Deadlift Back Angle

SuperGirevik

Level 3 Valued Member
I've noticed recently a distinction between how Mark Rippetoe teaches the conventional deadlift and the way I see most StrongFirst students performing the lift, specifically the angle of the back in the bottom position. The following videos below show the differences.

More upright...

Less upright...

I noticed a similar difference with the way Mark Rippetoe teaches the squat as well.

I don't want to know which one is "better" but I'm just curious if it matters and if there is a safety concern with either one. I tried searching the articles and forums but couldn't find an answer.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 6 Valued Member
Back angle will also depend on the bodily proportions (limb and torso length) of the lifter: A lifter with shorter femurs will be able to get their hips closer to the bar in either stance and will typically have a more upright back angle than a lifter with long femurs. The same goes for lifters with longer arms.

However the lifter is built, the basic form should be the same: Bar over mid-foot, shoulders over (or just ahead of) the bar etc. The same basic technical model should work for all lifters, even if their lifts end up looking different.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
First video is sumo, second video is conventional.
Yes, that. Sumo and conventional back angle are inherently different.

But to your point, what Mark Rippetoe spent a great deal of time explaining at the Starting Strength seminar I attended and I have found to be true in my own analysis, is that in a maximal deadlift effort, the back angle and hip position MUST be in what he calls the correct starting position, no matter where the lifter THINKS they "start" the deadlift. What you'll often see is a lifter start with the hips too low, but the hips rise as the bar actually leaves the ground... putting the hips where they should have been to start with.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
They both look good to me, and appear to be using the same technique. Brett actually has a better back extension (as Mark Rippetoe calls it, the Starting Strength step 4 in the deadlift setup), but the lifter should just get the back as tight as possible in the spinal erectors and hold that position for the duration of the lift. Back angle will vary slightly with anthropometry.

upload_2019-7-31_8-30-45.png upload_2019-7-31_8-31-55.png
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
They both look good to me, and appear to be using the same technique. Brett actually has a better back extension (as Mark Rippetoe calls it, the Starting Strength step 4 in the deadlift setup), but the lifter should just get the back as tight as possible in the spinal erectors and hold that position for the duration of the lift. Back angle will vary slightly with anthropometry.
Which Brett?!? haha, I assume you mean "our" Brett, which I would agree there is better thoracic extension.
 

SuperGirevik

Level 3 Valued Member
They both look good to me, and appear to be using the same technique. Brett actually has a better back extension (as Mark Rippetoe calls it, the Starting Strength step 4 in the deadlift setup), but the lifter should just get the back as tight as possible in the spinal erectors and hold that position for the duration of the lift. Back angle will vary slightly with anthropometry.

View attachment 8848 View attachment 8849
Thanks @Anna C ! I watched Mark's video and it seems his setup procedure goes something like...
  1. Stand behind the bar with a narrow stance in a position where your shins are ~1" from the bar.
  2. Lock your knees and bend down to grab the bar.
  3. Now bend your knees to the point where the shins are practically touching the bar.
  4. Move your chest, not your head, up. In his words, this should be challenging and not easy. I think another cue he's given is to push the belly between the legs.
  5. Take a deep breath and pull up.
  6. At the top, make sure your chest is high and proud (without leaning back).
  7. Then drop the weight in a controlled manner and exhale.
I personally feel that my "loaded" position is a bit different when using Mark Rippetoe's technique. It could also be that I was previously keeping a bigger distance between my shins and bar without noticing. I'll check today.

On a side note, I'm doing the deadlift singles program and I'm on week 3. I've noticed I can handle more weight without using a mixed grip and I've starting implementing the hook grip as well.

Hope to share my results soon :)
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Now bend your knees to the point where the shins are practically touching the bar.
Yes, I would say that your description of the SS deadlift setup is correct, except in this step, bring your shins TO the bar (actually touching it). Make sure the bar doesn't move as do. If you are unconciously pulling it towards you with your hands as you bring your shins to the bar, or let your shins push the bar forward, it will be in the wrong starting position and therefore hips will be too high or too low respectively.

Good job on starting to use the hook grip! I love it, myself.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I personally feel that my "loaded" position is a bit different when using Mark Rippetoe's technique.
No disrespect to anyone including @Anna C intended, but there are more and important differences between what Brett is demonstrating and the other video. Your "loaded" position may very well be different, as may other things, based on the approach you take.

I am not interested in a point-by-point comparison. The technique we teach is based on our principles. If anyone wishes to learn to deadlift in another way, I recommend they look elsewhere. This is not a place to discuss a point-by-point difference in our approaches - they are entitled to theirs as we are entitled to ours.

