Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Deadlift

One of the greatest exercises available to you is the deadlift.  This exercise requires the individual to lift a static weight upwards off of the ground until you are standing.  This exercise works an astonishing amount of muscle group in the body.  In fact the only portion of the body that is not sufficiently worked in this exercise are the pressing muscles, these muscles are worked through a pressing movement which should be incorporated into your exercise routine.  

While many claim the squat as the king of exercises I would disagree.  The deadlift is the true measure of strength and has great usefullness.  The ability to pick an item up off of the ground while using the entire body is both functional and a great test of strength.  Everyone must pick things up. It is rare that one must hold an item on ones shoulder and simply bend ones legs.

The deadlift is an extremely safe exercise that may be performed without a spotter as well.  This is extremely important when choosing exercises.  Proper form is critical to the health of the body and the ability to perform this exercise without a spotter increases the opportunities for performing the exercise.  It is not the weight of the lift that is dangerous it is the form of the lifter that causes injury.  Therefore you should always maintain tension throughout your body during the lift.  

The deadlift strengthens the legs and the entire posterior chain.  The deadlift has the ability to build massive backs with regular practice.

An old school deadlift workout might consist of 5 sets of 5 for size.  Other options are two sets of 5 with a weight that is 90% of your max on the first and the second being 80% of your max for strength.  You may also work your deadlift through a ladder routine as well.  In order to achieve “muscle confusion” you must change up the intensity of rep ranges of your exercises not the exercise itself. However you should maintain  consistent program for at least 4 months to maximize the potential of that program.

Therefore you should buy an olympic weight set and start deadlifting.  You’ll be happier because of it.  I know that I am.

Things to remember when deadlifting.

1. Approach the bar with the intention of completing the lift.

2. Sit backwards into a chair instead of bending your knees as in a squat.  Tense your body as you move into your starting position.

3. Maintain a straight back and the natural arch in your back.  Keep your head up.

4. Lock your shoulders into place.

5. Grip the bar with straight arms.

6. Pull the bar from the floor by pushing with your feet.

7. Stay on your heals as you lift and let your arms hang.  Do not pull with your arms.

8. Stand up straight, do not hyperextend your back.

9. Let the bar and yourself move quickly to the ground by sitting back in order to get your knees out of the way.  The lift ends at the top of the movement.  Your risk of injury increases greatly when lowering the bar slowly.

The Press

Overhead unsupported pressing movements are extremely functional.  All persons much reach up at some time or another.  Maybe you are reaching for something above your head in a cabinet or maybe you must place an item high above.  Either way practicing a pressing movement is critical to maintaining this ability for the long haul.  There are several pressing movements that may be used.  The bent press, the military press, the side press and the bench press are all common examples.  I focus primarily on the bent press, military press and the side press.  I find the bench press essentially useless in terms of the mechanics of daily living.

One of the best exercises historically is the bent press.  It is a fantastic full body press that allows the individual the ability to lift more weight above the head with one hand than with any other press.  In the famed “Textbook on Weightlifting” Arthur Saxon describes his admiration of the Bent Press through these words:

“Strength, stamina, and science all enter into it in equal proportions, and the man who would make a success of the lift, a striking success that is, must necessarily be a firstclass all-round lifter.”
Saxon, Arthur (2011-07-03). Textbook of Weightlifting (Kindle Locations 263-265).  . Kindle Edition. 

Therefore I have dedicated myself to the bent press.  I have previously used the “Power to the People” approach to lifting with the bent press instead of the side press and I am currently performing the bent press with a kettlebell in my current exercises.  This exercise requires intense focus and should be performed safely at all times.  One should start with a lighter weight and practice regularly while learning the proper form.

For many individuals the military press or the side press are excellent starter exercises which will help to strengthen the body while working up to the bent press.  The side press is simple to learn and does not require any individuals to spot the lifter.  

I do not train the bench press in any form at this time.  While it is a common lift which many believes demonstrates an individuals strength it has near to 0 practical use.  How often are you found lying on the ground with a need to press something upwards.  Furthermore the bench press requires a spotter and external equipment.  All of these things make it a negative in my book, however if you have an olympic weight set at home you could easily train the floor press at home without the use of a spotter. 

Adding a full body pressing movement to your routine will allow the individual the ability to increase ones pressing strength while focussing on the full body tension that assists in the safe lifting of an item as well as the ability to lift that item through a phenomenon called “Hyperirradiation.”  Hyperirradiation is the tensing of your entire body in order to form a solid foundation in which to perform your lifts.  

“This full tension of the thighs and buttocks is of utmost importance because it provides a solid base for pressing” – Englishman George Kirkley

“Keep every body part tight during the entire movement” – Ernie Frantz 

A full body pressing movement that is performed from a standing position allows the lifter to develop full body tension while developing real world strength and synergy throughout the lifters body.

“Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline suggests performing sets of 5 for as little as 2 sets per side.  “Enter the Kettlebell” by the same author suggests performing the kettlebell clean and press by performing sets of russian ladders.  From 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 reps.  Upwards of 5 sets.  Any of these options are adequate.  In fact instead of changing up your exercise and performing several different exercises in an attempt to create the famed “muscle confusion” all you need to do is perform the same or similar exercise with different weights and rep ranges.  All exercise routines reach a plateau at one time or another.  However most individuals change their routines far to early and too often in order to be fully effective.

While performing a pressing movement one must remember these items.

1. Increase tension throughout the body prior to performing the lift.

2. Maintain proper form throughout the exercise in order to protect the shoulder.

3. Lock the press out fully overhead.

4. Be mindful that the lift is not complete until the weight has safely reached the ground.

Bent Press

Kettlebell Clean and Press