Tony Gentilcore recently posted an article on T-nation called
The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier Pulls
As someone who has a deep passion for Deadlifts, I peeped into this article to have a look at what Tony has to say. I won't be copy/pasting his article but y'all can have a look at it from the link pasted below.
His first tip is regarding the set-up.
Tip #1: If you want to improve your deadlift, you should have perfect form.
The Set Up
- Feet places narrower than shoulder-width. Bar against shins.
- Chest up. Deep belly breath - this means brace your abs as if you are expecting a punch. Sit back into position, arch your lower back and keep your shoulder blades retracted. Do not squat down. This is a PULL not a SQUAT.
- Grab the bar. Squeeze the hell out of the bar. Pull your shoulders back (while squeezing the bar - something you do from start to finish) and engage the late. Technically: "This will also activate the thoraco-lumbar fascia and stabilize the spine." Lookout for: tension in the hamstrings and glutes.
- Chin tucked. Eyes focused on a spot roughly 10-15 feet ahead of you. This spot - exactly like your bar-squeezing will stay constant throughout the movement.
I think tips 1-3 are reasonably correct. The last suggestion is something I wouldn't do. I always try to keep my head neutral and my eyes focused in front of me - not down. And sometimes, when the pull is heavy enough, one tries to push one's head through the roof…I don't think looking "down" while Deadlifting is a good idea.
- Drive through your heels. Elbows locked from the get-go. Pull the bar and make sure your hips and shoulders move simultaneously. Everything must be in sync.
- Upon approaching lockout, make sure to "finish" the movement by squeezing the glutes and getting those hips through. This is critical for success.
I think #5 has a flaw…you don't lift with your shoulders. You move with your hips. I think what Tony wants to say is that everything moves in synchrony…I don't know what shoulders have to do with the Deadlift's movement other than they should be ahead of the bar.
I do think that #6 is right on the head. One does have to clench the glutes to lockout the lift properly. I don't mean exaggerating the lockout but locking out fully.
- Break at the hips. Hips break first then the knees. Hips first. Sit back (literally think of sitting back into your heels) and slide the bar down your thighs the entire time.
- Maintain the hard arch in your lower back. Remember to keep your shoulders retracted and placed behind the behind the bar.
Breaking at the hips while lowering the bar is a great point.
Since Tony is talking about strength training with heavier weight, I think trying for a well-arched lower back is very difficult. However, I do believe that focusing on a straight/arched back is a good idea.
Tip #2: Pull frequently and heavy
Tony has some good points on this matter. He writes:
1.) Pull at the beginning of your training "week" because you are at your freshest.
2.) Pull often as in atmost once a week.
Month One: Trap Bar Deadlift
Week 1: 5x5
Week 2: 4x5
Week 3: 6x5
Week 4: 3x5
Month Two: Sumo Deadlift
Week 1: 4x3
Week 2: 3x3
Week 3: 3x3, 2x5
Week 4: Pull-Throughs, 3x10
Month Three: Conventional Deadlift
Week 1: 3RM (or 1RM)
Week 2: 4x4
Week 3: 4x5
Week 4: 3x4
This progression scheme is really weird to me. The week-to-week look of it is exactly like Eric Cressey's method which is to have a waved loading/volume system: High/Medium/Very High/Low. It makes sense to work from doing 5s with higher volume to doing 3s. However, I don't know why one would want to switch the Deadlift variant from month-to-month. I would just keep it with Deadlifts and then perhaps add a Deadlift variant like Trap Bar Deadlifts after the main lift if I had to. Also, I don't believe that everyone is good at both Sumo and Conventional pulls.
Tip #3: Rotate your movements (just not every week)
This is not something I like doing. I actually believe that what ain't broke don't need fixing.
I am not sure why one has to rotate movements compulsorily every 3-4 weeks as Tony has suggested. I don't think a movement needs to be changed if one can still progress on it. I do think that doing different movements is good but if you're goal is to pull conventional then you should focus on doing conventional deadlifts. You could do more stuff but your key lift is the one pertaining to your goal.
Tip # 4: Fix your weaknesses
This is important however I think people jump all too much on the hyped bandwagon that:
If you're slow off the floor do Deficit Deadlifts
If you're slow at the lockout do Rack Deadlifts
I don't think these are the solution to the "weaknesses". Plus, it also depends on where the weakness is. For example, more often than not, someone will post a max effort pull and if the movement was slow off the floor, he/she will be asked to do Deficit Deadlifts. Or if could be the other way around and if the top of the movement is slow, it is automatically assumed that the trainee needs to do some Rack Deadlifts. I think that is wrong because its a MAX EFFORT PULL. It isn't meant to be easy and effortless!
Tip #5: Take off your shoes
I think flat soled shoes are the key. Some people (like Devraj and Paul for example) love pulling barefoot and I think thats fine. Before I bought my flat soled shoes I used to pull barefoot. I think having your feet flat on the floor is of utmost importance.
Tip #6: Don't use straps
Joe will agree with me on this: you must train your grip to not allow it to become a limiting factor.
This may be a side topic but it is in my experience that even I was using straps, I still find the need to have an over/under position. I cannot pull with an over/over just because I am using straps. It's weird, right?
Tip #7: If you want to get strong you need to train with strong people
I think having positive people around you can make all the difference. I remember when I met Pro Powerlifter Lucas in Dallas a few years ago and he motivated me to hit a 405 Deficit Deadlift. I think having positive people around you can make a huge difference in one's performance.
Tip # 8: Do accessory work
Tony raises some good points with this:
He writes that if you want to get better at deadlifting, you need to train the posterior chain very hard. This means that leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls have to be ditched. They just won't cut it.
This is such an important point. If you go over to most of these 5/3/1 journals, a lot of people are doing these exercises as accessory lifts and I think this point of choosing exercises which have the best carry over is very important. It raises the issue that exercises, sets, reps, progression schemes, all these details are just TOOLs - tools to help the trainee achieve his/her goals. Getting attached to any one of them is counter productive.
Tony writes; Gauging you're progress is important. This might mean that for some people it is through box squats while for others it may be Romanian Deadlifts. The take home message here is that you must have another exercise that you can use to "gauge" where you're at.
Another crucial point.
Tony also lists some very essential exercises for accessory work:
- Glute Ham Raises
- Slideboard Leg Curls
- Hip Thrusters
- Pull-throughs - I totally agree with Tony that this is one of THE most under-rated exercises out there)
I think GHRs are a bit over used. I am of the same opinion as Tony in that pull-throughs are very effective and under-rated.
Tip #9: Perform single-leg work
I think Mike Robertson's list of single-leg exercises is pretty concise: Single Leg Supplements
Eric has an article on the subject as well: Split Squats, Lunges and Single Leg Squats
Tip # 10: Get those glutes firing!
This is one of my problems which I have addressed. Supine GHRs, Bird Dogs, etc…most of this involves doing a thorough set of mobility drills as my warm-up.
Tip #11: Don't make a habit of missing lifts.
This would annoy me more than anything else. And it would bust my self confidence.
I think progression and loading should be gradual. I have discussed this in my article: Importance of Progression
Tip #12: Do speed work (but not that kind!)
Tony brings up a good point that speed work for Deadlifts doesn't have to mean more Deadlifts. He suggests doing Kettlebell Swings.
I think this was a reasonably good article. Tony brought up a lot of good points and most of what he had to say was pretty accurate.
Original Article: The Dirty Dozen: 12 Tips for Heavier Pulls
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