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Barbell Strong swing, weak deadlift - how to bridge the gap?

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Anna C

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Interestingly enough, I gave barbell back squats a proper try (i.e. with something heavier than a broomstick) for the first time ever today and really enjoyed the movement. I worked up to 70kg/154lbs before calling it a day. I felt like I could easily do more but didn't want to push it. If I get to the gym more, I'll definitely be doing more barbell squats.

Good! If you enjoy them I believe progress with squats will assist your deadlift progress. It has for me. And as with most muscle-building endeavors, it's not like you'll turn into the hulk overnight. If you see changes occurring that isn't the direction you want to go, you can easily adjust your course. If you want the let the squats drive some additional muscle gains, be sure to eat plenty of protein (probably 150-180 grams per day for you) and a slight caloric surplus overall.
 

Deleted member 5559

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Heavy squats at a lowish volume without a caloric surplus result the same as @Steve Freides describes with adding strength without size. Squating wont turn anyone into a bulky monster if they don't want it to. Heavy squats do result in being able to perform almost any other movement better though.

I didnt mean that SF doesnt teach or program them, just that the most common recomendations in these forums are swings, deadlifts, snatches and presses but squats are somewhat neglected even though they have a very high transferability. Makes sense since the common programs are written to accomodate low resource constraints.

Running a PTTP template with back squats and bench press would make a strong deadlift and presser but requires a rack and bench which are somewhat antithesis to minimalist strength that SF does better than anyone.
 
@Bro Mo, when I used to squat, it made me hungry, and I added muscle. If one has the will power to squat heavy and not eat, that's fine - for me, I didn't see the point.

-S-
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 7 Valued Member
I second @Steve Freides on the squats inducing appetite. On the other hand, I also think it's good to note that the deadlift is the lift (of the big barbell lifts) least positively affected by weight gain unlike upper body pressing exercises which seem to thrive from it. In my own experience, my deadlift traveled from 295 - 405 without adding ANY bodyweight at all and over a period of months. Most likely, you just need practice. Squatting can help build leg strength which will certainly help drive out of the bottom, but to pull a lot, you have to pull a lot. I think K-bell swings would have higher transfer to sumo than conventional, as the stances are more similar. A video of your deadlift technique may also reveal some hidden issues.

It is also relevant that your bench press strength ratio to deadlift is over 80% of that of your deadlift, which is quite high. Do you possess shorter limbs relative to your torso? If so, sumo would probably be ideal for your strongest position because you won't have to reach so far to the bar. Alas, several sources, including Pavel(Deadlift Dynamite), have indicated that sumo is easier to learn in the beginning because the mobility demands are lower.
 
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Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
It is also relevant that your bench press strength ratio to deadlift is over 80% of that of your deadlift, which is quite high. Do you possess shorter limbs relative to your torso? If so, sumo would probably be ideal for your strongest position because you won't have to reach so far to the bar. Alas, several sources, including Pavel(Deadlift Dynamite), have indicated that sumo is easier to learn in the beginning because the mobility demands are lower.
I would say that my own proportions are 'unremarkable'. I am at the lower end of 'average' when it comes to height (5'9"/175cm), with an arm span of about 5'10"/177cm and I wear a 31"/32" leg trouser.

My pressing strength comes from pressing a lot over the years rather than any structural predisposition. My mobility is fairly good too, largely thanks to goblet squats so I don't think that's causing any issues with my dead. I suspect that sustained muscular activation is what I need to work on at the moment although I'm definitely going to keep squatting.

I've played around with Zercher squats at home, mainly because I don't have a squat rack, and have notived that these seem to feel more like a deadlift (as far as my legs are concerned) as opposed to the back squat. Would you recommend including these more in my training or do you think they'll interfere with my deads too much?
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
Swings help deadlift a lot - if you are already deadlifting for some time.

Power Training

A vital component of increasing Limit Strength is incorporating Power Training into your Training Program. Kettlebells are great Power Movement that as Pavel noted that help Deadlifts.

