T Nation

DL Core Strength & Lumbar Flexion


#1

I'm beginning to make a severe realization - my core strength sucks!

Whenever I attempt a deadlift over 80-85% of my one rep max, I will start with my ass low and chest up, and by the time the weight comes off the ground, my hips are almost fully extended, with the bar hardly off the ground. This puts me in a situation where I have a dangerous amount of flexion in the lumbar spine when I actually lift the weight. (I apologize for the lack of video, but I don't have a camera, and I suppose most everyone has seen someone deadlift like this).

I realize that I'm going to fuck myself up quite soon, if I don't fix this. I feel like the largest contributor to the situation is a general lack of core strength that has been simply getting worse and worse, as for years I had the mentality that "squats and deadlifts are the only 'core work' I need." However, by doing deadlifts improperly, I haven't strengthened my core at all.

Does anyone have any personal experience with this type of situation, and has core training reduced the lumbar flexion? If so, what type of core exercises are most helpful for someone who has difficulty with core stabilization?


#2

Without seeing you pull, this may be off base.

It sounds like you're pulling and not going from pressing with your legs into pulling. If your legs are up before the weight is considerably elevated, you're not utilizing your legs properly.

When you set up for the dl, LOAD YOUR HAMSTRINGS. You should feel them tightened before you begin your pull. Pull yourself down to the bar if you need to. Big chest, and get the weight up with your legs. The pull will naturally take over at a certain point.

Basically, begin imagining that you're pushing the earth away from the barbell rather than lifting the barbell from the earth.


#3

I actually really agree with all that you just said...great advice IMO...


#4

I agree with the concept of your advice, and you are correct in that for me, the movement is much more of a pull, and less of "pushing into the ground" with the legs for me.

However, I'm fairly certain I have the leg strength. The issue is the force transfer, and the inability for my core to stabilize my body in a position where I'm keeping a neutral lumbar spine. If I did have the core strength, I would be able to more effectively "push into the ground" as you were saying.

I'll see if I can find someone with a camera so that I can take a video. I realize that it would probably be very helpful.


#5

How seriously have you considered the following?

The reason you're rounding is because your upper body is overcompensating for your lower body. If you utilized your legs properly, your core WOULD easily handle the loads you're lifting. However, because it is not given the help it needs during the lift, it's doing waaayyy more than intended. So it's not that your core is weak, it's that you're stressing it disproportionately.

Your core is strong enough to support a 455 lift (for example) when it's done properly but not strong enough to lift that weight alone when done improperly.

I edited this in but it's not appearing:

You've been deadlifting and squatting for years. Do you really think that somehow your core is now a weakness for you?


#6

I don't understand... are you suggesting that since someone has been lifting for years their core is less likely to be a weakpoint than any other of the many weakpoints that could be there?


#7

You're right, I have been deadlifting and squatting for a couple years. However, I think one of the biggest issues was a lack of instruction - I basically "taught myself" as a dumb sixteen year old who knew nothing of the lumbar spine - hell I didn't even know what the lumbar spine was. When I first started deadlifting, I did it with completely improper form because I knew no better. So I've never done it with proper form; it's only been the past nine months that I've been really concerned with my spine.

So I never deadlifted properly in the beginning, and I always had an excessive amount of lumbar flexion. Such being the case, I have really strong spinal erectors compared to the rest of my musculature. So you're right that when I attempt proper form, my spinal erectors are overcompensating for a weakness.

I understand the elements of proper form, and I can employ them on lighter weights. However, at heavier weights, when I keep my ass down and chest up, the weight goes NOWHERE until my hips are extended most of the way. The weight literally does not break until I'm in lumbar flexion, at which point my overactive spinal erectors take over, and the weight starts moving. I feel like I need stronger anterior "core" muscles IN ORDER TO lift more with my legs. My legs may or may not be relatively weaker than my lumbar spine, but it's impossible to utilize them because of the core weakness.

I don't see why it would be illogical for my core to be a weakness for me at this point, especially considering the fact that my form in the deadlift was never proper to begin with.


#8

To rephrase my last long commentary into a more concise one, I feel like my core weakness is limiting my ability to utilize my legs properly in the first place.


#9

Without video and based on the OP description......

Core stength yes.....but consider glutes & hips(considered the basement of the core by many). My understanding of what you describe sounds more like a 'bend over and pick it up' than a 'pull'. With the hips 'high' as the bar breaks the ground with a significant load it it not possible to drive off your heels and the attempt to do so results in dragging the bar up your shins-most lifters try to avoid this by moving the load forward; making the situation worse. When I see this I always think glutes and hips first.

