T Nation

Blog/Article I Wrote For The ALPHA Project


#1

The Lock Out

The lockout is arguably the most important aspect of the deadlift. Why, you ask? Well letâ??s think about it. You can have the greatest set up and speed off the floor but, you know what happens if you donâ??t lock out the knees and push your hips throughâ?¦ you get three really bright red lights that ultimately ruin a pretty good meet. Locking out the deadlift has been an enemy of mine since I began lifting. I cannot count how many times I loaded 600lbs and yanked it up passed my knees so fast only to stall two to three inches from full extension. So, I finally went back and watched video after video of failed attempts and began to notice a few things. As well as watching video I went back and looked at my training logs and looked for any deficiencies I could find. Here is what I found and I am sure many others are making the same mistakes especially at the beginner levels.

Not enough posterior chain work.

This should go without saying but, for some reason power-lifters have a tendency to work the main lift extremely hard and with great amounts of volume but, then they just go home. Not all power-lifters pay enough attention to the little and large muscles for that matter that they canâ??t see. Kind of like the bench and curl bros we all make fun of. We focus on what we care about and then go home and eat. I was squatting, front squatting, and deadlifting quite a bit with little to no accessories other than some pulldowns or rows. This strategy had for some reason worked great for my squat but, my deadlift just not so much. I didnâ??t start to see progress until I started focusing on some movements to bring up my weaknesses and focus on correct movement. I began to add in GHRs every day I went to the gym. I started out very small mainly because I could barely do 2 or 3 correct before completely letting my form go to hell. I started with 5 sets of 1 really slow and controlled almost like a negative, then 5 sets of 2 same way and so on and so on to where now I can do sets of 10 any day of the week with good form. GHRs I believe are the â??be all end allâ?? posterior movement and if I could only do one posterior chain accessory it would be the one. Next are Pull Throughs they will light your glutes and hamstrings on fire when you do them correctly. Most times in the gym you see people somehow turn it into a quad movement. Donâ??t do that. Lastly, the Hip Thrust. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. If you do them correctly and fire the glutes hard up top, while trying to honestly push the hips through and do not try to turn it into a huge ME movement they can give a lot of glute and hamstring activation as well as teach a decent hip hinge which is equally as important as being strong.

Not enough top end work.

I am not talking about going into the squat rack setting the pin 3â?? below lock out and then proceeding to wedge your knees up and under the bar and then doing a weird sissy squat shrug thing and feeling like a bad assâ?¦ you will only look cool the other 140lbs guys in the cut off tee shirtsâ?¦ oh and your deadlift it will not benefit from it. What I am talking about and what I prefer is a 4-5â?? block pull maybe a little higher if you are a taller lifter. Essentially the bar should be set just below your knee caps or if you using a deadlift bar when all the slack is pulled out that is where it should be as it breaks the block or rack. At this height you will be forced to still keep your bar position and the bar will be too low to cheat but, just high enough that you should be able to get about 10% more weight than normal. For me personally whatever I can triple from this height I can usually pull from the floor for a single. The trick here is to focus on keeping your shoulders over even just behind the bar and squeezing your glutes as soon as the bar passes the knees. Use this to learn how to hip hinge and stay in position with slightly heavier weights than you normally could. This is not intended to be an ego lift it is technique work to teach you to maintain proper position with heavy weight.

Rushing the lift and not being in a good starting position.

I am not a fan of grip and rip for a beginner lifter. Seasoned lifters can get away with it because they have put hours and hours into training to perfect their technique. Even though it may look like they are going berserk and are just grabbing and going; I am willing to bet if you analyzed their videos and lifts in person they are in the same starting position every rep. When you rush the lift you often wind up with a less than good starting position. The problem is when you start with a less than good starting position you are going to get to the top with a less than good position to finish with. This is often when you will see a hitch as the lifter is trying to force himself into a better position to finish the movement by getting his hips through. Problem is with this is that hitching will get you red lighted at almost any meet. So, with that being said for me personally the most important aspect of the lock out is making sure your set up is perfect or as close as possible for you. If that means you need to lose some belly, wear your belt looser, spend time doing mobility or whatever you have to do. If you set up for failure you will with a true max effort lift do just that. One thing I have found for me that truly helps teach and force position is the Paused Below the Knee Deadlift. Just try and pause below your knee with 70% with a â??cat backâ??, shoulders well over the bar, and with your knees stiff legging. I promise it will damn near kill you. These movements will force you to get over or behind the bar and bring the bar up in a straight line keeping the center of gravity where it needs to be. If you donâ??t you will most likely fail the movement by being pulled forward on to your toes and possibly hurt yourself.

Sample 4 week deadlift phase focusing on lockout

Week 1- Day 1: Heavy Block Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

We usually do these after Speed Squats.

4â?? Block Pull: 85% of your best off the floor 3 sets of 3 last SET AMRAP

Pull Through: 3-5 sets of 8-12

GHRs: Follow the above prescribed method starting as low as needed.

Core

Week 1- Day 2: Speed and Tech Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

Front Squats (Not getting into reps and % here not what the section is for)

Pause Below the Knee Deadlift: 50% for 5x5 (explode after the pause to extension)

Lunges or hack Squats: 3-5 sets of 8-12

GHR

Core

Week 2- Day 1: Heavy Block Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

We usually do these after Speed Squats.

4â?? Block Pull: 85% of your best off the floor 3 sets of 5 last SET AMRAP

Hip Thrust: 3-5 sets of 10-15

GHRs

Core

Week 2- Day 2: Speed and Tech Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

Front Squats

Pause Below the Knee Deadlift: 60% for 6x4 (explode after the pause to extension)

Lunges or hack Squats: 3-5 sets of 8-12

GHR

Core

Week 3- Day 1: Heavy Block Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

We usually do these after Speed Squats.

4â?? Block Pull: 85% of your best off the floor 3 sets of 6 last SET AMRAP

Hip Thrust: 3-5 sets of 10-15

GHRs

Core

Week 3- Day 2: Speed and Tech Pulls

15-20 mins of mobility work focusing on opening the hips.

Front Squats

Pause Below the Knee Deadlift: 70% for 8x3 (explode after the pause to extension)

Lunges or Hack Squats: 3-5 sets of 8-12

GHR

Core

Week 4- Day 1: This week varies. If you hit all 3 sets of at least 6 on week 3 you can either carry on this week by increasing the pounds on the bar by about 5% maybe more if you are experienced puller and just repeat the cycle over. Or, you could hit a heavy back squat and take a break from the pulling. My team and I donâ??t do any heavy pulling off the floor until 6 weeks out of a meet and I donâ??t recommend you doing so either unless you are weak off the floorâ?¦. In which case you probably could have benefit more from a different program the past month.

Week 4 Day 2: Same as above just repeat the cycle back over at 50% maybe you could 5lbs to bar as long as speed and positioning are not compromised.


#2

A good read (I’ll resist the obvious pun). Always useful to hear different opinions on the deadlift, a lot of different approaches used by top lifters but some things seem to be held in common. Nice job.


#3

[quote]halcj wrote:
A good read (I’ll resist the obvious pun). Always useful to hear different opinions on the deadlift, a lot of different approaches used by top lifters but some things seem to be held in common. Nice job.[/quote]

Thanks man honestly means a lot. I’m not the best writer by any means but, I felt pretty good about this.


#4

Yeah it’s a good article and provides solid advice. I had all the same problems and eventually found the same solutions. This would’ve been a lot more useful if I found it years ago and understood how important it was.


#5

Great job Reed, a lot of good info in there! I enjoy everything you put out