Monday, August 13, 2012

Counter intuitive lifting tricks and cues - Correcting the 'falling forward' on the deadlift

The Problem:

We've all seen it. A person sets up for a deadlift in the right position, everything looks good and BAM at the point of lifting the hips rise forward and upwards and the lower back and quads are used primarily to lift the weight up.  Being used to a world in which we predominantly sit, the hips have become dumb, and the ability to shift our weight posteriorly (get the hips behind the heel) has diminished. Now this may be the case of a posterior pelvic tilt (tight hamstrings, weak lower back), but if a person can get into a perfect starting position, it's more likely just a case of bad habits. In the video below, it's not an extreme case of hips coming forward, but this person would be lifting a lot more if he fixed his hips.

Why This Happens:

Assuming the weight is not something that's too heavy for the person, this mostly happens because we live in a quadriceps friendly world. We like to shoot our weight forward, and this is why you see so much more back and knee pain in today's world. With the deadlift, we do not know how to load our hamstrings and glutes, and the body lets itself pitch forward to put more stress on the quads. In the bottom of the deadlift, the pelvis is as anteriorly tilted as it can get which means that the hamstrings are the prime movers. If you lose this position and take the stretch out of the hamstrings, you will bring in the wrong muscles. It's usually the case with beginners and people with extremely strong backs. Or just people who have been improperly training and have been feeding their dysfunctions.

The Counter Intuitive Solution:

1) Firstly make sure the bar is only an inch or two away from you. No amount of cues and fixes will fix your deadlift is your starting position isn't perfect.
2) Lift the bar very slowly from the ground to the kneecap. It should take you at least three seconds to get to kneecap height.
3) From kneecap up, lift normally.

Why This Works:

1) The problem is magnified when going slow. A person can use momentum to drive a light weight through bad form, but when going slow the weight will keep a person honest. The person will be forced to pull back and load the posterior chain, because the falling forward will be made that much more obvious.
2) The going slow will force the abs and lower back to contract harder. Most people forget how to contract their torso to stabilize the spine. Going slow forces this change to happen, which makes for a better lift.
3) The person can't jerk the weight around when going slow. Jerking the weight, usually off the floor, results in losing the tight lower back arch. Tension is key to lifting big weights, and this solution helps solidify that key point.

When And How To Use IT:

Firstly, this should not be done with heavy weights. Think of this fix as practice. You want to practice consistently and perfectly. If this is a chronic problem, you want to practice this every day or every alternate day. Maybe even between sets of your bench, you can practice a set of slow deadlifts. If this isn't a chronic problem for you, but you still would like to practice perfect form, I would suggest once a week or so as a warm-up. It works great as a warm-up, but make sure you also get used to pulling fast and perfectly when it comes to heavy weights. Be aware that this will also cause some very sore hamstrings the first few times.

Note:  I do not advocate pulling slowly all the time. This is only for people who need technique work and who pitch forward. Practice safe lifting

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