Q&A – 4

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bohdi asks:

I have a question that doesn’t really apply to the podcast though, but rather dead lifting.

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A lot of what I’ve read seems to make the case for a relatively narrow stance for the conventional dead lift due to mechanical advantages and so on. Due to some mobility issues I began dead lifting with a narrower stance (roughly 6 inches in between feet) because it felt more comfortable to get down and also because my own research seemed to advocate for the narrower stance. Thanks to you, Justin, my mobility is greatly improving and I feel almost back to normal with my previous wider stance (feet approx. just outside shoulder width). I pulled an easy 445# yesterday with the wider stance and 480# is my current PR before the stance/mobility issues. I’m curious, since I seem to be going against what most consider an ideal stance, is this just a product of my specific body type leverages and I don’t need to worry, or is there something else going on that I’m doing wrong and I’m trying to counteract other inefficiencies. My short term goal is to get over 500# in the 181 class so I have a little ways to go but I want to make sure the basic efficacy of the lift is solid. The only other noteworthy aspect is that my weak point has always been off the floor, and the wider stance seems to help. Lockout has never seemed to be an issue. Thanks.

TL;DR — He wants to know how a narrow stance would be more beneficial in the deadlift.

Dear bohdi,

A narrow stance on the deadlift is more efficient and important, and is usually the one thing that most people can correct to improve their deadlift. The ideal stance is best summarized as “hip width”, which is quite obviously more narrow than “shoulder width” (a typical squat stance, which is also usually too wide in most people). This will be no more than ten inches for most people. I measured my stance, and it’s nine inches from heel to heel. Don’t worry about the specific measurement; just use a hip-width stance.

First, the narrow stance can improve the set up. If the stance is more narrow, then the knees can be shoved out more compared to a wider stance. Shoving the knees out more is external rotation, and that means there is more external rotation at the hip with the narrow stance when your knees are touching the arms. More external rotation will do two things: 1) it will contract the external rotators more and subsequently use them to maintain tightness around the hip and to apply force and 2) externally rotating will bring the femur away from the ASIS, or hip bone, so that there is no, or less, hip impingement. Less hip impingment will allow you to put the lumbar spine into extension more effectively. See Mark Rippetoe’s “Active Hip” article if you’re confused. This externally rotated position with a narrow stance utilizes the muscluature of the quadriceps and hamstrings much better than a wider stance, improving the overall efficiency of the lift.

Secondly, the narrow stance will allow for a more narrow grip. The grip should be close enough so that at lockout, the hands are on each side of the legs. A more narrow grip will shorten the distance that the bar has to be pulled. If you’re confused, then consider deadlifting with a snatch grip; the bar will have to travel a greater distance due to the wide grip. Having a narrow grip will shorten this distance, yet it will also allow the chest to be squeezed up more than if there was a wider grip. If you’re confused, observe back angle changes when placing your hands on the inside of the collar of the bar compared to putting your hands on the inside rings (where the knurling starts). The back angle will be more vertical, and thus more efficient, with the narrow grip.

These are two compelling points for using a hip-width stance on the deadlift, and these are two corrections I have to make in every workshop I’ve ever done. Along with these corrections, the lifter just needs to drag the bar up their legs and they will achieve a B grade deadlift. An A is awarded to sub-maximal lifts when the back is not unlocked and the hamstrings do their job of maintaining the angle off the floor and extending the hips for the lockout.

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