Training Tip of the Week

Create: 05/27/2010 - 14:44
Straight Lines, Stronger Deadlifts
Watching all-time great deadlifters like Andy Bolton and Brad Gillingham, a shared feature is the vertical bar path of their pulls. This results from starting the deadlift in alignment with where the bar will be at lockout. Specifically, Bolton and Gillingham start with the bar over the middle of the foot, or about an inch from their shins when standing straight. When a lifter starts too far away from the bar, this causes horizontal bar movement to establish the aforementioned alignment. Horizontal movement is a form of mechanical disadvantage that also increases risk for injury. The consequences are that much higher as the weight on the bar approaches a PR attempt. The deadlift offers the greatest control over one's setup due to the static nature of the bar prior to beginning the lift. Accordingly, we should maximize this opportunity with a setup that puts us in the most efficient position to complete the pull. For further information on deadlift mechanics, see "A New, Rather Long Analysis of the Deadlift".
Myles Kantor is a powerlifting coach living in Israel. He has worked with top lifters including Mike Tuchscherer and Eric Talmant begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting and writes about the sport at Elite Fitness Systems. While living in the United States, Myles competed in the USAPL, APF, and R.A.W. United. He can be contacted at


Submitted by Matt Gary on
I agree with this tip. Brad Gillingham possesses the DL technique that I'm trying to emulate. He has the most efficient conventional DL that I've seen. (In my opinion, Andrey Belyaev has the most efficient sumo.) I am currently retooling my DL under the tutelage of Myles Kantor. He definitely knows his stuff. Sometimes even a coach has to enlist the services of another coach or someone who has an eye for these sorts of things. No one person knows it all and for years I was getting by with technical inefficiencies in my DL. Those inefficiencies eventually led to stagnation. For the longest time I thought my weak lockout had something to do with a weak upper back or hips, etc. Now I've come to understand that my start position and bar path were off which created a "hook" (horizontal movement) component to my lift. The DL should be a vertical-only lift. With Myles I've restructured my set-up, stance, grip, hip position, and back angle and it's made all the difference in the world. I'm now looking forward to coming back with a cleaner, more technically-efficient PR DL! It's just gonna take some refining, hard training, and patience. "Today is ALWAYS the perfect day to train."

Submitted by Jeff Hackett 1 on
I didn't read the long article yet but I have found bent-over rows have helped keep my back flat when deadlifting, just keep your back flat when rowing and don't let the bar go below your kneecaps. Also pull the bar into your low ab region not high or to the chest as this will greatly reduce the weight and effectiveness of the rows. J Hack. ULTIMATE SIZE, STRENGTH, AND STAMINA

Submitted by traininpain on
I think this is a good post. My opinion on deadlifts, as well as other powerlift movements, is that a lot has to do with a person's mechanical levers. Like the length of upper leg, lower leg, length of spine, etc. Some people, no matter how hard they try, will not have the ability to start the deadlift in the most efficient spot because of the length of their levers.

Submitted by dwagman on
The notion that you can have the bar in the deadlift move in a straight line, and that you can best do so via setting up the barbell over the bridge of your foot, is false. The barbell movement will be curved as you execute the lift, regardless. It will not necessarily be more curved if you start the pull with the barbell farther away from you, but you would be increasing the moment arm of the lift, thereby decreasing the amount of weight you can lift and necessitating your body to go through greater corrective action in trying to execute the lift. The reason the barbell will show a curved pattern of movement, which, by the way, cannot be seen with the naked eye but has been found via biomechanical analysis, is that during the execution of the lift different muscle groups are involved at different levels throughout the range of motion. With the above in mind, if you were to try to force your body to move the barbell in a straight line during the execution of this lift, you'd be compromising how much strength you can demonstrate in this lift. Dan Wagman, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. Publisher/Editor in Chief Journal of Pure Power "Where Science = Peak Performance" Consultant Body Intellect Sports Performance Enhancement Consortium "Propel Yourself Into Excellence"

Submitted by Ken Ufford on
Hey Dan hope all is well. Miss some of those fun meets in the 90s in Paola Kansas. I guess it still comes down to Grip, Dip, and Rip.Ken Ufford

