One of my guys, Joe, has very powerful quads but has had difficulty getting them engaged to initiate his pulls from the floor. He found an effective way to train this technique issue: box deadlifts.
When used for squats, the box can be used in a couple of different ways:
- Touch and Go: For touch and goes the box is simply used as an indicator that you’ve squatted to the desired depth. Once you feel the box under your glutes, reverse directions and lift the weight.
- Box Squats: Squat to the box and come to a complete stop before ascending. Starting from a dead stop helps you build more explosive power into the concentric portion of your squat.
Joe’s technique is a deadlift touch and go. He sits back down to the box, using it to find the right hip depth*. More importantly, he uses the box as a queue to reverse direction. Using this queue, he comes to a complete stop and allows a brief pause before beginning the pull. This lets him focus on driving down through the heels and engage the quads along with the glutes and hams to initiate a powerful pull. His hips, shoulders and the bar all initially rise explosively at the same rate – the hips do not shoot up leaving his posterior chain to do all the work.
* Every individual has different body mechanics, strengths and weaknesses. Proper hip depth will vary by individual, and is beyond the scope of this discussion.
“By the Numbers!” I heard my Air Force TI (Training Instructor) shout that more times than I cared to count during basic training. Marching maneuvers follow a set tempo, and ‘by the numbers’ is a reminder that each step in a maneuver is to be done to a set order and at a specific pace.
That is how I lift. Every movement in the lift is for a set purpose, and completed in a steady tempo. Steps in lifts aren’t be rushed, and unnecessary delays in setup are eliminated. Take the deadlift for example:
Taking too much time to set up your deadlift leaves you thinking about it. Nothing good can come from overthinking a deadlift. You will talk yourself out of the lift. If you spend more time than it takes to stop and reverse direction at the bottom of the deadlift you are wasting air (or you didn’t get your air before dropping your hips and therefore you do not have enough air in your lungs). By the time you step up to the bar you shouldn’t have to think about your technique, you know how to lift, it should come naturally.
If, on the other hand, you rush your technique you are much more likely to start your lift out of position.
Deadlifting by the numbers goes a little something like this:
- For the first rep, rotate at the hips keeping your knees relatively straight and grip the bar. For subsequent reps, lower the bar by rotating at the hips and keeping your knees relatively straight.
- Get ready for your pull by tightening your upper back and taking a deep breath of air into your lungs and abdomen.
- Drop into the starting position. Sit back by rotating around your knees to drop your hips down and bring your chest up.
- Come to a complete stop (like the ‘pause’ on your chest during the bench to prevent bouncing), and begin the pull. Your quads should fire strongly allowing your hips, shoulders, and the bar to come up at the same rate.
By the numbers – give it a shot. Make your lifts more deliberate and efficient!