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: CrossFit.com (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.


GORUCK Training Plus GOPRO

A few weeks ago I strapped my GORPRO Hero 2 camera to a sandbag, and ran around my buddy’s farm out in Jackson, MI for a few hours. Using a GOPRO Studio template, it’s been distilled into about 2 minutes of good livin’. You’ll see some walking, some carrying, some crawling, and a few dudes having a blast in the snow.

Pain and Suffering

 overhead squat

There is a discussion going on right now on the GORUCK Tough Facebook page regarding the best quotes from GORUCK. While most involve a colorful exploration of the “F” word, my favorite is this little gem:

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

It is sooooo true. We all have to put in hard work, and a lot of the time it sucks. We all have the choice in how we deal with the suck. You can let the suck consume you, and typically those around you, or you can embrace the suck. You are always free to choose your reaction to what is thrown at you, even pain.

An example from the GORUCK challenge was when the team was carrying the logs, which dealt out some real pain. Chris, our leader at the time, had the gang singing songs and laughing while carrying this several hundred pound piece of rotting wood up narrow trails over roots and rocks and creeks for an hour or two, in the dark. Instead of focusing on how much that sucked, i.e. suffering through it, the team leaned in and laughed their way through it. Same pain, very different experiences.

This applies to so many aspects of my life. I always have a choice, and I’m gonna choose to smile over suffer 100% of the time. The way you choose to react to a situation is wildly contagious. If you are part of a team, you can bring the team down with your complaining and whining. People will follow you down that trap. By the same token, put on your damn happy face and bring the team up. They will follow you in that direction too.

Your choice.

(Unofficial) GORUCK Tiny

GORUCK Tiny Ann Arbor


I thought I had joined a ‘cult’ like community when I got into CrossFit.  Then I did a GORUCK Challenge.

Somehow, I was able to find 6 friends crazy enough to follow me around Ann Arbor, doing push ups, carrying a cooler filled with beer and dumbbells, bear crawling, crab walking, and all sorts of other messed up stuff for over 9 miles this past Saturday morning.  And it was awesome.  So much more fun than I would ever have thought.  10 years ago, I would have more than likely been slow to wake up, a little hung over, and settled in on the couch to watch a few hours of College Game Day.  Not any more.

I was up at 5:30 AM and at the starting point for my first ever organized fitness ‘run’ by 6:45 AM.  As I sat there in the dark, I was really curious to see if anyone else was really going to make it out.  Then, at about 6:50 AM, cars started pulling in.  That was a great feeling.  By 7:15, all but 2 of my confirmed ‘guests’ had arrived, and one had texted me at 6:30 saying he would be 5 minutes late.  At 7:20 on the dot, Danny came screaming in on his bike, and it was time to begin the ruck!

I had plotted a path very close to the path used for the GORUCK Challenge in Ann Arbor, cutting a bit here and there, targeting a 4-5 session.  In the end, we traveled 9.3 miles, did a few hundred reps of good PT, carried some things and laughed just as much as we would have had we been sitting at a bar.

During the ruck, we spoke about doing this again in January.  After the ruck, we decided that was too long to wait.  The next one is set for December 14th.

Here’s a link to the pix and video from the event:


 Pull Ups with 50# RuckGORUCK Tiny Ann Arbor Map

GORUCK Lessons, continued

Las Vegas

It’s interesting how often I find myself drawing from my GORUCK Challenge experience.

This past week I was in Las Vegas for a conference, and when I found myself having to stay up until 1:30AM during some “team building” at the poker table, I couldn’t help but think that,
A: it’s actually 4:30AM to me and
B: I have to wake up for an 8AM meeting.

But very quickly, my inner GRT kicked in and reminded me of some important lessons.
A: suffer in silence
B: It pays to be a mother f’ing winner and
C: I was up a hell of a lot longer, doing a hell of a lot tougher shit, so man up