In Exercises, Powerlifting

December 07, 2011

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The lift doesn't stop when the bar is at the top. CrossFitting chiropractor John Zimmer provides advice on how to properly deadlift to avoid injury.

If you’ve ever picked up anything from the floor, you’ve deadlifted. And after you pick something up, chances are you’ll need to put it down. Returning the bar to the floor often is the forgotten part of the deadlift.

CrossFit prides itself on its training methods having athletic transferability, and learning how to properly set down a heavy weight has far more practical application than dropping it from the waist.

When it comes to the deadlift, the emphasis is on getting the weight from the floor to the lockout position. Often, athletes will drop a bar rather than lower it. When the bar comes to a complete stop on the floor during a set of reps, the lifter often has nothing left to make the next rep easier. The lifter must overcome the tendency of a heavy barbell at rest to stay at rest. The touch-and-go method from the floor is taken out of play on subsequent reps (if there are any), and there is no advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle from the involved muscles.

But if the workout is focused on muscle endurance or conditioning—instead of maximum strength—then dropping the bar on every rep has several disadvantages.



11 Comments on “The Forgotten Part of the Deadlift”


wrote …

Is this a response to Rippetoe's article (and the comment he left) on yesterday?....


wrote …

No. This was submitted for publication weeks ago.


wrote …

Awesome article. I recently had issues with my lower back specifically because of bad lowering form with the deadlift and oly lifts, which I developed trying not to make noise at a globo gym while lowering the weight. I had no issues prior to this when I was working at a my University gym with appropriate equipment.


wrote …

Making a noise should'nt be an issue. Lowering at a steady pace regardless of the impact the weight hits the floor at should revolve around keeping muscle tension, form and breathing.

Your concentration on form should be as resolute on the way down as it is on the way up!!!!


wrote …

I am amazed at how many coaches allow their lifters to position themselves with thier neck in the unsafe position of extension for the deadlift. Every photo in this article the lifters neck is in extension. The first photo in Rippetoe's t-nation article shows a lifter in the correct, and much safer, neutral position:


wrote …

Great article. I occasionally teach new lifters the DL from the top down.


wrote …

my only question is why is the guy in the first photo wearing wrist straps on a deadlift? If you can't hold the weight, it ain't a good lift.


replied to comment from William Houghton

William, you made my point. Was looking at the picture and decided to not read the article because of this major error.


wrote …

Two comments so far are focused on the neck being in a neutral position, vs. extension. It wasn’t the central point of this article, but it is a point worth discussing. (It wasn’t the central point of Ripp’s article either, as the neck or head aren’t mentioned once… although it’s possible that they didn’t read that article either.)

It’s true. Ideally the neck is neither in flexion nor in extension. When I am coaching I highly discourage lifters from looking at the wall straight ahead on the setup, and encourage them to look at a spot on the floor 5 to 6 feet in front of them. As I mentioned in the article, “The head is kept at roughly the same angle by looking at the same spot on the floor as during the lift.” During the lift and the return I am looking at a spot roughly 5 feet down in front of me on the floor. This leaves my head roughly at a 45 degree angle. As a coach, you personally might consider this something that you would change or adjust in the lifter. With a tall lifter (like me, at 6’ 6” and 210 lbs.) you might have them look down at a spot 2 to 3 feet in front of them, instead of 5 feet. Just make sure that when that happens you do not start to see a loss of the spine angle or a rounding in the low back.

Chad Vaughn, the lifter on the front page of the article (coached by Richard Fleming, and Mike Burgener) is looking ahead and slightly up instead of down. This is not ideal for the neck. I guess that just proves that you can have the American clean and jerk record and still have your neck in extension on your deadlift. (At a body weight of 169 lbs. he has cleaned and jerked 418 lbs.) The athletes at an elite level, at times, take greater risks with greater rewards. I would guess that as an Olympic weightlifter he puts a greater priority on the upright torso in his other lifts, and this may have some carryover to his deadlifts. If you were his coach you could decide whether this is something that you would change or adjust. If you did, monitor very closely whether this affects his overall performance. If it adversely affects performance, assess whether this is a step back to take two steps forward or, is if it a step in the wrong direction.

When people talk about Olympic lifting as “ballet with a barbell” they are talking about Chad Vaughn. He is as humble and generous as Clark Kent, and he lifts weight like Superman. When I was lucky enough to watch him weightlift it was like watching Tiger Woods hit a golf ball or Michael Jordan play basketball. You may suggest that Chad would be better off if he looked down during his initial pull, or that he get rid of the wrist straps. I won't.

For anyone who is not going to read this article based on the front page picture, definitely do not read this one by Coach Rippetoe: The Slow Lifts Part 5: The Deadlift. (The picture shows a young Coach Ripp pulling well over 600 lbs. If you are unhappy with Chad Vaughn’s neck extension, you will be irate with this picture.)
(This is a great article, and you should read it.)

I’ll also say that I’m a huge fan of Mark Rippetoe. If you don’t have a copy of his book Starting Strength, you should get one now. And when you get it, read it. Don’t just look at the pictures. (…although the illustrations by Lon Kilgore are truly great.)


wrote …

Thanks for clarifying my original comment; coincidental timing from HQ to release it I guess! For the record, I enjoyed the article and to Jaap, if you didn't read it based solely on one picture that is just ignorance. Whether you agree with all, some or none of the information provided it still provides perspective and the more you learn, the better you'll become as both a lifter (in this case), athlete (in general) and coach.


wrote …

Olympic lifters always dead lift like the first portion of the snatch or the clean, with the head up etc because that has more carryover to their specific sport. The same reason they use the high bar back squat.

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