Advanced Powerlifting Techniques (Part 3) The Deadlift

The Deadlift: "The meet don't start 'til the bar gets on the floor."
-The immortal words of Don Blue, world record holder of the 70's.
The deadlift: just you, the bar and your mind. Even though incredible back strength and psyche is needed, good technique is a must. There are two types of deadlift styles: the conventional, which most use, and the sumo (both narrow and wide), which most do incorrectly for the ones that do use it. The deadlift is broken up into three parts
-The pre attempt scenario, i.e. getting ready for the lift
-The set-up, i.e. walking to the bar getting your feet set and gripping the bar
-The attempt/pull
 
The pre attempt scenario:
A big psyche is necessary and you must have your mind set on the proper technique as you approach the bar. Concentrate on the form so as not to let the psyche get in the way of the form.
 
The sumo set-up:
Approach the bar. Take one foot or the other; your choice as to which is most comfortable and depending on whether you are a wide sumo or a narrow sumo. The shin goes up to the bar, and toes tilted out 45 degrees or even more in some cases. Shins vertical, and knees slightly bent. Hands should be down inside the legs with the forearms touching the inside of the thigh if possible. As you push your knees out (like the squat), you bend over slightly, with arms straight, and grasp the bar half on and half off the knurling. Your arms should be straight vertically from the shoulders to the bar. This rule will determine exactly where the hands are to be placed. For a very big lifter with wider shoulders this may be all the way on the knurling. For most, however, half off and half on will insure the best and shortest pull.
 
The arms are straight, and the bar lies in the fingers, like it is holding a hook.
Thumb should be overlapping one or two of the first two fingers.
The bar should "not" be squeezed. Rather, it should just lay in the fingers/hand. Only the thumb should be flexed, or squeezed, not the hands, not the forearm. If this is done incorrectly, most likely, the bar on a very hard pull will slip out of the hands. Also if the hands are rotated as you grip the bar, it will most likely slip out as the weight pulls down, and pulls the rotated hands back to a straight up and down position. One does not have to have a strong grip to hold onto large amounts of weight. I have a very poor grip and grip strength and have never lost a deadlift, i.e. 716 at 165lbs.
 
As the bar is slowly let down, remember to pull the arms, flexing the lats. Do so as to get the triceps to come on to the lat area. This action will act as a shelf on which to sit. As you start the upward movement the lats will be flexed and act as a launching pad. It should take about 2.5 to 3 seconds till it reaches the chest. It will sit on the highest part of the chest/abs, stopping for a split second pause, then exploding up as you push with everything (as in the squat). Your feet should be driving against the floor, with shoulders and back against the bench, and with your arms against the bar. The bar should go straight up, the shortest distance. Sometimes in the proper position, it will seem as if you are actually pushing toward the feet. The bar is actually going straight up, not back toward the head, as we taught and were taught for 50 years. Think decline. You need to make sure in the descent and the ascent the wrists are in a straight position. Do not let them curl or bend back. This action will let the bar go in that direction. It also is hard on the wrists. A good set of wrist wraps will help some in this for support. The eyes throughout the whole bench should be focused out toward where the bar would start and end, in line of sight. Racking it should be an after thought. Let the spotters take it from you. Remember form, style and technique is everything.
 
The sumo attempt/pull:
As you are leaning over the bar knees pushed out, you dip the hips slightly to start your pull, short and sweet. The hips will pull in towards the bar. The head will follow from down to out as you start the pull. You will pull the slack first out from the plate/bar. Then, the bend in the bar slack will come next. The bar will pull into the fingers even more as this slack is pulled out and as all the different areas of slack are pulled out you will explode up, with a very short in line stroke. The back will not be arched but have a slight curve in it/or perhaps even straight. You should take a short half breath right as you go down to the bar.
 
Too much breath expands the chest and rib cage more than it need be. It raises the shoulders and lengthens the distance the bar travels, as well as forces the shoulders back while at the bottom right before the pull. A variation of the slow sumo pull is the drop and grab and explode method. Everything is still the same as far as the hands, but it is done very quickly. Many times, when done too quickly or out of control, one grabs the bar wrong and/or the hips rise to fast, giving way to a stiff legged deadlift.
 
The conventional set-up:
Walk to the bar with the feet about shoulder width apart. The shins should be 2-4 inches from the bar. Some minute experimentation will find the exact spot you need to be. As you lean over to the bar, grab it the same way as you did in the sumo except outside the legs a few inches on the knurling, touching the calves.
 
The conventional attempt/pull:
Take a small breath and dip the hips and pull. One variation of this technique used nowadays is to dip, roll the bar a few inches out in front of you, and then reverse and pull it back in. As it gets to the shins start the pull upward. Some momentum can be obtained from this and the bar can be started in closer to the center of gravity. If not done exactly right, however, a moving bar can be a problem.
 
Conclusion:
Form, style and technique are more important than the routine. We know this to be true in every sport and so it is in powerlifting. We need to concentrate more on it, and spend hours on it, consistently, every week, throughout your whole career. A baseball player takes thousands of swings a week. So a lifter should do many, many reps with little or no weight to perfect his form, style and technique.

 -Rickey Dale Crain (5x World Champion)


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