In Coaching, Reference, Videos

October 24, 2010

Video Article

Maintaining the lumbar curve is paramount when it comes to deadlifting. If an athlete can’t find or maintain a safe lumbar spine position for whatever reason, coaches should know how to make adjustments and set that athlete up for success.

At a recent Coaches Prep Course, HQ trainer Chris Spealler helps an athlete reach the ideal set position. First, he works with a dowel. Then he adds weight to see if the tension provides feedback that helps the athlete self-correct the loss of lumbar curve. If it doesn’t, Spealler suggests elevating the bar using bumper plates, which can help an athlete find a safe lifting position.

Safely loading a new athlete is critical, and being creative in your teaching will help your clients achieve the flexibility and body awareness necessary to progress to lifting off the floor.

The Coaches Prep Course builds upon the Level 1 Certification and is designed for coaches looking to take their training to the next level. To register for the course, visit

6min 49sec

Additional reading: Spine Mechanics for Lifters by Tony Leyland, published Nov. 1, 2007.

Free Download


12 Comments on “Coaches Prep Course: Deadlifting off Bumpers”


wrote …

Great video. I would love to see more videos like this on the journal that delve into coaching movements, programming, nutrition, etc. The thirst for knowledge is unquenchable but drink we must.


Adam Kruppa wrote …

Great to see that my own modification of DL is being used by others.
As a taller CF'er (6'6") i feel that size of bumpers (diameter) is a disadvantage to my form as i lower to the bar (akin to lowering yourself to the bar with no weights) and i've continually used bumpers to help on form and position.

CrossFit SWFFT


wrote …

Dont forget your daily mobilitywod to better your ROM... no matter how tall or short you are.

I have been mwoding everyday for a month now and my ROM has improved by leaps.



wrote …

I'm curious, if flexibility is a limiting factor of a proper
set up, is it smart to train someones strengths before addressing their weakneses? Let alone allowing them to go for a 1rep max off of bumpers


wrote …

I second the comment regarding more training videos such as this. Although videos can't compete with actually being there, they are a great teaching tool and do wonders for going back to the basics.

More please !!!


Stephen Hubbard wrote …

Im pretty sure I could listen to Spealler talk about deadlifting for hours. I had never thought about going from a positive - what a great idea!


Justin Riley wrote …

Great instruction and cueing on the DL, but am I the only scratching my head right now? Take a quick look at the following screen shot taken from the video.

I'm not trying to make a stink here, just wondering if you all think that this is safe position to be lifting 215+ from or not.

Personally I would try putting this guy in a sumo set-up which allows for better lumbar curve? Any thoughts on that one?


wrote …

i totally agree with chad, and justin. first, any athlete of mine would be addressing that mobility concern, kelly provides us with an unbelieveable amount of free info on how to avoid and treat dysfunction and immobility. second, the sumo setup is an easy fix for folks with tight hammys, most discover their lumbar curve immediately. granted, sumo is still a modification that shortens the rom, but the athlete is still pulling from the floor, with a straight neutral back. last, while the athlete easily stands up with the weight it is clear that he doesnt have the midline stability to keep his setup position... round back deadlifting is not pretty or healthy, but if it begins a little round and stays that way its not as bad as reverting to a lumbar flexed position under load when he started fairly neutral... it happens in training its the way of the world, but chris didnt correct her when she cued him good and didnt tell him that his lift was strong, but needs improvement so he doesnt lose discs in the long run. performance and big lifts are what we all want, but im sure that most of us still want to be able to deadlift and get off the toilet on our own at 90yrs old like coach talks about. no disrespect, just my opinion.


wrote …

Great discussion and I wanted to chime in to help people see my point of view since we can all learn from one another. Hopefully this will give you a chance to see things from my perspective in this situation.

