Monday, August 15, 2011

When You Need Another Coach's Eyes

Here's an old newsletter I am re-hatching for new readers:

As a fitness professional, it is vital to continue learning and to get instruction from good sources. At times, I personally find it hard to coach myself. I understand how the body works--more importantly--how my body works and I train it hard in the gym. But there are times when I need a helping hand to assist in my ongoing development as a lifter. Great coaches can always spot things that stick out of the norm; or they can always provide good useful info on a certain lift or program. Having another pair of eyes is always an asset to your personal progression.

For me, it is the deadlift. I started deadlifting about 3 years ago. When I deadlift heavy, there is only one view I see and its the front (mirror view). So one day, I set up a video camera to film my deadlift and pinpoint my trouble spots. Once I did that, I solicited some online colleagues for advice. I wasn't 100% sure my deadlift looked solid, so I needed another pair of coach's eyes to observe. Here's what they got:

I asked some pretty bright guys that are much more proficient in the deadlift than me. Here's what they each had to say:

Jason Pegg says: John, Doesn't really look too bad. There are a few things you can fix right away that will put IMMEDIATE pounds on your pull. Ill just itemize this, to make it easier to read. These aren't really in any sort of order, but you should grasp it pretty easy.

1. You're a bit forward at the start, which leads to you pulling the bar more up, instead of back. At lighter weights (You're more than a 420 puller), its not as much of an issue, but as you move more towards your max, you will never be able to lock the weights out. Ideally, and this will vary some from individual to individual, you want your medial delts behind the bar a bit.

2. You need to get your hips down some. Not a TON, like the Olympic lifting guys do, but get your butt down. This will come with getting behind the bar. I'm guessing that you felt that DL in the video a bunch in your hamstrings immediately off of the floor?

3.Arch your back. This really lets you load it up more, and gives you a solid base to pull against. I know that this sounds retarded, but once you do it correctly, you will immediately understand what I'm saying. I'm sure there is a better way to verbalize it as well, I just don't know what it is.

4. The last thing you should think before you pull the bar from the floor is "butt down, chest up"

5. If you have trouble with the weights at lockout, turn your feet out some. I could see in the video that your feet are parallel, and that makes it hard to fully engage the hips(glutes) during the lockout phase.

6. Try to force your chest forward and up between your arms at the start. This will help you get the arch we just talked about too. As you can see, all of this stuff in pretty interrelated. Fix one thing, and others magically disappear.
Eric Cressey says:

1. Try going barefoot. I know you've got flat-soled shoes on, but even that extra half inch or so makes a big difference in keeping your weight back and allowing you to get into neutral spine in the bottom position.

2. Try not to spend so much time at the bar. I'm a big believer in getting your thoughts all squared away before you go down to the bar. So, it's "dip, grip, and rip."

Overall, looked solid! You might want to try some speed work in the 315-355 range to just work on getting that bar off the floor quickly.
Josh Henkin says: John, I would say you don't set-up with a strong arch, now of course big time powerlifters typically don't but they are planning to pull with their backs a lot. Is that what you were trying for? I find starting with a stronger arch places more work in the hips. Also, you break very early in the mid to low back that again is putting the load into the back instead of hips.
Mike Robertson says: I don’t think there’s a lot I would change, especially considering that’s a relatively heavy lift for you. You get good leg drive, lead with the chest, there’s minimal change in spine angle, etc. I mean we can always nitpick, but on a 95+% lift, that looks really solid. As you continue to go heavier, try not to hang out in the bottom too long, and always remind to lead with your chest – this will keep it up and out, and minimize low back rounding. 

Tony Gentilcore says: Hey John, All in all not too bad. A couple of thoughts, though:

1. Take those damn shoes off......;o)

2. You're spending way too much time at the bar. Instead of bending over, grabbing the bar, and staying down there for 5-10 seconds; bend over, grab the bar, think "shoulders back and down," and let it rip. You're thinking about it too much. Ideally, I'd rather see you "get your air" as you're standing, then push those hips back as you go down to grab the bar, pull back and down, and let it rip

3. As well, I think your hips are starting a little high-----and it looked like your back was rounding a bit, but nothing that would give me any red flags. Like I said above, overall, it looked good, but I feel those small modifications will help tremendously! [END]

As you can see, I got some top notch advice from some really awesome coaches. Now, it is on me to go back and apply what I have been told! There are two valuable lessons here:
1.) The power of video is VITAL in the learning process. how else could I have gotten all these great minds in one room to evaluate my deadlift?  Taking videos of your specific lifts is a great tool for self-improvement and having the ability to transmit that clip to others is priceless.
2.) Don't be afraid to seek out advice from others. Too many fitness professionals try to "learn on their own" without exploring other perspectives or "angles" from others. That is a big mistake! The learning process is a continuum of different proportions. Some of us learn from reading it in a textbook, others learn it by seeing it; and others learn it by doing it. Whatever mode you find most potent, stretch for it and soak up as much as you can. Don't keep the learning process bottled up.


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