Tag Archives: science

Control Your Deadlifts for Better Progress.

Out of all of the major compound lifts, the deadlift is the only one that does not require an eccentric (lowering) phase to initiate the movement. Because of this, the concentric (lifting) portion is hands down the most important aspect to be trained. But, what if I told you that focusing on how you return the bar to the floor could greatly help you increase the quality and strength of your pull?


We’ve all seen it, someone sets up for a set of deadlifts, lifts it with great form and control, only to be followed by an uncontrolled limp-body descent. If you watch closely, there’s a good chance that you’ll notice each of the following reps become less sound and less technical than the one before. Whether you’re a powerlifter training for a competition, or someone simply looking to improve strength, the goal should always be to make every repetition an exact representation of the one before.


Now, I completely understand that holding a bar in your hands loaded with heavy weight for any period of time can be uncomfortable. The last thing that anyone wants is to feel the knurling of a bar trying to pull the skin off of their hands. But if you’re going to take the time to perform a lift every single week for months and years on end, why not take the time to get the most out of it possible, right?


So, if the deadlift is a concentric only lift, then what’s the point of worrying about how we lower it? Well, let’s look at the squat and the bench press. As you lower the bar, you’re gaining feedback from your body on what muscles are firing and how to keep them tense and engaged. This then allows you to be in a stronger position for the concentric portion. So even if the squat and bench press started from the bottom up, by practicing this technique we would sill get stronger. The more practice we have doing this and the better that we get, the more efficient we can be. Over time, this adds up into many technically sound lifts, which allows us to also get stronger.


So how do we apply this to the deadlift? The easiest way is to try to make your pull and your return look like a mirror image. If you were to watch the entire lift on film, it should look the exact same when played forward or backwards. While you’re doing this, be sure to start light and take your time. Understand that at first this may affect how much you can lift overall, but it will drastically improve your strength over time. Start with around 60-70% of your max and try to take around 3 seconds to return the bar to the floor. During that time, focus on recognizing which muscles are working, and what needs to be done in order to keep them engaged. Do not lose that tension once the bar returns to the floor. Even in between reps, keep tension, stay engaged, and in the exact position that you want to perform the next rep. This will then help you know exactly what to do when you begin your first pull, even without being able to perform the eccentric phase. Over time, as you learn how to build and keep tension throughout your body, you can start applying this to heavier weights, and you will begin to see your strength and technique improve tremendously.


If you see me in the gym, don’t hesitate to grab me and ask for help. If you follow me on Instagram, don’t hesitate to send me your videos. I’m glad to help any way I can. Stay strong, my friends!



Review of Muscular Tension

One of the best books one can read to understand training (IMO) is  “Science and Practice of Strength Training,” by Vladimir Zatriorksy. Dr. Zatriorsky was a professor at Penn State for years and I was lucky enough to meet him and spend time trying to understand what he was saying (he is really smart).


In the book he discusses the three methods to increase muscular tension. This is important to understand if you want to increase your strength levels. I have listed the three methods to increase muscular tension, I also added in descriptions and examples of each.


  1. Dynamic Effort Method- This is moving a light weight as fast as possible. This could be doing anything from jumping to throwing or doing any explosive lift. Louie Simmons made this popular with speed bench and speed squats. Dr. Fred Hatfield also helped grow this method in his book “Bodybuilding, A Scientific Approach.” He used the term Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT). While I do not think these are 100% interchangeable I do believe they are similar enough that you can replace one with the other. Either way keep your reps between 3-6 and move something explosively.
  2. Maximal Effort Method- This is the exact opposite of Dynamic Effort. Now the intent is to move a heavy load. Velocity can, and often will, drop below .2 m/s. In lifter terms this is learning how to strain against a heavy weight. This is a very effective way to increase strength yet we must be cautious as technique will often break down and the opportunity for overtraining exists here.
  3. Repetition Effort Method- This is the method everyone knows. The goal here is to train a muscle until it fatigues. This could be done with 3×10 or for timed sets 3×45 seconds. One variation I believe we should highlight here is escalating density training. This is done by doing lower reps with very short rest periods. One could do pull ups for 20 sets of 3 with 10 seconds rest. This is a way to achieve huge volume and a ton of reps without letting technique break down.


This is just a short overview of these methods and entire college course could be taught on this yet I want all of you to have the basic understanding of what is going on. If you ever want to talk any further on this topic please stop me as I could go on for days. So maybe ask someone else as I wouldn’t want to bore you.