First of all, great points from all around. Mobility is key to giving people healthier lives, performance, and safety. I totally agree and have found some specific things that Kelly had offered that have help me tremendously. Having said that, in this situation, we are teaching the participants at the CPC how to coach the deadlift under load. Unfortunately it takes some time to work on mobility and gain the flexibility we need to pull from the floor. So in an environment like this I think it's a great way to keep the athlete involved with the class by giving them a dead from a positive. It's also a great option for changing up some of our pulling positions to find where we are weak in our deadlift. The bumpers in my opinion are a great place to go, but should not be viewed as a "fix". It's providing someone with one of two things. A safer position to pull, or a variance of the lift. Depending on the athlete both can be beneficial. All the while, if mobility is an issue, this never excuses the athlete from lifting from the floor one day. Maybe in a couple weeks, maybe in a year, that is the end goal, no way around it, sumo style or pulling from bumpers will only be a temporary fix.

As far as the round back, absolutely agree again. I was aware of this and the participant and I had watched Eric deadlift off the plates previously and noted the round back and discussed what we were comfortable with. I am comfortable letting the back round slightly when it gets to heavier loading. Having said this I don't think this is something we should teach, most specifically to beginners. It's incredibly important to communicate the safety of maintaining midline stability when lifting... anything. When it comes to pulluing 1 rm's in competition, it's not going to be pretty and athlete accept this risk. I wouldn't suggest it for Eric, but I also wanted him to challenge himself. From my perspective, I saw the rounded back, but was comfortable with him pulling with this position. It's something that I think is different with every coach. Some say never round, others even teach round back deads for strengthening in that position. In the case at the CPC it's something the participant and I noted but were willing to accept with the loading and kept a watchful eye on it. Personally, anything more and I would have stopped it.

This is just my take and I understand if others think differently. This is my coaching style even in my own gym. But it all depends on the athlete their exposure level, and both their and my comfort with the lift.

Feel free to hit up any other questions on this post as I'm happy to help elaborate or provide more feedback of where my thoughts are if it's helpful. Again, great discussion, and lets keep learning.


Justin Riley wrote …

Chris, thanks for the lengthy response. Much appreciated.


wrote …

Absolutely Justin. I hope it helps explain some of the situation and my thought process.


wrote …

First watch a video of a CFT Deadlift, starting at 1:11 ...

Glance over the wide range of comments posted about what you just witnessed. Comments can be viewed here ...

Unfortunately, like any typical online discussion, the generic reader doesn't know who is 'expert' and who is 'full of it' (i.e. it's a typical online discussion).

Given Chris' Journal article about teaching the deadlift, his standing in the community, and his ability to contact others with recognized standing (e.g. Coach Rippetoe - CFT journal article author), I believe this is a 'perfect-storm' teaching opportunity to answer some questions spawned from the "Saturday 101016" WOD comments:

Facilitation Questions extracted from the comments:
(a) Does form matter when executing CFT?
(b) How much or how little does form matter when executing CFT?
(c) Did Elyse's CFT Deadlift 'count' as a CFT deadlift?
(d) Did Elyse suffer what Chris calls "something worse down the road"?
(e) Did Elyse's CFT Deadlift demonstrate 'virtuosity'?
(f) Are there too many 'form nazi types' who don't understand the distinction between a generic practice deadlift and a 1RM deadlift

Tangential questions associated with Crossfit Games 2011 (CFG2011):
(a) How would Elyse have been judged if executing same DL form during the "First Event" of CFG2011 if that first CFG2011 event is hypothetically CFT?
(b) How would Elyse have been judged if executing same DL form during the "Last Event" of CFG2011 if that last CFG2011 event is also hypothetically CFT?
(c) Measurable Fitness - start & finish CFG2011 with CFT to measure performance degradation/enhancement as a result of 2.5-days of CFG competition (in addition to a hypothetical 'Swim Fran Event' somewhere in between ;-);-);-)

Suggestion: This would make a neat Crossfit Radio episode or a Crossfit Media Video - a round table discussion of the Elyse's CFT Deadlift.

Leave a comment

Comments (You may use HTML tags for style)