In this episode, I speak with the grandfather of barbell training, Mark Rippetoe, who has given us many a great things, including books that everyone should read, Starting Strength and Practical Programming.
I’m a fan of Mark and his work, of course, because nobody has done more to promote, teach, and defend barbell training than Rip, and also because of his peppery personality, which always makes for a fun conversation.
This time around, we talk about the deadlift and its many subtleties and variations.
There are a number of factors that ultimately determine how well you can deadlift that are out of your control—your limb lengths, bone structure, height, and so forth—but there are also many things that you can control, like your technique, tools, and training methods, and these are what you’re going to learn about in this podcast with Mark.
Whether you’re new to the deadlift or trying add a few more pounds to your powerlifting totals, I think you’re going to find today’s talk helpful, because we discuss a number of common questions like…
- Should you sumo, trap-bar, or conventional deadlift?
- Should you deadlift with a mixed grip, hook grip, or double-overhand grip?
- Should you use a belt?
- Should you round your upper back?
- What are the best cues?
The bottom line is by the end of this interview, you’re going to know more about deadlifting than 90% of the people in your gym, including the trainers.
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
6:02 – What is the starting strength method?
8:32 – What do you think of pulling with a rounded back?
12:37 – What are your thoughts on sumo, conventional, and trap bar?
19:28 – Can you lift more with sumo?
24:53 – What is the trap bar deadlift?
27:47 – Does the sumo deadlift use the quads more?
31:25 – What type of deadlift do you recommend for people with preexisting conditions.
40:15 – What are your thoughts on mix grip, hook grip, and double overhand grip?
41:32 – What is the supine grip?
47:47 – What are your thoughts on deadlifting shoes?
49:33 – What type of deadlifting shoes do you recommend?
55:07 – What are your thoughts on deadlift belts?
1:06:06 – Where can people find you and your work?
Mike : [00:00:22] Hey, everybody, Mike Matthews here from Muscle For Life and Legion Athletics. And in this episode, I speak with the grandfather of barbell training, Mark Rippetoe, who has given us many great things, including books that everyone should read. If you haven’t read them already, Starting Strength and Practical Programming.
Now, as you probably know, I am a fan of Mark’s and I’m a fan of his work because nobody really has done more to promote, teach, and defend barbell training than good old Rip and also because he has a peppery personality, which always makes for a fun conversation. And this time around, we talk about the deadlift and its many subtleties and many variations.
Now there are a number of factors that ultimately determine how well you can deadlift that are just out of your control, like your limb lengths, your bone structure, your height, and so forth. However, there are also many things that you can control, like your technique, your tools, and your training methods. And these are the things that you’re going to learn about in today’s podcast.
So whether you are brand new to the deadlift or are simply trying to add a few more pounds to your powerlifting totals, I think you’re going to find today’s talk helpful because in it, Mark and I discuss a number of common questions like: should you sumo trap bar or conventional deadlift, should you deadlift with a mixed grip, hook, grip or double overhand grip, should you use straps, should you use a belt, can you round your upper back, not your lower back, but your upper back, and what are some helpful cues for better deadlifting?
So the bottom line is by the end of this interview, you are going to know more about the deadlift than probably 95 percent of the people in your gym, including the trainers.
Mike : [00:03:54] Mr. Mark Rippetoe back again, thanks for taking the time, my friend.
Mark : [00:03:57] Hi Mike, good to be here, man.
Mike : [00:03:59] I still have abs, you don’t. We can get that out of the way.
Mark : [00:04:02] That’s fine with me, what do I do have to do with – I’m 62 I don’t care about abs.
Mike : [00:04:07] I’m actually jealous you don’t have to care. I actually do have to care.
Mark : [00:04:09] I don’t care. You know, my belly doesn’t seem to be growing very fast. I still deadlift 500 at the age of 62 though, so, you know, I’ve just learned to be satisfied with things.
Mike : [00:04:23] That’s pretty nice, actually. That’s a good lift. Well, that’s the Segway into today’s talk. I wanted to pick your brain on the deadlift, on your favorite exercise. That is your favorite exercise, right?
Mark : [00:04:33] Well, it’s – I don’t know that I can – I don’t really have a favorite exercise anymore. Really I hate all of them. [Laughing] I’ve always been better at pulling the bar off the floor than when I was a competitor than any of the other lifts that were required of me as a powerlifter. Never been a good bench presser.
Mike : [00:04:55] Do you have long arms?
Mark : [00:04:57] No, I’m of average anthropology. I’m exactly what you’re supposed to look like to be a good powerlifter, except that I just wasn’t. But I’ve always been able to pull the bar off the floor. Now, the interesting thing about that really is that back in the 80’s when I was competing, no one that I am aware of and that I was aware of at the time, certainly, and to this day, I have never run into a satisfying mechanical explanation of how the deadlift took place and what to actually do once you grab the bar to pull it off the floor more effectively.
So I just went up to the bar and pulled on it without seeing the patterns. And as far as I know, we’re about the only people that have ever actually analyzed the pull in all of its forms, the deadlift, the clean, the snatch, any other kind of pull, and determined what the mechanics of the most efficient pool were, and therefore what the instructions for doing it the most correctly would be. I think we’ve gotten that down.
Mike : [00:06:08] And for anybody listening, I’d say just pick up Starting Strength. I don’t think we need to get into all the details of that here.
Mark : [00:06:15] Oh it’s been hashed out pretty thoroughly in the book and on our videos and everything else, and the 10-second version of it is: the bar has to be over the middle of your foot and it has to go up in as vertical a line as you can make it go. And if you position your body to cause that to happen, then your deadlift will be efficient.
If you don’t position your body to cause that to happen, you are leaving pounds on the bar. Look it up. I mean, we’ve talked about it at length and I think that our analysis has yet to be refuted. I haven’t seen a refutation of it anyway.
Mike : [00:06:52] Yeah, and practically speaking, I mean, it works for everybody listening, that’s all you need to get everything that you want to get out of the deadlift. I mean, obviously, the caveat of not letting your lower back – don’t do it like a scared cat, but …
Mark : [00:07:06] Yeah, don’t do it wrong.
Mike : [00:07:07] Yeah. Just doing it right, that’s all you really need to know.
Mark : [00:07:10] Our instructions detail how to do it right, how to lift with your back in extension, how to position your feet, all that stuff.
Mike : [00:07:19] Yeah. Yeah. And for everybody listening again, you can just check out Starting Strength or check out, like Mark said, there’s a lot of videos of The Art of Manliness videos he did I think are good, just simple instructional videos.
Mark : [00:07:30] That’s the best one we’ve done to date. We’re working on a series of those that should be out very, very soon here in a couple of months of our own, but Brett McKay’s been kind enough to come down to Wichita Falls and shoot some videos with us and those are, right now, the best of the instructional videos that we’ve got.
So I’d refer you all to Art of Manliness website, and Brett Mackays work over there is outstanding. And he’s – you know, I’ll tell you what, Mike, he has become a very good lifter. He will deadlift 600 this year.
Mike : [00:08:01] Wow, that’s impressive.
Mark : [00:08:03] Yeah, he got to where he likes this quite a bit. And he – at our meet this fall, Brett’s going to pull 600.
Mike : [00:08:11] That’s impressive. I’d say anything over 500 impresses me. When you get into the fours, that’s where it’s like, “okay you’re serious about it.” But anything over five is impressive.
Mark : [00:08:23] 500 is pretty good, 600 is strong. 700 is real strong. 800 is, you know, top one percent.
