In Powerlifting

November 01, 2006

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It is a rather dim memory, but I have pictures and trophies that I am told are mine. I was once a decent deadlifter. My PR was 633, done on two separate occasions at a bodyweight of 220. So here I offer a new, rather long, analysis of the deadlift.

The start position involves the shoulders being in front of the bar, which is to say, on the other side of the bar from the rest of the body. The interesting thing about this position is that when you’re in it, your arms are straight but not actually vertical. They are at about a 10-degree angle from vertical, because the shoulders in front of the bar have them reaching back to the bar at this angle. But it sure seems as though they would almost have to be vertical since a damned heavy weight is hanging from them. Shouldn’t they hang straight down? And another thing: shouldn’t the back be as vertical as possible, since vertical is easier on the back?

The answer to both is no. The arms cannot hang straight down; they must be at an angle from the shoulders back to the bar, and the back cannot be vertical if the shoulders are in that position. But why is this true?

The force that is transferred from the back to the bar doesn’t just leap over to the arms through the air. It is transferred to the arms through the shoulder blades, and it just so happens that when the correct deadlift position is assumed, the shoulder blades—not the front of the deltoids—are in fact directly over the bar in a line perfectly plumb and vertical to the bar.

Mark Rippetoe is the owner of the Wichita Falls Athletic Club/Crossfit Wichita Falls and co-author of the book Starting Strength.

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46 Comments on “A New, Rather Long Analysis of the Deadlift”

1

wrote …

I have been doing DLs wrong. I thought that you were supposed to keep the buttocks down and the chest high on the bottom.

According to what I am seeing am I supposed to keep the buttocks above the knees in the bottom of the movement?

2

Rippetoe wrote …

The hips are not the critical thing here. The shoulders are in front of the bar, which will always (I say that because I have never seen anyone constructed in a way that would have them otherwise) put the hips above the knees. The shoulders are the marker, and the hips follow the shoulders. Read the whole article and things should be clear.

3

Anonymous wrote …

Does this translate into the correct starting position for the snatch, clean and jerk and sumo-dead-lift? With the hand placement changing and shoulder-hip-leg remaining as illustrated?

4

Rippetoe wrote …

Yes, it does. The pulling mechanics of anything off the floor depend on the leg/hip/spine/scapula relationship. If you can find any youtube stuff of the lifts filmed from the profile, you will see this expressed in all of them.

5

wrote …

Elite fitness founder and powerlifting legend Dave Tate would disagree with much of what you say.

www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do?id=459744
Mistake#6: Keeping the shins too close to the bar.

Mistake #8: Not keeping your shoulders BEHIND the bar.


"The deadlift is about leverage and positioning...if you're standing too close to the bar it'll have to come over the knee before you can pull back, thus going forward before it goes backward. if your shoulders are in front of the bar at the start of the pull, then the bar will want to go forward and not backward."-Dave Tate

6

Rippetoe wrote …

An interesting disparity. I'll speak with him about this and see what he says. But I'll bet that a video of his deadlift from the side shows his scapulas over the bar, since he advocates a round upper back, and the bar close to his shins. Working on this now.

7

wrote …

Thanks Mark, it will be interesting to see what you find out. I found your article very interesting however...

8

wrote …

A few more comments if i may;

1)I've been talking to a few very experienced PL's and so far the consensus is behind the bar so you can pull the bar into you although most seem to not hold crossfit in high regard.

2)I'd take that bet cause if anyone is aware of his form its Tate and in his article he mentions shoulders behind the bar at least a dozen times with yes a rounded upper back.

9

Rippetoe wrote …

Haven't heard back yet, but upon reading the article a couple of times, I notice that he doesn't say why he wants the shoulders behind the bar. He says that it helps with "pulling back", but the problem with that is the legs are in the way. And perhaps this set of cues refers to Sumo. I want to talk to him about this, but above all I'd like to see a video of someone deadlifting this way, taken from profile view, and see what is actually happening.

I have seen 800+ pulled the way I describe more times than I have seen 500 pulled the way I consider wrong. John Kuc, Jon Cole, George Hecter, Dan Wohleber, Jim Cash, and Chip McCain all pulled with their scapulas vertical to the bar. But I can be educated.

10

Rippetoe wrote …

Here are 3 video clips that will be instructive. Note that when Bolton makes an attempt his shoulders stay in position, scapulas directly over the bar. When he misses, that position is not maintained well. All of these clips show fairly clearly, despite the variety of observation positions, that the shoulder blades are plumb to the bar as it comes off the floor, and that they stay that way until the bar is above the knee.

