Andy’s Take on Deadlifts

A friend and reader of my blog sent me a note, which I’m posting with his permission. He had a few points to make about deadlifts, and he doesn’t quite agree with my position. I’m still in the flat back camp, but I wanted to share another point of view.

Hi Jason!

Deadlifts are my favorite lift and that was my favorite WOD ever. So, I’m not complaining.

As far as “flat back”, I disagree. You don’t want rounded like that photo you captured, but you should keep the natural curvature of the lumbar spine (so your lower back may look rounded towards your ass). Keep those shoulders pinned back and you should have the look you are describing. I love the deadlift because it is what it is. Get a massive amount of weight from point A to point B – with the finish position judged as the standard. I wouldn’t want to judge whether they looked pretty or not doing it. Sometimes it turns into a s**t show and the lifter should be responsible for their own health. They’ve been warned/coached. Maybe it doesn’t make a great CrossFit WOD addition because it really isn’t safe to do a large volume of deadlifts. I’ve often thought that more than 5 in a row was cardio. I prefer sets of 3 or 1.



Why People Hate Deadlift WODs

Dead Lift at CrossFit Ann Arbor


The deadlift is the single most important lift. Since I have made an effort to improve my deadlift, I’ve noticed all my other lifts improving. But there seems to be a major community issue with the deadlift.

Last week’s CrossFit Open WOD was 14.3

8 minute AMRAP:
10 deadlifts, 135 / 95 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
15 deadlifts, 185 / 135 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
20 deadlifts, 225 / 155 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
25 deadlifts, 275 / 185 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
30 deadlifts, 315 / 205 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
35 deadlifts, 365 / 225 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch

This has generated the most complaining about a workout I have heard since I began CrossFit almost 2 years ago.  Everyone seems to hate the deadlift. Everyone is complaining about how bad their backs hurt. Everyone seems to be a giant idiot when it comes to deadlifts.

I think because the deadlift is the one lift lift where you will pull the most weight off the ground than any other which creates some psychological incentive to just load up with out care. I’m guessing because it’s not overhead, your knees won’t explode, and you just want to have a giant number you think if you can fit the plates on and if you can stand up, you’ve succeeded.

That’s horribly incorrect. Just pulling the weight off the ground is not enough to call it a successful lift. There are many things that go into the deadlift.  Here are instructions according to: (PDF)

One of the key’s to the deadlift is that at no point in the lift should you see any rounding of the back. AT NO POINT -> ANY ROUNDING.

What’s wrong with this picture from the Open 14.3 announcement?

rounded back dead lift


As I was watching all I could think about (aside from the fact that her white shorts are named Pamela) was that poor girl’s back is going to explode. Of course your back is going to get destroyed if you round out like this! If you can’t keep your back locked in and safe for a given weight, you can’t do the weight. A straight back standard should be set for the deadlift just like getting your hips below your knees for a wall ball to count. I know, impossible to judge. But there are smart people out there who can figure things like that out.

The only thing wrong with the deadlift is the idiots deadlifting wrong. If your coaches let you lift heavy things with horrible form, it’s ok to blame them too, but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your body. I think it’s very irresponsible of the community to talk about how much they hate deadlift workouts because of how terrible their backs feel afterwards. They should be complaining about how much they hate when they load the bar up way too much and can’t lift properly.

For the record, I did 14.3 Friday and again the following Monday. I went as hard as I could both times, and my back wasn’t noticeably sore at all. Sure, my number of reps weren’t that impressive, but I did add 5 reps when I tried it again on Monday.

Here’s a video from CrossFit demoing the deadlift from the coaches perspective. I find it very helpful, and if you follow the teachings here, you will be able to safely and happily deadlift like any other lift:

The deadlift is so important, and so important to do right. Just look at all the muscle groups it works!

From Wikipedia:

The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:

  • Torso
    • Front
      • Abdomen
        • Rectus abdominis (under aponeurosis)
        • Abdominal external oblique muscle
        • Abdominal internal oblique muscle
    • Back
      • Iliocostalis
      • Intertransversarii laterales lumborum
      • Latissimus dorsi
      • Levator scapulae
      • Longissimus
      • Quadratus lumborum
      • Rhomboideus major
      • Serratus posterior superior
      • Serratus posterior inferior
      • Splenius cervicis
      • Teres Major
      • Trapezius muscle
  • Legs
    • Quadriceps
      • Rectus femoris
      • Vastus lateralis
      • Vastus intermedius
      • Vastus medialis
    • Hamstrings
      • Biceps femoris muscle
        • long head
        • short head
      • Semitendinosus
      • Semimembranosus
  • Hips
    • Gluteal muscles
      • Gluteus maximus
      • Gluteus minimus
    • Piriformis
    • Superior gemellus
  • Forearms
    • Flexor digitorum profundus

Always look cool.

