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james forshaw
08-12-2010, 10:34 AM
My lower back has not exactly been my best friend over the last few months. To cut a long story short, I had to quit squats, deads, strenuous metcons and anything that was going to irritate it for a long time. Combined with visits to a chiro, ice, tennis ball therapy, stretches, lumbar support at night and just being careful, I managed to finally get it pain-free up until the week before last....

The last few weeks I started working in upper body strength training, with the occasional back-friendly metcon, which was fine. What I discovered was that the Clean position was painless, and I could easily clean enough for my sets of hang power cleans that I was tentatively doing. Clearly, bent legs and a vertical torso was fine. So on the last set, I decided (as it was light weight) to deadlift the bar... and immediately the injury resurfaced. Luckily with immediate ice, massage and rest the pain wasn't so intense and I'm sure it'll be gone in a couple of days. It hit me there and then that I may never be able to deadlift ever again. Clean, yes, but I don't think my posterior chain will be able to stand a deadlift. So I did a bit of reading round and found that there are elite O-lifters who never deadlift. This was massive news to me.

I'm forever interchanging Crossfit with strength programmes just because I enjoy variety, but my squat and clean will have plummeted thanks to all the rest, so I intend to start rebuilding my strength base once my lower back is completely pain-free. I tweaked the Onus Wunsler variation of Starting Strength so that instead of deadlifts, I'll do twice the amount of power cleans. It looks like this:

Workout A
Squat 3x5
Push Press 3x5
Power Clean 5x3

Workout B
Squat 3x5
Bench 3x5
Chin-ups 3xMax

What do you guys think? I reckon the dynamic nature of cleans and similar positioning will be more than enough to compensate for the absence of deadlifts. Would inclusion of glute ham raises be beneficial for my posterior chain strength? I don't have access to a reverse hyper machine unfortunately, as they look pretty good.

I think my biggest problem will be upping the weight of the cleans more regularly than normal. One idea I had was perhaps doing e.g. 85kg 3x3, then 5x3 at the same weight, then 87.5kg 3x3, then 5x3 so increases happen over 2 workouts instead of one. Sound good, or any better suggestions?

Quite a long one, I'd appreciate any feedback whatsoever.

John Alston
08-12-2010, 01:20 PM
what are you even trying to accomplish anyway?

Andrew Wilson
08-12-2010, 02:06 PM
sounds like you may have some very tight hamstrings. do you have pain doing RDLs? that'll be interesting to look into if you're not have having any disc issues or something else.

james forshaw
08-12-2010, 05:18 PM
John - recovery of base strength, did I not mention that? Once back to normal, Crossfit Football.

Andrew - yes, my hamstrings are incredibly tight. I'm working on them with daily sets of dynamic high-kicks but progress is slow. I'm a good 8-9 inches off being able to touch my toes.

Donald Lee
08-12-2010, 06:03 PM
Tell us more about your injury. What was the diagnosis/treatment/etc.? How did it go? What remaining issues do you have? Being pain free for 2 weeks after prolonged time-off due to injuries does not mean you should start doing strength training again. Lack of pain does not mean lack of injury/problems.

Steve Shafley
08-12-2010, 07:58 PM
What? Dynamic high kicks aren't going to do jack for chronically tight hamstrings.

In the meantime, I'm going to give you a secret: There's a stretching protocol called "Microstretching" that tends to work dramatically with the chronically tight.

1. Lay down on your back with both legs in a doorway.
2. Lift the leg to be stretched and put it up on the wall. The other leg remains straight on the floor.
3. Scoot your hips closer to the door frame until you are stretching very mildly. It's hard to determine, but it's around a 40% of the maximal perceived stretch. It shouldn't hurt, it shouldn't pull, it should be up there and just lightly stretched.
4. Allow the stretch to continue for 60s or more.
5. Repeat the other leg.
6. Stretch each leg 3x all total.
7. For chronic tightness, perform this at least 3x daily.

Yeah, it's a big chunk of time, but it can be dramatically effective. I'd give it a 2 week run to see if it's going to work for you.

Dave Van Skike
08-12-2010, 08:12 PM
John - recovery of base strength, did I not mention that? Once back to normal, Crossfit Football.

Andrew - yes, my hamstrings are incredibly tight. I'm working on them with daily sets of dynamic high-kicks but progress is slow. I'm a good 8-9 inches off being able to touch my toes.

if you're going to play football, i'd take whatever course of action to fix your hamstrings, tight hamstrings cause all manner of evil things to happen especially if you're playing field sports. also, RDL's are great even at light poundages for rehabbing backs and stretching hamstrings.

james forshaw
08-13-2010, 10:29 AM
Steve - I do dynamic high kicks as part of a hip mobility drill. Why would they be advocated if they weren't going to help my flexibility? Is static stretching the only way to lengthen the hamstrings?