This is a critical difference in the clean and the deadlift: the shoulders stay out over the bar longer in a clean to facilitate the second pull, but the deadlift begins the rotation back lower on the thigh. This may be the source of the misperception of the shoulder position. But the ride up from the floor to the lower thigh is the same in both, and the videos clearly show this position. Even sumo deadlifts look the same off the floor, although it is harder to see the scapula position with the back in a more vertical position.

Another point is that if the deadlift is viewed from the side of the supine hand, the shoulder on that side is not as far forward due to the external rotation of the humerus, and the rest of the arm is further back because the elbow is pointed back instead of out. Try this yourself and see.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlNHtrSTBJE&mode=related&search=
Bolton, WR deadlift


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh3FsjC3NiU&mode=related&search=
Bolton, good lift #1, miss #2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgQ2M1PDP3g&mode=related&search=
Bolton and Magnusson

11

Rippetoe wrote …

Here are 3 video clips that will be instructive. Note that when Bolton makes an attempt his shoulders stay in position, scapulas directly over the bar. When he misses, that position is not maintained well. All of these clips show fairly clearly, despite the variety of observation positions, that the shoulder blades are plumb to the bar as it comes off the floor, and that they stay that way until the bar is above the knee.

This is a critical difference in the clean and the deadlift: the shoulders stay out over the bar longer in a clean to facilitate the second pull, but the deadlift begins the rotation back lower on the thigh. This may be the source of the misperception of the shoulder position. But the ride up from the floor to the lower thigh is the same in both, and the videos clearly show this position. Even sumo deadlifts look the same off the floor, although it is harder to see the scapula position with the back in a more vertical position.

Another point is that if the deadlift is viewed from the side of the supine hand, the shoulder on that side is not as far forward due to the external rotation of the humerus, and the rest of the arm is further back because the elbow is pointed back instead of out. Try this yourself and see.

***Reposting as the original post was held for review, probably because of the links. You can find the links to the videos posted at crossfitwichitafalls.com in the "forums" area "Q&A".

12

Pierre Auge wrote …

Rip email me! Good stuff...

13

Pierre Auge wrote …

Rip email me - pjr.auge@gmail.com

14

Rippetoe wrote …

I talked to Dave Tate. Anyone curious about what he said can call me at 940 696 0829. I will not post the details of a private conversation here, but I will be glad to share his thoughts with anyone who calls me. 1p to 12a CST

15

wrote …

Mark, I have read this brief but informative piece of yours about the deadlift! It makes perfect sense when after you show the different body leverages that people have because of leg/back length etc... It has to be this way in order for the bar to travel properly for success in the Olympic lifts!! The lifter has to be disciplined and use the said techniques to be successful! Tim Swords

16

Rippetoe wrote …

Thanks Tim. Your endorsement of my analysis is important to me, and I appreciate your time.

Rip

17

wrote …

Good work Mark

the whole Westside "shoulders behind the bar" never made any sense to me. I think it is one of those things where thats what the guy FELT like he was doing....but video would probably show otherwise.


its sort of like trying to explain a golf swing by how it feels to the person swinging.....what it FEELS like you are doing rarely matches what the video shows.


Keep up the solid work bro

JP

18

Tim T wrote …

Hi Coach Rippetoe,

just wanted to let you know that I have nailed a printout of your article to a wall that is usually in front of me when I deadlift, and since I started paying attention to your methodology, my lower back no longer hurts after deadlifting (just my butt and hamstrings, and a little in my traps and rhomboids). Concentrating on the same degree of lumbar lordosis that I consciously enforce when setting up for a snatch was the key to abolishing my lower back pain from deadlifting.

My sincere thanks for removing the fear that I've carried around ever since I tweaked my back in high school deadlifting 405#. I wasn't doing it right. Now I'm 15 years older, and thanks to your analysis, my deadlift is both stronger and painless. Thank you, very much, for this.

19

stef wrote …

The comments from Westside regarding "shoulders behind the bar" were intended to be cues for coaching, not a biomechanical analysis of the lift. Dave Tate explained this to me in our conversation. He agrees with me about scapula position off the floor, and anyone can look at videos of heavy deadlifts and make this observation themselves. I feel that a good understanding of the mechanics of the movement allows you to form your own cues, and is the most useful tool for developing correct technique.