Submitted by Mike Tuchscherer on
Hi Dan! Not trying to speak for Myles, but I have worked with him a fair bit. I understand what you're saying and don't disagree with you. But you and Myles seem to be approaching the problem from two fundamentally different perspectives. If you look at Gillingham's pull, Bolton's pull and so on, there is no visible horizontal movement of the bar when viewed from the side. Myles is taking the perspective of practical application, giving advice that is readily coachable. While it may be true that there is minute horizontal movement that can be measured, both measuring and coaching based on this is not practical for a common powerlifter. "Hook," as Myles calls it, can be readily seen from side video and it is the elimination of this that has produced notable increases in the pulls for some that Myles has worked with. At risk of sounding like a new-age-hippie type, I don't think either of you are wrong in this case -- simply approaching the problem from different perspectives. Have a good one! Mike Tuchscherer Reactive Training Systems

Submitted by dwagman on
Tuchscherer, you new-aged-hippie! LOL I would argue that what you think you see, and how you interpret that, and how you then approach your training, is detrimental to your progress unless what you think, and how you interpret it, is actually what's going on. Therefore, any overt attempt to make the barbell move in a straight line, when the natural movement, via biomechanics and anatomy, calls for a curved movement would be inappropriate. So there is extreme practical utility to not only studying the science, but also coaching and training accordingly. I realize that the following comment might offend some people, maybe even Myles, but it is not intended to do so. Whenever someone's coaching or lifting approach is argued in terms of personal success instead of scientific data (such as the measured bar path observed in the pull), rationally speaking, that makes little sense. There are many reasons for that, but let me just bring up one now: As you train, you get stronger. So if you were to change something in your training based on some person's recommendation, how do you know that your gain wasn't simply due to the training you did? And if there was a gain that came from that person's advice, how much was that? Put another way, how could you possibly discern the training gain from the advice gain? At the end of the day, unless the training advice is based on science, such as the measurable bar path in a sq, bp, dl, snatch, c&j, etc., it amounts to conjecture and guesswork. At least in research there's only a 5% chance that a significant finding is due to chance. What that means practically, is that you might make some gains from a person's opinion; if you apply science there's a 95% chance that you'll succeed. -- Dan Wagman, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. Publisher/Editor in Chief Journal of Pure Power Where Science = Peak Performance Consultant Body Intellect Sports Performance Enhancement Consortium Propel Yourself Into Excellence

Submitted by Mike Tuchscherer on
I see what you're saying, Dan. We're fundamentally in agreement. There is one reality and the more realistic you look at things, the better off you'll be in the long run. I'm not suggesting self-delusion for anybody. However, there are times when over-stating something or phrasing something in an unrealistic manner can be helpful to the athlete. For example, I was having trouble keeping my knees out in the bottom of my squat. When I started using the cue "point" my knees out, it immediately improved. Based on your 3rd paragraph, you might ask how I know that it was the cue that helped. "Ways of knowing" can actually be a big topic, I'm sure you already are aware, but in this case it was pretty obvious. But before I digress too much, the main point is that there is little to no functional difference in what I'm doing, but the mental cue is one that, while it is technically less accurate, produces a more mechanically sound positioning for me. The truth is with science or not, we'll never know many things with 100% certainty. Now, that's certainly not a good reason to stop pursuing science. I'm just saying that just because it doesn't come from a science background doesn't mean it won't work. That much I'm sure we can agree on. If Eric wants to chime in here about how the bar path changes have helped him, he can do so. But I'll give you an example from my training. Consider the following video (starts around 1:23). To just watch with the naked eye, the bar path looks nearly vertical except at the very top when my hips come through and push the bar out. This is what Myles was talking about. The mental cues I'm using have nothing to do with "pulling vertical" and I don't think that would be recommended either. It's just a video critique method. If I had watched my video and noticed that there was, say, a visible "hook" when the bar broke off the floor, that would tell me my positioning needs to change so my natural pull had less horizontal movement. I agree with you that if someone were to get caught up in thinking "pull it straight up" then they could develop inefficiencies. But it's more a method of examining bar path from a coach's perspective. As far as my "ways of knowing" for how this is efficient... reps that move straight up and down are easier and faster than reps that have a lateral component. Can I say it with 100% certainty? No, but I am sure enough about it to stake my potential for gains on it. Mike Tuchscherer Reactive Training Systems

Submitted by Eric Talmant on
[quote=Mike Tuchscherer] If Eric wants to chime in here about how the bar path changes have helped him, he can do so. [/quote] Here is what I know: I pulled 635 raw at 75K in April of 2008. I was stuck there for 2 years until I worked extensively with Myles. In April 2010 I pulled 650 raw at 75K and there was more in the tank. I am 22 pounds away from the all time American record. Something in Myles's coaching is working. I believe it is my set-up and attention to detail when it comes to bar path-in terms of it being straight.
But I am absolutely open to hearing every side and angle of this issue! Great exchange of ideas so far, guys. This thread is receiving the most hits by far of any this week on PL Watch. Eric

