Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Deadlifting and Body Structure - Chip McCain (1984)



Chip McCain

Note Footwear on Both Lifters.

Debbie Patton


Like the finer aspects of any sport or any competitive lift, the deadlift, when performed correctly, should be considered an art. Too many times I've heard our most important lift oversimplified into just 'picking it up off the ground'. Remember, this is the lift that wins contests and the likes of Inaba, Gant, Crain, Bridges, Thomas, Cash, Gamble and Kaz have all hoisted record poundages. An interesting note is that Inaba, Crain and Bridges are squatters by body build, but through correct form and training have excelled in the deadlift. 

In the following article I will explain correct training for the deadlift given the different body structures, which lead to the implementation of either conventional deadlift form or the sumo style.

It is safe to say most people should use conventional form. The ideal body structure is that of Lamar Gant: long legs, long arms, short torso. A great deal of back is used in the lift, complemented by the quadricep, glute, and hamstring. Even the powerlifter on non-optimum 'average' build should not forget that the back muscles are, as a group, the strongest in the entire body. Don't be afraid to use your back; the key is conditioning and foundation.

Before structuring your training routine, we have to analyze the biomechanics of each style and the muscles involved. Correct execution of conventional form has the lifter pulling off the ground with legs bent to 30 degrees above parallel, back slightly rounded, and head forward. There should be initial flexion of the hamstrings and as the pull starts the only contraction should be with the glutes, hamstrings and to a degree, the quads. This makes the movement 'appear' to be a leg lift to the knee ALTHOUGH IT IS PAST THIS POINT THAT THE ERECTORS TAKE OVER ALMOST TOTALLY TO LOCKOUT. 


The two most common mistakes we see that deviate from this form are pulling in stiff-legged position below the knee and trying to shrug lockouts. The first is caused by lack of leg and back strength to keep correct form up to the knee and an appropriate comment on the second is that, to a large degree, we do not even use the lats and traps isotonically in the deadlift.

An example of a 10-week training cycle in conventional style follows. We are assuming a max of 570 lbs going into the program and the goal is 600 in the meet.

Week 1 - 
460 x 6 reps x 4 sets.
Iso-shrugs and cable rows.

Week 2 - 
Light deadlift week, 405 x 8 x 4 sets. 
Shrugs and T-bar rows.

Week 3 - 
490 x 4 x 3 sets, 470 x 6 reps for a fourth set.
Iso-shrugs and cable rows.

Week 4 - 
Light deadlift week, 405 x 8 x 4 sets.
Shrugs and T-bar rows.

Week 5 - 
520 x 4 x 2 sets, 500 x 5 x 2 sets.
Iso-Shrugs and cable rows.

Week 6 - 
Light week, 405 x 8 x 4.
Shrugs and T-bar rows.

Week 7 - 545 x 3, 530 x 3, 515 x 3, 500 x 3.
Iso-shrugs and cable rows.

Week 8 - 
405 x 8 x 4.
Shrugs and T-bar rows.

Week 9 - 
570 x 2, 405 x 8 x 3 sets.
Iso-shrugs and cable rows.

Week 10 - 
Light bodybuilding week - 
no deadlift proper being done here.
Shrugs and T-bar rows.

Meet - 
600 for one rep.

This routine is very basic for peaking. The key is the assistance work you do, the optimum stress load you apply (keeping in mind your squat workouts), and keeping correct form. The first 'tell tales' of going stale are bad technique and the weight feeling dead off the floor.

Let's look at the textbook assistance movements and how we will modify them for the deadlift.

1) Shoulder Shrugs - are incorrectly done by pulling shoulders to your ears or by rolling shoulders in a circular motion. The deadlift modifies this to a stretch down to the knee and a contraction back to the lockout position. There should be no up or rolling movement. Do as if simulating a deadlift. Your traps will grow thicker, not taller, with this variation. 

2) Iso-Shrugs - Put the bar on the rack 6 inches from lockout. The objective here is to pull your traps up and back as far as they will flex, dip under the bar and with an arched back lift the weight with just your legs. This is an isometric exercise for the traps. The idea is to work up to a weight where the traps finally can't maintain their flexed position and drop. This is excellent for strength.

3) Cable Rows - Best on the low pulley; use a deadlift width grip and pull low, to the belt buckle. This preempts the biceps and isolates the lower lats for thickness, and also in the critical deadlift position.

4) T-Bar Rows - Crouch down into the deadlift position for this one and maintain the bent body position during contraction. Pull low to the belt also. 

