This past week was something truly special. Being able to spend time with one of the top professionals in our industry, Gray Cook, and then heading down to work two days with the US Marines HITT (high intensity tactical training) instructors are two experiences I will always cherish. When I have such opportunities, I always get a bit introspective about lessons that I take away from these times. One that stuck out to me is how people get really “stuck” in their exercises.
If you asked me the BIGGEST thing that we were able to open these instructors minds about was what progression really meant. The deadlift is a great example and helps me illustrate what I mean with “stuck”.
If you ask most people about how to build upon their deadlift they may give you some mysterious Easter European training cycle, others will tell you to change your stance from conventional to sumo, or other way around. Others will tell you to extend you range of motion by standing on an elevated platform. None of these are horrible ideas, but people are missing the bigger point.
When I ask people why do we deadlift in the first place, I generally get an answer along the lines of, “to teach people how to pick things up in life.” That’s not a terrible answer, but if we follow that line of thinking we get limited in how we see the deadlift. Even if we want to say that the deadlift teaches people to pick things up off the ground, when was the last time you or anyone you know picked up something in a completely stable base with something perfectly balanced?
Not sure if this is necessary or really represents lifting a load of laundry.
Almost never right?! However, I want people to delve a bit deeper so you see what the deadlift can actually be at its height. The deadlift falls under the umbrella of a hip hinge when we think of our movement patterns. If I told you that I was going to teach you a language but only actually teach you a few words, how much could you really say? Just like language, our body has a movement vocabulary.
While it would be easy to tell you that your more familiar deadlift translates to the same quality of movement while we move in different directions or under different conditions, that just isn’t the case. Our nervous system needs to learn way more words so we can express the deadlift in a lot more ways.
This is actually a complex topic, but I’m trying to simplify. I’ve seen powerlifters and strongmen with great strength in their deadlift, completely fall apart when we change the environment. Why? They just didn’t move their movement vocabulary and didn’t address the real needs of their movement. At the same time, I’ve seen these strategies improve a powerlifters deadlift.
How in the world could a significantly lighter weight translate to someone who is already strong be that much stronger? It comes down to thinking about our weakest link. While most think of terms of just muscles, the science shows it is HOW we use these muscles and our ability to maintain the communication of these muscles as we move.
Because powerlifters and many strength athletes are only sagittally plane dominant (up and down) they can develop imbalances in the chains the help us resist and move side to side and in rotation. Our pelvis is the foundation for a strong deadlift, the more resilient and strong all the muscles and more important the chains of the pelvis can function, the greater performance we gain back in more stable environments.
How do we do this? There are two simple strategies you can use to open a much bigger world to your deadlift and get better results.
Planes of Motions
We live in three planes of motion, but most of our strength training tends to live in only one as I mentioned. There is definitely a disconnect there and so when we introduce different stepping patterns that you see with DVRT Master, Larisa Lotz and Jessica, we start to teach our deadlift to be much smarter and integrate more muscles through these different chains.
The Ultimate Sandbag allows us to “pull apart” the handles which in turn allows us to develop a stronger “plank” for these dynamic movements.
What makes people sometimes hesitant to use great tools like Ultimate Sandbags, kettlebells, and more is that they don’t incrementally load like the barbell. They don’t know how to make the weight feel heavier without changing the actual weight. Most people miss the lessons that old time strongmen knew for years. Altering leverage through position can not only make a weight feel heavier, but give us insights into compensations we have in our body that we don’t notice in more familiar positions.
Jessica shows by going front load we build a stronger integration from the lats, core, and glutes. Using these stepping patterns as we move to more complex holding positions brings a whole new challenge to our deadlift.
When we move to the front hold we have not only a heavier weight, but we expose the need to connect the lats, core, and glutes (the chain that helps us move in life) at a higher level. So when you see the work that Emily Meyer does in being able to move in a different direction, or DVRT Master Cory Cripe going single leg and adding thoracic rotation (not lumbar) we see the potential that the deadlift can really reach.
If we stop thinking about an exercise in a singular manner, we don’t just build greater variety, but develop better solutions.
These topics are covered in our L.I.F.T. Hip Hinge module that you can get for 30% off HERE and don’t miss getting 30% off EVERYTHING (excluding live events) at DVRT. When you invest in our Ultimate Sandbags you will get our complete Body Armor Program for FREE! Yes, we want you to not to have the best tools, but know how to optimize them! Use coupon code “laborday” HERE for a limited time!
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