- deadlift technique first + all skills of strength (setup, lats, abs, squeezing the bar, breaking the bar, wedge... )

Information Overload

One issue for many coaches is overload a student with too much information when it come to training technique. Proving them with 15 cues to think about at one time leads to "Paralysis Analysis". They become a "Deer in the headlights".

One study found that the simpler you make something, the easier it is to learn.

Breaking The Movement Down Into Parts

An example of that is USA Weightlifting's approach to teaching an Olympic Movements; Top Down Training.

The Olympic Movement is broken down into parts. The top part of the Olympic Movement is taught first followed by the mid range to the floor.

Some coaches prefer a "Bottom Up" approach to teaching a movement. Regardless of which approach is taken, the key is to breaking the movement down into "Bit Size Pieces", mastering each.

The Take Home Message

When teaching a movement, the student needs to be only given one thing to focus on at a time.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
Squatting can help build leg strength which will certainly help drive out of the bottom, but to pull a lot, you have to pull a lot.

Leg Strength For The Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift

Let me reiterate information from my previous post

Driving out of the hole in a Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift is initiated by the back, rather than the legs. Research from the 1980's demonstrated that; additional research as verified that fact.

Ironically, the dogma of "Leg Pressing the weight off the floor", drive you feet into the floor continues to be perpetuated.

With that said, increasing Leg Strength for the Deadlift is beneficial. Now lets look at...

Leg Strength Exercises For The Deadlift

In the Deadlift, Conventional or Sumo, the Legs are in a Quarter Squat Position, involving the Quads. The Law of Specificity dictates that for the Deadlift, the Legs need to be training from that same position with...

1) Quarter Squats out of a Power Rack.

2) Partial Leg Press.

3) Partial Hack Squats

4) Partial Step Ups

Basically any type of Quarter Squat Movement.

... to pull a lot, you have to pull a lot.

Working The Posterior Chain

The Deadlift is a Posterior Chain Movement. That means to increase your Deadlift you need to increase your Posterior Chain Strength along with developing technique.

Various type of Deadlifts, Hip Extension/Back Raises, Good Mornings, ect. need to employed to increase Limit Strength.

I think K-bell swings would have higher transfer to sumo than conventional, as the stances are more similar.

Kettlebell Swings for Conventional and Sumo

Yes, the Kettlebell is more specific to the Sumo Deadlift.

However, Kettlebell Swings are also effective for increasing Power in for a Conventional Deadlifter.

Changes in exercises are more effective than in loading schemes to improve muscle strength. - PubMed - NCBI

"The CIVE (Constant intensity-Varied Exercise) group had greater strength increments than the other training groups...

When come to increasing strength or increasing muscle mass, the muscles worked need to be attached from different angles, varying the exercise.

Conventional Deadlift Dumbbell Swings

For someone who want to be more specific in Power Training a Conventional Deadlift; hold a pair of dumbbell in each hand beside the outside of your legs and swing them.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
Yes, but after the weight is broken off the floor, one needs leg drive, no?

-S-

Yes, one needs leg drive.

The Three Stages of The Conventional Deadlift

As the Cliff Notes of McLaughlin's research below notes, the dominate muscle firing sequence changes in the three stages of a Conventional Deadlift, as follows...

Back > Legs > Back

The Back is the dominate force in breaking the weigh off the floor, the Legs assisting.

During the second phase of the Conventional Deadlift, Leg are the dominate muscle group, the Back assisting.

In the third phase, the Back becomes the dominate muscle group, the Legs assisting.

Nutrition & Health OnLine Magazine
THE DEADLIFT: A SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS


An analysis of the muscle involvement during the Conventional deadlift reveals that there are three distinct phases of muscle involvement during the lift. The first phase occurs as the athlete tries to initially move the bar from the floor. Contrary to popular opinion, the initial drive is done primarily by the back (erector spinae) and not the legs. If the athlete tries to move the weight using their legs instead of their back the result is a premature straightening of the legs and an unwanted curvature of the back.