Mike : [00:08:31] Right.
Mark : [00:08:31] 900 just doesn’t happen very much. 1,000 is weird.
Mike : [00:08:35] Super freak. Yeah. What do you think about – I think of Martin Berkhan as an example of this, but there are other people that have a lot of rounding in their upper back when they pull. Have you seen Berkhan’s pull?
Mark : [00:08:49] No, but I’ve seen Konstantinov’s pull and he does the same thing. A lot of very good lifters have learned how to pull with a certain degree or at least tolerate a certain degree of thoracic flexion. And the reason for this is because it improves pulling mechanics quite substantially. It makes the pull easier.
If you can come back at the top and actually lock the pull out at the top, according to the rules, and you know lift the chest out of that thoracic flexion. But doing it that way is – there’s a very good reason for doing it that way. If you shorten the spinal segment by putting a curve in it, shortening the effective length of the moment arm between the hip and the gravity vector, the barbell, the lever you have to operate to pull the bar is shorter.
It does several other things. It extends the knees, your knees are in a more open angle, your hips or in or in a more open-angle. While the range of motion of the barbell remains the same, the pull off the floor starts in a much more mechanically advantageous position if you can do that. Now, we don’t teach it that way because I’m not going to ever tell a novice to pull with any position other than absolute spinal extension.
Normal anatomical position is the safest way to load the spine. But if you’re an 800-pound deadlifter, you’ve already made up your mind about that. It’s our observation that a lot of people are naturally rather kyphotic and pull that way just as a matter of their default anatomical position. But if you can learn to not hurt yourself and pull with an upper back inflection, certainly not the lumbar, but the upper back inflection, it’s to your mechanical advantage to do so.
Mike : [00:10:46] Yeah. And I’ve never personally messed with it because – for the reasons that you just gave, I don’t want to learn a new technique and have the risk of injury. I don’t compete, I don’t live and die by my deadlift, and I have been happy with everything I’ve gotten out of it, just sticking to the tried and true more traditional approach.
You know, it’s one of those things that I get asked about here and there because people see, in Berkhan’s case, I’d say he’s probably my height, he’s probably around 6 feet tall, 210-ish, and lean as fuck, and pulls like 700 for singles, so it’s kind of absurd to even see. And he …
Mark : [00:11:26] It’s a mechanical trick that he’s developed.
Mike : [00:11:30] Exactly, a lot of people though, they’re like, “oh what the fuck is this? This is the most ridiculous shit ever!” So I thought it’d be worth bringing up.
Mark : [00:11:36] He’s a competitor. He’s decided that it’s more important to pull heavy weights than it is to worry about spinal safety. And that’s fine. That’s what competitive athletics is all about. If you’re a competitive athlete, you long ago decided that winning was more important than safety or health or anything else.
That’s what it means to be a competitor, you know. But in terms of absolute spinal health, of course, we teach the pull in spinal extension, thoracic, and lumbar extension.
Mike : [00:12:07] And for people listening, if you just imagine that as a neutral spine. Like the standard, keep your spine in a neutral position.
Mark : [00:12:14] Whatever terminology you want to apply to that, yeah, it’s just lumbar, lordotic curve, thoracic normal kyphotic curve is regarded as a neutral spine or normal anatomical position. And that’s how you ought to learn how to pull. Now, if you decide to go to the meet and you want to experiment with a little bit of flexion in your upper back. Go right ahead. Don’t be shocked when you hurt yourself. But at that point, you’re on your own, hun.
Mike : [00:13:04] What about sumo versus conventional, versus trap bar?
Mark: [00:13:07] Well, the sumo deadlift is of more concern. The trap bar deadlift is not a deadlift. We’ll speak about that in a minute. Sumo deadlifts have infiltrated the …
Mike : [00:13:22] The ‘grams. The Instagrams. It’s gotten a lot of popularity. At least I’ve seen it over the last couple of years because you have some of these “influencers” that just prefer to pull sumo and then a lot of people feel like, “oh, that’s the cool thing,” or, “that’s the better thing.”
Mark: [00:13:35] Well, it’s not even that they prefer to pull sumo, they’ve been taught that that is a deadlift. You know, they’re pretty good at ignoring the fact that all world record deadlifts, you know, with just a couple of exceptions have been pulled conventional. This thing started back about 1981, maybe 1980.
The first guy I remember pulling sumo and looking at the pictures of him doing this in, “Powerlifting USA” was Mike Bridges. And I’ll tell you, the day that the first sumo deadlift was pulled at an IPF World, there should have been, Monday morning, a technical rules committee meeting and that should have been nipped in the bud.
Mike : [00:14:23] How come?
Mark: [00:14:24] Because it fixes it up so that certain anthropometries profoundly favored over others. For example, if you are a 4’9″ female …
Mike : [00:14:36] That’s a coincidence because that’s how I identified today, so.
Mark: [00:14:44] [Laughing] Proud of you, Mike, you admitted that in our interview here. That’s great. So you, as a 4’9″ female, decide you’re going to see how much you can deadlift. Alright? You can take a stance that essentially is plate to plate wide, you take your grip with vertical arms in the middle of that, and you can get set up in your deadlift position, and all you basically have to do is barely straighten out your knees, barely straighten out your hips, and lift your chest, which is almost already lifted.
You have pulled the bar about an inch, but that complies with the rules and the rules should not allow that because that is a profoundly different movement pattern, profoundly different pulling event than an actual deadlift by a person of normal stature. Hell, a person of normal stature doing a sumo pulls it further than that.
Essentially sumo is a trick to reduce the range of motion of the pull and we talk about this quite a bit. It is possible to manipulate the effective length of a segment. Legs, trunk, arms, all body segments. It’s possible to effectively manipulate the effective length of those segments by manipulating angle. And what sumo is, is artificially short legs.
Artificially short legs bring the hips closer to the bar, they place the knees almost in an extended position, the hips almost extended, and for a very short person like that, you can deadlift by pulling the load one inch. Well, now, that’s not a hell a lot of work, is it? Work being: force times distance.
Mike : [00:16:39] Sure.
Mark: [00:16:40] But it complies with the rules. So what should have happened the first time a sumo deadlift was tried, it should have been recognized for what it was. A hole in the technical rules. And the rules should have been changed right then to state that the grip must always be taken outside the stands.
And had they done that, then you would have the ability to accurately compare one performance against another because everybody would be doing much more closely the same movement pattern if that rule were in place. For example, here’s another application of the same thing: I saw a video this past weekend, one of these criminals that works for me dragged this up on the internet, showed me on her phone.
A very, very lightweight female is using an extremely, extremely wide grip bench. Now, the rule on the bench should have been fixed at about the same time, but nobody’s bright enough to have figured out the hole in this. Rules state that 32 inches between the index fingers is the grip and that’s permissible. Well, if you’re 4’9″ and a 100-pound female, you can get an extremely wide grip on the bar. And the purpose of this, of course, is to reduce the range of motion. You’ve seen the videos of the …
Mike : [00:18:05] Yeah, yeah, where it looks like, it’s like, “Did it move? I don’t even know if it moved.”
Mark: [00:18:12] It moved. All she did is shrug. [Laughing] Because her elbows are basically already extended, so it was just a shrug. The movement was one-inch range of motion. Well, this isn’t a bench press, everybody understands this. The way to fix that would have been to make the rule: that when the bar touches the chest at the bottom of the range of motion, when the bar is in contact with the chest, the forearms must be vertical as seen from the back.