Submitted by PRHunter on
I video tape almost all my deadlift workouts from two angles. The weight consistently moves much faster if I start with my arms closer to vertical in the sagittal plane (side view) versus having my shoulders more in front of bar and the arms angled back. In the latter case, the bar swings forward a bit and I have to try to bring it back to finish the lift. If I miss a heavy attempt, video review typically shows that my arms were angled back too much at the start and the bar swung forward during the pull and "hung" in front. I used to focus on getting my hips as close as I could to the bar (which resulted in shoulders in front of bar) and could only pull about 625 raw at 195. Now I don't worry so much if my hips are more behind the bar but focus on my shoulders being over the bar at the start and then pulling my shoulders behind the bar during the pull. I have since done 670 raw at 198. Am I stronger now? Maybe a little, but I think a lot of it is technique. I am by no means an elite lifter, but I think there are "cues" that are helpful even if they are not 100% consistent with what happens during the lift. For example, I find it helpful to focus on flexing into the ground so that I am pushing the platform down and rather than lifting the bar. Of course, this is not what actually occurs but I find it to be a helpful cue with heavy weights. Same thing with the staight line pull. Maybe there is still some horizontal movement of the bar, but for some lifters they may find they lift more if they think of this cue. If you set a PR the first time you really apply this cue, it is probably more efficient for you (i.e., such an occurence is not confounded by getting stronger over time because it made an immediate difference).

Submitted by chris mason on
WWW.ATLARGENUTRITION.COM I totally agree with Mike. Dan, you either suffer from paralysis by analysis or you are bent on showing everyone here your intellectual superiority. You are obvious an intelligent guy, but your argument was not really even relevant to the tip. The tip was to start the barbell with your body positioned such that it would be in a vertical path relative to the lockout position. This makes the lift more efficient and improves the leverage to some degree. What you spoke about was trying to fight a natural, barely perceptible curve of the barbel path as it moves through the ROM. Science is great, but the variables involved in the physics and physiology of movement with barbells is so complex as to make the direct application you seek of little value.

Submitted by R. Wassmann on
[quote=chris mason]WWW.ATLARGENUTRITION.COM I totally agree with Mike. Dan, you either suffer from paralysis by analysis or you are bent on showing everyone here your intellectual superiority. You are obvious an intelligent guy, but your argument was not really even relevant to the tip. The tip was to start the barbell with your body positioned such that it would be in a vertical path relative to the lockout position. This makes the lift more efficient and improves the leverage to some degree. What you spoke about was trying to fight a natural, barely perceptible curve of the barbel path as it moves through the ROM. Science is great, but the variables involved in the physics and physiology of movement with barbells is so complex as to make the direct application you seek of little value. [/quote] Watch the claws...Me-row! Hisssssssss!

Submitted by traininpain on
I don't know who that dude is in the video, but he is strong! Just think of what he could do in gear!!!

Submitted by Jeff Hackett 1 on
I love the idea of these training tips but man do they got to be so friggin complicated. Just a simple explanation would do, I mean how hard can it be, touch your shins to the bar, turn your toes out a bit, grab the bar lean back until you feel your toes come up slightly, take the biggest breath possible and allow your spine to come to the neutral position and when you can't take in any more air, pull. Now if you can't keep your back flat find exercises that will help like; rows, rack deadlifts , partial squats, power cleans, etc. I know this article is about pulling in a strait line, so if you lean back a bit before you pull it will come up strait. Having the head and shoulders to far forward allows the bar to travel out and away from the body causing guys to readjust midstream or miss the lift altogether. I see this happen a lot when guys get so amped up before their pull that they forget proper form. I think consistent practice with heavy singles will allow the lifter to pull properly with all out agression against the bar. But once bar path is cleaned up I think keeping the back flat is most important for performance and injury prevention. It doesn't matter where the hips start as this differs with leg and body length just as long as the back stays flat. Jeff Hackett. ULTIMATE SIZE, STRENGTH, AND STAMINA

