Archives for posts with tag: deadlift

Happy April!

For the first time leaving my house this week, it actually felt like spring. There were birds chirping, sunlight poking it’s beautiful head, and I couldn’t see my breath.

Anyway, I get most of my blog topics when I’m training myself, or reading non-training related stuff. This week, I’ve been accumulating random thoughts that don’t necessarily warrant their own post, so I figured I’d put them together in a “random thoughts” post.

1. The word “toning”

I was reading something, somewhere, by someone about women and strength training. The word ‘toning’ or ‘muscle tone’ came up, and the author deemed it worse than saying Voldemort at Hogwarts. That seems to be a common theme these days. Like any woman who has a goal of ‘toning’ is as incompetent as Tracey Anderson.

Shutup Gwenyth.

What is the big deal? What’s wrong with women wanting to lose fat and gain some muscle? That’s what toning means, even if they don’t know it. What’s more important is the MEANS of women getting the look they want. Are they focusing on larger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, pushups and pullups? Are they focusing on sound nutrition with lots of protein and veggies? Or are they wasting their time doing tricep extensions with 3lb dumbbells followed by a well-rounded breakfast of bagels and cream cheese?

May I be so bold and suggest that the word ‘toning’ is not a swear word? Maybe we can just redefine it and educate our female clients on how to get there.

Let’s start with this: Close grip pushups will help that flab under your arms.

2. Underweight Babies

Most of you know I’m a pre/post natal exercise specialist, so anything I read concerning pregnancy peaks my interest. My latest t-ride read: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers has a whole chapter on stress and reproduction.  It had a very interesting section on underfed mothers and underweight babies:

“If you were a first trimester fetus during [a] famine, that programs you for a greater risk of heart disease, obesity, and an unhealthy cholesterol profile…But this phenomenon also applies to less dramatic situations. Within the normal range of birth weights, the lower the weight of a baby (when adjusted for body length), the greater the rise of those Metabolic syndrome problems in adulthood.”

To summarize, the metabolic system of an underfed baby becomes so efficient at storing energy (aka fat), that it’s more likely to have problems in their adult life, when food is likely to be abundant.

I know that under eating during pregnancy isn’t as common as overeating, but there is something to be said for it. If not, I just found it interesting. It is a fine balance for pregnant women. The general recommendation is to eat for 1.2 people.

ie, if you weigh 125lbs, you should eat about 1950- 2250 calories a day while pregnant.

(125lbs x 1.2 = approximately 150lbs)

(150lbs x 13-15calories/pound/day =1950- 2250 calories/day)

Yeah baby!

3. The Single Arm Dumbbell Fly

I’m not going to lie here… I saw a random member doing this and I was secretly stalking him. (A- if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I’m so creepy.)

After I tried it, what surprised me was the amount of core needed for this exercise. The more I thought about it the more it made sense; you’re lengthening a lever and moving the weight further and further from your center of gravity. Hell yeah your core’s gotta kick in! If you do this exercise with the right weight and range of motion, it’s hard as hell. I added it as a last exercise in my upper body day (after DB chest press, inverted row, DB row, and overhead press.)

I used a weight about half as heavy as my chest press (20lbs and 35lbs, respectively). It’s cool to add at the end because your chest fatigue wont be a limiting factor, and you should feel the entire side of your body tense to keep you from falling off the bench.

3. Single leg deadlift with a box

Speaking of limiting factors, many people have a hard time with single leg deadlifts because they require an enormous amount of balance. This is unfortunate because it’s such a beneficial exercise.

  • Trains the entire posterior line- mostly lats, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as the core
  • In turn, training the glutes prevents injury. Mostly for the knee and low back
  • Obviously, it trains balance and proprioception
  • Evens out leg strength discrepancies
  • Strengthens small muscles and stabilizers of the foot
  • Very knee friendly for those who can’t squat without pain
  • One of the best active hamstring stretches on this side of the Mississippi

When I program this exercise, I usually start people off using kettlebells. Reason being that when the person is in the ‘down’ portion of the movement, they can actually tap the bells to floor to borrow some stability.