Vertical. If you do that, everybody’s moving the bar the same distance, with respect to their anthropometry. But if you allow a wide, wide grip like that, effectively shortening the arms segment at the expense of the angle, then you’ve got a situation where, no, the heavyweight guys and this little bitty lightweight girl are not, in fact, doing the same thing. And their performances are not comparable.
Mike : [00:19:06] Right.
Mark: [00:19:07] In this particular video, the price to be paid for that wide, wide grip and that very, very increased moment arm between the shoulder and the grip on the bar was paid at complete fracture of the one and radius. It just let go. Her hand stayed on the bar and the arm went out. It’s the damnedest, this most sickening thing you’ve ever seen your life. I mean, the girl’s just using the rules the way they’re written. But this is stupid.
Mike : [00:19:40] Yeah.
Mark: [00:19:41] This is stupid. And the sumo stupid. But you’ve got a whole generation, two generations of high school powerlifters that had been taught by their genius high school football coaches that a deadlift is a sumo deadlift.
Mike : [00:19:54] So, let’s bring that to just the everyday person who, you know, they want to get strong, they want to build muscle. They’re not looking to compete. What are your thoughts on – okay, so let’s say you have long femurs, you’re going to find – like me, I have long femurs, I have long arms though, so I get to offset a little bit of that, but conventional deadlifting is difficult.
My long femurs make it more difficult, my long arms offset the difficulty a little bit, but some people, you know, if you have long femurs and normal arms, you’re going to find traditional pulling very difficult because of the extended range of motion, right? And then what about hip angle, right?
So you know, if your femur is attached, what at around 135 degrees or so, you’re going to probably find either way equally comfortable. But if it’s more of a 90-degree attachment, right, then – and these are things that again I guess I’m just going off of my understanding of things.
so I’m curious as to your thoughts, but sumo deadlifting probably very uncomfortable for a person whose femur attaches more than 90-degree but if it’s more of an obtuse angle, they might find sumo deadlifting more comfortable. What are your thoughts on: if the person finds sumo more comfortable than conventional and is stronger in it …
Mark: [00:21:06] What you’re asking is: what are my thoughts on comfort? I think comfort is overrated in strength training. What are we trying to be comfortable or stronger?
Mike : [00:21:14] Some people do pull stronger on sumo and some people are …
Mark: [00:21:18] I understand that. I understand that they pull more weight, but they’re pulling more weight over a shorter range of motion. What is the work? The work is the force times the distance. And the fact that you are stronger over a shorter range of motion is not terribly surprising. A quarter squat is heavier than a full squat.
Mike : [00:21:39] Well, yeah, I mean, but the range of motion is not that much less.
Mark: [00:21:42] Sumo is a quarter squat version of a pull.
Mark: [00:21:45] Don’t you think that’s a little bit. The reduction range of motion is not 75 percent, it’s not 50 percent, I mean I guess you’d say the quarter squat is 50 percent minimally, right, if you’re going to at least get to parallel.
Mark: [00:21:59] Well, I tell you what. You could make an argument that lifting heavier weights is better. But you’d have to make that argument that lifting heavier weights over a shorter range of motion is beneficial in terms of getting stronger. And I don’t think you can make a case. We have been teaching these movements for 12 years.
Every seminar, one or two a month, we have 30 people that we successfully teach to do a conventional deadlift in about 15 minutes. Every one of them with, I can’t think of any exceptions, any recent exceptions, every single one of them successfully completes a conventional deadlift. They learn it in a very short period of time because the instructions are very, very simple.
And amazingly enough, despite radical differences in anthropometry, which are observable to the coach as differences in the back angle as the bar comes off the floor, despite that, all of them managed to successfully complete a conventional deadlift. It’s not uncomfortable, it’s easy to learn, everybody is doing a comparable lift in terms of what it is that they’re pulling and how far they’re pulling it.
I just don’t see an advantage to doing a sumo. It is too easily abused. I don’t see any advantage to doing a partial squat either. And if, like you said earlier in this sentence: we’re just trying to get strong, we’re not competing. We don’t win with our deadlift unless we’re a powerlifting competitor, and I see an argument for a powerlifting competitor doing sumo and as long as the rules permit it, which they shouldn’t.
But if you’re just talking about someone who is training for strength, training for muscle mass, training for health and fitness, there is no argument that you could make that would convince me that sumo is of any use at all. I just don’t see the argument for it. If you don’t have to do a sumo because of some really weird anthropometric situation that you might have, I don’t see a case for it.
In fact, we ran into a lady several years ago, it’s been a long time. She was probably the most interesting piece of anthropometry I’ve ever seen. Her femurs were four inches longer than her torso, and her tibias were the same length as her femurs. Now this gal looked dynamite in a pair of heels and a short skirt.
But I’m telling you, that made for an extremely difficult setup in the deadlift. Because that much leg under that little bit of torso had her hips above her shoulders. No matter what we did, she could not perform a conventional deadlift. So we had her sumo. But in 12 years, she is the only person that we have run into that was built like that.
So in other words, more than likely, that particular specialty of a snowflake is not going to walk into your gym. And there’s no reason to teach Sumo. If you don’t know how to teach a conventional deadlift then you’re not a coach. Okay? It’s the easiest thing to learn how to teach. And it’s just not – you need to learn how to teach it.
Mike : [00:25:19] Makes sense. Make sense. What about trap bar?
Mark: [00:25:21] The trap bar is a squat with a bar in the hands. Okay?
Mike : [00:25:23] Elaborate [laughing]. Because it’s often – a trap bar is, obviously, and sumo is sometimes recommended because it’s a little bit easier on the back because you’re in more of an upright position. And trap bar is also generally promoted as: friendlier to your lower back.
Mark: [00:25:41] And the reason both of these are promoted as friendlier to the lower back is because they both can be done with a more vertical back angle. I understand that. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a more horizontal back angle can do to your back. A more horizontal back angle makes your back stronger because the back muscles have more work to do.
We don’t want to avoid loading that group of muscles because what are we doing that deadlift for? Back strength, right? That’s the point. So if you avoid loading the back with your technique, well then don’t deadlift. Right? Because it’s supposed to be hard for the back and you’re supposed to learn how, as the lifter, to keep your back flat, tight, and under control.
More importantly, you’re supposed to learn how, as the coach, to facilitate a better position for your lifters. And if you don’t know how to do that, you need to learn, or you need to get a different job. You don’t need to avoid the primary task of strengthening the back that the deadlift is intended to perform.
As a general mechanical observation, I’m not interested in making the movement easier on the lower back. I’m interested in making the back stronger. So I’m going to select the position that puts stress on the back so that the back can adapt to the stress, recover from the stress, and be stronger as a result. I mean, if we want to make everything easy, let’s just bowl. Okay?
Mike : [00:27:15] Bowling’s hard, man.
Mark: [00:27:15] Murder [laughter]. Have you seen bowlers? All right, so let’s get back to our sumo versus sumo trap bar discussion. What do you do a sumo deadlift for?
Mike : [00:27:28] Well, you do it – I mean, it’s not exclusively, obviously, to train your back, it’s also a lower body exercise, but it’s primarily a back exercise and obviously a bit more quads because of the nature of it, same thing with trap bar. I’d say …
Mark: [00:27:39] Right. There’s a profound difference between the trap bar deadlift and the sumo.
Mark: [00:27:45] I was just going say, conventional deadlifting also, I mean, obviously heavily involves – especially, I mean, I really start to feel it when I’m doing higher rep, I never go above 8 to 10, but 8 to 10 rep deadlifting is the worst if you’re at high RPE, but you really start to feel it in your quads, there’s a similarity, I mean.
