An Interview, Perfect Squat Form, Don’t Dis the Deadlift, and My Mom’s Lower Body Workout

Hi there fitness friends, I have a few random things to share with you.

1. Strength Physiotherapy Podcast

goblet-squat-IIA UK physical therapist by the name of Chris Lendrum recently interviewed me for his Strength Physiotherapy Podcast. Physical therapists/physios – I recommend that you click on the link and subscribe to his newsletter so you can listen to his podcasts regularly. He asked some excellent questions – we covered personal training efficacy, glute training, functional training, sprinting mechanics, this whole “gluteal amnesia” thing, the ethics of palpating clients’ glutes, assessing glute function, programming for glute development, proper hip thrust mechanics, the hip thruster, CNS fatigue, how to research, best research reviews, the 2 x 4 program, and more. You can listen below.

2. Perfect Squat Form

Brandon Campbell recently asked me to film a video on squat depth for his channel. Some of it is information repeated in a video I posted a couple of weeks ago, but I added in some new information and had Skelley make an appearance. Brandon helped me realize how crappy my camera and microphone is, so I plan on remedying that in the upcoming months. Check out the polite comments underneath the video; I didn’t realize that this was possible on YouTube. Kudos to Brandon for creating such a culture. Here it is:

3. Don’t Dis the Deadlift

My friend Tony Gentilcore just reached out to me and asked for my input on a blogpost. A physical therapist/Pilates aficionado was dissing the deadlift, so we teamed-up to put her in her place, respectfully of course. Click HERE to read her comment and Tony and my response. Here are some of my rebuttals to whet your appetite, but you need to read what she wrote in order to get the gist:

  • Most strength coaches borrow from Yoga and Pilates and incorporate various drills into their warm-ups and corrective exercise regimes. We’ll use anything that’s effective, as S&C is all-encompassing. The same cannot be said of trendy modalities that pick and choose what’s included and what’s excluded and fail to tailor programming to the goals and needs of the individual. Pilates can definitely be progressive in nature and isn’t always “wussy,” but if maximum power, strength, or conditioning is the goal, then you’re going to have to jump, sprint, lift heavy, and move around more. 
  • Agree! Perhaps you’d be interested to know that the highest bone densities ever recorded are in powerlifters (see HERE and HERE), and that high load exercise is more effective than low load exercise in increasing bone density (see HERE). 
  • Do you have any research to support your claim that deadlifting with a neutral posture leads to disc herniation? I’m very well-versed in spine research, and I’m unaware of any such research. I believe that with proper deadlifting, the erector spinae will be strengthened, the vertebrae will be strengthened, and the discs will be strengthened too, in concordance with Wolff’s law of bone and Davis’s law of soft tissue. 
  • Nevertheless, the spine is very good at handling compressive loads when in neutral postures, and shear loading is limited in neutral spine deadlifting as well. If you round your spine close to full flexion when deadlifting with heavy loading, then lumbar intervertebral discs can indeed herniate and ligaments can be damaged. However, now we’re talking about a different exercise (roundback deadlifting, not neutral deadlifting). An exercise is judged based on how it’s supposed to be performed, not how jackasses screw it up. We could also speculate about the effects of performing Pilates maneuvers with improper form, but this wouldn’t imply that the exercises should not be performed with proper form.
  • If you’re going to deadlift, you better hold your breath until you pass the sticking region. Failing to do so would reduce IAP and therefore reduce spinal stability, which could compromise spinal posture and lead to injury. I agree that IAP will be extremely high during deadlifting. However, strength coaches first introduce deadlifting to clients with light loads, ensuring proper mechanics. Each week, loads are increased so that the body has the ability to build up in strength. This is the essence of progressive resistance training. We also program multiple exercises that will further strengthen the abdominals, the erectors, and the glutes, which will further help prevent injury. 
  • I’m aware of no research showing that deadlifts lead to increased incidents of hernias. You can speculate that deadlifters might be at greater risk for experiencing hernias, but the role of exercise and occupational lifting on hernia risk has been debated, with both sides providing great arguments (see HERE for references).  In my experience as a personal trainer for well over 15 years, I would say that proper deadlifting does not significantly increase hernia injury risk. 
  • When you deadlift, the muscles of the TVA, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor (sometimes referred to as “innner core unit” muscles) contract to produce IAP. Essentially, a pressurized cylinder is formulated via contraction of each of these muscles (a few more assist, but this is beyond the scope of this article). The pelvic floor muscles draw upward and inward, which increases the IAP and stabilization. As you can see, the pelvic floor muscles will be strengthened and not stretched out. Women tend to notice improvements in incontinence after learning proper resistance training, including deadlifts. If their pelvic floor muscles draw outwards, then they are exhibiting a dysfunctional pattern and need to be taught proper pelvic floor biomechanics. Research shows that 78% of women who exhibit flawed pelvic floor mechanics can properly contract the pelvic floor muscles after basic instruction (click HERE for an article on this topic). Women who properly contract their pelvic floor musculature will properly stabilize during deadlifts, Pilates, and other exercise. Women who don’t will improperly stabilize during deadlifts, Pilates, and other exercise. The IAP doesn’t blow the pelvic floor outwards during the deadlift like you propose, nor does it force the diaphragm upwards. Rather, it’s the proper mechanics of the core muscles that creates the high IAP. 
  • In summary, you have failed to issue an evidence-based response, and I believe that your unfamiliarity with the deadlift exercise is biasing your beliefs. Just as you recommended that Tony give Pilates a try, I recommend that you start learning about deadlifts and experimenting with them in the gym. From the various hip hinging drills, to single leg RDLs, to partial deadlifts such as rack pulls and block pulls, to full range deadlifts such as conventional, sumo, and trap bar deadlifts, to various variations such as Romanian deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, and snatch grip deadlifts. 
  • Since you’re making the claims that proper deadlifts damage discs, abdominal walls, and pelvic floors, the burden of proof is on you. You can speculate all you want, but bear in mind that if this were true, all powerlifters would have wrecked spines, hernias, and incontinence. This isn’t the case at all; quite the opposite. But they’re loading the spine to the maximal limit. Research shows that there’s a u-shaped curve with regards to low back pain and exercise. Sedentary folks and individuals who perform strenuous exercise have increased pathology and low back pain, whereas those in the middle are more healthy and comfortable (see HERE and HERE). Therefore, a few days of strength training per week utilizing basic strength training exercises such as squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, planks, push-ups, and rows will generally improve back health and structural integrity. 

