Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Deadlift: Part II


When a weightlifter does either a deadlift or a pull, the movement is being done to aid in pulling strength.  This pulling strength will be used in the snatch or clean, so it makes sense to do either the pull or deadlift with a movement as similar to the competitive lifts as possible.  The more deviation from line of pull, speed, and rhythm of the snatch or clean there is, the less the strength gained will carry over to the snatch or clean.

In weightlifting athletes often call this movement a pull when the load it is based off of a max snatch or clean and call it a deadlift when it is based off of the maximum weight that can be moved from the floor to standing erect.  Usually when the movement is called a pull more attention is paid to following the movement patterns of the clean and snatch, and when the movement is called a deadlift the main goal is just to get the weight to lockout.  I am going to call these clean deadlifts or snatch deadlifts although I prefer the line of pull, speed, and rhythm that follow the snatch or clean as closely as possible.

The problem with basing the load off the snatch or clean is that using the same percentage of the snatch can give one athlete a training session that is almost impossible to complete, and another a load that is too light to lead to any adaptation at all.   For an efficient lifter a load based on a high percentage of the snatch might be too heavy while for a beginner just learning the lifts the same percentage based load will almost certainly be too light.  I don’t like the idea of basing the training of one lift off of a different lift, even if they are related.  No one would base their bench press training off of their results in the military press, even though they are related.  They use similar muscle groups, and they both use the pressing motion, but even so basing the training of one on result in the other would still not be ideal.

Many lifters consider the pull or deadlift to be useful for both strength and technique.  This sounds good.  But it can mean that trying to keep the movement as close to the competition lift as possible means it is never done with enough load to increase strength, while by its very nature it will never mimic an actual snatch or clean well enough to help improve technique.  I have always believed that the snatch is the only thing that makes you better at the snatch, and the clean is the only thing that makes you better at the clean.  Why not use the snatch and clean for technique work for the snatch and clean, and program the deadlift like a strength exercise and base your load off of the snatch and clean deadlift?

That does not mean that you cannot do them as closely to the movement pattern you use in the snatch and clean as possible.  The snatch or clean deadlift should start with the hips in the same position as the competition lift with the hips and shoulders rising at the same rate just like they do in the competition lifts.  The deadlifts should be pulled quickly, with a bar speed as close to the snatch or clean as possible.  The bar won’t move as fast with heavy weight, but you should try.

When the deadlift is programmed like the strength exercise that it is, it is harder to recover from than a pull with a much lighter load.  Because of this it would be very difficult to do 5-6 days a week like many athletes program for pull.  One or two days a week is probably tops for most.  It is also hard to use as many reps as are normally used for an exercise like the squat.  Deadlifts also have to be lightened or eliminated when peaking for a competition.  Lowering the load to something close to what you can snatch or clean a few weeks out is smart and many athletes will want to eliminate them altogether the last week or severely curtail the volume.








Using the deadlift for pulling strength


Most weightlifters do lots and lots of snatches and cleans.  After all, you have to practice to be good at your sport, and cleans and snatches are the sport.  But many lifters do even more snatch and clean pulls.  I have never been a big fan of pulls.  To me it seems as though they take out the most important part of the movement, the timing of that moment when you cease to pull up on the bar and begin to pull yourself under.  Timing it correctly and the speed at which you can switch off the muscles of your legs and hips and switch on the traps, shoulders, and arms to pull yourself under is what makes a great snatch or clean, and pulls leave that part out.  Many lifters believe they are doing pulls for strength, and I would agree that they do improve strength in the pull.  But I believe there is a better way.  We all know that the signal to the muscles to grow stronger is based on muscle tension, and tension is highest when moving a heavy weight.  This sounds like a deadlift to me.

Many coaches will insist that the motor patters re-enforced by the pull done with a weight that is near to the weight used on the snatch or clean is so important that replacing pulls with deadlifts will never be a good strategy.  But what is to guarantee that the snatch or clean deadlift will not be done with a motor pattern that is very similar to the snatch or clean?  I certainly prefer them to be done that way.  You can even do a double knee bend if you want, and add an explosive shrug at the top.  At that point, the ONLY difference is the load and the bar speed.  But if the bar speed will only be significantly different if the load is significantly different, and if the load is that different, wouldn’t that mean that the snatch pulls were just as ineffective at building strength as the deadlifts are for building good motor patterns?

I believe every athlete should use the best tool for the job.  For building good motor patterns in the snatch nothing is as effective as snatching.  And for building strength in the snatch pull, nothing is as effective as snatch deadlifts done with weights based not off the snatch, but based off the capabilities in the snatch deadlift.

I prefer lifters to follow the motor patterns of the competition lifts as closely as possible.  That means starting with an extended spine and hips in the same place they would be in for a snatch or clean, and making sure the hips and shoulders rise at the same rate if possible.  A double knee bend is great if you are able, as is a shrug at the top.  But if an athlete is doing 5 sets of 2 with 90% and on the second rep of the 4th and 5th set the spine rounds, or a double knee bend is not possible I would not want them to stop the set or the workout.  The reason you are doing the exercise has to be remembered, and the purpose of the exercise has to be kept in mind, and the purpose is to develop pulling strength.  Many lifters (and coaches) get caught up in the development of skill.  They concentrate on that aspect so much that they forget that weightlifting is a strength sport.