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Old 07-25-2014, 06:05 PM   #1
Benjamin Kell
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Unhappy Deadlift Help...Please!

I'm 36 years old, 6'2", 210 pounds. I've been crossfitting for a little over 2 years. Prior to this I had little to no barbell training but was active doing a couple marathons, Insanity, P90x, etc. for the first year or so I mainly just did basic CF met con stuff but over the past 6-12 months I've been adding in weight training.

Ever since I first tried to deadlift I've struggled. My glutes have pretty much refused to fire. My tendency is to straighten my legs then lift with my lower back (I can round my back and it feels natural and strong, but of course I've been fighting against this). I've been working lately at keeping my butt down on the initial pull but my glutes scream at me, almost feeling like they're ripping when I ask them to work. It's beyond frustrating. Currently I can barely lift 225 with decent form on a good day. To compare, I'm back squatting 275 or so, benching 265, OHS 205, PP 235. My numbers are such that I feel like I should be able to DL at least 365 and now my wife can DL as much as me!

Any thoughts would be helpful, specifically how to engage my glutes. I'd love to hear from anyone else with similar problems. Feeling like something's wrong with me.
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Old 07-26-2014, 07:53 AM   #2
Chris Girgis
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

Post some videos if you can. Preferably a couple...one with you performing both a lift with form you are happy about and another near the 225.

Without seeing your actual lifts, the first thing I would suggest is making sure your setup is good (heels underneath your hips, near-vertical shin, shoulders over the bar, neutral spine with a tight lumbar, tall chest). The load should be over mid-foot (aim to cover the knots in your shoe laces.)

A very common issue I see is people shooting their knees/shins forward and starting with the load over their toes. This causes a cascade of other issues with back rounding, "unhinged" shoulders, etc. and ends up making it quad-dominant. My opinion is that a lot of folks have really tight hamstrings and they seek this poor, less-efficient positioning out based on comfort.

One thing to try is to stand in front of the bar, walking your feet under it until you're looking straight down and can't see the knots in your shoes. Then, keeping your knees locked, bend forward and take a grip on the bar. DO NOT roll the bar forward to do so. Now, make a tall chest and sit back, keeping tension on your hamstrings. This will cause your shins to move forward ever so slightly and contact the bar. I've found this setup technique helps people "find" a properly loaded posterior chain and gets them in a pretty good position.
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Old 07-28-2014, 09:41 AM   #3
Mike Doehla
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

What do your coaches say? Chris seems to have a good way of doing it. That's what I'd suggest too.
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Old 07-29-2014, 08:44 AM   #4
Drew Cloutier
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Kell View Post
I'm 36 years old, 6'2", 210 pounds. I've been crossfitting for a little over 2 years. Prior to this I had little to no barbell training but was active doing a couple marathons, Insanity, P90x, etc. for the first year or so I mainly just did basic CF met con stuff but over the past 6-12 months I've been adding in weight training.

Ever since I first tried to deadlift I've struggled. My glutes have pretty much refused to fire. My tendency is to straighten my legs then lift with my lower back (I can round my back and it feels natural and strong, but of course I've been fighting against this). I've been working lately at keeping my butt down on the initial pull but my glutes scream at me, almost feeling like they're ripping when I ask them to work. It's beyond frustrating. Currently I can barely lift 225 with decent form on a good day. To compare, I'm back squatting 275 or so, benching 265, OHS 205, PP 235. My numbers are such that I feel like I should be able to DL at least 365 and now my wife can DL as much as me!

Any thoughts would be helpful, specifically how to engage my glutes. I'd love to hear from anyone else with similar problems. Feeling like something's wrong with me.
- SQ 275
- Bench 265
- Push Press 235
- Can't DL 225
- OHS 205

These tell me a story.

You bench within 10lbs of your squat max, either you have retardedly short arms, or don't do full ROM, OR you're upper body is more developed than your lower.

Odds are you have underdeveloped posterior chain and lower body in general, on top of not having best form.

Like someone else said though without video/seeing you in action can't say anything.
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Old 07-29-2014, 04:17 PM   #5
Benjamin Kell
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

Thanks. I will video myself next time I do DLs.

I never trained lower body growing up so, yeah, my posterior chain is definitely a bit behind everything else.
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Old 07-29-2014, 07:48 PM   #6
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

How high do you start your hips compared to your knees and what is your lower limb proportions?
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Old 07-31-2014, 05:17 AM   #7
Bryan Hood
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

I'd like to see what you look like. At your height and weight, you should be pulling at least 400. I'm 5'10 and weigh 160. I have a 425 DL and a 325 BS. My bench is 225. You need to work your posterior side...big time. Glute/Ham Raises, Good Mornings, Back Extensions on a GHD while holding a barbell with a Snatch Grip are just a couple things to do to help. High rep/Low weight for hypertrophy. Also, train Sumo DL. You need to grow and strengthen your Adductors and improve hip strength. Learn to engage hips. I have long arms and chicken legs. But I know how to use everything I have. I start the pull with my hips HIGH. Hips are below shoulders but arm are fully extended. I engage everything I've got as I pull. I pull the bar off the ground as far as I can, not jerk. Also, Google Dimmels. Do those too. High rep. I own a Reverse Hyper which has helped grow my posterior side substantially. Due to 2 knee surgeries on my right knee, it's hard for me to start too low. I also try to lock my knees out as soon as I'm safely able to. That allows me to really fire my Glutes/Hams. Here's a vid of my 325 BS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-2n0...1D3lSF2uWj5VQw (wfs). Due to me really improving my posterior strength, I'm able to keep my chest up and finish the squat. I almost stall but keep firing while driving my feet out. Here's a vid of me pulling 415 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa7z3...1D3lSF2uWj5VQw (wfs). Also, keep your knees out on the setup and during lift. Rotate them to lockout as you lift. You can see my setup and pull. Just doing "regular CF" won't help that much. You need to focus on that backside. Hope this helps. Strength is the great equalizer.
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Old 07-31-2014, 04:26 PM   #8
Clint Harris
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

