It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you see your bar loaded up, walk up to it, take a deep breath, put everything you have into pulling that weight off the floor, and reach lockout.
It’s also hard to describe the feeling you get when you see your bar loaded up, walk up to it, take a deep breath, put everything you have into pulling that weight off the floor, and it doesn’t budge. It can be devastating!
Of course there is no substitute for hard training, but these three fixes could be the 1% that can help get your PR moving off the floor on it’s way to that victorious lockout position. Check them out.
Deadlift Fix #1: Stretch Your Hip Flexors
I know what you’re going to say. “No way! Static stretching before doing a heavy lift is suppose to make you weaker. You must be crazy!” Just hear me out on this.
Our glutes are the prime movers in most all athletic movements and the deadlift is no exception. If you have tight hip flexors, which most of us do from sitting too much, you are more than likely a victim of the dreaded reciprocal inhibition.
Reciprocal inhibition states that if a muscle is tight (hip flexors) the antagonist (glutes) will down regulate and be unable to function at 100%. What does that mean for you? You’re leaving horsepower on the table and recruiting your hamstrings and/or low back to do most of the work. Not good if you want to reach your potential and stay injury free.
Now I’m not saying hold a hip flexor stretch for two minutes each side right before attempting a PR deadlift. Yes, that may down regulate your nervous system and not help you get the lift. Here’s how we do it and have seen great success.
At Rebel Weightlifting athletes ALWAYS perform some sort of hip flexor stretch using the wall or a bench during the warm up no matter if it’s an upper body day or lower body day. They perform a 60 second hold on each side after some foam rolling. After the hip flexor stretch they’ll get into the warm up. Then we ALWAYS conclude the warm up with some sort of combination of box jumps, med ball throws, sprints, or kettle bell swings. That way the athletes are spending some time lengthening their hip flexors to increase glute function but ending the warm up with their CNS fired up and ready to go!
Try incorporating a hip flexor stretch into your warm up along with a jump or throw next deadlift day and watch your numbers go up.
Deadlift Fix #2: Go Barefoot
Yep, I still laugh at the funny looks I get when I tell an athlete for the first time to take their shoes off. I can’t tell you what a huge difference it makes in not only their ability to produce force but their overall technique as well. This is definitely a two for one hack!
Most shoes folks wear today have a higher heel which pitches them forward causing them to use their quads more than their posterior chain, specifically the... you guessed it, the glutes. Remove the shoes and like magic they are firing the proper muscles and you may see their back position improve.
Next time you have someone deadlifting or even lifting for that matter, notice how much work their feet are doing just trying to stabilize. The squishy soles of most athletic shoes are meant to absorb force. Good for some activities but not if you’re trying to lift heavy. We want all that energy and force that’s being used to stabilize to be transferred into the floor back up the lifter and applied to lifting the barbell. Remove the shoes and folks report feeling more stable, grounded, and able to focus on actually lifting weight.
I know a lot of people are self-conscience about their feet but that’s no excuse. You can leave your socks on there are a number of minimalist shoes that will give you the same benefits.
Deadlift Fix #3: Grip The Floor With Your Toes, Hard!
This fix builds off the one above and is the most mysterious. I learned this one from Cal Dietz and knowing what a badass coach he is, I tried right away. His cue is to “curl your toes” which works fine but I found that if I cue “grip the floor with you toes” it seems to work better for my athletes. But either way it works great!
Try it right now. Get into a good deadlift or RDL bottom position, grip the floor with you toes, come up, and notice how your glutes just kick on! Awesome! Right!?! Now I would recommend only “gripping” during the concentric phase or the lifting portion of the exercise.
So why does this work? To be honest, I have no idea. My only thought would be that gripping with your toes activates more muscle fibers which has an effect up the kinetic chain. Similar to squeezing the bar really hard when performing a bench press.
It is my hope that you can use these quick hacks right away and that they will help you to continue to see GAINZ in the gym. Train hard!