Ladies First

That is a video of my friend Antoinette deadlifting 250 for a single. A couple of weeks ago she e-mailed me telling me that her deadlift PR was 230 for a double, so 250 ain’t too shabby (she did it after being sick for two weeks too). I think Antoinette’s video has good timing for two reasons; it dispels some myths about girls who lift and let’s us have a talk about lifting mechanics.

Girls and Lifting
I’ve written about this before, but it’s still difficult to convince girls that lifting is not going to make them “bulky” or “big”. On one hand, it sounds ridiculous to the informed, but on the other hand, the strongest women are also the biggest women. As with men, the strongest lifters get the most publicity, so it’s natural for the average gal to see the bigger gals lifting. What they don’t see are all of the other weight classes lifting either, and these girls are usually in great aesthetic shape (like the gals here).

Girls always want to be “toned”. I don’t know what the hell the definition for “toned” is, but it can be deciphered as “I want less body fat and although I don’t know it yet, I’ll need some muscle underneath it to look how I want to.” Even girls who participated in sports in high school grow soft after not doing anything athletic for a while, and thus they don’t have much decent muscle mass. That’s just how the body works

Enter barbell training. Squatting, pressing, and deadlifting helps girls get stronger (which is never a bad thing) as well as developing a nice, shapely body (i.e. the appropriately curvy body they are wanting anyway). Nobody wants to have a flat butt, right?

Olympian weightlifter Melanie Roach (center) is a good lookin' 53kg lifter

Aside from the aesthetic results of lifting, girls are usually thrilled with the improvement that they can make with their strength, enjoy the challenge, and a few will go onto compete. Competing isn’t just a man’s realm; anybody can benefit from preparing for a contest and performing in a structured and high adrenaline environment.

In this instance, Antoinette picked up lifting and has a Paleo-type diet, and she has leaned out, dropped bodyfat, and gained muscle. She told that me that her friends think that she has lost weight, and then she tells them, “No, I’ve gained about 15 pounds, but lost fat and inches and my pants are falling off.” Sounds like crazy talk, but hopefully we can make it sane. Nice job, Antoinette.

Pulling Mechanics
Ah, now that we got that out of the way, we can scrutinize her lift. It’s important to note that this is a max or near maximal attempt for Antoinette. Form is not only expected to break down, but it should if you’re doing a maximal rep. As Rippetoe always says, if you are able to do it with perfect form, then the weight isn’t heavy enough and it isn’t your max. With that being said, I’m not sure how Antoinette lifts on her training sets because I don’t coach her (so I don’t know if this form fault is habitual or appearing on the max).

You can see that she has a good starting position (chest squeezed up correctly, bar underneath the scapula, bar over midfoot, etc.), but the first thing that happens as she pulls the bar off the ground is she loses tightness by raising her butt a little bit. This angles her chest down which helps round her lower and upper back round as a result. If your butt raises as you pull off the floor, then your knees extend just a little bit. This is a problem for two reasons:

1.Your quadriceps are the muscles that extend the knees, and if the knees extend and the bar doesn’t move up, then the quads haven’t done any work on the bar. This means that you are removing them from helping, and lifting with less muscles isn’t as fun..
2. The hamstrings are the muscles that flex the knee and extend the hip. They attach up under the butt cheek, and when your knees do their job correctly (in this case, correct would mean not extending early like they are here to help lift the bar) then the hamstrings would stay tight, and that tightness helps hold the back angle in place. Antoinette’s butt raises because her hamstrings do not maintain tension, and then the quadriceps don’t help the bar off the floor. This means that the low back will carry the brunt of the load if the bar is going to be lifted in this mechanically disadvantageous angle. It’s important to note that if you’re in a meet situation, bad form is not a sign that you should just stop the lift, and she does a good job of continuing to pull the bar.

Now here’s how we can improve in the short-term.

A good concept to think in Antoinette’s situation is “push the bar away from the floor with your feet”. She’ll set her back angle by squeezing her chest up like normal, and then she’ll think about pushing the floor away with her legs to eliminate the butt raising first. The simple, short cue is “push the floor away” (which is what she could think about or told right before the lift). This cue does a good job of not getting into the minutia of mechanics (which confuses the majority of lifters — or at least confuses their body), and gives the lifter a vague concept to think about and their body will usually get it right. I don’t take credit for it, I learned it from observing Rip (who is good at creating conceptual based cues to not confuse the lifter with little details – a necessary skill for a good coach).

Alas! Not all cues will work with all lifters. People think differently, learn differently, conceptualize differently, and know how to move their body differently. I take all of these variables (and tons more) into account when I coach to figure out what I say next to a lifter. In Antoinette’s case, if we stick with cuing her knees, we could try another cue. The next cue could be “make your knees go back as the bar comes off the floor”. This would make the knees extend off the floor appropriately, and the short, simple version is “knees go back”. I like the first cue better for a few reasons, namely because it simplifies and doesn’t direct the lifter’s attention to one little detail.