Submitted by Matt Gary on
Valid points by all. I agree with Dan in that there may always be movement on the bar that the naked eye won't catch. But, does it matter? I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that if we improve and/or correct our execution of a movement, according to our body's unique leverages, the weights will increase. And isn't that what we're all after? Lifting more weight? As long as you're making progress, what difference does it make how you got there? If you took the scientific road, went to a biomechanics lab where your lifts were examined with high-speed film, broken down into segments, etc. - then that's great. But how many of us have access to those tools? Few. Conversely, most of us have access to some sort of cheap digital/video camera that at least allows us to catch minor flaws. If Mike T's lifts are improving because of a verbal cue...fantastic. If someone else can rub two sticks together and make their lifts improve because of it, then more power to them. The ultimate test is results. Period. I've always been rather analytical in my approach but I also agree with Chris when he says over-analyzing can paralyze us. Sometimes the answer might be right in front of us. And if changing my set-up leads to a straighter, more vertical bar path, a PR, and it saves me a trip to the lab on top of it all, then I'm satisfied. Training and continually acquiring results is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Finding the right piece that "fits" may change over time. One day you may not be sleeping enough, the next it's because you gained weight and your leverages changed which affects your technique, another time it might be your nutrition is off or you're under too much stress. There are a myriad of variables that influence performance and finding the right one, at a particular moment in time, can be an arduous task. Suffice it to say, we should all attempt to use all the tools in our own personal tool belts (which obviously varies from person to person) to solve the puzzle. Respectfully, Matt Gary "Today is ALWAYS the perfect day to train."

Submitted by Myles Kantor on
Thanks to all for your interest in this subject. Along the lines of my recommendation, in his deadlift video Ed Coan talks about setting up close to the bar so as to keep the weight in line with one's center of gravity. If a person starts with the bar three inches from his shins when standing straight, at PR weights that becomes an enormous and hazardous inefficiency. Simply giving more focus to foot position in relation to the bar can yield a fast carryover. We want to the deadlift to go up, not sideways. Myles

Submitted by steve trippe on
Dan, There is so much wrong with what you stated here that I don’t know where to start… - Discerning training gains from advice is no different than discerning training gains from “science”. How can you know how much was due to the advice given based on observation as opposed to the advice you give based on science. - “at the end of the day…” doing something that makes sense isn’t conjecture and guesswork, it’s common sense. Doing something that feels intuitively right and makes logical sense isn’t insignificant, it’s smart training. - “in research there’s only a 5% chance” Where are you getting this 5% from? 95% chance of success if you use science? Seriously? I have never, in all my years of research in biomechanics, come across this 5% chance. You’re oversimplifying something that can’t even be quantified. First off, there are too many factors in any form of research, let alone biomechanics, to ever be able to pinpoint your level of uncertainty, and further, it will vary GREATLY from experiment to experiment, and even from result to result. There’s a 97.283% chance that you just made this 5% number up. - You talk about how a curve has to exist that can only be seen upon analysis. I don’t disagree here, but you’re talking about minutia details that won’t affect lifting, and further, are out of our control If you extrapolate an analysis enough, even pressing in a smith machine elicits a curved bar path, nothing is ever perfectly straight, there are only levels of straightness. Going from a visible curve, to a minimal curve, can make a big difference in terms of leverage. However, you talk about how a curve in bar path exists as though it’s existence justifies it’s presence. Just because something exists doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to minimize it. My point here is that science is no better than qualified advice in this sport. There is research out there that shows that 3 sets of 10 reps is optimal for strength and hypertrophy, and science that says that the conjugate method shouldn’t work. Science is every bit as fallible as human reasoning, because in the end, science relies on human reasoning and application. You act like you can measure this sport like total training load is quantifiable, like you can apply some study or biomechanical analysis to something and get a 37.65% improvement. The only time I see numbers like this in the iron game is when someone is trying to sell something (ie “This supplement will increase your bench 45% and jack your GH levels by 3005X!”).

Submitted by steve trippe on
More on topic, I first noticed this when I started pulling against bands. If I was at all out of position at the start, then by the time I got to lockout, there was no way I was locking it out. The bands are very unforgiving and forced me to focus more on my set up (exactly as Miles is saying). After 2 months of focusing on this (with speed pulls and pulls against bands), I pulled a 40lb PR, which was huge since I'd been stuck for almost 6 months. Having always struggled at lockout, I thought for sure that a weak upper back was to blame and that I just needed to train my lockout more. I wish this tip had come out a while ago, it would have saved me time.

Submitted by eggsurplus on
[quote]...rub two sticks together...[/quote] Great tip! Something I haven't tried yet. I'll let you know if it works ;)