Mark: [00:28:02] The conventional deadlift uses more quad, for most people. Uses more quad than a sumo does. The sumo’s just an easy way to do the deadlift by shortening the range of motion.
Mike : [00:28:12] Wouldn’t the sumo use the quads more because of the mechanics of it? Because you’re getting deeper on the conventional, which requires more hamstring activation, right, to get out?
Mark: [00:28:19] No. A sumo deadlift starts with a more open knee angle. That’s why you do the sumo deadlift.
Mike : [00:28:24] Right.
Mark: [00:28:25] You produce a more open knee angle because the effective length of the legs is shorter, because you’ve changed the angle between the sagittal plane and where the foot is on the floor. You’ve changed that angle, you’ve made that angle more open, and you’ve therefore shorten the effective length of the legs. So the sumo is the easiest, in terms of looking at all of the muscle groups involved in the pull is the easiest of these three.
Mike : [00:28:54] Right. You know I’m just saying, I mean, just in terms of looking at the research of muscle activation, it’s a generally accepted thing, I guess. I mean just throwing it out there that you have more quad activation in the sumo than the conventional.
Mark: [00:29:08] I don’t believe that at all. You have more quad activation in the movement that operates the knee over the longer range motion.
Mike : [00:29:15] Fair enough.
Mike : [00:29:16] Show me – would somebody please show me the study that demonstrates conclusively that surface EMG is an accurate proxy for motor unit recruitment?
Mike : [00:29:30] Right. No, I know that’s another discussion. No, I understand. I’ve spoken with, I think it was Eric Helms or Greg Nuckols about that. I mean, it’s not completely worthless, but you can’t take it as …
Mark: [00:29:43] I think it’s used a lot because people in XFIS departments have the equipment. You tend to use, for studies, the equipment you’ve got. Right? You employ it. If you’ve got a bunch of creatine lab equipment, well you do tend to do creatine studies.
Mike : [00:30:00] [Laughter] When all you have is a hammer, man.
Mark: [00:30:02] Remaining is a nail, that’s absolutely true. So if you’ve got a trap bar, I may have explained my position on sumo, but look at the trap bar. One of the things about the trap bar is that it allows you to take a grip on the trap bar. It doesn’t, by the way, allow you to adjust the width of that grip.
It allows you to take a grip on the trap bar, squat down with your hips, and basically squat the bar up off the ground. Okay? Now, let’s compare that to the deadlift where the bar is in contact with your shins and your thighs all the way from the floor to the lockout. At the top and during the range of motion of that exercise, which of those two is the most stable and the least likely to hurt your back?
Mike : [00:30:50] Now, that’s a valid point, that’s something that I personally don’t like about the trap bar deadlift, is that you have to pay attention at the top because just that exact point, you’re very stable in the conventional …
Mark: [00:31:03] You’re locked into a top of a deadlift. The bar is in front of your thighs and you’re leaning back in that thing, if your knees and hips are extended, you’re stable. At the top of a trap bar deadlift, that thing can swing anywhere it wants to swing.
And if you’re using enough weight to actually have the thing constitute a strength increase, a stress that produces the strength increase, you know, I don’t think that that’s necessarily a good idea. I mean, listen, why don’t you just deadlift? You know, what does the trap bar do that a barbell does not that we have to have done?
Mike : [00:31:40] What would you say, though, to the person – and I agree, I mean, if you can pull conventionally without issues, if you don’t have any preexisting injuries or anything, you can pull, I much prefer the conventional pull and I just have always stuck to it.
But what would you say to somebody, though, who let’s say because of some preexisting condition, if conventional pulling causes them discomfort or pain and they would like to deadlift, but they need to find a workaround, and it’s not because of how their body is built, it’s because of an injury, or something is wrong, you know?
Mark: [00:32:10] For the reason I just stated, if you got back trouble, the last thing you want to do is a trap bar deadlift. The very last thing you should subject your back to is a trap bar deadlift, because it’s unstable. All right now, that’s one, point number one. Point number two, and this addresses a larger situation. All right? Back pain is an interesting thing.
Back pain in human beings is essentially ubiquitous. Every human being after the age of probably 25 and most of us before that point has had back pain. All of us have had back pain. By the time every human being is over the age of 30, an MRI study will show some degenerative spinal changes.
All of them, 100 percent of the human race after the age of 30 has some changes that could be considered degenerative in their spine. All of us. So what’s normal? Normal is that: back pain is normal. Okay? And the hard part for people to swallow, the hard part for doctors to understand is that if you have back discomfort, loading the back with a deadlift, improper anatomical position, the position we spoke of earlier, does not hurt the back, it makes the pain go away.
We have people, in fact, I’ll make a blanket statement here and I’ll say that everyone who does not train that has chronic back pain will find at least some significant decrease in back pain after three weeks of squats and deadlifts. It’s too universal, the report, to ignore. You’re familiar with this as well. And here’s the other – the corollary to that is that: if you are an experienced lifter and you hurt your back, then that is no reason to stop squatting or deadlifting.
The vast, vast majority of back pain does not involve neurological symptoms, it’s local back pain. And if you don’t have numbness or tingling down a leg, you just have local back pain, guys, I’m sorry you just got to train through it. Take a bunch of ibuprofen, drop the load a little bit, take your reps up a little bit, and train through it. It will get better in a week. It always does.
And I mean, you look at the statistical averages, back pain events are about four weeks long, they resolve themselves in the same period of time, whether you do therapy or not, whether you go to the chiropractor or not, whether you train or not. That’s just what they do. And if you understand this, then you’re going to understand that there is no point in having a weak back. If you got back pain, would you rather have a painful weak back or a painful strong back? That’s fairly obvious, I think.
Mike : [00:35:14] Maybe depends how much soy is in your diet.
Mark: [00:35:17] Could be. Depends on your estrogen supplementation, possibly.
Mike : [00:35:23] [Laughter] Yeah. No, of course that makes sense. I mean, in the case of a true disk injury, that’s a whole ‘nother thing obviously …
Mark: [00:35:29] Yeah, but that’s like five percent of all reported back pain that involves actual neurological problems. If you got a disc injury – and you know what the funny thing about that is? Disk injuries resolve too, they just take long. A disk injury resolves it will heal up. Numbness, tingling, loss of motor control, that heals up too if you train.
It just takes longer and it’s way, way, way more scary. But the numbers on back surgery are also quite revealing here. Roughly speaking, one-third of all back surgery is successful, one-third of all back surgery does absolutely nothing, and one-third of all back surgery makes the situation worse. In other words, two-thirds of all back surgery accomplish nothing or make the thing worse.
Mike : [00:36:22] I would almost rather they give me a sham, like a placebo surgery in hopes. You know what I mean, just a fake secretary where I think I got a surgery, like I’d prefer that.
Mark: [00:36:30] I don’t know how they got the human subjects but they’ve done that. They’ve done this …
Mike : [00:36:35] Yeah, I know. It’s really, really interesting research.
Mark: [00:36:37] It’s an interesting phenomenon that the mind controls pain. But this goes back to the greater topic: what is pain? Pain is your perception of a certain set of inputs. It’s your perception of a certain set of inputs. For example, fibromyalgia is probably a situation where a person is hypersensitive to the same inputs that you and I receive on a daily basis and we just ignore.
