Internet Experts and the Deadlift

As many of you know, I’m in the final stages of prepping for my first powerlifting competition in 6 years.

Needless to say, I’ve got this unique blend of emotions going on – excitement, anxiety, and of course a bit of nervousness.

In all honesty, I have no clue what to expect – I’m considerably lighter than when I last competed, and getting back in the gear has been a bit of a challenge as well.

And that leads me to the point of this discussion.
A few weeks back, I uploaded a video of my deadlift the first time in my suit. It wasn’t really meant to be made public – I just wanted it up on YouTube so I could link to it in my training log.

Well, needless to say, the Internet experts were out in full force and commenting on the lift.

“Bro – why isn’t your neck neutral?”

“Why isn’t your lower back in a better position?”

So I’m going to use this piece as a teaching tool – we’re going to discuss powerlifting gear a bit, my thoughts on training heavy, and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Here we go!

What is powerlifting gear and what does it do?

Back in the day, people would tell you that powerlifting gear was there for protection – to help make you more stable and protect your joints from injury.

But let’s be honest – powerlifting gear, today, is meant to help you move more weight.

Period.

In the case of a deadlift suit, there’s two primary areas of tension:

  1. The hips/thighs, and
  2. The straps/torso.

In my experience, a deadlift suit should be relatively tight in the hips/thighs so it gives you some “pop” out of the bottom. But, it shouldn’t be TOO tight through the straps, as this has a tendency to unnecessarily cave/pull you forward, into a poor starting position.

As you can see in the below video, that’s exactly what happens – my straps are too tight (I didn’t have the suit up high enough on my thighs), so it was pulling/caving me forward.

Furthermore, we have to remember that a change at one level of the spine will affect ALL levels of the spine. So that rounding through my upper back will naturally force me into more extension through the cervical spine.

So you can see from the above video, this is NOT a pretty deadlift – I’m the first to admit that and there’s definitely a bit of trial and error when it comes to training in powerlifting gear.

If you’d like a bit of comparison, here’s how some of my raw training looked a few weeks before.

Still not perfect, but then again, it never is. That’s why we’re always working to improve and refine our technique!

But there’s a bigger issue here, at least as I see it.

Some people honestly have no clue what it’s like to train HEAVY.

Keep in mind, “heavy” is a relative term – I can’t and won’t put standards on anyone. What I’m talking about is working at a percentage of your 1-RM that would be heavy for you.

We can talk about neutral spine, neutral neck, forcing the knees out, etc. And maybe when we lift at 50, 60, 70, hell even 80 or 90%, it can look exactly like we want it to.

But you know what?

When you’re working up to or near your max, shit happens.

Your technique isn’t always perfect.

Even though you’re trying hardest to maintain discipline and get your body into those “ideal” positions, it doesn’t always happen.

And that’s why I had to chuckle a bit when I saw some of these comments coming in – anyone who has ever pushed their limits knows that when the weight gets heavy, all bets are off.

Back in the day, I had the pleasure of training with Matt Wenning. Matt is a world record holder in the squat, and possibly one of the strongest and most determined individuals I’ve ever met.

Here’s a quote from Matt that I think reflects the point of this article beautifully:

“You have to go up to a point where you break form to make form better… if you don’t see what’s wrong how can you fix it?” – Matt Wenning

Charlie Weingroff says much the same thing. I’m paraphrasing here, but you do everything in your power in the gym to make your athletes strong and resilient, but when it comes to game day, you simply let them go out and do their thing, hoping that the training has paid off.

Now go out and lift something heavy today!

Stay strong
MR

20 Comments

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  1. I could not agree more on the point of what happens when you are TRULY training heavy (with whatever heavy may be for you). The form police get all bent out of shape if anything looks even remotely off from the thing of technical beauty they have fixed in their minds. Ahh… nothing quite like arguing with people on the Internet! 🙂

  2. Great post Mike but you have to remember that haters are always gon’ hate.

    I really appreciate you sharing your training log as I’m getting ready for my 2nd powerlifting meet in December. I gave 5-3-1 a go last year, this time around I am going to give Sheiko a try. The volume is a bit much but I don’t like to fudge programs so I’m going at it word for word.

    What do you recommend for someone that has never used a suit before? It may be something to experiment with for next time. I’m 6′ 190lbs with 445 dl.

    Thanks Mike

  3. Steve-

    Post up in the forum and I can go more in to depth about the gear. Really need to base it off your plans for the future, federation, budget, and how you pull.

  4. It usually goes something like this:

    Lift heavy. Reduce the weight. Improve technique. Increase the weight. Rinse, repeat.

    Good stuff on competing Mike, you’ll love it after all these years off.

  5. Rightly Put.

    I have many guys trying to break their Squat PRs, Deadlift PRs and fortunately many are also trying to Up their Front Squat numbers as aggressively as BenchPress.

    I too had observed that a heavy lift (Max and PRs) tax one so much that form will break down, almost EVERYTIME. I’m usually only guy, who tells his fellows that it is ok and that perfect form cannot be maintained almost every PR time. What we have to take care is that our form is not inviting injury, that’s all.

  6. Why not just lift in a raw meet? Do you really get an enhanced sense of accomplishment b/c you managed to pull your DL apparel up higher on your legs and “got more out of your suit”?

    I suspect that this post won’t go over that well, but it’s an honest question, no disrespect intended. Dialogue is good!

    • No disrespect taken.

      When I competed “back in the day” I wore gear, so I want to have some sort of comparison as to my strength now vs. then.

      It’s a valid point, though, and one I’ve definitely considered. I’d like to do a raw meet before it’s all said and done.

      MR

  7. Couldn’t agree more Mike. Well said. Eric always gets grief from the intewebz warriors when they comment on how his upper back rounds when he pulls 600+ on the DL. Dude, it’s fucking 600 lbs!!!!! Chances are, most aren’t even pulling half that much weight.

  8. Great post Mike. I had a similar comment on one of my videos and just ignored it. I was tempted to reply with something like ‘oh thanks for the advice. Let’s see your form with the same weight and we’ll compare notes.’

  9. I literally just finished a super heavy set (for me) having worked up to this set after several months and after a 35 year lay off from deadlifts. I had forgotten how form goes south when you’re lifting near your max, which is exactly what happened to me today. I still tried to maintain solid form, but I was also going to do whatever it took to make those reps. I’m too old to get injured so I’m glad I ran into this article.

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