By no means do I mean to suggest that our way is the only way, but we have chosen our way carefully. I do not wish anyone to get the impression that the way the deadlift is taught in the second video is somehow just a little different than what we teach at StrongFirst; to StrongFirst, those differences are significant.

-S-
 

Bill Been

Level 6 Valued Member
It's helpful to understand the relationships between shoulder position and hip height; between hip height and back angle; between bar position relative to mid-foot and hip height - because they're all inextricably related to each other.

Keep in mind also that the vast majority - maybe the entirety - of online deadlift videos pay no heed to the above, then they commence to violate all manner of biomechanical parameters by using 135lbs to demonstrate the movement. Well guess what? You can do any flippin' thing you want setup-wise with a deadlift that's 1/4 of your 1RM. Unfortunately for a poorly instructed lifter, this does not continue to hold as the weight increases. I can squat my hips all the way down to my heels, shins pushing the bar out over my toes, back angle becoming pleasingly vertical, shoulders way behind the bar - and I can stand up with 135 from that totally dinked-up position. This tells me exactly zero about "how to deadlift" or how to set up a proper deadlift.

A deadlift with a sufficiently heavy load defines the lifter's position at the instant the plates leave the floor. The lifter's anthropometry defines "how he looks" at that moment. The setup process described above does a good job of getting you into that position before you start the pull, irrespective your anthropometry.
 

SuperGirevik

Level 3 Valued Member
@Steve Freides sorry, my intention was just to be educated on the possible dangers of having a more horizontal back.

Here is a recent video I took doing a 365lbs deadlift. I’m currently on week 3 of the singles program. I’d be very grateful if someone could give me feedback on my form. I’m starting to get heavy with the lift and I don’t want to hurt my back :)

 

SuperGirevik

Level 3 Valued Member
After watching @Brett Jones ’s video again, I think perhaps I have the bar too close to my shins at setup (currently I’m going 1” from bar). I have big feet (13”) and maybe 1” from the shins is not quite mid-foot.

I think if I go a little further, I’ll be able to straighten my back a bit more. In the video I posted trying my best to push my chest up but my back is slightly still rounded, similar to Brett McKay’s in the video/pic above.
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
@Steve Freides sorry, my intention was just to be educated on the possible dangers of having a more horizontal back.

Here is a recent video I took doing a 365lbs deadlift. I’m currently on week 3 of the singles program. I’d be very grateful if someone could give me feedback on my form. I’m starting to get heavy with the lift and I don’t want to hurt my back :)

Due to my very particular anthropometry, my conventional deadlift and my stiff legged one looks almost exactly the same: my back is practically horizontal.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Here is a recent video I took doing a 365lbs deadlift. I’m currently on week 3 of the singles program. I’d be very grateful if someone could give me feedback on my form. I’m starting to get heavy with the lift and I don’t want to hurt my back :)
I don't see any problems with it as far as back safety. Looks solid.

After watching @Brett Jones ’s video again, I think perhaps I have the bar too close to my shins at setup (currently I’m going 1” from bar). I have big feet (13”) and maybe 1” from the shins is not quite mid-foot.

I think if I go a little further, I’ll be able to straighten my back a bit more. In the video I posted trying my best to push my chest up but my back is slightly still rounded, similar to Brett McKay’s in the video/pic above.
I would agree you could set up just a tiny bit farther behind the bar, and that might bring your hips just a bit lower for the starting position.

I'll put this in StrongFirst SFL-speak... wedge yourself between the bar and the floor. I think you'll be able to feel this when you build tension and feel this wedging just before the bar comes off the floor. It's only a small adjustment from where you are currently.

That weight actually looks kind of light for you. Nice lifting.
 

SuperGirevik

Level 3 Valued Member
@Anna C Thanks so much for your encouraging feedback. I've heard about "wedging yourself between the bar and floor" but I can't seem to wrap my head around that. I went back and read Brett's article on getting loaded for the deadlift and he mentions...
Wedge: Drive your feet into the ground and try to wedge yourself under the bar to begin your deadlift. Louie Simmons’ advice to “feel equally loaded between your feet and hands” is excellent for getting the wedge started. The wedge also takes the “slack” out of the bar.
How to Get Properly Loaded in the Deadlift and Swing | StrongFirst

But I still don't fully understand. Is the basic idea to bring my chest up and create tension throughout my body?

Also, do you feel I'm bringing the bar down too slowly? Pavel mentions in PTTP that bringing the bar slowly down puts a lot of strain on the lower back. But it feels odd to me slamming the weight back down.

That weight actually looks kind of light for you. Nice lifting.
Thanks. That was a 365lbs lift which is 90% of my sort-of-max (405lbs). I'm doing the deadlift singles program and so far I really like it.
 
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