The perception of pain has a lot to do with the nature and the severity of that pain. If your leg has been hurting for 30 years a little bit, you don’t pay any attention to it anymore, it doesn’t keep you awake at night, you don’t perceive it as pain. But to someone who has just acquired that sensation and hasn’t gotten used to it yet, they’re in agony.
This is one of the most beneficial aspects of training with back pain. It teaches you that this unpleasant situation, the unpleasant sensation that you’re being subjected to, is not necessarily the end of the world and you can deal with it, and you can pick up that box in the garage without hurting yourself, and you can get a stronger back.
And the fact that it hurts a little bit while you’re doing it is irrelevant. We have to stop pandering to people’s perceptions of pain. We want to hear about the nation’s opioid crisis. All of a sudden, it’s a big deal in the news, just like everything else becomes a big deal in the news. What do you suppose the reason for the nation’s opioid crisis might be?
The most frequently reported source of pain is back pain. You go to the doctor with back pain and he writes you a script for hydrocodone – well, that’s stupid. That’s just absolutely stupid. Fixing the source of chronic pain and teaching that the pain – you can deal with it – is a much better idea than writing a bunch of prescriptions for opioids. Opioid, I’ve never had a problem with, because they don’t work on me anyway.
Mike : [00:38:37] No money in your idea, though, man.
Mark: [00:38:39] No. Oh, no, you’re certainly right. Pharmaceutical companies don’t manufacture barbells. You know, it’s probably a good idea that they don’t, but …
Mike : [00:38:47] They would cost 10,000 dollars a barbell.
Mark: [00:38:50] Exactly. But hey, but insurance pays for it [laughing]. This whole thing with deadlifts, Mike, this is an extremely important topic. The whole thing with deadlifts is an extremely important topic precisely because of the way it relates to back pain in adult populations. We could solve so many problems if people would just quit worrying about their back hurting, pick the barbell up, three or four workouts in a row, and then realize that, “Hey, my back’s not hurting anymore.
Isn’t it amazing that I’ve been in pain for three years without stopping. I’ve deadlifted four workouts and my back would hurt.” You know, how many – 90 percent of chronic back pain will respond precisely that way. The other 10 percent won’t get any worse. But your perception of well-being goes up because you’re stronger.
And sumos, it’s a distraction, the trap bar deadlift is just a thing that’s manufactured to sell, it’s of absolutely no value to anybody, anywhere, anytime. It’s unfortunate that the military has decided to incorporate it into a strength program. They were just sold the product by the manufacturer. A barbell is all you need to do.
A barbell’s more stable, it works better, and it is not going to hurt you at the top. So basically the trap bar deadlift is basically in existence just to use a piece of unnecessary equipment. I see absolutely no advantage over the standard barbell deadlift and I see an otherwise useless additional piece of equipment laying around in the gym. I mean, for all the reasons we’ve discussed, it’s just not elegant and I see no point in it.
Mike : [00:40:41] All right. Let’s talk grip. Mixed grip, versus hook grip, versus double overhand, or even straps, what are your thoughts?
Mike : [00:40:49] The grip is a fairly interesting question because if you analyze heavy deadlifts, you look at lots and lots of heavy deadlifts, what you see in an overwhelming majority of big deadlifts is that: during the pull the bar will rotate away from the supine grip in a mixed grip, or what I call alternate grip deadlift.
The alternate grip is obviously used because it’s more secure. If you’re peeling out of the fingers on one hand, you’re rolling into the fingers on the other hand, and you can hold up a hell of a lot more weight, but the price to be paid for that is this little slight rotation that you see in almost every heavy deadlift where the guy’s got enough weight on the bar to where his mind is not functioning well enough to remember to hold that supine elbow back. You can learn to do it, but you still see this very, very frequently as an artifact of the supine side grip. Now, I haven’t figured out exactly what causes that.
Mike : [00:41:58] And just for people listening, the supine will be the palm up, right?
Mark: [00:42:02] Palm forward is supine. Palm down is prone.
Mike : [00:42:06] Yeah. I want to make sure people understand, so that’s like when your – actually just to clarify the mix grip, just in case anybody’s not familiar with it, instead of the double overhand where both your palms are facing down, the mixed is where one palm is facing up as if you were going to curl the barbell and the other one is facing down as if you’re going to pull it. And like Mark was saying, it just locks the barbell in place better so it doesn’t roll out of your hands and as anybody who’s deadlifted at all has experienced, once the bar starts rolling out of your hands, it’s like the whole lift shuts down.
Mark: [00:42:37] Yes. The pull shuts down because your back, as it turns out, will not pull off the floor, something that your hands are unable to hold on to. It’s a real weird phenomenon, a lot of times we’ll see somebody stop during that part of a pull and set the bar back down and what actually happened was the thing was not so heavy they couldn’t pull it, they could have pulled it with straps or with an alternate grip, but if the fingers start to open up there’s a feedback loop and the back shuts the pull-down.
With an alternate grip, what you’ve got is a situation where one shoulder is in internal rotation and the other shoulder is in external rotation. And this difference between rotational positions of the shoulder is in asymmetry. It stresses each of those shoulders differently. And I prefer that when I’m coaching, especially new lifters, that I’d like to keep all the stresses symmetrical.
So I always encourage people to lift with a double overhand grip up as heavy as they can, and then learn to hook grip, which is a grip that produces a much more secure grip because of friction between the thumb and the middle finger, instead of just the squeeze that you have to generate with a plain open double overhand grip.
Again, the alternate grip is that, which is most frequently used in competition by most people, but I’ve seen – in fact, we use a video in our seminar, Brad Gillingham deadlifting 400 kilos with a double overhand hook grip. So it can’t be done.
Mike : [00:44:29] His thumbs barely work, though [laughing].
Mark: [00:44:33] I don’t know. I mean, it does hurt, you just gotta not mind that it hurts and you can learn that.
Mike : [00:44:45] What if you’re a soy boy though, like me, and it hurts a lot – what do you do then? That’s actually my complaint with hook is: it’s fucking painful …
Mark: [00:44:55] Well, Mike, just reduce your estrogen consumption. You know, get your ovarian cyst removed and stop being a weenie. I mean, you can do …
Mike : [00:45:04] But then no one’s going to like me, then no one will accept me, I won’t be …
Mark: [00:45:07] I think you’re underestimating.
Mike : [00:45:10] I won’t be part of the trendy crowd.
Mark: [00:45:12] All right, so anyway, if you have got a double overhand hook grip, you’re probably at least as secure as you are with a – especially with practice, with an alternate grip. The problem with the alternate grip is that it produces since it is two different positions of humeral rotation, it produces different amounts of tension in the lat. All right?
Because the lat insertion is medial, anterior, and proximal. If you rotate one forearm and humerus out and you rotate the other one in, your lat is in a different position of stretch. And this may have something to do with the observed phenomenon of the bar drifting forward away from the supine side, it could have something to do with bicep tension on that side.
What we do see is that almost every time and without any exceptions that I’m familiar with, all bicep tendon injuries occur on the supine side of an alternate gripped deadlift. So if you’re – in fact, a buddy of mine, Andy Baker, my coauthor in Practical Programing for Strength Training, Third Edition and the co-author of, The Barbell Prescription just ruptured his distal bicep tendon a couple weeks ago doing speed deadlifts.
Ruptured his supine side distally. It’s hard to think of everything you need to think about when you’re trying to do fast deadlifts off the floor. That’s one of the reasons I’d rather have people clean. I don’t see explosive deadlifts as being particularly useful, especially not if you can clean.