Have you tried straight leg or romanian deadlifts?
How about low cable pull throughs?
D.Bell/Kettle bell swings?
And to really go out on a limb...how about bridges?
Glute/hamstring raises if your lucky enough to have one!

If it's hips and glutes these will make a big difference?


#10

exercises:

-side bends
-hanging leg raises
-pulldown abs
-decline situps

pick one or two work them heavy and for low reps a couple times a week. Also do some work for your lower back.


#11

Good description - a "bend over and pick it up" - that's exactly what the movement is.

Some good advice - I've been trying to work on my glute activation, and a lot of the exercises you suggested are very good ones that I really slack on sometimes because somehow I still end up basing my routine around squats and deadlifts despite the form issues...

Thanks for the imput, I found it to be very helpful, and it also helped me realize the way I'm training is sort of perpetuating my problem.


#12

Strangely enough I'm pretty strong on all of these movements despite general core weakness. All of those are movements where you're moving against weight - the first being lateral hip extension, and the latter 3 being hip flexion. I'm pretty strong on these exercises, and what I think is that my core is strong at spinal flexion and hip flexion, and I might have a strong rectus abdominus and my other core stabilizing muscles are relatively weak. This may also be connected to the fact that when I first started to train I cared too much how my abs looked, so I did lots of sit-ups, hanging leg raises, etc.

I think what would help me most is stabilization-type exercises, which I seem to suck at (which may be consistent with the fact that I may have weak core stabilizing muscles and a strong rectus abdominus.. Ab rollouts are my death. I even find planks to be fairly tough.

I do think training my core a couple of times a week would definitely be a good idea - I've started to incorporate core training separate from my usual training.


#13

Been there done that, it was a common style back in the 70s before suits and 4 inch belts, guys like Marty Joyce pulled around 670 at 181, Kreammer, Luckman and Blue all pulled 600+ at 148. Mckee pulled 670 at 181 and locked out his kness while the bar was still below his knees. Lots of examples mostly below 198s but Ed Ackerman pulled over 700 at 242 same style.

In that era you could not drag up your legs.

No back injuries to speak of, if you train like that the back will take it. If you train flat back and try it well...then such a person would be stupid..

Problem is YOU can't get the boost from gear, that a flat back DL can also all those guys had very narrow waists. A big waist with that style is a problem for your back.

If you want to change as one of the posters said, straight back GMs , romainians, SLDs, etc.

The hammies have two functions you have made them very strong in one function you now need to make them strong in the other.

You will probably see more improvement in your squat until they balance up.

forget your core you have a hammie glute problem..


#14

I also have pretty poor glute recruitment and lame hip flexibility. Is it possible that these things are correlated with my form issues?

Either way, some very good advice that I appreciate a lot. It's pretty interesting to note that the guys in the lighter weight classes deadlifted with the same type of form, since I'm around 185. Glad to know there's lots of people who pulled this way really heavy and didn't trash themselves.


#15

I'm suggesting that if the core were really the problem his squat would probably be suffering as well. Assuming his squat numbers are comparable to his dl...


#16

In 1980 I travelled with Mike Lambert to the Hawaii open. We trained in the Power Pit, and did SLDs.

I did around 400 for 3s and Mike did 450 for 5s. My back was round and much to my surprise his was dead flat. I had never seen anyone SLD like that before. I could not believe his flexiblity in pulling like that. Back home I tried and to get that form I had to lower my weight (no brainer) and do them with the weights on 4 1/2 blocks.

Mike was a big guy but much more flexible.

At the time his dead was around 600 and mine was around 520

so yes hip hammie flexiblity may be an issue,

again for anyone else reading, I don't think there is a back issue if you train with a rounded back going to straight back, but it should never be done from a straight back training background to round back pulling..


#17

Thanks for the helpful advice.
I've heard that rounded back lifting puts the spinal discs under more compressive force. Do you think the spinal erectors compensate for the force? It might seem that way since people who pull with a straight back probably have weaker spinal erectors, and are at more risk of injury when pulling round-back than those who have always trained with a rounded back...


#18

Actually, my deadlift is about 100 pounds higher than my squat... I deadlift around 400 and squat just under 300. So clearly my squat is likely also suffering from the same problem of core weakness. However, my form on the squat is good. I'm able to squat ass-to-calves and keep an arched lower back. However, my ability to transfer the force from my legs to the bar on my shoulders really sucks - and that seems like a core thing.


#19

Fucking great analogy.


#20

You got it..