Breathing and deadlifting technique

17.15 When deadlifting heavily, whether in the stiff-legged or bent-legged version, I always used grip aids. I had neglected to do serious grip work and was paying the price by having to use the crutch of heavy grip support.

17.16 During the bent-legged deadlift the stress upon the body from holding the bar in the standing position while pausing to breathe is very great, and will increase fatigue. ^e alternative of breathing while the bar is on the floor or platform—while in the crouched setup position—is not satisfactory either. ^e legs and back tire from being kept in the setup position.

17.17 What I used to do was maintain my grip on the bar, though relaxing my hold, while the bar rested on the platform. I also maintained the positioning of my feet. But I did not keep my knees bent in the starting position. I straightened my legs, while keeping my hands and feet in position, and took a few quick and deep breaths with my legs and arms straight—my back would naturally round during this pause. ^en I would bend my knees, get in position with a flat back once again, set the bar against my shins, and pull the next rep; and then repeat the process.

17.18 I always set myself up in a flat-back position, and the initial drive from the floor was with both thighs and back strength. But my legs quite soon locked out and the deadlift became a total back exercise. ^is became exaggerated after I developed knee problems—by taking more of the load on my back I reduced the stress on my knees. When my form got ragged, my back would round quite a lot at the top of a rep. While I absolutely do not recommend this round-back style of deadlifting, I got away with it for quite a long time. Even when I got injured at the end of the cycle I do not think the excessive rounding of my back was anything more than a contributing factor at most.

But I urge you not to duplicate my deadlifting form. Use much more leg strength than I did, and keep your back flat.

17.19 Natural squatters usually use lots of thigh strength in their deadlifting. ^ey are more able to maintain a flat back than are less-gifted squatters who use more back strength because of comparatively weaker thighs. Natural deadlifters have a tendency to want to bent-legged deadlift more akin to stiff-legged deadlifts (but with slightly bent legs) than the regular style that uses lots of thigh pushing strength. ^e great Bob Peoples—who, as noted in Chapter 12, deadlifted a stupendous 725.75 pounds at a bodyweight of just 189 pounds, and using the overhand hook grip—lifted with a rounded back and relatively little use of his thighs.

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