Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Deadlifting cues for the long limbed lifter

A very popular cue for deadlifting is “hold on to the bar and push the earth away”. While this is a great cue for people who are natural squatters (usually below 6 feet with short femurs and a long torso), it often doesn’t work for people who aren't natural squatters (usually above 6 feet with long femurs and short torso).  I had a 6 ‘7 basketball player at my gym come up to me and tell me his deadlift is terrible because  “I don’t understand what it means to push the earth away”. When I checked on his form, he was literally treating his deadlift like a squat, the bar got too far away from him, he got his hips almost down to knee level, and it was a squat. The quickest way to muck a deadlift up is to treat it like a squat.

Proportions matter

As a 6 ‘4 lifter with extremely long femurs, I never understood the ‘push the earth away’ cue either. Reason being that squatting is a very foreign concept to a long-femured individual. Ask a tall person to squat and it usually looks like a giraffe trying the limbo. If this is you, and you just can’t seem to get the ‘push the earth away’ cue right, try the opposite. Treat the lift as a pull. Imagine yourself as a human crane and you’re lifting the weight up to put it somewhere else. I’ve found that this typically resolves a lot of issues with longer limbed lifters. When a long-torso person deadlifts, the hips will typically be lower - almost like a squat - because the shoulders have to be over the bar. However, a long-femured person would have higher hips because it doesn’t take much to get the shoulders over the bar. As soon as I told the basketball player to stop pretending it was a squat, and just pull the bar up, his lift looked picture perfect. Long limbed individuals are natural pullers off the floor. Stop pretending it’s a squat and think of yourself as a human crane. Try it out and see if it works for you.

Be like the crane


  1. I'm a long torso-d person and it wasn't until I watched a video of myself deadlifting that I realized I needed to squat down so much more to get my shoulders over the bar. Dropped my weight down a bit but my lower back is happy. Cheers.

  2. I'd love to see a similar post for bench pressers with monkey arms if you have any insight on that.