Q: Mike you had mentioned at a seminar a few weeks ago that I could improve my deadlift if I fixed up my core and pelvic alignment issues. Here is a side view of my posture, along with some video clips of my deadlift.
If you were training me, what would you do to fix me up and make my pull even stronger?
First off, congrats on the pulls! Those are some solid weights regardless of your age or weight class.
Now, looking at your posture (as well as how you pull) I think you’re definitely leaving pounds on the platform. Here are a few things to consider.
- You have a wicked anterior pelvic tilt. This forces you to rely heavily on your quads and lower back, regardless of the movement. If I were training you this would be a primary focus of your training program. You have other postural deviations that I’d like to fix up, but this is the one holding back your pull.
- When you deadlift, you’re very reliant on your lower back. Watch as you initiate the pull – your hips shoot up, and then your lower back is left to “finish” the lift. While you can get away with this early in your career, as you age (or the weights go up) this will probably lead to low back pain and/or dysfunction down the line.
To correct this, I would use a multi-pronged approach.
Start by working to loosen up the quads and lower back. Foam rolling, deep tissue massage, ART, mobility work and static stretching can all be included to help release this stiff areas.
Next, you have to re-balance the equation by working to strengthen the muscles that create a posterior tilt of the pelvis. Never stretch or mobilize one side of a joint without adding stability to the opposite side!
In other words, lots of strengthening work for the glutes, hamstrings, and external obliques are in order. I’d be focusing on big-bang exercises like RDL’s, glute-ham raises, etc. as well as direct core work that trains the anti-extension function of the core. I cover a ton of progressions in this regard in my Complete Core Fitness product.
Single-leg work will be crucial, but only if done correctly. Split-stance exercises will provide the dual benefit of lengthening the short/stiff hip flexors, while creating strength and stability in the external obliques and gluteals. The key here is maintaining an optimal pelvic alignment and cuing tight/tall throughout.
Along with the single-leg work, don’t discount a lot of work in tall and half-kneeling postures. These will expedite and reinforce what you’re doing with the single-leg work.
Finally, at some point in time you’re going to have to actually rebuild your deadlift pattern. Your quads and low back are always going to be strong, but you need to bring your weaknesses up to a point where they’re not slowing down your progress.
When pulling, I would try and get your hips a smidge lower and try to initiate with the hips and thighs. Keep the lats tight so you’re pulling the bar back into your body (keep it close!), and don’t let the hips shoot up so fast.
In other words, think about keeping your hips underneath you and then using your hips/glutes to finish the lift.
As you’re working this progression, you may not be able to pull from the floor initially. Consider using a rack pull or trap bar deadlift and really dialing the technique in before moving back to sumo or conventional pulls.
This may be a frustrating venture at first – your lifts will probably go down to some degree, depending on how weak those areas are.
However, once you address these dysfunctions you’ll be left with a pull that’s not only stronger and more efficient, but less likely to get you injured as well.