On a trip to Nor Cal, I had the opportunity to visit Crossfit Exel in Manteca, CA. Manteca is a thriving little metropolis just east of Stockton. While I was there, I noticed a quote on the whiteboard inside the restroom. That’s right, they have a whiteboard in the restroom… it said...
“What’s the key to a successful deadlift…”
“…Pick the shit up”
I not only thought it was philosophical but also really funny. It also inspired me to write this post. My hope is that with the information you gain, everyone can become more efficient in the deadlift.
Through out the strength and conditioning community, coaches consistently refer to the deadlift as one of the “Big 3” most effective exercises to develop total body strength. Specifically, the deadlift conditions the muscle groups that are most important to athletic performance: the hip and knee extensors, back extensors and the muscles of the trunk.
To best analyze the movements of the deadlift, lets take a look at the three biomechanical contributors that make a successful lift.
- Vertical Bar distance – the distance between the resting position of the bar and the final position of the bar at the top of the lift. This is often referred to the “Stroke”.
- Mechanical work – how much work the corresponding muscles must do to perform the lift.
- Predicted energy expenditure – the predicted amount of energy needed to break inertia from the resting position plus the energy required to bring the bar to its final lift position.
To begin, the lift is broken down into two phases:
- The Accent: Once you have a belly full of air, force should be applied simultaneously between the hip and knee joints. This is another key point to the lift, if the knee joint moves faster then the hip joint, then you end up shooting the hips, placing the majority of the load on the low back and secretly being called a stripper behind your back. Now, keep in mind that the hardest part of the deadlift is breaking inertia from the ground, so it is important that the back muscles stay flexed during the first third of this lift, failure to do so will cause excessive rounding of the lower back, pulling the vertebrae apart, stretching ligaments, and possible tearing muscle. Once the weight has cleared the knees, you will feel the most amount of pressure against your body, this happens about one-fouth the length of the femur above the patella. This is also the point where a natural weight shift occurs. In order to compensate for a new line of pull through the body a slight shift in weight is necessary, we call this a countermovement. This happens by shifting weight from the heals to the mid section of the foot. Many will compensate too much and throw in a calf raise at this point. (For those of you lucky enough to lift with Dan tomorrow may witness this!) The lift is finished when both the hips and knees are at full extension and the back is straightened.
- The Decent: From the fully upright position the bar is lowered by eccentrically flexing both the hip and knee joints. This requires a great deal of control from both muscle groups. The bar should slide down the same points they hit on the ascent.
So why do we “Pick shit up” as it was so eloquently put?
There are a series of physical, neurological and hormonal adaptations that occur when performing the deadlift, that cannot be replicated when performing any other lift.
- Neurological – (Things we feel but may not see right away) We see dramatic strength gains through increase motor unit recruitment, greater motor unit synchronization and inhibition of protective mechanisms. These adaptations allow us to utilize more muscle per lift, in a more organized fashion, while turning off the protective qualities of our muscle that may limit strength and size gains. As you progress in your exercise programming, your mind and body start working together more efficiently; this leads to greater strength gains and more efficiency in our lifts.
- Mechanical – (Things we see through increased muscle size) Muscle hypertrophy or increased muscle size occurs due to protein remodeling of the muscle cell. This results in a great cross-sectional size of the individual muscle fibers. Specifically, we see greater hypertrophy of the Type II muscle fibers, these are the fibers utilized during heavy bouts of resistance training. This gain in muscle size benefits us in two ways, first – it looks good, and second a muscle is larger cross sectional diameter is capable of producing more force.
- Hormonal – (what juices are flowing, before during and after our workouts) Some research shows that resting Testosterone levels are higher when performing high intensity resistance training; further research has demonstrated that individuals who have participated in over 2 years of training, have experienced increases in other beneficial male sex hormones like luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. For all you ladies asking yourselves, “sounds great for the guys but what about us…” Well, believe it or not all these hormons benefit you just as much as us – if not more! These hormones benefit us by helping repair muscle, making us look younger and even benefiting our bodies response to virus’s and bacteria.Furthermore, training protocols that utilize moderate- to high-intensity, high volume, large-muscle groups and shorter rest periods have been shown to increase acute post exercise serum GH concentrations. (Sounds like CrossFit to me!) Such types of exercise protocols increase blood lactate and hydrogen ion concentration through glycolytic metabolism, which is believed to stimulate the GH response.
Now get out there and pick shit up!
3-3-3-3-3-3 @80% 1RM
[20 seconds to complete each set/PRECISELY 1 minute rest in between sets/score is based on total incomplete reps/or DNF under the time limit]
B. for time
(10) handstand push-ups
(20) push-ups [standards]
(30) overhead squats @95/65
(20) push-ups [standards]
(10) handstand push-ups
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