Looking Cool GORUCK Style

GORUCK has 3 three rules:

Always look cool. Never get lost. And if you get lost, look cool.

Now those shorts in the picture above clearly cover me for the looking cool part, or so I thought.

When I first heard the three rules I thought they were just meant to be kinda funny, but upon listening to Jason McCarthy, a former Green Beret and the founder of GORUCK, explain them there is deep meaning in always looking cool. How you present yourself makes a difference to how you act and how others act around you.

You are always going to be faced with situations that suck. You can chose to embrace the the suck, or be miserable. As stated previously on this site, you will always get to choose how you react to something. If you are faced with a bad situation or are upset, or frustrated force yourself to keep your cool. Even if its just on the outside.

For example, if you are in the middle of a workout, and you realize you have put on too much weight, or your hand starts to hurt, or you just failed on a snatch, smile. Or laugh. Put on a happy face. I have found it to be wildly motivating to laugh when the thought of “there is no way you can finish this” tries to creep into my head.

I have also found that the people around me are influenced by how I present myself. If I am laughing and smiling, they laugh and smile and push harder. If I’m sad and mopey, that stuff is really contagious.

Looking cool is not just about awesome shorts. Its about broadcasting a positive message that reaches everyone around you no matter what the circumstances. Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. Looking cool is choosing not to suffer. Ever. Lift yourself up, lift your team up. Always look cool.

Positive Self Talk

Just me, myself and I
Just me, myself and I

You should be your #1 fan.

The most powerful muscle in your body is not a muscle. It’s your brain. In order to reach your true potential, you have to have your mind right. With regards to CrossFit, GORUCK, Tough Mudder or anything else you are training for, it all starts in your head.

Read the following out loud: “I am awesome!”

Say it enough, believe it enough, and it will become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Even the Mayo Clinic is onboard:

Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health.

Here’s how I use positive thinking. Before each workout I tell myself I am going to destroy it. I tell myself I am not going to quit, and I’m excited to attack it. When I find myself on my butt during the workout, I tell myself “nice work, you are really pushing yourself today!”

Do not beat yourself up. Ever. There are enough other people out there who would be more than happy to do that for you. You are awesome, and you are unique. It’s your responsibility to manage yourself, and make sure that you reach your full potential. It begins by telling yourself that you believe in yourself. It may take some convincing (took me a while to get there). But you will come around, and when you do, you will see significant performance gains in your fitness, work, family and all other aspects of your life.

You are awesome, and tomorrow you will be more awesome.  Tell yourself that every day.


Awesome Interval, Fight Gone Bad, TABATA, what ever else you need Free Timer App for iPhone

Free CrossFit Timer App


Go download this timer app now:

Seriously, this app is awesome.  I have 3 other timer apps that I paid for, and 2 others that were free. This one is the best by far. Easy to use, clearly made by CrossFit people. It has basic stopwatch with a built in time cap, AMRAP, TABATA all built in and very easy to modify to get to what ever time scheme you are going for.

Plus they put in some nice (and kinda funny) words of encouragement, like when you are done it says “Great work!”.

Seriously, it works awesome, it looks awesome and it sounds awesome. Go get this app right now if you have an iOS device.

Thank you!

5 More Reps!!!! Crap!!!!

My goal for the Open 14.2 workout was to make the second round. That meant I needed 40 reps in round one. I got 35. Damn it. Judging by the amount of “Fran Lung” I have right now, I feel like I left it all out there and just came up short.

Looking back, the one change I could make is to go just a touch slower on the overhead squats (OHS). I knew OHS was going to be my strength, and the chest to bar pull ups were going to get me. So I came out as fast as I could go on the OHS, and half way through I fell down. Just lost my balance. That cost me some time and at least a couple reps. I did the second set unbroken with very little trouble.

I had a few no reps in there, which were legit calls, so no complaints.

Overall, this was a super exciting wod, and is very motivating for me to train harder. I know I can get out of round one. I’m so close.


Get Up!

Beginning CrossFitIf you do CrossFit, you will fail at something. What I have found is that the longer I’ve been doing CrossFit, the more often I find myself on my butt. I think this is due to the fact that this training gets you much more comfortable with pushing yourself.

When I started out, I was very nervous about hitting my red line. I would load less weight on the bar in an effort to play it smart. I would pace myself, and focus on getting through.  And every once in a while I’d tempt fate so to speak, and push it. I’d go an extra 10 pounds, or I’d jump back up on the pull up rig when my fore arms were on fire. I’m finding those every once in a whiles, to be happening more and more frequently now.

I was listening to Christmas Abbott on this week’s episode of the Wodcast Podcast, and she made a comment about needing 15 minutes after a workout just to get her head back on straight. Made me recognize that the top athletes are pushing themselves to be at or near failure every WOD. Which makes me think that I could be pushing myself harder every day. I go hard, but I know I could go harder.