Tag Archives: personal trainer

Bodybuilding, Flexing Those Guns, and PMR

For most males, this starts at an early age as we begin to produce high levels of testosterone almost over night.  I’m not talking about what happens when you discovered your dad’s hidden stash of Playboys, although that in itself is a pretty monumental milestone.  I’m talking about flexing your pythons while standing in front of the bathroom  mirror.

I’m going to take it back a step and start from the beginning.  At birth, most infants possess near perfect mobility as they begin to learn to move their body parts one by one.  Wiggling the toes and fingers, moving the limbs, moving the head and neck, and then eventually reaching for the milk recepticals.  Ahh the motherload.

The fascination of boobs although short-lived will begin again in a few more years but that is a story for another time.  The point that I am trying to get at is that the child is exploring new movemets in order to gain stability and control of his body.  This will continue through preadolescence  where children learn to move, stabilize and perform many complex tasks. 

This self exploration of movement culminates for many right around puberty as we begin to significantly increase in strength and become more fascinated in boobs once again.  This time though we have to work a little harder to get them which is one of the reasons I picked up my first Weider bench and barbell set when I was 15 years old.

Back then it was all bench pressing, curling, and shoulder flies so I could work those little pipe cleaners into the guns you see today.

Looking back it may not have been the most sound program but it was helping me to learn more about my body than some people do their entire life.  I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror with my shirt off (calm down ladies) and individually flex certain muscles in various poses.  I would rock that double biceps pose like Arnold back in the day.

What I didn’t realize back then was that this somatopsychic technique was allowing me to not only locate the different muscle groups but to control them individually.  Plus it just looked badass.  Bodybuilder in training.

Most people, on the other hand, are not able to isometrically contract certain muscles on command such as their glutes or pecs.  They lack that mind-muscle connection which falls under the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” category.

When I am working with certain clients I ask them where they feel certain exercises and when the Jeopardy music starts in the background I will take it a step back and ask them to isometrically contract the targeted muscle group. 

For example, a client doing a glute bridge who feels the contraction in the hams or quads I will have stand up and practice clenching their glutes until they feel where they should be feeling the exercise.  One cue I like is to tell them pretend like their last dollar is between their butt cheeks and someone is trying to steal it.  That usually works.

Flexing or voluntary muscle activation is an important skill as it helps to prevent certain muscles from becoming dormant during exercise and certian movements.  I have talked about gluteal amnesia in the past where the glutes  don’t fire properly which will create overcompensation of the quads and other hip muscles.  No bueno.

One way to create that mind-muscle connection is to employ progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) techniques.  This is where you learn to relax by going through a series of alternate muscular tensing and relaxing phases in order to become aware of somatic tension.  The benefits of this technique are reduced muscle tension and awareness which may cause an increase in smooth, fluid, or efficient movement as well as increased range of motion around the joint.

A relaxed body will create a relaxed mind.

The takeaway of all of this is that you should learn to actively flex certain muscles like a bodybuilder.  Don’t be afraid to bust out some poses in front of the mirror and hold for a few seconds.  Learn how to control each muscle group and you will learn how to control your body.


What I’m Thankful For 2010

I began writing this post yesterday but after consuming all of the turkeys within a 10 mile radius of Boston, I went into a severe turkey-induced coma.  This is o.k. because I am bulking and right now my goal is getting strong and getting in extra calories.  For all of you who are trying to lose weight I hope you were able to enjoy your Thanksgiving in moderation.

This isn’t going to be one of my typical posts but I did want to share with you some of the things that I am Thankful for this year.  I could easily make this list hundreds of items long but I will keep it to the things that have made the biggest impact on my life.

First and foremost, I am thankful for my family and friends who have supported me since day one when I said I wanted to be a personal trainer, well knowing it is not the most lucrative career.  (or is it?)

I am thankful for the fact that I have one of the most rewarding careers and I am passionate day in and day out about what I do for others.  There are not many people in this world that wake up in the morning and say I love my job, I can’t wait to go to work today.  I am.

I am thankful for all of the books I have read, seminars I have attended and coaches who have inspired me to become the coach I am today.  It is crazy that only one year ago I was working in a commercial gym and teaching people how to do a leg press.  I am also thankful that we got rid of the crunch machine at Fitcorp, if any members ask, it was stolen.

I am thankful for all of my clients who have put their faith in my abilities to make a serious impact on their bodies, health, and their lives.  I have already worked with over 80 people this year and have seen amazing results from clients who said they would never be able to lift a weight above their head to clients who said they would never be able to do a simple lunge.  You are the reason I love what I do.