Dave - I'm not going to play football or rugby or anything similar. CFFB is just a great way to train for broad fitness. Apart from the occasional game of soccer, all I plan on doing is training for GPP with a leaning toward strength, particularly in the squat and power clean.

james forshaw
08-13-2010, 10:43 AM
Donald - it was a strange one. At first the chiro said I had a functional imbalance due to a slight scoliosis which meant my left leg was a tiny bit longer than my right. This was after a month, maybe two, of a pretty diffuse but severe ache to the left of my lumbar spine. She said my back muscles were incredibly tense and that I have to stop leaning on my left leg and sitting on my left cheek all the time. We got all the knots out with a combination of therapies and I began tennis ball therapy and stretching to keep myself loose. Eventually, the pain subsided enough for it to become clear where the origin was. Using Steven Low's info on Eat Move Improve, I could run my finger along my left iliac crest and pinpoint the pain on my left SI joint. I iced this area for days and kept my body aligned when standing and sitting, and didn't involve my hips in anything strenuous until the pain disappeared, which lasted for about a fortnight. Then that light deadlift derailed everything again...

Thing is though, when it was pain-free, cleaning was fine. Admittedly it was light weight (around bodyweight) just to get the bar into position for HPCs, but even so the upright torso shifted the work to the quads and not the posterior chain allowing me keep the strain off my lower back. I wouldn't dream of doing power cleans during a metcon for a long time, and I haven't been happy doing deadlifts during metcons for a long time (it's asking for trouble IMO). But for singles and doubles, I think it'd be fine. Squatting without weight was also fine when pain-free, although not when I was hurting. I was greasing the groove with extended Third World squats for a while which really helped wih positioning. If I was to start the plan I outlined above, the starting weights would be extremely low, allowing my back to adapt at its own pace. It's just so hard to know when to get back into things because when your pain has disappeared how are you supposed to know when you can work out again?

Donald Lee
08-13-2010, 01:27 PM
So are you saying that you're done getting treated by the chiro?

I'd consider getting looked at by a Structural Integration (http://www.theiasi.org/locate.php)guy, depending on whether you feel like there are any lingering movement or even structural issues.

If you don't feel like you need to get any professional help anymore, I'd just stick with light weights for about a month and not try to get stronger. I'd focus on making sure that your movement patterns don't get all screwed up.

Andrew Wilson
08-13-2010, 02:20 PM
Andrew - yes, my hamstrings are incredibly tight. I'm working on them with daily sets of dynamic high-kicks but progress is slow. I'm a good 8-9 inches off being able to touch my toes.

Sounds very similar to what I had, and what could be the main issue if scoliosis isn't the bad guy. I use to do similar warmups and thought I was flexible until I found out I had less than 45 degrees of hamstring range of motion and couldn't RDL passed that angle with an arched lumbar. Was the main problem with my back pain and weakness in pulls. I ended up doing progressive RDLs with bar then onwards, stretching then strengthening the hammies, came to a huge significant difference. The main component though was maintaining the arched lumbar completely through, pushing hips backwards and feeling the tension through the hamstrings and contract with that tension. My experience is that that is the best hammy stretch

Dave Van Skike
08-13-2010, 04:12 PM
same experience as andrew. rdl's are great, somewhat self correcting and a good stretch. you can also lighten them and go snatch grip with straps for higher reps and this position provides a lot of feedback on how to maintain a stable spine from ass to neck.

james forshaw
08-14-2010, 03:07 AM
That's some very good advice. Can I ask about frequency/sets etc? I'm guessing you guys just do them every time you warm up? Were the results dramatic? If it lead to me being able to touch my toes then I'd be ecstatic.

I just tried a PVC RDL in front of the mirror - I made 35 degrees, if that :( No wonder I suffer when putting socks on!

Andrew Wilson
08-14-2010, 02:15 PM
That's some very good advice. Can I ask about frequency/sets etc? I'm guessing you guys just do them every time you warm up? Were the results dramatic? If it lead to me being able to touch my toes then I'd be ecstatic.

I just tried a PVC RDL in front of the mirror - I made 35 degrees, if that :( No wonder I suffer when putting socks on!

hahahaha yeah that's definitely a problem. In a 3 day/week oly lifting program 3-4sets of 4 reps around 80% of best cj only on heavy snatch days, which would be every other workout and as the last exercise. For rehab/prehab build up 3-4 rep max starting at 60kg, usually taking 5kg-2.5kg jumps to the 3-4rep max. I'm in the middle of an appendectomy surgery recovery period so I've had to stop all oly, so pretty much I've just done the build up to 3rm every other day, worked pretty solid so far, added about 25kg to my best RDL 3rm in a week and a half with 45 degree increase (90 degrees rom now). flexibility went from 10-11 inches between fingertips to ankles to now 4 inches inbetween

james forshaw
08-15-2010, 04:47 AM
hahahaha yeah that's definitely a problem. In a 3 day/week oly lifting program 3-4sets of 4 reps around 80% of best cj only on heavy snatch days, which would be every other workout and as the last exercise. For rehab/prehab build up 3-4 rep max starting at 60kg, usually taking 5kg-2.5kg jumps to the 3-4rep max. I'm in the middle of an appendectomy surgery recovery period so I've had to stop all oly, so pretty much I've just done the build up to 3rm every other day, worked pretty solid so far, added about 25kg to my best RDL 3rm in a week and a half with 45 degree increase (90 degrees rom now). flexibility went from 10-11 inches between fingertips to ankles to now 4 inches inbetween

Wow, at least a 6" improvement. Many thanks for the feedback, I'll get right on it.