Mike : [00:47:04] And I mean, I’ll weigh in on that, that I had some biceps tendinitis a year ago or so. And I was mixed gripping for a while and for what it’s worth, it was on the supine side. It didn’t turn into anything serious because I backed off and got some physical therapy and just kind of, in the end, just let it heal and stop doing things that pissed it off.
Mark: [00:47:25] Right. If you’re not going to go to a meet, you’re not a competitive powerlifter, and you don’t need to do heavy – you want to pull heavy, but you don’t wish to do heavy alternate grip, and you don’t want to do a hook because it just hurts too fucking bad on your thumb, then just strap.
Just strap, it doesn’t make – as long as you’re doing all of your warm-ups with a plain, open, double overhand grip, you’re getting all of the grip strength effects that you need out of the deadlift, and you do not risk – you don’t want that surgery if you don’t have to have it. You know?
Mike : [00:48:02] Yeah, that’s what I do now, I double overhand until it gets too heavy. Once I get into the mid 3’s, I just don’t have the grip for it, so then I strap.
Mark: [00:48:11] There’s nothing wrong with that.
Mike : [00:48:12] Great, so that’s simple. What about deadlifting shoes?
Mark: [00:48:16] Well, this is probably the thing that …
Mike : [00:48:19] Or even barefoot or, you know, wearing shoes, not wearing shoes, what should you wear if you’re going to wear shoes?
Mark: [00:48:25] Well, you ought to wear shoes. All right? It’s fashionable especially since the functional training people, who don’t generally deadlift more than two and a quarter anyway [laughing], have injected their brilliant observations into the conversation here, that you’re supposed to deadlift barefoot because that’s more natural. What’s more natural …
Mike : [00:48:45] I mean, that’s how cavemen deadlifted lifted, so.
Mark: [00:48:47] Well, yeah. That’s how cavemen deadlifted. Absolutely.
Mike : [00:48:50] [Laughter] The brontosaurus bounce.
Mark: [00:48:52] “Where did they get the revolving sleeve barbells and plates?” Is a subject left for archeologists to explore further. But the simple fact of the matter is, is you’ve got one pair of feet and I’m in favor of protecting your feet while you do heavyweights on the deadlift to get strong. I want you to have a nice, hard sole against the floor.
I want there to be a metatarsal strap and an arch support to stabilize your foot so that you have the same pair of feet stay healthy for a long period of time. I don’t see any advantage in deadlifting barefoot.
Okay, it reduces the range of motion a half-inch, “but hey, you’re only deadlifting two and a quarter anyway, what do you care about that?” It makes more sense to me to have a much more efficient interface between your foot and the floor than that provided by just the skin or the silly ass Vibram five finger idiot ass look at the things that people insist on.
Mike : [00:49:54] Stinky too.
Mark: [00:49:54] Oh, God. Idiot. So yeah, I think you need some weightlifting shoes.
Mike : [00:49:59] What are your thoughts on – like I have my normal just regular gym shoes, Innovate, I don’t know the – I’m not getting paid to say it, so I don’t know exactly what they are, but I like them because they don’t fall apart and they have a hard flat sole that’s actually usually what I …
Mark: [00:50:15] A hard flat sole with an arch support is exactly what you want for every lift you perform, standing on your feet. For squats, presses, deadlifts, cleans, and snatches, you want a hard flat soul.
Mike : [00:50:30] I’ll say though particularly – and of course, yeah, I mean that goes that’s saying, but I particularly have noticed – I like to squat in squat shoes. Like it makes a difference. I can’t say I have quite noticed a difference in deadlifting though, is that just because I didn’t notice or I wasn’t doing something right?
Mark: [00:50:46] Well, I think you probably just didn’t notice. But for example, I set my biggest PRs in my squat shoes with a little bit of heel. I deadlifted 633 at a couple of different meets in my squat shoes with a little heel. I used to pull in wrestling shoes and I changed over to squat shoes and I didn’t notice a great, huge difference.
Although, I will say that, I think for people of normal anthropometry, that a little bit of heel adds to your ability to start the movement off the floor with a knee extension. It adds a couple of degrees of knee flexion and gives you a little bit more access to quad as you push the barbell away from the floor, that is if you know how to pull correctly. The initial part of a deadlift is a push.
And I think a little bit of heel aids in that. Now, that being said, if your anthropometry is weird, for example, you’ve got long femurs, relative like you do, long femurs relative to your shins as you mentioned earlier, I think for you, a flat shoe would be a real good option because you’ve already got knee angle provided by the long femur.
You might pull better in a flat shoe and what I’d like to see available, but I don’t know that one is, is a well-constructed shoe with a good arch support that has an actual zero net heel to it. If I had my way I would be able to buy a weightlifting shoe with no net heel, with a half inch net heel, and a three quarter net heel, I don’t think anything higher than that is of any use. But that’s what I would like to see available and there’s not a thing like that right now.
Mike : [00:52:31] Yeah. I found, and I’m just going off of: I notice a difference to my squads, I’m stabler, I can generate more torque, I just do better in squat shoes, didn’t notice that in-depth, and that’s probably why, is just because of the mechanics of it.
Mark: [00:52:45] Right, that’s what it is. Everybody squats more weight and squat shoes. Everybody benefits from a hard sole, a tight lateral, and front to back stability provided by a good heavy metatarsal strapped squat shoe. Everybody does.
We started enough people on this to where we know people show up to the seminar in their running shoes and they try to squat the first three or four sets in these essentially, lace on mattresses. They fall over and you know, I’ll come up and say, “look, the gym owner here is going to let you borrow a pair of ten and a half shoes, go put them on right now. But shut up and go put the shoes on. All right?” They go put the shoes on, they come back, and all their form errors are gone. It’s just that simple.
Mark: [00:53:37] And all of a sudden, you know, they can up the weight by 30 percent and actually squat it.
Mark: [00:53:44] Instability, believe it or not, instability holds you back in a squat. It’s a thing you have to fight and if the shoes help, you need a pair of shoes. Okay? This silly, ridiculous analysis, “well, it’s not natural to wear weightlifting shoes,” well, it’s not natural …
Mike : [00:54:03] Is that actually a thing, do people say that?
Mark: [00:54:05] I’ve heard it from cross-fitters and functional training people, oh my God, they’re just so stupid, where does it stop? You know, if the only thing we get to lift in the naked feet, in which we are born, then what are we going to pick up? Rocks? Sticks? You can’t use a bucket because buckets aren’t natural. You can’t load a bucket up with rocks, you have to pick up individual rocks.
Mike : [00:54:29] Here’s the next fad, man. This is it, it’s coming [laughing].
Mark: [00:54:33] That kind of thing. But you know the funny thing about …
Mike : [00:54:38] There might be a doomsday prep overlay there, where you can – these are going to be the gyms of our dystopian future, we’re just going to be like lifting rocks in nuclear-scorched earth and shit.
Mark: [00:54:48] Well, the funny thing about training is that if you cannot incrementally increase the load in a way that allows you to continually get stronger week after week, month after month, you’re not really training, you’re just exercising, you’re fucking around. So the incrementally loaded barbell is kind of central to the idea.
Since we all seem to understand that – what’s the problem with shoes? You know? You use the tools that enable your training to proceed most efficiently. And shoes are one of those tools. So I don’t want to hear all that shit. Okay? You guys get some shoes.
Mike : [00:55:24] That’s news to me. But yeah, I fully endorse shoes. I recommend my website. I like Adidas’ shoes personally, but obviously lots of options out there. What about belts? What about a belt?
