Biomechanical solutions to the deadlift (part 1)

Out of all the possible strength tests available, what better way to test a mans strength than to deadlift. Giants – O.D. Wilson, Kazmier, Kuc, Kiri, Badenhorst, ver Magnusson, Ahola and Mesaros have bent down coiled their callous hands around enormous loads and blasted them upward to stand erect, signalling to their competitors that they are the truly strong.

In my own quest to increase my pulling strength I have found it important to evaluate and constantly reassess my stratergies in this movement. Here are some of my thoughts.

*natural deadlifters have long arms and a short torso. This allows for a more erect pulling stance, means more leg drive out of the hole and less work to do on the lockout. Long arms mean a shorter pulling stroke and a stronger pulling action on account of a short working lever. U.S. world champion lama Gantt is a great example. His torso is almost erect in the starting pos and the bar finishes barely above his knees in the lockout.

*You must utilise your own biomechanical advantages. ie if you have relatively short thighs in relation to your torso this will allow you to keep your hips closer to the central axis Point(.ie a vertical line drawn from your heels directly up through the middle of you body) whenever you displace the weight or the working levers away from this point in any direction you will make the lift harder.

Derek Boyer deadlifting
Derek Boyer – Deadlifting

I have quiet long thigh levers so I throw my knees over the bar pulling my hips closer to the central axis giving me a much stronger pull off the floor. Secondly by slightly pointing my toes out this opens up my hips increasing mobility, again contributing to a stronger pull off the floor.

*I find by throwing my knees out over the bar I am now pushing more through the balls of my feet rather than the heels. When this happens there can be minimal contact with your heels and the floor when you start to pull. This will mean a decrease in power. To remedy this I use and recommend the use of slightly raised heals (I use 7 mm)–this will now increase your overall contact with the floor- dramatically improving driving force through the floor. (Olympic weight lifters use heels for the same reason, to increase leg drive and increase posture.)

*If you have a long torso it is important to keep it as upright as possible at the start so that you do not overstress your back in the initial pull and find it very hard to lockout. Conversely if you have a short torso you can carry you hips a lot higher in the starting position and bend over more to reach the weight. Higher hips (increased leg leverage) will give you a great start, but often puts your upper body in a poor position to finish. However if your torso is short, then you should be able to crank the weight up to completion. Short torsoed Joako Ahola virtually stifflegged 385k easily in w.s.m 99 and had more in him.

derek boyer- long live the dead lift
Long Live the Dead Lift – for Back Development

*Stance is very important deadlifting greats like fin Velie Kumpuniemi says that if he changes his foot placement slightly the bar stays on the floor there are many different schools of thought on where best to stand. I find by standing quite wide I am able to set up with my torso more erect keeping my hips closer to the bar in a conventional stance my hands are covering the bench knearling although considered quite wide it works for me! I have pulled 352k in comp and a current 360k in training. I am working very hard at the moment to increase this mark to well over 363k(800k).

*It is important to remember that of the best handful of deadlifters in the world it is surprising to note how differently they set up. Consider your own application, and experiment with different postures, foot and hand spacings. You will find this may change as your strength increases.

*In the next article I will explain the forces involved in blowing up a big deadlift and uncover a few secrets that the big boys use.

About Derek Boyer

Derek Boyer, Strength Specialist, 8 times World Strongest Man competitor and finalist, Martial Artist, TV Personality, movie actor and life coach. As seen in cinema, Transworld International Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, MTV, Euro Sports, variety shows worldwide and all major Australian television networks.
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