Wedging for the DL and Bloody Shins

minaam

Level 1 Valued Member
Hello everyone!

I had a question about the proper set up for the DL. I've seen the lift taught in two ways and I was wondering which of the two is taught at SFL.

1. Some teach that bar should be pulled upward. The bar should remain in contact with your shins, but it should not scrape them to the point that you bleed. If you're bleeding, it's because you're pulling backwards instead of upwards. See for example, this video by Alan thrall.

2. Others teach that the bar should in fact be pulled back and up. They recommend wedging yourself behind the bar. This seems like a sure way to scrape up your shins if you're not wearing some sort of protective gear. See, for example, this recent video by Brendan Tietz.

Both recommend pulling the slack out of the bar, but one suggests you pull that slack upwards while the other suggests you pull it backwards and wedge behind the bar.

How does SF teach the slack pull and wedging?
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
1. Some teach that bar should be pulled upward. The bar should remain in contact with your shins, but it should not scrape them to the point that you bleed. If you're bleeding, it's because you're pulling backwards instead of upwards.

2. Others teach that the bar should in fact be pulled back and up.

The Body's Center of Gravity, COG

One of the primary keys to pushing or pulling more weight in a movement is to keep the bar as close the The Body's Center of Gravity.

The farther away the bar is from The Body's Center of Gravity, the greater the load is magnified beyond it's true load.

THE DEADLIFT: A SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS
Davey Dunn

"Keeping the bar close to the body during the lift may be as important as keeping the back straight. Scientific research in this area revealed that many had underestimated the importance of minimizing outward swing. The studies show that for every inch the bar swings out during the lift the effective load is actually increased 25 percent." (Research: Dr Tom McLaughlin, PhD Exercise Bio-Mechanics, former Powerlifter)

When A 300 lb Deadlift = 375 lbs

Based on McLaughlin's research, a Deadlifter who allows the bar to be an inch father away from The Body's Center of Gravity magnifies the true bar weight from 300 lbs to 375 lbs. (300 lbs X 125%, due to it being an inch farther away from The Body's Center of Gravity)

Pulling Back and Up

Pulling the bar up and back on top of you ensure that you are keeping it as close to your Body's Center of Gravity as possible. That might mean the bar scrapes to the shins at times.

In the Deadlift, dragging the bar up the thighs is definitely a must in completing a Repetition Max. Aplying Baby Power to the thighs allows the bar glide the thighs much easier; less resistance.

Another factor to consider in pulling the bar back on top of you is...

The Stabilizer Muscles

One of the limiting factors in a Free Weight Movement is the Stabilizer Muscles.

That is one of the primary reason that you lift more in a Smith Machine than a Free Weight Movement.

The Smith Machine take the Stabilizer Muscles out of the equation. The bar is pulled or pushed along it's guide rails; the bar glides.

Dragging The Bar Up Your Legs

Dragging the bar up your legs elicits a similar effect to a Smith Machine.

You are essentially dragging it up your "Guide Rod Leg Rails".
 
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minaam

Level 1 Valued Member
@kennycro@@aol.com Thanks! I understand the importance of keeping the bar in contact with the shins, but I have no problem doing so regardless of whether I pul up or pull back. I guess what I'm getting at is that I feel that this slight difference in set up affects the dynamics of the lift quite a bit.

In #1, the bar is over mid-foot, the shins are more vertical, and the back more horizontal, the hips higher. The lift is initiated by a strong drive of the legs. Weight is equally distributed between heels and balls of the feet.

In #2, the hips drop slightly, the knees, shins, and bar come slightly forward. Weight is more towards the heels than the balls of the feet.

Here is a video demo of me performing the DL in both ways. In the first, I set up by pulling up. The bar stays in contact with the shins the whole way. In the second, I set up by wedging backwards. The bar also stays in contact with the shins but scrapes them up pretty bad.

Sumo:

Conv:

@Anna C, thanks for your comment! Can you confirm I'm performing the wedge correctly before the second pull?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@Anna C, thanks for your comment! Can you confirm I'm performing the wedge correctly before the second pull?

Great videos, @minaam. Just to confirm I'm reading it right, in each video you pull "up" for the first rep and "back" for the second rep, right? First video being sumo for both reps, and 2nd video being conventional for both reps?

Let's start with the sumo video. Yes, I think your second rep demonstrates the correct wedging as I remember it from SFL. In contrast, your first rep is a strong lift, but doesn't take as much advantage of the wedging concept. Did the second rep feel stronger? As for the shins, you could wear deadlift socks as we did at SFL. Or, IMO, you can wedge and then angle yourself forward just a degree or two so that you're still wedged but then not pulling back, if that makes sense. That should minimize the bar's direct friction against your legs.