5) Lat Pulldowns - Although fine for bodybuilding, this exercise is irrelevant for deadlifting. You do not pull deadlifts down, you pull them up.

The greater emphasis here is on the assistance work, which strengthens the stabilizers and isometrically involved muscles. The target muscle training, i.e., for the erectors, glutes, hamstrings, comes directly from the powerlift itself. Because lower back burnout is our weak link, it is best to use fewer heavy sets of deadlifts, great workload volume on assistance work, AND MAINTAIN CORRECT FORM AT ALL TIMES. 






Mike Bridges


The sumo style deadlift is for the specialized lifter. Give or take few exceptions, this is recommended for a person who is built for wide stance squatting, out-squats his deadlift, and whose lower back is, relatively, the weaker link of the muscle groups involved. Mike Bridges executes this stance brilliantly. Reflecting back on Bridges, Inaba and Crain, these men all set world records in the squat long before they broke records in the deadlift. (Poor Michael - only an American record.) They have helped to pioneer the sumo stance, but the layman should be careful to note their unique specialization.

The object of the sumo stance is to use your strong points of the squat and minimize your weaknesses (for whatever reason they exist) in the deadlift. With feet wide and toes out, the hands are usually placed half on the knurling and half off. The lifter will then arch his back, head looking up, and squat down to about 30 degrees above parallel for the pull.

Correct back position must be maintained throughout the lift. The muscles being used are the glutes, hamstrings, adductors and to a small extent, the quadriceps. Here, the erectors are used only in an isometric capacity, just like the wide stance squat.

The most common mistake we see here is failure to maintain an arched back throughout the lift. This is usually caused for two reasons. One is that the person should be using the conventional style instead, with this stance unknowingly giving him poor biomechanical leverage. The other is the 'anxious lifter syndrome'. With sumo form, the slowest part of the lift is to clear the ground. A sacrificed body position at this point will get the bar going, only to experience failure at the knee.

Here's an example of a 10-week training cycle using the sumo style with the same max goal as before:


Week 1 -
Regular Deadlift, 400 x 10 x 4 sets.
Isometric Shrugs and Cable Rows.

Week 2 -
Regular Deadlift, 420 x 8 x 4 sets.
Same assistance work.

Week 3 -
Regular Deadlift, 440 x 8 x 4.
Same assistance work.

Week 4 -
Regular Deadlift, 460 x 6 x 4.
Same assistance.

Week 5 -
Regular Deadlift, 480 x 5 x 4.
Same assistance.

Week 6 -
Wide Stance Light Day, 405 x 6 x 4.
Same assistance.

Week 7 -
Sumo Deadlift, 450 x 3, 475 x 3, 500 x 3,   525 x 3.
Same assistance.

Week 8 -
Wide Stance, 555 x 2, 530 x 3, 500 x 4 x 2 sets.
Same assistance.

Week 9 -
Sumo Deadlift, 585 x 1, 405 x 6 x 4 sets.
Same assistance.

Week 10 -
Bodybuilding only, no deadlift proper.
Shrugs and T-Bar Row.

Meet -
600 single.


Even though you are best suited for the sumo style, you should not train sumo, only peak that way. The reasoning is such: if all you do are wide stance squats and sumo deadlifts, then you really never work your erectors, which we have analyzed as your weakest link. My philosophy is this - you lose off of your weak points, but you win off of your strong ones. So train the deadlift conventionally for reps, getting that foundation where you need it. Peak the way you are biomechanically superior, keeping in mind, however, that your back is not being worked isotonically. Also take a light day in the 4th week transition when you change styles; not only is there a technical adjustment, but also a change in deadlift psychology.


Here are a few tricks of the trade that may help you also.

For the conventional style deadlifter, I recommend an even tighter suit than you squat in. Picture this: the squat suit gives its support at parallel but we only drop to the 30 degree mark for the deadlift. By taking your same squat suit and shortening only the inseam, the suit will then 'catch' sooner for that support. Some people comment that they can't get their shoulders up with a tight suit but as we discussed, there is no shoulder 'shrug' involved, if done correctly.

Another trick is to spray antiperspirant on your palms before you warm up. If you've ever dropped an important one, this will ring a bell.

Lastly, I wear a special shoe that has its sole/toe built up in the front (see photo). This shifts the center of gravity backward, through the torso, which with the hinge effect of the body reduces the stress on the lumbar area.

I hope this is of help in determining your optimal approach. Remember, sumo is great, but most people should not use it. Don't overtrain the deadlift, but rather put emphasis on strength assistance work and always maintain good form.

Best of Luck!          











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