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Barbell Logic


Nov 14, 2023

Deadlifts: Eat Your Spine. Is this the perfect cue or the reality of a dangerous lift? Andrew & Niki delve into the depths of the deadlift.

Do Deadlifts Eat Your Spine!?

Do deadlifts, in fact, eat your spine? It certainly feels like it sometimes.

Deadlifts train the muscles of the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, abs, spinal erectors, lats, and more. Because the weight of the bar is trying to round your back, you strengthen the muscles of the back by maintaining a rigid spine despite the urgings of gravity.

The deadlift, as Andrew points out, is the only one of the main barbell lifts where the center of mass changes during the lift. At first, it's only the lifter's body. Then, as the weight of the barbell and plates moves up off the ground, the weight of the bar gradually (it might take less than a second) gets added to the COM equation.

Unlike the other lifts, the bar starts from a dead stop and that's part of the point. The press is somewhat similar, but lifters often add a dip or hip whip to get the bar moving on rep 1.

Deadlifts: Eat Your Spine

Instead of describing what the deadlift does to your spine, this "eat your spine" is a cue to conceptualize what happens in the setting of the back in the bottom of the deadlift.

Typical cues involve "lifting the chest" or "arching the back" or something similar. Too often, this results in overextension. You don't want overextension but simple, normal anatomical extension. You won't be able to maintain overextension.

Andrew's cue brings to mind that the spine is not only controlled by muscles of the back but is surround by muscle (including on the anterior side).

Wrap the spine with muscle or eat your spine.

Another important component of the deadlift is feeling the weight in your whole foot. The weight should be felt evenly on the balls of your feet and heels.

One other aspect they discuss is the difficulties for those with long torsos and short arms (we're sorry - enjoy the squat!). For these lifters, they may need a lower hip position than is often considered correct.

Deadlifts: eat your spine. This is the cue you didn't realize you needed.

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