I am thankful for the great community of coaches such as Bret Contreras, Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Patrick Ward, and many more whom I have contacted with questions and received great advice and direction.  Their passion for the field makes it easier for an eager, new coach such as myself to learn and become an expert.

I am thankful for the phenomenal staff at Fitcorp at 125 Summer Street in Boston for I couldn’t ask for a better team.  Thanks to Fendy for inspiring me to learn and never stop from the first day I met him.  Thanks to Kelly Cassidy for sharing her RKC knowledge with me, without her my get-ups and swings would suck.  Jen for her baked goods that I will eat at the gym since no one else will.  Kelly for being funny and inappropriate at all times.  Ben for being Ben and hooking up the corporate events.  And of course Amanda for being the best damn GM anyone could ask for!

I am thankful that Chipotle opens across the street from work on December 1.  We have been blessed with cost efficient burritos.

I am thankful that I still have my Nana alive and kicking and still cooking the same Thanksgiving I have had since I was 3.  Everything is mashed which makes I can eat more in less time since I don’t have to chew.  It is good to know that I can still enjoy the same foods that I had as an infant when I am 90…with gravy.  Her cornflake stuffing is still the best on the planet though.

I am thankful that my grandmother survived her stroke several months ago and is able to laugh with the rest of the family.  It makes you realize how precious your family really is.  And I am also thankful to have a grandfather that has stepped up to take care of her.

I am thankful to accept the title of uncle as of Anthony Edward Enos was born on November 17th.  After fighting an infection he is home safe on Thanksgiving.  He is getting a tiny pair of dumbbells for Christmas this year.

I am thankful for my own health and all of the incredible things I am able to do with my body such as lifting heavy crap off the floor.  After realigning years of damage from crappy lifting I am more mobile and flexible than I ever thought possible.  I also began getting into powerlifting after finding out my max deadlift was only 335lbs back in August.  I am now pulling 465 and climbing thanks to 5-3-1 and Show and Go.

I am thankful for finding the most amazing girl to share my downtime with.  She is motivated in her own endeavors which inspires me to push myself further to succeed in life.  Everybody needs one of those because without them we would just be a bunch of aimless meatheads.  And although she is a runner (forgivable) she loves to lift and more specifically, deadlift.  I am verklempt.

Last but not least, I am thankful for all of the readers of this blog who check out the stuff I write daily.  When I began this blog several months ago I was getting maybe 5-10 hits per day but has now grown to over 500 hits per day.  There are much better things to be doing in life but you choose to read my thoughts and I truly appreciate that.  I love to teach and I am glad to relay all the things I learn.

2010 has definitely been good to me as I hope it has been to you.

Please share what you are thankful for below.

AAAHH!! Real Core Training

Working in a commercial gym I lay witness to some pretty horrific training practices.  Some so terrifying that I have nightmares of pink dumbbell monsters tying me to an eliptical and forcing me to watch Sweating to the Oldies as everyone around me is doing crunches and 1lb bicep curls.  Trust me, I have had this dream before and woke up in a cold sweat.

I know it is part of my job to educate and inform of the benefits and proper practices of exercise and strength training but there are many who are unwilling to trade in their beloved crunches for stability exercises such as planks.  There are some that I have converted to the faith of core training but they have done so begrudgingly.

Now, keep in mind that I am not bashing the crunch.  Just like any exercise there is a time and place as well as a right and wrong way to do it.  The problem is that most people lack the internal hip mechanics to properly perform a crunch as well as neglect their nether region (glutes) to keep their hips in proper alignment.  Most people sit all day in the flexed position and doing crunches may will add insult to injury.

I’m also not saying that the plank is the end-all-be-all for core training either.  Just like the crunch, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  If your ass is up in the air (insert joke here) then your hips are in that deleterious flexed position and you are neglecting the proper posture.  When I have my clients plank, I make sure that they are squeezing the shit out of their glutes the whole time to maintain alignment and train glute function.  Believe me, this is a whole different ball game.

Now that you know where I am coming from it is time to maybe shift your paradigm a little when it comes to core training.

The first thing that I cannot stress enough is that your 6-pack (or lack there of) is NOT your core.  In actuality, there are two layers.  A deep layer that attaches to your spine and pelvis as well as a superficial layer that is targeted by doing things like crunches.  The deep core muscles which should be your focus are targeted by dynamic and stability exercises as they aid in spinal and pelvic stability.  You mean crunches don’t aid in stability?!  Hmm…

While we are on the subject of your superficial core and 6-pack muscles I cannot stress enough that you ALL have them.  The problem is that they are buried beneath layers  of processed foods, french fries and fried chicken.  Under this premise doing gazillions of crunches is doing little to no help in digging those bad boys out.

