DEAD LIFT MECHANICS and the ‘BLOODY SHIN PROBLEM’ — (reprint from Facebook.com/FunctionalAnatomySeminars)
I posted this on Facebook.com/FunctionalAnatomySeminars last week…If you enjoy the content at FunctionalAnatomyBLOG.com you are really missing out on some great ‘stuff’ on our other social media outlets which most of the time do not cross over here to the blog. For those interested please check them out:
DEAD LIFT MECHANICS and the ‘BLOODY SHIN PROBLEM’
I tweeted this yesterday after seeing someone proudly post a picture of his shins with blood painting his anterior shins. Sign of a good Dead Lift workout right? Wrong. It can more accurately be described as a sign of poor lift mechanics.
I have to admit that early on in my ‘lifting days’ I had the same problem; one that ‘forced’ me to wear long pants or high socks during dead lift days. Then I began to look at the mechanics of the lift (as well as do some reading – see M. Rippetoe’s work) and suddenly, while the weight began to increase, my lower back ‘tightness,’ began to decrease…as did the bleeding crime scene formally known as my shins. All it took really was a single sentence/concept/mantra that echo’s in my mind when performing the lift:
“First half legs dominate – Second half hips & back dominates”
The sentence simply means that during the first portion of the lift, in order to clear the knees you HAVE to predominately focus on using the legs to press the weight up whilst the spine-thigh-hip angle stays relatively the same as when you started (I say relatively because as you straighten the legs you will inevitably begin some lumbar extension). Once the knees are cleared, then the emphasis shifts to extending the hips, which would mean the spinal erectors have to contract to keep the spine neutral……that’s right, the dead lift works low back muscles. “But what about spinal penalty…I’m scared…if my back muscles get sore that means I have ‘low back pain’….I want my bird dogs and cat camels” you might say. To which I will reply “please leave immediately…and read my blog post:
How do we know that these mechanics are sound? Because the number one goal in performing a good dead lift is keeping a straight bar path (see figure 4). In order to do so, you must clear the knees (or else you will swing the bar forward in order to do so thus breaking the line path)….it doesn’t matter if you scrape your shins to the bone…your knees must be cleared by using the above principle or your line breaks.
Take a look at the diagram: Fig 1 shows the proper approach to the bar – bar over mid foot. Fig 2 shows the proper shin placement – with the bar over the mid foot, squat down to grasp it…this will place your shins in direct contact with the bar. Fig 3 is the starting position – Now imagine that the lifter begins the lift by simultaneously extending the hips and knees (a cue that is used by many “coaches”) while trying to keep a straight bar path…what happens? Well, if the bar was touching the shins from the get go…initiating hip extension will mean that you are pushing the bar against the tibia…continue with hip extension and you will scrape the skin off of it, while at the same time forcing a curve in the bar path = increasing the moment arm = unnecessarily increasing spinal penalty = pain.
Now imagine that you hold your spinal position, initiate with predominantly knee extension = knees go backwards. Clear the knees as the percentage of hip extension gradually increases (extend at the hips) = hips go forward. The result is you have spared the shins, cleared the knees, kept the bar path straight, and minimized the moment arm = the end of bloody shins, long pants, and stupid looking socks from the 70’s!