Many may attribute my lack of enthusiasm over barbell squats and deadlifts as just me not being good at them. The truth is that I was a HUGE barbell guy for awhile, especially when I competed in Strongman. I had adopted the philosophy (as was popular at the time) where just getting “stronger” solved everything. It was easy to think that if I just built up a great squat and deadlift, everything else that I wanted to develop in my fitness would solve themselves.
While I was not threatening any records in either the squat or deadlift, I got some pretty solid numbers. Even with all my back issues I got well over a 400 pound squat (also not bad for being 6’3 and going for low) and my best deadlift was around 540 (deadlifting was always much easier for me probably because of my height).
So, these are obviously not numbers worth shouting to the world, most would say they were pretty good. Did that mean that all my other fitness goals were fulfilled? What did that even mean my “other” fitness goals?
I loved the sport of Strongman because it wasn’t just about how much you could lift. There were aspects of speed, agility, endurance, and tons of unpredictability (much like Alwyn Cosgrove broke down in his interview HERE). It required that I had stability, mobility, reactiveness, power, speed, and yes, endurance. While the saying, “strength solves everything” is an easy sell, I just didn’t see it come to life.
Even with these nice numbers in the squat and deadlift I found I wasn’t getting faster, I wasn’t getting more powerful, I had increasing low back discomfort, and my hip mobility was getting worse! Was this just a “Josh thing” or were other people having the same issues? First, I looked at the guys I was training with. They had even better numbers than I did but they were experiencing the same issues.
The more and more I spoke to fitness professionals, I heard similar stories. They were focused on these lifts, but they didn’t translate to other things as well and they actually found they were hurting more and taking longer in their warm-ups. So, why did we all continue to do such things? Well, we just didn’t have better answers!
Since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result, I started to think about the real issue. What I discovered was that while the deadlift was a good exercise, there were several issues at hand.
What this meant to me was that as we chased simply going heavier and heavier, we probably did increase our risk of causing issues in our low back. While the deadlift itself doesn’t cause back issues, assuming we do them well, eventually the movement combined with high loads could!
2. We weren’t making the body smarter! It would have been awesome if the idea of just building a stronger squat and deadlift made everything better too. I would have felt, performed, and been a better coach. The fact of the matter was it didn’t. Why?
There is this term, yes a real science term, called “optimal strength” Basically the term means that a certain point, increasing performance in a specific exercise doesn’t yield any positive changes outside of the lift itself. This is why athletes are always careful not become powerlifters or Olympic lifters because they can quickly run into this issue.
That was a big reminder, but so was just thinking about how our body is designed to move in life. While many will claim the deadlift has great carryover to every day activity, the reality is that few of us are lifting 500 pound implements that are perfectly balanced in a stable body position. We move reactively and are having to deal with objects that aren’t perfectly balanced and require us to move from different postures and directions.
So, while I like the deadlift, to me it is only part of the start of the journey of making the movement of the hip hinge so much more effective and powerful. As I thought about all these issues I started to think about how we could make the deadlift better and discovered my actual favorite deadlift, our front load good mornings.
“Holy cow Josh, your favorite deadlift isn’t even CALLED a deadlift! What gives?!”
I know, at first glance you may have this thought, but let me explain. The front load good morning in many aspects is a deadlift. We have the hip hinge movement, the plank in the upper torso, and I often like to have people pause in the bottom position which essentially makes it a deadlift which refers mostly to the movement coming from a “dead stop”.
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The hip hinge. A tricky movement to truly master. One mistake that I often see is allowing a disconnect between the ribs and the hips. In the picture on the left, you can see a neutral spine at the bottom of the hinge. However, when we stick the butt back without proper control of the upper torso, it often results in this disconnect. When we’re disconnected, we can’t properly brace; this places stress on the lower back and creates a less powerful movement overall… And no body needs that! • #hiphinge #goodmorning #ultimatesandbag #ditchyourshoes #junkondaily
Coach Emily Meyer shows not only how the Front Loaded Good Morning looks a lot like a deadlift, but the small things of positioning that make a big difference.
