 

You're bending your knees to bring you down to the bar for gripping it.   Doing that makes it harder to get into a good starting position.   Bend at the hips first instead.

 

To illustrate, here's a gif of me deadlifting last year:

 

giphy.gif

 

I've already stepped up to the bar when the gif begins.  But watch the gif a few times while paying attention to my knees and hips at the setup.  Notice that when I bend over to grip the bar, I'm bending from the hips.  My knees bend a little bit, because my arms aren't 6 feet long :lol:.  But while I'm getting my grip on the bar, my legs are basically as straight as I can comfortable keep them.  Once I've gotten my grip, then I bend at the knees, which brings my hips down to my starting position. 

 

Watch Hafthor Bjornsson set the World Record for deadlifting.  Pay attention to how he bends at the hips to take his grip, and doesn't bend his knees for bringing his hips down until he's gotten his grip secure and is ready to begin the lift.

 

 

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@Hazard I'm back with another video.  This is a bit longer, I recorded more of my approach, as well as then got angles from the front and back.  It feels more efficient, but I'm thinking I still drop my hips too much into squat-like position, after I grab the bar.  I worked on grabbing the bar without bending the knees (as little as possible).

 

Side note: I'm aware deadlifting and then rotating 90 degrees and setting it back down is not a real exercise :)  Just wanted to do the video in one cut and the weight is light enough that I felt safe.

 

The angle from the back looks like my hips are really rotated into different positions, but I'm betting its the angle of the camera and where I was positioned after rotating the bar.

 

 

 

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Hmm good question.  I might've mentioned it before but I haven't seriously deadlifted for probably 7-8 years.  I was maxing around 285 consistently before I would have back issues, and I was using a mixed grip at that point.  I'd do a standard grip through warmups up to about 185.  Maybe since this feels so light (115) I was just defaulting to the way my hand wraps on the bar when I squat.  I can see rewatching it now that my grip slowly opens on that 3rd rep from the anterior angle.  Maybe because I was done, but regardless I see where that might impact form.  I will try to remember to grip with my thumbs next time and see if that feels more secure

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1 hour ago, ZachPSU said:

I see where that might impact form

 

The thumbless grip deadlift uses a different form.  It's why your instinct is to layback and drop your hips low.  Setup should still begin by bending at the hips to take your grip, and then bend at the knees to get into the final start position right before you start the pull.  The difference with this thumbless monkey grip is that the starting position for the hips is as low as you need your hips to be for firmly securing the barbell against your legs.  And that'll be a much lower hip position than used in other deadlift forms.  If you decide to train using this monkey grip, it'll feel like a hybrid squat.

 

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Okay, this will probably be the last video for awhile, thank you @Hazard @Harriet @Defining and @swingambitious for the suggestions and thoughts.  I think I've made some big improvements to the form from the simple things like the walk-up and the set-position.  This video is a lighter weight because it is actually DL day for my GSLP, and as I'd mentioned before I dumped weight all the way down to bare minimum to start to make sure I build back up to my old lifts with proper form.  I will return to this thread when I pass a bodyweight DL (165 atm), just to compare side by side (top to bottom?) videos of me doing a lighter weight and reps with challenged form.

 

The main things I worked on here were my grip.  The first set I used thumb wrapped around, the second set I used thumb wrapped around + wrapped into my fist?  I showed grips at the end.  The form looks identical to me in both videos, I don't think I see a difference and I didn't feel a difference, except that maybe wrapping my thumb into the fist felt a bit more secure, like wearing straps might.  I've never lifted with straps so I don't know for sure.

 

Thanks again for your reviews, I'll necro this in.... about 8 weeks assuming my patience sticks with only adding 10lbs per DL day (and only DL'ing 1x weekly).

 

 

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