Essential Fundamental Movements: The Deadlift and Squat

Posted September 24, 2017

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Earlier this month we hosted two free seminars focused on the fundamentals of two principle weightlifting movements: the deadlift and the squat. Iron Squad Trainer Sean Manseau taught our Fundamentals of the Deadlift seminar while Strength Squad Trainer Ron Moodey led the Fundamentals of the Squat seminar.

After each seminar, we caught up with both Ron and Sean to see what pointers they had for folks trying to maximize their gains from both movements.

“People tend to squat forward into their knees, and need help to learn to sit back and load up the hips – that’s where the squat is supposed to be,” Ron said. “Most people also need to learn how to use breathing to get a truly tight brace for holding a heavy load safely on the spine.”

Many weight-trainers include the barbell squat in their routines as a movement to build their legs and glutes. However, the barbell squat challenges more than just those two muscle groups. Ron explained that while squatting, your entire core is engaged as it stabilizes the the weight and your posterior chain (lower back, glutes, and hamstrings) is involved as well. This multi-muscle activation fires your metabolism which kicks calorie-burning into action.

On the other hand is another essential functional movement, the deadlift. The deadlift fires your posterior chain and requires a mind-muscle connection like no other, as everything from your forearms to your neck, core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are engaged. While lower back pain affects more people every day, the deadlift becomes more essential as a method to correct muscle imbalances and establish stability and strength.

“Most people misunderstand the mechanics of the deadlift,” Sean said. “It’s not a matter of pulling with the lower back, but locking the spine in a neutral position and driving up the hips. This is a subtle but crucial distinction. Basically, if you want to get strong, learn to deadlift correctly.”

Sean is a master trainer whose book By The Numbers dives into all the technical details of strength training and includes a Deadlift Teaching Script, which is often used here at Rival to walk people through the mechanics of the lift.

Sean starts folks out by gripping wooden dowels or piece of PVC pipe at a thumb’s-length outside of their thighs, feet positioned between hip and shoulder width, and weight evenly distributed. He has trainees brace their core and pack their shoulders, and then “snap” the pipe by externally rotating their arms. This is what he calls Deadlift Position 3 or DL 3.

Deadlift Position 2 (DL 2) begins with the trainee unlocking their knees and hinging at the hips, letting the bar slide down the thighs and hips to hinge, until the bar is in front of the kneecaps and shins vertical to the ground.

From here, the descent into Deadlift Position 1 (DL 1) begins with the trainee sinking into their hips and pushing the knees out while lowering the bar to mid-shin. This places tension on the hamstrings, focuses the body weight pressed into heels, and the bar against the shins. While in this position, the back should remain flat and arms straight.

All in all, when it comes to strength training, no movement should be performed without establishing proper form first. Here at Rival, our trainers put form before all else and are always down to give a helping hand.

Those interested in improving their deadlift or squat form should stop by the front desk to borrow a trainer during their next workout.

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