Strength Coach Podcast

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Strength Coach Podcast

I was recently interviewed by Anthony Renna for Strength Coach Podcast #6 – and there is also some good Q&A with Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, and Jamie Harvie of Perform Better. Check it out HERE.

New Article

I had a new article published at T-Nation last week. For those who missed it:

What I Learned in 2007


: Are partial deadlifts (rack pulls) supposed to work your lower back harder than regular deadlifts? The reason I ask is that my lower back tends to be more sore when I do rack pulls; does it necessarily mean that my form is bad? Or, could it be that my lower back is weak?

: No; they don’t hit the lower back harder in a relative (to the glutes and hamstrings) sense, but absolutely, sure. Assuming a pin setting close to the knees, rack pulls allow you to use more weight – so they’ll definitely hit the upper back and grip harder.  Like a regular deadlift, you still need to transfer force from the lower to upper body. However, the fact that your form falters with added load even with a reduction in range of motion tells me that the force transfer side of things is where you falter.

In reality, lower backs are rarely weak; most guys overuse them.  Research has shown that lower back injury risk is positively associated with lumbar spine range of motion. The more your lower back moves, the more likely it is to get hurt.

My sense is that it’s multidirectional lumbar spine instability that only gets better with:

a) avoiding lumbar flexion and rotation, especially under load

b) training under PROGRESSIVELY heavier loads, meaning that you don’t attempt a weight you can’t lift in perfect form

c) keep focusing on anti-rotator/anti-sagittal-plane-motion training – side bridges, pallof presses, kneeling cable chops, bar rollouts, etc

d) optimizing range of motion at the hips and thoracic spine

Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman, Mike Boyle, and I have written quite a bit about strategies “C” and “D.”

“B,” however, might be the one issue that nobody seems to cover, so I thought I’d toss out an analogy in this regard. Just think of what I’m doing with my pro pitchers right now. Most report to spring training at the end of February or early March.

Right now, they’re all throwing bullpens (2x/week) at 75-80% intensity with only 30-35 throws a session (mostly fastballs, just a few change-ups, and no breaking pitches).  Meanwhile, they’re just doing some long tossing on three “off-days” per week to help get their arms back in shape gradually and facilitate recovery.

During these bullpens, they take their time between pitches. The idea is technical perfection and precision.The guys won’t hesitate to talk mechanics (or watch videos of the previous pitches) for a minute or two between throws.  Apparently, they sometimes spend this time conspiring on how to throw fastballs at their strength coach while he tries to get videos for them, too.

How do you think their mechanics would improve with going out there and throwing 90mph+ every day from the get-go? It probably wouldn’t do much, and chances are that they’d chew up a shoulder, elbow, lower back, or knee in the process – either from faulty mechanics, excessive loading of tissues too early, or a combination of the two.

Now, why should improving deadlift technique be any different? As your “bullpen,” you do some technique work in the 75-80% range and keep it picture-perfect, adding 5-10 pounds a week.

Meanwhile, as your “long tossing sessions,” you do your assistance work (outlined above) and possibly some very light technique work to groove the movement pattern and facilitate blood flow.  Over time, these strategies bump that lift up.  Grinding against circa-maximal weights every week with poor technique won’t get you anywhere except injured.

See you next week.