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Staley's Myth About Deadlift Myths

"Charles Staley’s The Top 10 Deadlift Myths
Even Experienced Lifters Believe This Stuff

Myth 9 – The deadlift is a pull.

PUSH the floor away, as if you were doing a leg press"

It depends…

The Olympic Lifting Style Deadlift

This type of Deadlift is preformed by Olympic Lifters for what’s termed the First Pull.

The objective of the First Pull is to correctly position the bar for the explosive Second Pull. To ensure the bar is correctly position for the Second Pull, the bar needs to be Pushed away from the floor/Leg Pressed.

Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift

Research by Dr Tom McLaughlin, PhD Exercise Biomechanic, Physics) determined that in a heavy, Powerlifting Deadlift, the drive off the floor is initialed with the back with some assistance from the legs.

The dominate muscle firing sequence, a per McLaughlin, is: Back > Leg > Back.

McLaughlin noted that lifters who developed more back strength with Auxiliary Exercises like Stiff Leg Deadlifts were stronger off the floor in the Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift.

As McLauhlin essentially stated in his research, a lifter who uses an Olympic Style Deadlift is going to lift lift less.

Sumo Deadlifts

The dominate muscle firing sequence is: Legs > Back. The legs initial the drive off the floor with some assistance from the lower back. McLauglin’s research simply conforming what lifters were aware of.

Kenny Croxdale

I feel like stiff leg deadlifts are less popular today than Romanian deadlifts. What kind of guidelines and tips can you give us for the stiff leg deadlifts?

Is the back position different than the arched back people use today for the Romanian deadlift?

Charles clearly states that it is simply a cue that helps a lot of people.

“ 1. PUSH the floor away, as if you were doing a leg press. Now of course, muscles can’t really push; they always pull. Regardless, the pushing cue is enormously helpful to many lifters struggling with the deadlift.”


What you feel doesn’t carry over to what is. However, I suspect that the Romanian is more popular for some reason.

Contreras’ American Deadlift

This is a good exercise.

My primary recommendation would be to preform them with a slight break in the knee.

Additional Auxiliary Back Exercises

The following exercise are good Auxiliary Back Exercises.

The movement pattern is similar to the Deadlift.

  1. Good Mornings

  2. 45 Degree Back Raise/Hip Exensioin

  3. 90 Degree Back Raise/Hip Extension


There may be some upper back rounding with heavy Still Leg Deadlifts.

Most Conventional Powerlifting Deadliters will have some upper back rounding in a 1 Repetition Max Pull. As per…

A Strong Case For the Rounded Back Deadlift

This is a great article by Contreras on how the upper back rounding, it keep the bar in closer to your body’s Center of Gravity; producing less torque, making it easier to lift.

Upper back rounding is not a problem. However, lower back rounding is.

Kenny Croxdale



It doesn’t make much sense to prompt someone to push when they need to pull.

If someone needed to pull on a door to get out of a room, would you tell them to push on the door?

"…Muscles can’t really push; they always pull."

Yes, all movements involve the pulling.

"When a muscle contracts, it pulls on the bone, and the bone can move if it is part of a joint. .https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/guides/zpkq7ty/revision/3

That means, in let’s say a Bench Press, the muscles are actually “Pulling the weight up”; weird, right?

Since the muscle are pulling the weight up, would you then cue them in a hard Bench Press to “Pull”?

Staley’s Leg Press Recommendation

Based on what he posted, it appears the his emphasis is on the Olympic Deadlift Protocol rather than the Powerlfiing Deadlift Protocol.

The focus of the Olympic Deadlift is to Leg Press, push the platform away from you.

With the Conventional Deadlift the drive off the floor is initiated with the back with assistance from the legs.

Both are great exercise that elicit a different training effect.

Think of the Olympic Deadlift as Vanilla Ice Cream and the Powerlifting Deadlift as Chocolate Ice Cream. Both are Ice Cream but different flavors.

Then you have other flavors, such as Sumo and the Squat-Sumo (basically a narrow Sumo).

The Take Home Message

One of the underlying messages in Contreras’ and McLaughlin’s Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift research is that the Powerlifting Deadlift is different from the Olympic Deadlift.

Contreras and McLaughlin state more weight is going to be lifted by the majority with the the Powerlifting Deadllift.

It’s somewhat like a Powerlifting Squat (Low Bar/Wide Stance) vs an Olympic Lifting Squat (High Bar/Medium Stance).

Kenny Croxdale

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Kenny I think you’re missing the point here. What matters is one thing, which is does the cue work?