If those cues didn’t work, there are plenty of other things to try. I was cuing her knees here, but I could also cue her butt or shoulders since they are different points in the system. As with all things, I use the method that works the highest percentage of the time, and then if it doesn’t work, I figure something else out. It’s like a little puzzle waiting to be solved, but it’s a puzzle that the lifter cannot solve on their own (only a few can). If you’re shitting your pants worrying about what you may be doing when you deadlift (or squat, or press, or snatch, or clean), then you should find a good coach to help you out. There is no substitute for a good coach.

Andy Bolton Raw Dogs It

Andy Bolton is still kicking ass, and now he’s doing it RAWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!111!~`1`121J`3412R8I09SADJLKSDAJF

Ahem…Bolton competed at the BPC Push/Pull competition. He benched 280kg/617lbs just because, and then walked out and smoked the piss out of a 432.5kg/953lbs deadlift…just because.

Well, not “just because”, and you can read why here.

I went to this comp not really knowing what i would be able to do,after only 6 deadlift workouts since my knee surgery in november 2009 i went there in my mind would have been happy with 900 thats why i did not use a suit i wanted to hold it back and not get hurt again,so anyway warm ups went well up to 660lb then my opener 770 then to mid 8s after this it felt so so light so i wanted pull more than anybody else out there with no suit and it felt easy

Andy followed that statement up with a challenge for anybody to meet him at the 2011 Andy Bolton Deadlift Challenge, if the challengers were “up to it”. I wonder if Konstantinovs will be there? He has pulled 939 raw, although it was much more difficult than Bolton (and that was about a year ago):

Double overhand hook grip deadlifts?

Hey man,

After seeing Chris pull, I think a lot of us have come to feel that there is a certain coolness to pulling heavy deadlifts with a double overhand hook grip. This is part of the reason why Chris’s deadlifts are so awesome, other than the fact that he collectively lifts more than a ton with his 5rm deadlift. There is something about possessing the grip strength to pull that kind of weight double overhand hook grip that, to me at least, equates to being a man, you know?

Hands strong enough to crush a moderately sized Asian? 70s big.

This post highlights another double overhand hook grip deadlifter, Mikhail Kokylaev. Kokylaev competes as a strongman, powerlifter, and weightlifter, and possesses a great diversity of athletic skills and types of strength. The video below displays his insanely strong pulling in addition to his equally insane grip.

If you go to his youtube page, you can see his other videos, and he’s pretty much a loose cannon, he’s just out of control. My favorites are his 200k push press triple and the 150k muscle snatch in an exhibition vid that a barbell club in the UK posted of him.

While having a ridiculously strong grip is appealing, it’s probably not wise to let the pursuit of great grip strength overshadow the primary goal of becoming strong, that is, through squats, presses, and pulling. I like to warm up with a double overhand hook grip as much as I can for all my pulling movements, usually up to my last warm up set, but Justin is always encouraging me, in the nicest possible way of course, to be smart about my grip and to not let my quest to be as cool as Chris overshadow my quest to be as strong as Brent Kim can possibly be.

Hopefully in the next article, Justin will weigh in on grip strength and how it relates to 70s big. If you have any questions on the topic, share them in the comments.

I’ve got a couple questions, actually:

– What’s the method of rectification for a guy trying to get 70s big whose grip is the limiting factor in his deadlifts/haltings/rack pulls?

– There’s a subculture in lifting, comparable to the “no belts” subculture, which espouses the ideal of never using straps for any exercise. Thoughts on straps in training?

– A while ago at a cookout at the WFAC, Gant recommended Kroc rows to me for, among other things, grip strength. Since Gant suggested I try them, and because Matt Kroczaleski does them and has a lot of super sweet vids on youtube of him doing them, I have of course been doing Kroc rows semi-religiously, sometimes without a shirt on. Thoughts on accessory exercises such as these? Perhaps thoughts on training without a shirt on?

Video Quickie

“I never used ammonia, it always pissed me off”

I’m a bit late posting because we got in late last night from doing a barbell seminar in Denver — a guy needs sleep, ok?

It’s a lot of fun having friends who are strong, and my good friend AC is one of those people who is pain-in-the-ass strong. He’s on the brink of plateauing in his linear progression. Yesterday he squatted 450 for three sets of five, pressed 212 for three sets of five, and a few weeks ago deadlifted 500 for five…all at a bodyweight of 205. Oh, and he’s 20 years old.

Since he has pretty much linearly progressed his deadlift, I gave him the green light to work up to a 1RM yesterday. Keep in mind that he squatted and pressed the previously mentioned numbers before pulling this.

A.C. Max Out from A.C. on Vimeo.

He missed 575 at the knees after that last attempt. AC will start competing in powerlifting and eventually weightlifting. He’s also a pretty good coach, so if you’re in the Atlanta area and want some coaching, e-mail him. You can also find him in south Georgia when he’s at school.

AC is also the one who edits the Rippetoe interview videos, and here is part 7 of the 70’s Big Interview with Rip:

70’s Big Presents: Mark Rippetoe Interview Pt. 7 from 70s Big on Vimeo.