Evidence to support this theory is found in the research done by Dr. Tom McLaughlin.1 McLaughlin compared the deadlift styles of top powerlifters at the time such as Jon Kuc, Bill Kazmaier, and Vince Anello. His results showed that all the lifters had similar styles exhibiting back extension at the beginning of the lift. McLaughlin felt that the reason for this is because the total force of the legs is inadequate at the start of the deadlift for most individuals.

The second distinct phase of the deadlift begins shortly after the bar breaks the floor. As the initial pull from the back begins to lessen, the legs begin to take over. Knee extension and hip extension account for most of the movement until the bar reaches the knees. The primary muscles involved in this phase are the gluteals and hamstrings in hip extension and the quadriceps in knee extension.

The third and final phase is the lockout. As the bar passes the knees, the effect of the legs decreases and the lower back again becomes the primary force. The final position is assumed as knee extension, hip extension, and back extension complete their range of motion. The muscles involved in this phase are the quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, and the erector spinae. The preceding descriptions have been an attempt to outline the sequences of muscle involvement in the deadlift. It is important to remember that all the muscle groups contribute to complete the lift.

The Importance of Knowing This

One of the keys to increasing Limit Strength in the Deadlift, any lift, is being able to minimize the weak link in the chain. That amount to "Prescribing the right medication" to metaphorically cure the illness (the weak link).

Many individual who have a problem breaking the weight off the floor in a Conventional Deadlift believe the dogma that the Legs break the weight off the floor. So, they naturally increase their Leg Strength/Leg Drive Exercises.

That amounts to misdiagnosing an illness and then being prescribed taking the wrong medication to make you well.

You are not going to get well, if you are taking the wrong mediation.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
Changes in exercises are more effective than in loading schemes to improve muscle strength. - PubMed - NCBI

"The CIVE (Constant intensity-Varied Exercise) group had greater strength increments than the other training groups...

When come to increasing strength or increasing muscle mass, the muscles worked need to be attached from different angles, varying the exercise.

Kenny Croxdale

I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Do you have an example of how it might be applied for general lower body strength? Maybe even start a new thread if it's too far off topic?
 

Oscar

Level 7 Valued Member
As the Cliff Notes of McLaughlin's research below notes, the dominate muscle firing sequence changes in the three stages of a Conventional Deadlift, as follows...

Back > Legs > Back

The Back is the dominate force in breaking the weigh off the floor, the Legs assisting.

During the second phase of the Conventional Deadlift, Leg are the dominate muscle group, the Back assisting.

Kenny, about the back breaking the weight off of the floor: I always thought that the back muscles worked in an isometric manner during the deadlift. Meaning, the flex to keep the torso estable and tight while the hips and legs extend to move the weight.

So if the back muscles breaks the weight off of the floor, they are working non -isometrically. Right?

Maybe my original view was too simplistic.
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
I'd be interested in hearing more about this. Do you have an example of how it might be applied for general lower body strength? Maybe even start a new thread if it's too far off topic?

Varying Exercises

Varying exercise is the lynchpin of a well written program, eliciting a greater training effect. This protocol has been employed for decades with Bodybuilders as a means of increasing muscle mass.

Varying exercise has been a staple of the Westside Powerlifter Method since the 1980's.

Strength Coaches Employ This Protocol

Charles Poliquin (one of the most knowledgeable Strength Coaches) was a huge advocate varying exercise. Poliquin wrote a research article on it in 1988 for the National Strength and Conditioning Journal that touched on Non-Linear Periodization Training ("Football: 5 Steps to Effectiveness of Your Strength Training Program").

Dr Jake Wilson (formerly with the University of Tampa Human Performance Lab, now CEO with Applied Science and Performance) has labeled varying exercises as on of the foundation for increasing strength and/or muscle mass.

Ice Cream

Exercise are lot like ice cream. Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla Ice Cream are all Ice Cream. However, they have a different flavor, different taste. Exercise are similar.

Varying an exercise "Flavor" can be as simple as going from a Wide Stance/Lower Bar Squat to a Narrow Stance. High Bar Squat, Front Squat, Zercher Squat, Step Up (One Leg Squat), etc.

The underlying reason for Varying Exercises has to do with...

The General Adaption Syndrome (Dr Hans Selye, 1923)

This has been dumbbed down to a the Meat Head Term, "Muscle Confusion".

