Straight talking on the deadlift

Ok, time to introduce some exercises, and let’s begin with the deadlift – one of the pillars of any strength-training programme. Nothing to be afraid of here. It’s a brilliant exercise for your legs, develops a vice-like grip (if you ditch the straps, and unless you are trying to break world records, you won’t need straps), and requires holding a strong posture in your back and shoulders. Also, it’ll get your heart pumping. What’s not to like?

Tons of advice out there on technique, but for me, the master is Mark Rippetoe. As you’ll see in the clip below, he get’s right to the point and has the mechanics nailed.

Key teaching points made by Mark –

“Put the middle part of your foot under the bar”

“Feet, vertical jump width [apart]”

“You have to accommodate your position to the bar [which wants to move in a straight vertical line]”

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Strength training framework #1

Rather than stick to a certain workout or sets of workouts, I use the following principles as a framework and then mix the exercises up depending on how I feel and what equipment is available.

After a light warm up & some stretching (partly to focus the mind, but also to see what body parts are tight and what feels strong), I’ll start with large muscle groups, so either chest/back exercises or all-body moves such as deadlifts, and finish with the weaker links in the chain such as triceps/biceps. Legs and shoulders will be somewhere in the middle. The thinking behind this order is that you won’t be able to challenge large muscle groups such as your back or chest if your arms are fatigued, for example, which makes sense.

I’ll normally aim for a full-body workout, but with an emphasis, for example – shoulders one session – that changes workout-by-workout. To keep my body guessing, I’ll never use the same moves in consecutive workouts, and I try to alternate “push” exercises with “pull” exercises within the session to make sure that muscle pairs (agonists and antagonists) get equal attention.

Finally, to keep an eye on symmetry, I’ll include some unilateral exercises – for example, single arm tricep pushdowns, or hamstring curls performed one leg at a time – and aim for equal reps from both left and right sides.

As you’ll know from the about me bit, one of my big goals from strength training is to encourage/maintain good posture, but if I happen to develop superhuman strength and save the world from alien invaders in the process, then so be it : )