However, sometimes people don’t have the flexibility or strength to start with kettlebells, so I searched for a solution to make it easier. And that is simply just add a box.

From t-nation

PS. This picture is from a great glute training article on t-nation. Read it here.

In Closing

Told you it was going to be random. To recap:

-Redefine the word ‘toning.’ It aint so bad

-If you’re preggo, it’s critically important to get the right amount of calories. Even more so important to get your calories from whole and unprocessed foods. Remember the formula:

(Your pre-pregnancy bodyweight x 1.2) = Ylbs

(Ylbs x15/calories per pound per day) =  Calories/day

-If you’re not doing single arm dumbbell flies and single leg deadlifts, you should be.




I bet if you got 50 strength coaches in a room and asked which was better: the squat or the deadlift, you’d get 25 coaches saying squat and 25 coaches saying deadlift.

Mass hysteria would ensue and it would look something like this:

Point being, I bet all would agree that both are vitally important in all strength programs. They are the king of all exercises for performance, health, and even fat loss.

Yeah I’d say he’s pretty lean…

However, I work in a commercial gym, and the LACK of squatting and deadlifting is really unfortunate. In reality, 85% of gym members do not work with a trainer, and I’d venture to say 85% of that 85% perform squats and deadlifts wrong, or don’t do them at all.

I’m not just writing this to be a jerk; I want you to know how to do it, and do it right! Most of the time, if I can get you to set-up properly, the movement will happen easily. In my opinion, external tactical feedback trumps all other forms of cues. It has many fancy names… but I just call it “feeling it.” The amount of times I say “How does it feel?” of “Where do you feel it?” throughout the day is borderline ridiculous. For example, one of my favorite uses for external feedback is using a wall for a side plank:

side plank

It is literally impossible to screw up because you have the wall (aka your “external tactical feedback”) to tell your body where it needs to be.

So how does this apply for squats and deadlifts? Well, you’ll need a box, small hand weights, some val-slides, and something heavy (kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell, small child, etc)

To set up the squat:

  • Place the small hand weights at the edge of the box, slightly wider than hip-width apart
  • Stand with your heels up against the weights
  • With kettlebell or dumbbells held goblet style, sit back and down until your butt touches the box. (It’s there, I promise)
  • Pop your chest out like you own the place and stand up tall

To set up the deadlift:

  • Put your toes/midfoot on the bottom support bar of the box. That way you are automatically on your heels*
  • Place val-slides under your armpits and squeeze the crap out of them.
  • Push your hips back and grab the kettlebell
  • Grab the kettlebell and stand up tall

*For learning purposes only, should your toes be off the ground. Deadlifting can be a very unnatural feeling for beginners, and doing it this way teaches you to keep your weight on your heels. Once you get familiar with the movement and start doing heavier loads, having your feet completely on the ground is optimal for force production. 

Now go squat, ya monkey!

There are two kinds of people in this world…. Men…. and Women.

If you’re the latter of the two, chances are you wouldn’t hate to build a better backside. If you’re the former, chances are you want to be big and strong and up your BAMF factor. Guess what: squats and deadlifts are your fast track to awesome.



Hey folks!

I hope everyone enjoyed the fantastic fall weekend we had. I had my yearly weekend of simultaneous awesomeness/depression enducing activities a.k.a. UMass Homecoming. It was awesome to see a bunch of old friends and spend the day outside, but it makes me miss college immensely.

Ahh.. The Glory Days

But it’s back to the real world (hey… at least I have a kick-ass job now). Last week I hit a 200lb x2 deadlift and it felt awesome. Knock on wood… My back has been feeling great and I’m looking forward to killing it this week for training. This week’s warmup is deadlift inspired. Enjoy!

1. Foam Roll hamstrings, glutes, and lats- Lengthen before you strengthen!

Foam rolling your entire posterior line will set you up for success before you deadlift. You can release any soft tissure restrictions and get your muscles prepped for work.