Actually, when it comes to core training it is more beneficial to focus on performing 10-15 repetitions with perfect form than to do 100 bobbing-neck crunches on a stability ball (I see this daily and a little piece of me dies each time).  Taking a minimalist approach and focusing on quality over quantity is much better than trying to impress your friends.  Slow controlled movement of the proper muscles will give you the results you are looking for.

Learning how to plank and control stability is only the first piece of the puzzle.  The rest is learning how to use that stability functionally during exercise and activity.  The core needs to be dynamic and ready to handle whatever is thrown at it in any situation to prevent injury and keep you safe.  With that in mind, do you think that just doing crunches or even just doing planks is enough to train your core?

The fact is that there is no single exercise that will train your core better than the next and you must integrate many different core exercises into your program.  There are specific core exercises such as planks, side planks, anti-rotation exercises, cable raises, cable chops, leg raises, and yes even crunches (but only if your good at the other stuff).

What most people don’t realize though is that exercises such as lunges, squats, pushups and deadlifts train your core and posture as well.  It takes a lot of core control and stability to perform these exercises and perform them well.  One of my female clients hit a PR on the deadlift yesterday of 165lbs.  Do you think she has a strong and functional core?  You better f*$#ing believe it!

One of my personal favorite core exercises (besides deadlifting) is the Kettlebell Turkish Getup.  It is one of the few exercises that trains the entire function of the core as well as hip and shoulder stability and control.  You begin lying flat on your back with a challenging weight above head and sequentially move to a standing position with the weight remaining above head.  Here is one of my 47 year old clients performing a getup as part of his metabolic circuit at the end of a session.  Do you think he has a strong core?  It is f*$#ing bulletproof!

A lot has changed in the world of core training in the past decade and even in the past 5 years.  Heck, I think it might be safe to say that the science behind core training has even evolved greatly in the past year.  One thing that has not changed though is the fact that crunches appear to be deleterious to your core if you don’t already have good core function and pelvic control.  I wrote more about that here.

My final question to you is “Has your training evolved?”  I mean, look at your technology: Iphones, laptops, Blueberries, Ipads, and Kindles.  Look how much it has improved over the past 10 years.  Why shouldn’t your core training?

Recovery…. From Training, Life and Tackle Football

Maybe not one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time but yesterday I went back to my alma mater to play in my alumni vs. actives flag football game.  It was all in good fun and regardless of what shape each of us was in I don’t think we were prepared for the hurt that was to follow.  Blood, sweat, a wet field, a black eye, and a potentially broken collarbone later we are all layed up today.

All in all I’m happy with my 2 TDs for the day and multiple tackles.  On the down side I am finding it difficult to move my legs and do things such as standing up.  Now I know how Jay Cutler feels having no offensive line.  Needless to say I will be on the couch all day where I belong watching the Pats take on the Browns.  Although I will not be playing in the Super Bowl anytime soon I will own this year’s Tecmo Bowl.

Since I plan on doing as little moving today as possible I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on recovery.  It is something that I did little of in my early days of lifting which is something that I totally regret.  I got results from completely hammering my body 5-6 days a week but looking back and knowing what I know now my results would have been far superior had I recovered properly.  I mean it is what we do outside the gym and on our off days that helps your body grow.

Whether you are an athlete, a runner or just a weekend warrior recovery is important to help prevent injury, strengthen your immune system, and get you the results you are looking for.  Sleep, diet and proper training all play a role in how your body recovers.

One of the first questions I ask all of my clients when we meet is how much sleep they get and how well they sleep.  It is one of the easiest places to improve not only your training but also your quality of life.

Here are a few easy ways to increase the quality of your sleep:

  1. Take a shower before bed to warm the muscles and help you relax.
  2. Do some static stretching or soft tissue work to help the body relax.
  3. Don’t watch T.V. in bed, rather do some easy reading or listen to soft music.
  4. Make sure your room is dark.  Cover the windows and turn off the electronics.
  5. Don’t drink caffeine or Jager bombs before bed.
  6. Try to get in a routine.  Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each night.
  7. Use clean sheets (my girlfriend appreciates this one).