Why is this DVRT movement become my favorite deadlift though? For one, the position, if we have the right intent in how we use the Ultimate Sandbag, allows us to help stabilize the torso and eliminate many of the issues we run into with the deadlift. Such as rounding thoracic spines and I believe stabilizing the smaller movements of the spine as well. This dynamic plank gives is the foundation to develop a better hip hinge and reinforces the functional training concept of being able to have stability at one area while mobility at another.
Instead of creating a long lever arm on the low back, the Ultimate Sandbag version creates a nice stable plank so we work on the connection of the lats, core, and glutei instead of unnecessarily stressing our lumbar spine.
I love this “deadlift” too because it exposes weaknesses in core strength, proper glute integration, and has great carry over to other movements. For many years, I have shown how the front loaded good morning can really improve kettlebell swings!
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The goal should be to find methods, techniques, and exercises that help build better success. A great example is looking how we can help people benefit from the power of #kettlebell swings. A great exercise but sometimes can be hard to teach how to create power from the #glutes , stabilize the core, and deal with a weight moving fast with a long lever arm. .. That’s why we physical therapist @jessicabentopt shows how we use our Ultimate Sandbag Good Mornings to help teach these important #functionalfitness concepts. .. This Ultimate #sandbag exercise combined with @perform_better bands teaches how to use our feet to create powerful movement, helps learn how to properly brace our #core , and the importance of the lats to help stabilize our trunk. The result is another opportunity to build success in #functionaltraining while building towards other great exercises. Thinking of movement allows us to create better solutions! #ultimatesandbag #dvrt #kettlebellswings #corestrength #strengthandconditioning #womensfitness #strongnotskinny #fitfam #sandbags #kettlebellworkout #crossfit #spartanrace #hiit #sandbagworkout #womenwholift #womenshealth #personaltrainer #sandbagtraining #fitnesscoach #fitnessjourney
Lastly, we can take the drill into the different positions and directions I spoke about where we have to learn to keep our plank and maintain our hip hinge under more challenging conditions. It amazes me all the time when I work with lifters who can barbell deadlift a ton, but you make them perform some of these DVRT front loaded good mornings and they completely fall apart.
This helps drive home the reason we tell people that building a better movement vocabulary is so important. To me, it isn’t about the lift, but what the lift teaches us in how to use our body better while also helping us build a better and smarter body. Try these deadlifts out and see if they don’t quickly become a favorite!
Want to know more about how we build a system of functional fitness and movement strength? Don’t miss saving 25% on our DVRT Online Education HERE and get our DVRT Shoulder Course for FREE with code “education”
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“You gotta #deadlift” we hear all the time. No, you have to know how to hip hinge. The difference may seem insignificant but the reality is that’s huge! – Learning how to #plank with the upper body and core while we create a powerful hip hinge is the principle we want people to understand. The ability to create proper tension in the upper body and core allows us to keep the low back safe and make the #glutes strong! One of the best ways to teach these ideas is our Ultimate Sandbag front loaded good morning. Creating tension against the Ultimate #sandbag helps us brace our core like a plank but also connects the lats and core. – Different than #deadlifts because you feel so much more core tension due to the placement of the weight. Way better than trying to use a #kettlebell because you can’t get the same core and lat tension. So just as we don’t swing an Ultimate Sandbag like #kettlebells you want a tool that is unstable and has more dimension. – What #DVRT Master @seanlettero shows is how we progress outside of going heavier. By adding movement and direction we challenge the glutes and #corestrength to a higher level. Not only do you have way more variety you have far more layers of movement strength to create progression. That is how we use #strengthtraining to develop fitness that works in and out of the gym! #ultimatesandbag #menshealth #functionaltraining #personaltrainer #sandbags #ocr #movementismedicine #physicaltherapy #sandbagworkout #fitfluential #coreworkout #abs #strengthandconditioning #sandbagtraining #fitnessforlife #fitnessmotivation #cardio @perform_better