Jeff Fiss, my old friend from where I lifted when I was in Philly (Ironsport.com, one of the best gyms in the country despite terrible power racks), recently posted a DL session on Facebook and opened it up for critique.
Jeff is a HWT and competes in USAPL, so his squat technique is certainly quad-dominant. If you check his Youtube, you can see some of his squats. As most single ply lifters do, he squats to a box; he does not box squat. That is not necessarily a bad thing at all, but it explains why even this enormous and absurdly strong individiual has been stuck in the middle 6s with his DL for a few years now.
On his Facebook threat, Jimmy Dart was first to identify that when the bar gets around and then above the knee, it is way out in front. Try to pause at 0:39. With 3 wheels, it looks like the bar is almost a full fist off the thighs. With more wheels on the bar, I think this where he stalls. He gives you many reps to watch, but look at where he loses 630 at around 2:39.
It’s probably also why he has a history of back pain, but I’ve never worked with Jeff in that regard, so I don’t know his breakout of physical limitations for that. I do know that I think the last workout we did together was thick bar Zercher’s, which I still remember some maybe 5+ years later.
Anyway, I think Dart and I completely agree on the strategy for Jeff to take here.
1) Do not take the bar off the floor for some time. What is in his brain for a DL off the floor is wrong. It won’t change by continuing to go hard and heavy.
2) Based on his choice of squat technique and subsequent DL technique, Jeff (by semantics) is trying to squat the weight up, rather than pull/drag the weight up. His start is with a very angled tibia. Again, this is okay, but when the tibia has to come vertical, this is where he loses the bar and efficient form to go big.
3) We need training choices with a vertical tibia as this is simply when things go wrong for him. He could go sumo, but this flares his back. Again this is a major problem, but we’re not going that route right now to fix this.
4) Potential choices with a vertical tibia are Rack Pulls, Swings, RDL, Box Squats (potentially High Box), GMs, SS/RFESS.
–Out of this group, I think the best choice for a secondary lift (Westside program design) for Jeff is the Rack Pull. Swings, he should be doing anyway for conditioning every workout. The Beast is a stuffed Pokemon for him. RDL is his problem, so that won’t work. Box Squats are a great choice, but he typically crashes into the box during squat training, so from afar, this may not be my best advice. GMs – not enough reward for the risk for him as well. I would like to see SS just to keep some load off during accessory work at least once a week.
5) My best advice is Rack Pull as the Secondary or Supplemental Lift on both ME and DE Lower days. I’m not even sure if this is how Jeff maps out his training, but anyway. I like the Rack Pull anywhere from below the knee to slightly above the knee for him, and I want heavy bands. The heavy bands will do 2 things: Keep the bar heavy, but also force him to drag the bar up his thighs keeping it closer to him. We are nabbing everything that he is not good at with his DL, so if it’s important, so quote Dan John, do it every day.
6) The setup for the Rack Pull is important to consider as well. Most people get into the rack and set up the same way as if you were pulling off the floor. Not the right approach; I think you should wiggle under the bar so your feet are well forward as if this was during mid-lift. Many people know this; others don’t. Jeff doesn’t pull the bar into him. He pulls it up. Well, let’s set up in such a way where he HAS to pull it into his thighs and pop from the hips to finish the lift.
Not a complicated fix. This will probably help his squat too as it would for most single-ply squatters.
Oh, and I am fairly confident that hamstring curls aren’t part of the solution here. For cryin’ out loud…………………..