Your nutrition also plays a huge role in your body’s recovery as well.   After all, you are what you eat.  Do you think that if you continue to suck down diet sodas and house desserts and fastfood that your body is going to look and perform how you want it to?

I’m sure you’ve all heard the term post-workout nutrition but what exactly are you refeuling with after your workout?  What do you have for breakfast when your body is starving for quality calories?  What is the last thing you put in your body before you go to sleep?  Everything you put in your body is going to aid in recovery.

Here is a sample day of eating:

  • Breakfast: 2 egg omlette with peppers, onions, and garlic.  A banana and a glass of orange juice.
  • Meal 2: Oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts and a glass of skim milk.
  • Pre-workout: smoothie -1 scoop of whey protein, 1/2 cup milk, frozen berries, banana, 1 cup spinach, chia seeds, and 1/4 cup oats.
  • Post-workout: 1 scoop of whey protein (or chocolate milk…I prefer organic) and a banana.  Gatorade also works well for recovery.
  • Meal 5: A sandwich…lean meat, pb&j or whatever floats your boat.  Throw some veggies in there too, baby carrots for an added crunch can be satisfying.
  • Dinner: Meat and veggies.
  • Pre-bedtime snack: Yogurt as it contains probiotics which aid in digestion and is also a good source of protein to aid in recovery.

You can substitute most of these food items for something of equal or greater value but try not to stray too far from the recipe.  The nutrients and frequency of meals all aid in proper recovery whether you are trying to get stronger, lose weight or perform better.  I eat the same foods whether I am bulking up or trying to burn fat, it makes food choices easier and I know I am getting proper nutrition to reach my goals.

For those of you who train and train hard every week it is extremely important to take a week to deload or decrease your training frequency at least every 4-6 weeks or so.  It may not be as important  for beginners as it is for intermediate or advanced lifters but you should still be finding time to decrease training intensity by either sets, reps or number of days.

I also prefer my clients as well as myself to take a day off in between training sessions to allow for full recovery.  Now I don’t mean doing nothing at all but rather not lifting heavy things repeatedly 5 days in a row.

A good recovery “off-day” could still be used for focusing more on soft tissue work, mobility drills, light body weight training and cardio such as a metabolic circuit or interval training.  Instead of playing contact football on your day off like I did, play something like basketball or another sport with your friends that will not have you layed up the next day.

Tomorrow I plan to do some extra foam rolling as recovery from using my body as a human battering ram in yesterday’s game.  As for the rest of today?  I plan on doing as little moving as possible.

Movement Wisdom

All too often people focus on strength and stability training as a way to improve their fitness and appearance.  But what happens when an individual’s  initial dysfunction is being caused by something other than  a muscular weakness?  What if that supposed weakness is actually muscle inhibition?  What if the weakness in a prime mover is the result of  a dysfunctional stabilizer?  What if tightness is actually protective muscle tone or inadequate muscle coordination?  What if Lindsay Lohan actually went through rehab and got clean?

Hopefully all of these questions have raised a few eyebrows (except the last question….we know that will never happen) because even today, there are very few professionals who look at movement as a standard for human fitness and performance.  The problem is that these sciences may be the key to unlocking the mysteries behind injury and dysfunction in the human body.

My industry as well as others that deal with human movement such as physical therapy, athletic training, chiropractic medicine, and orthopedics seem to be moving towards this direction as our science has evolved over the past decade.

What may seem complex atually takes a minimalist approach as we look at the body and it’s systems as a whole and break it down to the most primitive movement patterns.  The goal here is to allow your body to relearn the movement patterns that were available at birth and work from there.

As an attempt to create an industry standard, Gray Cook’s new book Movement: Functional Movement Systems begins to simplify many of these quandries in an attempt to create standard operating procedures for our science and industry.

I have been following Gray for a few years now and have adopted the Functional Movement Screen or FMS as a standard for working with all of my clients.  Although every one of my client’s goals may be different, the one thing that every human has in common is movement.  Our job is to not only locate faulty movement patterns but to bring back mobility and stability before attempting to build strength on top of dysfunction.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom from this epic book:

    • Pain affects motor control in unpredictable and inconsistent ways.  This, coupled with poorly planned and poorly  reproduced exercises, gave the average patient little chance of reestablishing authentic motor control.
    • What we see as low general fitness may be the extra metabolic demand produced by inferior neuromuscular coordination and compensation.
    • Mobility must precede stability.
    • Those with a weak core might develp tightness in the shoulder girdle or neck musculature as a secondary atempt to continue functioning. 
    • Those with chronic low back pain and stability problems may develop tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings as secondary braces even if it reduces mobility.
    • As we age, grow and become self-sufficient-and then as we decline and lose some capabilities-we must always maintain some degree of our original functional movement patterns or we will be disadvantaged.
    • Breathing connects all parts of the movement matrix, but it remains the most neglected aspect of the Western approach to exercise, athletic conditioning and rehabilitation….Correct breathing provides power through a central drive of energy supported by the matrix.
    • Once appropriate levels of movement pattern function have been established, performance and skill can be investigated.  If these are prematurely investigated without an appropriate movement pattern baseline, poor performance and skill testes may actually be attributed to a faulty fundamental movement pattern.
    • Many rehabilitation approaches do not revisit the fundamental movement patterns that walking is built upon when older individuals lose balance or have difficultywalking. Instead, many seniors are placed on recombent bikes or given resistance exercises for their thighs under the assumption that weakness is the only problem. 
    • However, we must consider that coordination, patterning, reflex stabilization and timing also play a role, and these will not be reconstructed with generalized strengthening or cardio exercises.

I have barely scratched the surface on some of the wisdom that Movement  has to offer but hopefully this will help cause a paradigm shift on how you view exercise and movement rehabilitation.  As we move closer to a time that is ruled by science and logic, this field will continue to grow and evolve for the betterment of those we work with. 

The sad truth and the largest obstacle that I face is that the media and advertising interests have greater influence on the fitness culture than the professionals dedicated to fithess, athletic development and rehabilitation.  This is the only reason that anyone would ever buy a workout DVD from that asshat “The Situation” or a Kettlebell DVD from “actress” Jillian Michaels.

What is the world coming to?

The 3 M’s of Warmup

If you would have asked my 10 or even 2 years ago what I did to warm up before lifting I would have said either nothing or a few warmup sets before my working sets.  Looking back I believe that this approach is about as useful man with no arms with an itchy ass.

Although there is some validity to doing a few warmup sets I was missing other and potentially more significant aspects.  For one I was only randomly stretching in between sets which I found out years later would cause much male patter tightness from doing heavy bench and leg presses.  The other key ingredient I missed out on was any time of mobility work to help ensure I maintained proper stability and range-of-motion (ROM).

A great analogy to skipping a proper warmup would be starting your car in the dead of winter and hopping on the highway without giving it adequate time to warm up.  It’s a good idea to let the oil circulate and start down the road slow before taking off like a bat out of hell.

I believe that only temporary success can be achieved by taking shortcuts.  To that extent I have put together the 3 Ms of a good warmup:

  1. Movement
  2. Mobility
  3. Muscle Activation (Stability)

“To be ignorant of motion is to be ignorant of nature.” – Aristotle

Gray Cook wrote in his book Athletic Body in Balance that modern science tells us that the brain does not recognize individual muscle activity-it doesn’t need to.  Instead, the brain looks at movement patterns and creates coordination between all the muscles needed.

Movement defines us as humans and athletes and yet we are moving less and less.  We sit at during our commute, sit at a desk at work then go home and sit on the couch to watch prime time T.V. and Sports Center.  Even worse are those who make the effort to go to the gym then sit down on the machines and bikes.  No wonder your hips are tight, your back hurts and your ass is flat and/or fat.

Isolation is all fine and dandy for gaining size and strength but the goal of training should be to improve how the body moves as well.  At the very least we should get the body moving in multiple ways to counteract all the sitting that we do all day.  Allowing your body to move before your workout (whatever it may be) is an integral part to warming up muscle tissue which has been shown to help prevent injury and increase the effectiveness of your workout.

This leads right into the next component which is mobility. Mobility can be described as freedom of movement through the intended movement or exercise without restrictions with strength and stability.  Your body is designed for mobility and due to a mostly sedentary lifestyle, muscles such as your hamstrings and hip flexors become tight and restricted.  Dynamic stretches and mobility work will help these muscles return to their original length to aid in posture, correct techniqe, and to help prevent injuries.

Mobility warm-ups can include soft tissue work, stretching and mobility exercises designed to increase joint ROM.  If you are not mobile during your workout, the risk for injury significantly increases.

Personally, I begin every workout by spending time on soft tissue work such as foam rolling and using other implements such as a soft tissue or tennis ball.  Not only are you enhancing the quality of the tissue but you are on the ground and moving.  Next, I include several mobility and/or flexibility exercises focusing on generally tight areas such as the hip flexors.