Thanks to Tim T for the positive response. Thanks to all of you for reading it.

Rip

20

wrote …

Hello Mark.

Two things come into my mind in regard to this artice:

1. I've read this article and understood that *full* scapula retraction is needed for maximum results / safety, yet I've read "starting strength" and never saw this advice. So... what's the correct scapula positioning at the beggining? It seems like something escapes me here.

2. It seems like Andy Bolton is arching his back... Does that mean that his technique is not optimal (even though he's a tremendous lifter) and could and should be fixed? or maybe it's just his hugh trapezious which cause that look? what do you say?

21

Rippetoe wrote …

Yaniv:

1. That observation was not in Starting Strength because I figured it out just a couple of months ago, long after the book was published. It has already been incorporated into the manuscript for the next edition, along with lots of other stuff. I am learning as fast as you are.

2. I am assuming you meant to say that Andy was "rounding" his back, generally regarded as a position of flexion, as opposed to "arching", generally regarded as a position of extension. If he was, it was probably because the bar was really, really heavy and his extensors got a bit tired during the pull. The video has been pulled from youtube (I guess because Andy's strength was obscene) but if you can find it I'll look closer.

22

Yaniv Bigo wrote …

Thanks a lot Mark, I appreciate your help!

By the way, there are 2 more things which I think that the revised "starting strength" should have:

A. A small protocol for warming up the shoulders (page 144 - "after a good shoulder warm up..."). Just to make things complete.

B. A small plan on developing flexability in the hamstrings... I know that the book is only 250 pages long (and you can't put everything in it), but it'll be great if you can add it. I believe that many many people lack flexability in the ham's ... oh, and meanwhile - Can you give me a link or explain shortly (I know your time is precious) how to get those good ham's which doesn't cause the lower back to round when I'm doing squat and at the bottom of the movement?

Thanks so much Mark!!!

PS - I'm from Israel, so escuse me for my bad english.

23

Rippetoe wrote …

Yaniv: Hamstring flexibility is not a complicated thing. Squat down, put your fingertips under your feet to hold them, flatten your back as much as you can, and then shove your ass up in the air as high as you can. Hold it there and count to 30 slowly. Do this 3 times a week for the rest of your life. It takes about 3 weeks for flexibility to improve dramatically.

24

Yaniv Bigo wrote …

Thanks again for helping us Mark... I'll work on my ham's flexability exactly the way you said.

On to another thing: I'm providing a link to my starting position at the deadlift. Note that the arm is around 10 degrees from vertical, that my back is pretty flat, that the bar touches the shins, and that shoulder blades are directly above the bar. Yet, I'm 195 Centimiters (76-77 Inches), and as you see my - torso is not very far from being parralal to the floor, and hence a lot of stress is apllied to my hips and lower back. I have troubles with using my quadriceps to take the bar from the floor to the knees - the tightness at the lower back just breaks and it round a bit. Maybe it's because I still lack flexability in the hamstrings, I'm not sure.
Well, it just doesn't look to me that I'll be able to handle 150 KG with that form... Something isn't working.

Any tips will be great,
Thanks in advance.

25

Yaniv Bigo wrote …

26

Rippetoe wrote …

I see absolutely nothing wrong with that position. "Tightness" in your lower back is not what breaks it round. Weakness prevents holding it flat. The angles are fine, you're not even close to parallel to the floor, so just train with a weight you can hold flat, do three sets across with that weight, and then go up 5 kg. next workout. It will get strong.

27

Yaniv Bigo wrote …

One more think Mark: could you clarify the difference between "sets across" and "work sets"? I read the explanation in the "starting strength" but I don't understand what "sets across really are.

Sorry for nagging!

28

Yaniv Bigo wrote …

*thing

*in "starting strength"

29

Randy wrote …

Hey Mark, really love your book and in depth analysis of the main exercises- you really know your stuff. I have a question regarding the proper deadlift startingposition. Similiar to Yaniv's situation, I'm 6'1'' and to reach the bar I don't know if I should bend my knees more or simply lean forward more. Any ideas?

30

Rippetoe wrote …

Thanks for the kind words, but read the article again. The proper deadlift starting position is 1.) bar against shins, 2.) scapulas over bar, 3.) flat back with arms straight. However you have to get there, do so, but when these criteria are met you are the correct starting position for your anthropometry.

Yaniv: Sets "across" means multiple sets with the same weight. If these sets are the heaviest you are doing, then they are also your work sets, done across.