2. Scapular Pushups – Shoulder girdle warmup, rotator cuff strength, should stabilizer warmup

It’s kind of tough to see in the picture, but you want to get into a good pushup position and focus on isolating your shoulder blades. Pinch them together and push them apart keeping your torso tight and your arms locked. You can even take this elevated or on all 4’s if it’s challenging for you. Having strong shoulder stabilizers is more important than you may think for deadlifting.

3. Cable Pull Throughs- Glute and hamstring activators

Set your cable weight decently heavy, and grab the cable rope between your knees as shown. Sit back as if you were deadlift until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings and glutes. Forcefully stand up straight and lock out into full extension with your hips and knees. Make sure you’re squeezing your glutes to get there.

4. Box jumps- Dynamic movement, plyometric warmup

If you have knee issues, be extra cautious with box jumps, or exclude them completely. However, they can actually help with knee health. If you do them correctly, you learn how to absorb force efficiently, which is very important. Before your jump, sit back to load the hammy’s and squat into your landing. As a cue I give alot in my classes, box jumps should be quiet- no one should hear you land.

Now get deadlifting!!



Monday- Deadlift day!

1A) Deadlift 4×9 (135lbs)

1B) 1/2 kneeling hip flexor stretch

2A) Barbell single leg deadlift 3×5/leg (85lbs)

2B) Pallof Press 2×10/side (30lbs)

3A) Turkish get up 2×1/side (20kg)

3B) KB windmill 3×5/side (16kg)

Tuesday– trying something new: integrating body weight gymnast style core training

1) Tuck hold 3x15s

2) Low L-sit 2x10s

3A) Hanging knee raises 2×8

3B) Handstands- no known measurement (haha!)

4A) Seated straight leg raises 3×5 (with 5 second isometric hold on last rep)

4B) Shoulder dips from bench 3×8

4C) Pushups 3×8 (last set elevated)

5A) Overhead tricep extensions 3×8 (20lbs)

5B) Cable backhand 3×8/side (10lbs)

5C) Face Pulls 3×8 (30lbs)

6A) Reverse prayers 2×12

6B) Anterior prayers 2×12


1A) Deadlift 3×12 (120lbs)

2A) Reverse Lunges 4×10 (85lbs)

3A) Farmers Carry 2x~100ft (24kg/hand)


Light body weight home workout consisted of 1 minute work 20 seconds rest for 5 rounds:

1) Deadbugs

2) Jumping Jacks

3) Plank

4) Reverse lunges

5) Squat/press


1A) Deadlift 10×3 (155lbs)

1B) Pushups 10×3

1C) 1/2 kneeling hip flexor stretch

2A) Glute bridges 4×6 + eccentric lowers (185lbs)

2B) Single leg Deadlifts 3×5/leg (85lbs)

2C) Bent over rows 3×5/arm (25lbs)

For the few months after my spasm, my back pain was minimal. It didn’t interrupt my everyday life; the only way I can describe it was that it just didn’t feel right. It was annoying, and I’ve spent a lot of time (and not to mention mula) rehabbing.

I haven’t been posting my training logs lately because well… they’re nothing to write home about. But I’ve been seeing my PT for 3 weeks now and I think it’s safe to say… I’M BACK! After two heavy training days this week and last I’ve self reported soreness in my glutes and hamstrings (and not my back). BOOYEAH. I’m back baby.

Training Log:

Warm up: foam roll, corrective exercise (hip ab/adduction activation), supine heel taps, supine overhead leg slides, light goblet squats, face-to-wall squats, lunge +reach progressions (prescribed by my PT), and box jumps. Admittedly, this warm up took about a half hour. I stole this workout from Stevie.

Deadlift- (warm up sets prior) 3×4…135lbs

Front loaded reverse barbell lunges 4×6/leg… 75lbs

Farmers carry 3x175ft… 24kg (about 53lbs per hand)

Inverted Row (smith machine) 3×6

I had a killer session yesterday. I left feeling great… and even better today. I’m one of those strange people that like feeling sore. Getting the booty sore is an accomplishment!