These exercises might include:

  • Half-kneeling hip flexor stretch or mobilization
  • Spiderman lung with overhead reach
  • Wall slides
  • Split squats
  • Leg swings

The final hallmark of a proper warm-up is muscle activation in which I will include stability work.  There are varying studies on whether or not muscle activation is necessary or even beneficial when done prior to a workout.  My own personal belief which stems from what I have seen with my own clients is that by warming up the stabilizers such as the glute medius prior to doing an exercise such as the squat will cause them to fire more efficiently.

I included stability in this category not only to make your exercise more efficient but to also aid in injury prevention.  If your smaller stabilizers are not doing their job then your prime movers are likely to take over causing a certain amount of stiffness.  If that made no sense to you then keep this in mind: if you are stiff during your workout you could end up like this guy

Some great muscle activation warm-ups include:

  • Lateral Mini-Band Walks
  • Shoulder-Tap Pushups
  • Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Overall, a proper warm-up should take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on your workout, time, and current abilities.  Your in the gym to move and feel better so a solid base is essential to your overall success and longevity.

Exercise of the Week: Sumo Deadlifts

If you all haven’t been able to tell yet I am a big advocate of lifting heavy things for a set number of reps and thus am an even bigger proponent of the deadlift.  As a strength coach, one of my main jobs is to get people stronger (duh) and there are not many lifts that compare to the deadlift for measuring overall strength.  Starting out though, there may be some people who do not possess the proper flexibility to get into the proper setup for a conventional deadlift.  Also, working with all types of clients I have found that some people are mechanically at a disadvantage from the start due to the relative length of their femurs and/or arms.  In this case I use the sumo deadlift.

The big difference between a conventional deadlift and a sumo deadlift is the stance and more specifically the position of the feet and legs.  Picture a large (very large) half-naked Japanese man setting up to do battle with another very large half naked Japanese man.  Sexy huh?

The Benefits:

  1. Strengthen your back, legs, hips, and forearms.
  2. Grip strength.
  3. Teaches you how to pick up heave objects off the floor without screwing up your back.

The Setup:

  1. Your feet should be positioned wider than shoulder width with your toes pointed out.  I have seen this done multiple ways so you will have to do some experimenting to figure out what works best for you.  I have seen obnoxiously long stance with the toes pointed straight out. I myself prefer a comfortable “reasonably wide” stance with my toes pointed out at about 45 degrees.
  2. NOTE: make sure the bar is close to your shins.
  3. Keep your chest “tall”, get your air and keep your abs braced (as if you were going to get punched in the stomach)
  4. Instead of squatting down, focus on pushing your hips back as far as possible so you can “sit” in the stance.
  5. Keep your shoulder blades back and down (I tell people to visualize putting your shoulder in your back pocket) to engage your lats and activate your thoraco-lumbar fascia to stabilize your spine.
  6. NOTE: you should feel tension in your hammys at this point.
  7. Keep your chin tucked and you should find a spot on the floor about  10-15 feet in front of you and stay focused on it.

The Pull:

  1. Keep your core tight and drive through the heels, pulling the bar with your elbows locked.  Shoulders should still be back.
  2. DO NOT: bring your hips up first!
  3. Your hips and shoulders should rise simultaneously while keeping the bar close to your body.
  4. NOTE: remember to slowly breath out while lifting.  Think: hissing by letting the air out of a tire.
  5. Finish in the lockout position by firing your glutes and getting your hips into extension.  Many people fail here but it is very important.

The Descent:

  1. This part is very important as I see many people finish a great set then finish by bending over at the lumbar spine.
  2. To descend, start at the hips and push your but back (just like in the setup) while maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.
  3. Breaking with your hips rather than your knees (the knees can bend, don’t confuse this) and keeping the bar in contact with your body control the weight back to earth.

A Few Recommendations:

  1. You should pull frequently but only pull heavy once a week or once every other week.
  2. Find and fix your weaknesses whether it is your back, your shoulders, your glutes, or your core.  I wrote an article on this a few months ago.
  3. Go barefoot.  Your body will learn better neurologically and you will get better ankle mobility.  I think barefoot is the way to go but flat soled shoes work just as well.
  4. Get your ass into the picture by doing extra hip extension work such as glute bridges and barbell hip thrusts.
  5. Do speed work such as speed deadlifts or kettlebell swings.

My own deadlift PR stands at 405 lbs and is slowly rising.  If you want to get stronger then I recommend a great program such as 5-3-1, westside barbell, and Eric Cressey’s Maximum Strength which I highly recommend for beginners.

Happy sumo deadlifting!

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