Over simplified, this means when the body is presented with stress, it will adapt under the right conditions.

When a new exercise or method is employed such as Varying Exercises, adaption will occur. When adaption occurs, progress stops.

Thus, Varying Exercise essentially presents your body with a new stimulus. It adapts by getting stronger.

That is the underlying mechanism of Flu Shots. A small does of the flu allows your body to build up antibodies. adapts.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Kenny Croxdale

Level 7 Valued Member
Kenny, about the back breaking the weight off of the floor: I always thought that the back muscles worked in an isometric manner during the deadlift. Meaning, the flex to keep the torso estable and tight while the hips and legs extend to move the weight.

So if the back muscles breaks the weight off of the floor, they are working non -isometrically. Right?

Maybe my original view was too simplistic.

It Depends

For the purpose of this response, the focus will be on two types of Deadlifts.

The objective determines how the erectors are used and involved.

The Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift

The objective is to Pull as much weight up as you can. For this to occur, the Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift Technique will be different; the erectors must contract and drive the weight off the floor and finish the Lock Out.

Some upper back rounding generally occurs with great Deadlifters. This enables the lifter to keep the bar in closer to the body's center of gravity, decreasing the torque; this is great for Powerlifters but NOT for Olympic Lifter.

Before moving on let me clarify, Upper Back Rounding is fine in a Heavy Deadlift; Lower Back Rounding is NOT.

As McLaughlin's research demonstrates (in the previous post) in the Conventional Powerlfiting Deadlift, the erectors break the weight off the floor. They are not performing an isometric action.

The Olympic Deadlift Method

The technique employed is different from The Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift.

Deadlift Training for the Olympic Lifts develops Limit Strength for the First Pull.

The objective of the First Pull in a Olympic Movement is to Position the Bar for the Second Pull; where the weight is whipped up.

Research (Dr John Garhammer) determined that up to 52.6 watts per kilo of body weight were generated by men and 39.2 for women. This is some of the highest, if not the highest, Power Outputs measured in sports.

By contrast, a Powerlifting Squat and Deadlift generate 12 watts per kilo; the Bench Press, 12 watts per kilo.

Back Position For The Second Pull

For maximal Power Output to be displayed and generated in the Second Pull, the back must maintain a neutral position, by isometrically holding it in place.

The neutral position ensures the Lifter is in a position to generate the greatest amount of Power in the Second Pull; launching the weight high enough to get under in.

As Dr Bret Contreras essentially stated in one of his Deadlift articles. maintaining a neutral back in a Conventional Powerlifting Deadlift means you're NOT going to Pull as much weight.

The Right Tool For The Job

Both types of Deadlifts are good exercises.

The objective dictates which Deadlift Technique you use. It's no different than an Olympic Lifter performing High Bar, Rock Bottom, Shoulder Width Stance Squat vs a Powerlifting Low Bar, Wide Stance, Parallel Squat.

Use the right tool (technique) for the right job.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Late to the party, but I find that swings actually increase my deadlift, or at the very least maintain it when I do heavy 1 arm swings at least 1-2x week. On my path to simple, when swinging the 32kg consistently one day I was being an idiot with some buddies in the gym and deadlifted 275 with no warmup, at a bodyweight of 68 kg (147-148 lbs). At the time, my max had been 315
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
Videos of your swing and DL would help this along...

I made a video recording of my deadlift sets this morning. Unfortunately, due to a poor choice of camera angle, the weight plates obscure most of my body from the side view.

I did observe after my lifts today that the weight felt heavier than usual this morning and it felt as though most of the strain was on my lower back. I did some experiments with a very lightly loaded bar and I believe that I was pulling with the bar too close to my shins and with my hips too high as a result.

I'll make another recording next time and see if I can capture more of the side view.
 

the hansenator

Level 6 Valued Member
@kennycro@@aol.com I have a quick follow up question.

What would be the frequency of exercise variation? They don't explain it in the abstract of the article you posted. Is that within a workout, rotate through the week, or stick with one for a few weeks?
 
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