Mastering the Deadlift – Part 2 – Bodily Awareness

Lack of Strength versus Lack of Awareness

In my most recent workout, I was struggling with the deadlift movement. Every other rep, I was rounding my back slightly.

I was afraid at first that I’ve already found a weakness (lumbar erector weakness), but I’ve been contemplating the issue for the better part of today.

What was throwing me off about the whole thing was that I subsequently straightened my back out for every other rep. If weakness was an issue, why was I able to keep my back straight half of the time?

Poor Deadlift Technique – A Result of Weakness or Coaching?

I recall posting at the start of summer regarding coaching cues immediately fixing lifting-related issues. At that time, I was dealing with crappy technique with my kettlebell swings. However, a simple mental “note” helped me immediately fix my form, and I’ve been golden ever since.

Lifting and movement patterns can be fixed easily with the right approach – I find that if the issue is not related to weakness or mobility, it can be fixed with the said approach.

Part of it is corrected through the mind-body connection, and the other part of it is corrected through coaching cues.

When you mentally tell your body to do something, and you focus on it intensely, your body will do it. In my case, my back was rounding (which my buddy was telling me), and I focused on my back more intensely for the subsequent rep – and it worked.

Coaching cues seem to help the trainee “start out” in the right position, whereas the mind-body connection helps focus and fix things one at a time while training. Coach Mark Rippetoe is a damn master at coaching cues and instructing trainees on setting-up properly for their lifts. I’ll be using his set-up for the deadlift from now on.

As a side-note, this set-up is discussed in Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength (here’s my review of the book).

Anyway, the set-up here is that the trainee lines up the middle of his foot under the barbell, and NOT by rolling to bar to his/her feet. The bar is immobile. Then, with the hips in the air and back rounded, bend-over and grab the bar without moving the shins forward. The, push the knees forward until the bar touches the shins. Finally, extend the spine into neutral position, and lift the bar.

This set-up will provide a different stance for everyone, because not everyone has the same-sized limbs and what-no. It provides a unique deadlifting technique, that will match each person’s anthropometry.

It’s in my experience, with myself and others, that coaching cues and teaching spatial awareness fixes most errors with lifting technique (the remainder being mobility-related reasons).

Find the issue, fix the set-up or shout the correct cue, and watch the lifting technique fix itself magically.

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