31

Yaniv BIgo wrote …

Hey Mark, still no way to know what went on between you and Dave Tate? I'm from Israel, so calling is going to be a bit pricey...

For the sake of humankind :-) share he knowledge!

32

Rippetoe wrote …

It was a private conversation, and it is my policy to never post the results of private conversations on the internet unless it was specifically okayed (which it wasn't), which seems prudent to me. As I said, anyone that wants to know can call me, 940 696 0829. Surely the Israelis have cell phones with free long distance...

33

Yaniv BIgo wrote …

Ok, another qustion:

Do you think that working on power-cleans will affect squat abilities, or does the "specifity principle" holds here as well so that for improving 'slow squats' (strength squats) you simply need to train them explosively?

You say that: "If muscles are trained to do this efficiently, the slower jobs, even with heavier weights, are a piece of cake".

I'd like squats to be piece of cake for me (who doesn't? :-)) - does that mean that I just need to incorporate power cleans?

Thanks for all Mark.

34

wrote …

Mark,

I saw someone mention a hamstring stretch that you advocate on the Crossfit message boards today. Can you please describe it?

Thanks Brett

35

wrote …

I have recenlty read your article and shared it with some of my workout partners. It is certainly one of the better articles I ever ever read in my 13 yrs+ of working out.

I did have one question, when you mention retracting the scapula...do you mean to RETRACT and then LOCK DOWN? I learned this many a moon ago at an NASM training, but had barely given it a thought since. It makes a lot of sense, but I want to make sure I am getting thos "scaps" in the proper position.

Thanks very much,
Jan

36

wrote …

Mark,

Since reading these 3 "rules" I am keen to implment then into my next deadlift session

1.) bar against shins
2.) scapulas over bar
3.) flat back with arms straight

Can I just ask though, should we keep an arch in our lower back? or just try to keep it as straight as possible before the pull?

Thank's

Dino....

37

Rippetoe wrote …

Sorry for the delay. #34, The hamstring stretch is done by bending over and tucking your fingers under the front of your shoes, and then sticking your butt up in the air as high as you can with your low back tight. Hold for 30 seconds.

#36, the back position is simple extension, not hyperextension. But it is very hard for most people of normal flexibility to be hyperextended when their hamstrings are pulling them into lumbar flexion, so you try to hyperextend as a cue for an extended position.

38

wrote …

Hi Mark,

In post #21 you mention the next edition. Do you have any idea when the next edition will be available?

39

wrote …

without a doubt the best article on the deadlift i have read i would like to see the same type of analysis on bench press a

40

Rippetoe wrote …

Sorry for the delay again. The new book is due out at the end of June. We're working our little butts off on it right now.

Rip

41

wrote …

I haven't read the 1st edition yet, I'll buy the 2nd edition when it's in the shop, but, as for now, what's your opinion on leg stance and grip width and using shoes?

Should the grip width be broader or smaller than shoulder width, or should the arms just hang down without abduction?

Does it have any relevance if toes are pointed forward or to the sides?

42

Ali wrote …

Thank you very much Mark, this article cleared up so much confusion for me.

43

wrote …

From watching videos of Dave Tate pull, he keeps his shoulders behind the bar and tends to squat the weight up like a lot of SHW lifters do, I haven't seen to many lifters under 275 who use (or can use) this form.

44

wrote …

Hey Mark. Ive been squatting lately with a trainer who, for football, doesnt belive that hitting parallel is necessary.. or hamstring parallel is sufficient. Ive been squatting like this for the past few months and am having problems with my deads. Ive always.. ALWAYS been bad at straight bar deads.. no matter what. My back rounds(lower) no matter what.. even a little when warming up with 225. My squat is about 385 hitting like.. 85 degrees.

My deads wont break 315 for 5 though. Im about 220, bench 310, and my dead is pathetic. Are sumo deads.. basicallly worthless? What should I do?

45

DDStewart wrote …

Great article on the DL, best I've ever read. The tech. you breakdown is the way I've pulled for the past 10 years. Tate once observed me pulling and had a funny look on his face. Maybe because I pull more than him. My tech was adopted as a way to mimic the Highland Game event -weight over the bar. Getting to a ? - I do the halting w/ a 10 second pause above the knee. Any comment.

Thanks

46

wrote …

I am infexible in the hamstirngs and when I go deep to grip the bar I end up not being able to keep my back rounding out. How do i solve this?

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