Maybe it's a mental thing too. My wife doesn't DL or squat terribly well. It's all mental - she freaks out. You can see her easily squat a certain weight, then, add 5 pounds and she just looses it at the bottom of the squat (mentally). You can see her switch off and she even knows it. There's easily 50 more pounds to be got before she even has to fight.
Same with deadlift, for starters she doesn't like it, but she just doesn't really have it in her to pull it off the ground. But she'll kill it in cleans, bench and press or even carrying stuff. It's a comfort zone thing. I think she may be front squatting and back squatting very similar weights too.

For me, I know there's a mental push. Squat and DL are unlike anything else I have done. It's not like a heavy press, or even a heavy OHS/FS. The way my CNS gets fired up under the weight. It is a different animal. There are days, either squat or DL, where I'm warming up and I still have 100 pounds to go to get to my working weight, and I'm like wholly ****ing ****. At this point, a weak mind doesn't eat.
For squats, you also have to continuously fight against that barbell to challenge your posture and maintain form too. If you don't, and let the barbell dominate you, you'll have nice cute lifts.
Same with DL. At a certain point, you are going to have to really fight to hold your position. Your CNS is going to scream. Any sign of mental weakness or hesitation and your subconscious will kick in and that barbell you won't even get the slack out of the bar, let alone lift it. Even if you don't grip it well enough - the lift is over before it will start because you're body knows it can't hold onto this weight with that meek grip you have.

At your "upper body strength", I feel like you should be able to pull 225 off the ground regardless of form or leg strength. It just sounds really messed up.

Your OHS level blows my mind a little too. Assuming it is a full depth. You should be able to b-squat way more than 275 if you can OHS 205. But if your posterior chain was actually so under-developed that you couldn't DL more than 225#, I'd be surpised if you were able to OHS 100# let alone >200#. The OHS doesn't challenge my CNS as much as the other lifts, but it sure as **** challenges my ability to get out of the bottom of the squat when it's heavy. There's also a safety factor too - I know that if I start squatting overhead and are like a house of cards, I'm probably going to be able to get out from under the bar. But if I were to do the same sort of "house of cards" approach with a heavy barbell directly on my back, I'd probably seriously **** myself up. For a DL, the bar won't budge from the ground.

Maybe forget about trying to fire your glutes and over thinking this ****. Sometimes too much effort is spent trying to get everything right - paralysis by analysis - this doesn't mean lift with poor form, just that you're focusing your efforts in the wrong direction.
Get someone to drop a 25# plate on your foot, then go straight into a deadlift. Get up (mentally and physically), grip the barbell fuccking tight, bend your legs, lift your chest and rip it off the ground. Should take you about 2-3 seconds after that pate hits your foot.

So, don't discount your frame of mind either.

Also, if you aren't actually DL or squatting often, you won't have that adaptation to go heavy (mentally, physically or spiritually).
Might I suggest you try "starting strength" or something. See if a basic linear progression helps you out. Do it for 3 months or 2-3 resets and see what happens. You can still metcon, just means your progress will be slower and you may fry yourself.
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Old 07-31-2014, 07:24 PM   #9
Dakota Base
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benjamin Kell View Post
I never trained lower body growing up so, yeah, my posterior chain is definitely a bit behind everything else.
At 210lbs with less than 225lbs DL, that's a lot worse than just undertraining your posterior chain, especially considering your 275lb Back Squat and 205lb OHS.

Something's fishy.

Really no reason a guy your size with those BS and OHS numbers can't pull a measly 225lbs off of the floor, even if the proper form is unfamiliar.

I'm making the assumption, based on your statements about your perceived strength when bowing your spine and lack of strength when pulling with good form, that you CAN lift more than 225, just struggle to do so with what you've been coached to be "good form". Is that a fair assumption or not?
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Old 08-01-2014, 09:55 AM   #10
Bob Herald
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Re: Deadlift Help...Please!

I'm 210 6'3". I pull 405. Not a huge number but for a guy who likes to stay lean and trains bjj 5 days a week, it's not bad.

I started at a 275 pull a few years ago. Us taller guys should be better at the deadlift and not so much the squat, due to our leverage. Here's some cues that help me

1. Tension on the bar and take the slack out. Think death grip
2. Fall backwards. Without even pulling 135 should leave the floor.
3 drive back though heels
4. Push the floor away

For glute activation I always warm up with

Lateral band walks, standing straight and in a squat position
Glute bridges (hip thrusts) isometric holds or one leg reps

Then sometimes I'll do hang power shrugs with a very light weight


When the deadlift really stalls I boost my strength with a series of


Deficits deads and rack pull from below the knee
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