Mark: [00:55:36] Well, I’ve got a big, long article on belt mechanics that explains hoop, tension, and the primary function of the belt which is to increase the function of the Valsalva maneuver, your big held breath, to increase spinal stability. The increase in spinal stability enables you to lift more weight. It does not shut down, and I know you’ve heard this too, “wearing a belt shuts down the abs.”
Who said that? Someone who’s never deadlifted? Do you not understand that under a 600-pound deadlift there aren’t any muscles that are shut down? What is wrong with you? You know? The belt gives you something to push harder against. And if you’re really interested in that argument, my article, “The Belt and the Deadlift” is available on my website, startingstrength.com under the article section.
But here’s the critical point about the deadlift: in my opinion, and it’s been my experience since I’ve been thinking about this a little bit harder for the past several years, I’m really of the opinion that very, very few people have any business deadlifting in a four-inch belt. I think a three-inch belt is a much more efficient built for most people of normal height.
Now, if you’re 6’5″ sure, a four-inch belt is probably going to work for you because your waist is commensurately long. But for most people, a three-inch belt allows you to get a much better setup at the bottom start position of a deadlift than a four-inch belt. And the reason for that is: the four-inch belt is so wide it touches you at the top of the hip flexors.
This is a bit of inefficient, proprioceptive feedback, in that, it may tell you, that contact may tell you that your low back is fully squeezed into the arch that we talked about earlier, when in fact it’s not. When in fact it is a little bit still inflection. In other words, you don’t want to have to fight the belt for an efficient start position.
Mike : [00:57:39] So, I mean, in that way, it could encourage poor form then, if you weren’t cognizant of what’s going on.
Mark: [00:57:44] Absolutely. A three-inch belt is plenty of width for good support.
Mike : [00:57:48] And then I’ll add to that as well, a lot of people think that wearing a belt somehow magically protects you against injury and so if you combine both of those things, that can be a recipe for getting hurt.
Mark: [00:57:59] Walmart thinks that, you know.
Mike : [00:58:01] [Laughing] Yeah.
Mark: [00:58:02] All the silly-ass people wandering around in these fabric belts, it’s just a costume, I think. I don’t really understand it. But if you’ve got a belt on and the belt is actively resisting your best efforts to get into a position of lumbar spinal extension for your first pull off the floor, that belt is not productive. It’s not helping anything and it’s going to get you hurt.
Most people don’t need a four-inch belt. In reality, most people need a three-inch belt for all of their lifts, most people. But this is one of those things that’s just embedded in the equipment culture that all belts are four-inch. Well, everything is not everything. There are reasons to examine this. There are reasons to examine your choice of a belt. And I think if you’ll think about it real hard, a three-inch belt for most people makes much more sense than a four-inch belt.
Mike : [00:58:57] Makes sense to me. I mean, I have always used the three-inch belt personally. I’ve used it pulling overhead press and squatting standard stuff, and I found it most – at least I noticed the effects most with squatting, for whatever reason. But these days I actually don’t even use one because I’m of the mindset, pretty much in alignment with what you’re saying.
I’ve written about this as well – it’s clear that you can lift more weight with a belt, but I don’t know if that necessarily means you should always train with a belt. And at least in my case, I guess, because I’m not competing and I don’t have a reason, I mean, I know my form and it’s not that I’m afraid of getting hurt, but I just don’t notice that big of a difference. And so how it started was I left my belt at the gym, like I lost it, unfortunately, and then I just never bought another one [laughing].
Mark: [00:59:45] I’m in the same boat with you in terms of competition and stuff. But let me say this: if you take your squat up to 315 without a belt and then you put a belt on and you train for another year and get your squat up to 515, what do you think happened to your unbelted squat? Well, it went up too because everything gets stronger.
So what we always recommend is that you do all your warm-ups, up to the last warm-up before the work set, without a belt. So you’re getting unbelted work. You put the belt on for the last warm-up because you need to experience before the work set all of the conditions that are going to occur during the work set and then you do your work weight with a belt on.
Now, that being said, if you’ve ever hurt your back, if you’ve got a chronic back injury, you know, probably half of lifters do, then I’d put the belt on at 135. You know? Because what point is there in costing yourself a couple of workouts with a back tweak that a belt could have prevented?
So as a general rule, what we recommend is that the belt is an extremely important part of pulling off the floor, just like shoes and a barbell are, but you use it correctly. And for it very well may be that a four-inch belt cannot be used correctly. So I’m just asking your listeners here to give that some thought.
Mike : [01:01:11] Yeah. No, I think it’s a very reasonable position. Reasonable recommendation. Again the reason why I stopped using it was I guess, more out of just, I mean, I could say laziness, but I guess you’re not exactly lazy if you’re squatting and deadlifting every week, [laughing] but it just out of – again, I was using it for a bit left in the gym and then just never got around to ordering another one.
I was like, “I’ll just keep going without a belt.” But I think it is very reasonable to use a belt every time you squat and deadlift. I just can’t be a hypocrite and say that I’m doing that right now, because I’m not. I’m still squatting and deadlifting, but I’m doing it beltless right now.
Mark: [01:01:48] I don’t see anything wrong with that, every once in a while. I just – don’t hurt your back, Mike.
Mike : [01:01:52] Fortunately, the only injury of sorts that I’ve – it caused some pain for, I don’t know, two weeks – was an SI joint. Like it was weird, I was pulling, it wasn’t even that heavy, it was mid fours and felt good, felt strong. At the top of the set, I felt like my hips shifted a little bit and I was like, “that didn’t feel right,” and there wasn’t any pain initially, and then there was some stiffness.
Mark: [01:02:20] You feel a movement and then over the next two or three hours, it gets worse and worse, and finally, you know, it hurts.
Mike : [01:02:27] Yeah. Then it didn’t feel so good. And actually – so after I was like, “okay,” there was no acute pain, so I was like, “now I feel kind of stiff,” so I dropped the weight down to 315. I was like, “I’m going to finish a couple sets, I’m not just going to leave,” [laughing] and so I did that and those weren’t really painful per se.
But then an hour or two later I was like, “yeah, that doesn’t feel good.” You know, had some tingling in my leg and I was like, “that’s not good.” And then over a couple weeks, I didn’t know, “was this hard disk issue?” Or whatever and I ended up seeing a physical therapist and in the end, it was an SI joint.
So I’ve experienced that. That was with a belt and it was weird, like a freak – it was solid form, everything felt good, felt stable. For some reason that the top, though, I don’t know. It just – something wasn’t right and it shifted a little bit on me. Not enough to like, become a huge injury, but it was one of those things, I was like, “well, fuck, I don’t even know what I did wrong.”
Mark: [01:03:22] Well, sometimes it’s not always possible to say exactly what caused an injury. Some days you may be perfectly warm in pretty good form, everything looks like it did the last workout, and something just moves and it’s just not always possible to say what happened. I wish it were, but it’s not.
Mike : [01:03:43] Yup. And it was also one of those things where it’s not even – you know, I understand if you’re doing like a true one RM test or doing a rep max test, but not even. It was just a working set, felt solid but then – whatever.
Mark: [01:03:56] If you’re doing a test or a performance, then you do that with the understanding that, “hey, there’s a certain amount of risk here in seeing where the limits are.” I tell you what we ought to talk about on one of these podcasts that we so enjoy doing with each other is: our little two factor model of the things that go into performance.