Mark Bell tells people to “open your taint” on a squat. That doesn’t mean anything, but it works. If I tell you to pull the door open, or “rip” it open, which one is going to be more powerful? Obviously the latter. But how did you even know what to do since the word “rip” didn’t tell you which direction to move the door in?

If it works, it works. End of story.

Here’s another coach that uses a push cue. I believe Christian Thibaudeau has also called the deadlift a push.

Research Data

To reiterate, McLaughlin’s (PhD Exercise Biomechanics/Physics) determined that the Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift the back initiates the drive off the floor, rather than the legs.

Additional research from the National Strength and Conditioning Research Journals have supported McLaughlin’s data.

With that said, some Conventional Deadlifters may initial leg drive in breaking the weight off the floor.

Tony Gentilcore Deadlift Recommendation

Gentilocore’s Deadlift recommendation is geared toward and Olympic Style Deadlift rather than a Conventional Powerlflifting Deadlift; a different animals with a different training effect elicited.

One of two things is occurring…

  1. Gentilocore may be one of the exceptions to the rule; utilizing greater leg drive off the floor rather than lower back.

  2. What is actually occurring is different than what he believes; meaning he’s actually initiating the drive off the floor with his back.

The Bang Bang Sequence

It somewhat like calls made in football on the field. When the Instant Replay is reviewed the call is often overturned.

The camera allows the play to be reviewed in split seconds, freezing it, picking up details the naked eye couldn’t in that millisecond.

McLaughlin’s research was able to provide an Instant Replay. That combined with the the EMG feedback demonstrated the movement was initiated with the back.

Muscle Meet Magnet
PhD Per A. Tesch

This book provides some interesting EMG research in regard to which exercise are working which parts of a particular muscle.

As an example, which is the dominate muscle being worked in a Triceps Pushdown: Long, Medial or Lateral Head.

While all three are involved, the exercise used will determine which of the three is the predominate work horse.

The same applies the research on the Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift.

Online Information

Most of the information that I have provided can be found online.

Look it up. Review it and come to your own conclusions.

Kenny Croxdale

I feel like stiff leg deadlifts are less popular today than Romanian deadlifts.


What you feel doesn’t carry over to what is. However, I suspect that the Romanian is more popular for some reason.

You are a Delight!


I don’t see anything wrong with the cue of pushing the floor away, the problem is this idea of pushing instead of pulling which just doesn’t make sense. Pushing the floor away isn’t going to force your hips to extend. Similarly, when it comes to squatting, a common cue is “push your back into the bar” which forces hip extension, if you only push the floor away then you won’t lift very much.

In my case, I pull sumo and I simultaneously pull the bar while pushing into the floor. I figured out long ago that simply pushing with your legs will make your hips shoot up and make the lift harder.

As far as different style of deadlifts, if you look at Andy Bolton’s style where the shins are vertical (this is conventional in case anyone is confused) it looks like there wont be a lot of leg drive and it really is more of a pull than anything. On the other hand, look at some of Mike Tuchscherer’s old videos and you will see his knees were way over the bar and he was certainly using a lot of leg drive, and setting world records as well. You can’t really say one is better than the other, it all comes down to what works best with each individual lifter’s leverages.

About Olympic lifters, notice they call it a “clean pull”. Even though they are “pushing” the weight up its still called a pull. Maybe some guys should just stick with the leg press, they can relax an update their facebook account.


This cue is to help people who shoot their hips up faster than their chest when they deadlift - that pretty much applies to all deadlifts.

Not exactly relevant but I’d like to also hear his thoughts on longevity and training as one gets older

What sort of lame response is that? There are other guys his age lifting a lot more. And I don’t hear any of them saying to push instead of pulling.

My coach cues pushing the floor through the big toe to extend the legs and flex the quads. I think he got this cue from his coach who’s a Kabuki guy, and if it means anything, he himself pulls 700 at 198. I think I really get a lot out of the initial leg drive in a deadlift, especially conventional, and also helps with rooting.

I also picture the sumo deadlift as a big wide leg press

And there in lies the issue, “you don’t see” it.

I apologize for confusing you with the facts.

Kenny Croxale.

Fixed that for you but we’re used to you, so no need for continued apologies.


What a strange threat topic.

People can use any cues what they see fit - as long they’re helpful. It does not matter how realistic the cue is.


Exactly. It’s like getting wound up at “breathe into your stomach”. Everyone knows that air is not going into your stomach, you just sound like an asshole if you’re the one making a fuss out of it.

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So, kind of you. :slight_smile:

Unfortunate you and Kellyanne Conway are now, as she put it, providing “Altered Facts”.

Please feel free to use that term as you like.

And that concludes the discussion on this topic. :smile:

Kenny Croxdale