Now looking at the conventional lift. Those both look good, too. To me the wedging concept doesn't work as well for conventional, and my own conventional DL style moved towards the Starting Strength method so I probably can't tell you as well how to do it right per SFL. The second rep looked a little better, I think. They both seem sub-maximal so that makes it harder to critique than if it was a higher intensity... I can deadlift any technique if the weight is light, but it's only when it gets heavy-ish that I have to dig in and do it with the strongest technique. Not 1RM heavy, but maybe 80-85% of it. Anyway, with the conventional style I think your shins are a bit more vertical than they need to be at the start position. I'd have the bar just a little bit farther forward, and bring the shins towards the bar. I also notice you keep the back angle the same until the bar is about 8" off the ground. That's fine... perhaps even a good point, since some people open the hips too soon and get cued to "stay over the bar" -- you're doing that quite well. However, you might experiment with a bit more hip extension earlier, as your knees are extending, to see if it feels stronger.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Here's a good example of "a bit more hip extension earlier" that I mentioned. Insanely strong deadlifts:
I'd say there's a significant amount of quad contribution to the start of those deadlifts - they look good to me.

-S-
 

minaam

Level 1 Valued Member
Just to confirm I'm reading it right, in each video you pull "up" for the first rep and "back" for the second rep, right? First video being sumo for both reps, and 2nd video being conventional for both reps?
Yes, that's right.
Did the second rep feel stronger?
It's hard to say b/c they were both submaximal pulls (I was reluctant to load the bar for this demo since it was my off day), but I want to say the first felt stronger. The weight felt more evenly distributed across my feet and, subsequently, I found it easier to recruit my quads into the pull. It could be that when I'm wedging, I'm leaning too far back. When wedging, should my weight feel evenly distributed acoss the balls and heels of my feet or should it be mostly towards my heels?
Or, IMO, you can wedge and then angle yourself forward just a degree or two so that you're still wedged but then not pulling back, if that makes sense.
I like this idea. I'll give it a shot and see how it feels.
with the conventional style I think your shins are a bit more vertical than they need to be at the start position. I'd have the bar just a little bit farther forward, and bring the shins towards the bar.
I'll have to play with this as well on my next DL day. I might need to revisit what I currently understand to be mid-foot.
I also notice you keep the back angle the same until the bar is about 8" off the ground. That's fine... perhaps even a good point, since some people open the hips too soon and get cued to "stay over the bar" -- you're doing that quite well. However, you might experiment with a bit more hip extension earlier, as your knees are extending, to see if it feels stronger.
I may be overcorrecting for my former problem of extending the hips too soon. I too learned to DL from a SS coach and was taught to delay the hip extension for the initial part of the pull. I'll play with this and see what feels strongest. Thanks a lot @Anna C ! You've given me a lot to experiment with on my next DL day. Will let you know how it goes!

Here's a good example of "a bit more hip extension earlier" that I mentioned. Insanely strong deadlifts:

Incredible!

Just to clarify, I don't mind DLing in a way that would require me to wear some sort of protective equipment around my shins. What I'm wondering is if most people here agree with Alan Thrall's claim that if you need anything of the sort, then you're deadlifting incorrectly. Does SF also teach that a correctly performed deadlift should not make your shins bleed?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
It could be that when I'm wedging, I'm leaning too far back. When wedging, should my weight feel evenly distributed acoss the balls and heels of my feet or should it be mostly towards my heels?

Yes, probably focusing too much on leaning back. Think about the term wedging - you really want to feel like you're creating a position of most favorable leverage to pry the weight off the ground. You should feel it when you hit it. Per my SFL manual, "You are wedging correctly if you are feeling the hamstrings stretch like a bow and the glutes load."

As for balance on the feet, my SFL manual doesn't address it and I don't recall a focus on it at SFL, but I would say keeping the balance mid-foot is always a good default throughout any lift, but sometimes a slight emphasis towards the heels can be helpful at the start.

I might need to revisit what I currently understand to be mid-foot.
My understanding is mid-way between tip of big toe and back of heel. Usually about an inch in front of shins when standing up (when shins are vertical).

I may be overcorrecting for my former problem of extending the hips too soon. I too learned to DL from a SS coach and was taught to delay the hip extension for the initial part of the pull. I'll play with this and see what feels strongest. Thanks a lot @Anna C ! You've given me a lot to experiment with on my next DL day. Will let you know how it goes!

Aha, yes, and you're doing it well! I made that correction in mid-2018 and it was helpful for me at the time. It's not wrong as you're doing it, but also keep in mind that what you're taught from an SSC is going to go along with the other parts of the SS deadlift model, which would have your feet turned out slightly and pressing your knees into your arms, and your shins farther forward. (Side note: Much like the Starting Strength squat, people often take one part of it out of the context of the whole model and say "that cue/technique doesn't work". Well, yeah, it won't be an effective cue/technique if you don't do it along with all the other parts of the model! They are a working system, and a system that takes quite a bit of study and practice to get right, which is something that non-fans of a method generally don't do. OK, off my soapbox.) Anyway, relative to your deadlift, you might want to dial back that "correction" in the context of your current style (in other words, go back to more hip extension earlier in the pull) and see if it works OK for you.
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
There is also a 3rd option. Which is a major pull back after the bar passes the knees. As explained by Konstantine Konstaninov and Boris Sheiko at super training gym (IIRC).

This is only applicable for conventional.
 
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