Because I think it’s a real useful way to think about the training and practice elements of a performance and what exactly is performance, what exactly constitutes training, what constitutes practice, the difference in the two. This is an interesting thing that occurred to me during the seminar this past weekend.
What is the difference between a game and a sport? Well, I think it’s obvious that in a game like golf, a game like billiards, something like that, that is clearly regarded as a game, there’s not really a training component to the performance, there is only practice. But a sport, baseball, football, track events, throwing events, not only must there be practice for the actual skill involved in the execution of the movement pattern in the performance, but there’s a training component too.
A general physiologic adaptation that prepares you to more effectively do your best during performance day. And that’s an interesting topic, I think our little paradigm that we come up with on that, explains a lot of things and helps with ordering your thinking about how to prepare for an event.
Mike : [01:05:35] Sounds interesting. Yeah, I’d be game.
Mark: [01:05:37] Yeah, let’s do it.
Mike : [01:05:38] Well, those are actually all the questions I had for you. I had bands and chains on there but I mean, I know your answer’s going to be.
Mark: [01:05:46] You know what I think about bands and chains.
Mike : [01:05:47] Yeah and very few people actually even mess with that stuff, so I thought that it’s probably not necessary.
Mark: [01:05:54] It applies to 8 or 10 competitive powerlifters and that’s about it.
Mike : [01:05:58] Yeah.
Mike : [01:05:58] And every high school in the United States that’s using bands and chains for their 15-year-old kids, those coaches ought to be fired, jailed, and executed because that’s malpractice.
Mike : [01:06:10] Very fascist of you.
Mark: [01:06:11] In fact.
Mike : [01:06:13] [Laughing] Yeah, so for anybody wondering – the reality is there is no place, for anybody listening, for me as well, and for every single person listening, it’s not necessary. It’s an added complication, it’s not going to do anything for you.
Mark: [01:06:27] Except, maybe get you hurt real bad.
Mike : [01:06:29] Yeah, well, there’s that. Okay great. Well, let’s wrap up with of course, where can people find you in your work, do you have anything in particular that you want people to know about that is time-sensitive? This will be coming out in the next couple of weeks or so, so is there some June stuff that you’d like to let people know about or projects on the whole that are coming up?
Mark: [01:06:50] Well, we’ve got permanent all day, 24-hour availability at startingstrength.com, great big website, new articles up every day of the week, brand new content at about noon every day. Something new to read every day. Big active forum session, I’m available there. In June we have a seminar in Wichita Falls at Wichita Falls Athletic Club.
We just got through in early April with our first Strength Con, which was a, basically a meetup for people that read the website, they’re fans of the method. 200 people showed up, we had a great weekend. And we’re going to be repeating that in the middle of October, Strength Con 2, with the injury rehab theme being the general theme of the weekend’s presentations.
There will be workouts available, you get to train with everybody, and we have social events planned. We have a whiskey tasting, we have a bar Friday and Saturday night, we cater dinner Saturday night, it’s just a lot of fun. Everybody deserves a lot of fun. And got a great little jazz band on Saturday night.
We just invite everybody that’s interested to check that out, it’s on the events page of our website at startingstrength.com. And that’s about all I’ve got, Mike. I appreciate you having me on, man. Always enjoy our little discussions, even though you have abs.
Mike : [01:08:22] [Laughter] It’s kind of like aids abs in your – [laughter] even though I’m afflicted with abs permanently.
Mark: [01:08:34] Just think how good you’d look at 245.
Mike : [01:08:37] I would be a lot stronger that’s for sure because …
Mark: [01:08:39] You’d be a lot stronger, you’d be a physically impressive human being.
Mike : [01:08:43] It’s just – I don’t know, abs are now part of the job.
Mark: [01:08:48] I know, I understand
Mike : [01:08:49] And even though I’m not much of a foodie I’m finding the way – because, you know, I actually recorded a podcast just recently with a buddy of mine who stays super-lean year-round, just to kind of give people a real glimpse into what most people would consider almost like OCD level type of food, and that’s what it comes down to. Now, I don’t have an eating disorder, and by my own standards, I would say that …
Mark: [01:09:15] Oh, that’s bullshit [laughing].
Mike : [01:09:17] No, I’m serious. I’m serious. I’m serious. I mean, hey, if I have an eating disorder, I’m not aware of it, at least.
Mark: [01:09:23] Right. Most people aren’t. People with eating disorders aren’t aware of the fact they have an eating disorder.
Mike : [01:09:30] Well, okay, let me say this: practically speaking, the reason why I’m able to stay fairly lean year-round is – I stay active. But also what it comes down to is I eat more or less the same foods in the same quantities every day, and I change things when I finally am over something, but I don’t care about variety. I’ve basically given up variety and spontaneity for leanness.
Mark: [01:09:51] For control. For you, food is a tool. For me food is recreational.
Mike : [01:09:56] Exactly. And that’s what people need to understand, there’s a psychological aspect to that to understand, it’s fine to understand the mechanics, energy balance, macronutrient balance, yeah that’s fine. But when it really comes down to it, especially, I think today in the Instagram age where you have a lot of people that – there’s obviously a lot of drug use that is never disclosed and that changes everything depending on what drugs are being taken.
But then there’s also, a lot of people don’t realize that lying about your diet is a thing as well. Where pretending like you eat with reckless abandon, but stay super shredded is also a thing. People do that because it makes them, I don’t know, they think it makes them look cool. Right?
To the point where people will pretend like they will set up as if they’re going to have this big cheat meal and pretend like all they’re going to eat all this pizza or something and then just throw it away after just to make it look like they have some secret sauce of like, “oh, how the fuck does he eat 5,000 calories a day but stay shredded?” Well one: probably doesn’t eat 5,000 calories.
Mark: [01:10:56] He doesn’t [laughing].
Mike : [01:10:57] And then two, if he does, he’s exercising six hours a day and he’s on a bunch of drugs and so either way, like, you’re not getting the whole picture. Anyways, I think people might find that discussion at least helpful so when they are trying to decide for themselves like, do you really want.
If you want really good abs all year round, yes, you can have that, but you can’t have it all, you can’t have what a lot of people want from the diet and have the abs, you can stay relatively lean and fit but there is a point where: unless you are super active, you have to keep a pretty close eye on how many calories you’re eating and you can’t “afford” to just kind of turn it loose for days at a time because you will notice a difference. And that’s just the reality.
Mark: [01:11:47] But I still think that you’d be a big, handsome, massive, powerful man at 245.
Mark: [01:11:54] I don’t know how powerful I’d be, though. I’m not naturally that strong.
Mark: [01:11:57] Adjust your training. Get stronger.
Mike : [01:11:59] Yeah, sure. No, I mean, I’ve worked at it. It’s just my …
Mark: [01:12:03] Give it a try. Okay? Just do it for me.
Mike : [01:12:07] My genetics man [laughing]. No, no, but maybe one day, maybe one day when I don’t need the abs so much anymore it’ll be a fun experiment.
Mark: [01:12:17] One day when your camera’s gone. When you’re no longer taking pictures of yourself. I think you’ve got a lot of huge potential that you’ve left undeveloped for your abs.
Mike : [01:12:28] That’s valid because I’ve gotten fairly strong with abs so there’s something to be said for that.
Mark: [01:12:33] In fact.
Mike : [01:12:34] All righty, sir. Well, thanks again for taking the time. It’s fun as always and you know, I’ll reach out and we can get the next one lined up.
Mike : [01:12:41] Okay, thanks for having me, Mike.