 4. My Badass Mom

Here’s my badass mom doing her weekly lower body workout. At 62 years old, she stays fit by walking three miles per day, but she also does her weight training one day per week. If we all regularly performed exercises like goblet squats, kettlebell deadlifts, band hip thrusts, single leg hip thrusts, back extensions, kb swings, and reverse lunges as we aged, we’d be a much healthier and fit nation.

I hope you enjoy the content!

 

31 Comments

  • Craig Patch says:

    I absolutely love this considering I suffered an l4/l5 disc herniation at the young age of 21. I dealt with constant pain for 2.5 years and wish this type of injury upon no one. I was miserable and hated life. My doctor told me I could have surgery otherwise the body was heal itself over time. I tried going to the chiropractor and even an inversion table as well as many other exercises. I read many articles that stated to stay away from deadlifts and barbell squats if you have a herniated disc. I then came across your blog posts Brett and you inspired me to start to deadlift. I can happily say deadlifts literally saved my life and I have been pain free for 9 months now while pulling 400+ lbs! It is all about starting out slow and using proper form! I wish this was an exercise that more people with herniated disc would work into there exercise program!

  • Craig says:

    I’m curious how you go about determining the proper squat foot width for your clients. I’ve had to go about this through trial and error with myself.

  • Jenny Shick says:

    Your mom is amazing! Thanks for the great article!!

  • Tania says:

    So stoked to see your mom’s workout! I am a firm believer in training to improve the aging process ( or at least slow it down). I am 46 and my own kids say I am badass too! They love it that I lift and like to brag to their friends. Thanks for posting this!

  • Marnie says:

    Bret, your mom is amazing!!

  • JXXD says:

    Bret says, …”When you deadlift, the muscles of the TVA, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor (sometimes referred to as “inner core unit” muscles) contract to produce IAP…”
    Bret, Your experience on the rings (ring dips) must prove that deadlift IAP does ‘very little’ for core/spinal stability/innner core muscularity conditioning? . I would imagine many advanced pilates practitioners would make ring dips look pretty easy? as much of the emphasis in pilates is focused on increasing stability & improving balance.
    Bret says, …”Pilates can definitely be progressive in nature and isn’t always “wussy,” but if maximum power, strength, or conditioning is the goal, then you’re going to have to jump, sprint, lift heavy, and move around more.”…
    But before all the jumping, sprinting, lifting heavy and moving around more, you need to be stabilized first & foremost. So the feet/spine/pelvis all have to be considered (performance/injury), especially in sprinting, otherwise your severely limited.
    Bret, What is your opinion towards those that say continuous heavy lifting weakens the pelvic floor?. What do you say to prove otherwise?. I know from my studying of animals that all the tail-wagging the cheetah does through the day, the pelvic floor is potentially it’s strongest part.

    • chris says:

      in science, you have to prove things you claim. not the other way round.
      example: “in the deep sea, there are turtles and kangaroos fighting each other. show me a study that this is wrong, otherwise my claim is right!”. see why it doesnt work? btw, the classical example you teach students is that of the “black swans”, see the wiki link below.

      “proving things” actually means trying to falsify things (“ppl who deadlift and ppl who dont have the same probability of pelvic floor problems”). when your study doesnt manage to demonstrate that statistically, u can reject the “zero hypothesis” and accept your hypothesis (“deadlifting ppl have less/more pf problems”).

      see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability for more information.

      and to the actual topic of pelvic floor strength: although therefore the proof isnt on bret, but on the claiming party, see dean somersets highly interesting comment: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/a-response-to-anyone-who-feels-deadlifts-are-destroying-everyones-spine/#comment-1362330100

      • JXXD says:

        Chris, There’s the independent thinker for you, I like to do all my own thinking, hence I don’t tend to rely heavily on science or listen to what everybody else tells me. ‘Pain’ certainly changes your thinking (sorry for being the thorn).
        Will science will ever get round to answering/proving whether continuous heavy lifting weakens the pelvic floor or not?.
        With regards to Tony’s article, one line that sticks out to me is; “Furthermore, as Bret noted, deadlifts teach the glutes to share the load which SPARES the spine.” So does this mean where sparing spinal stability?, regardless of how much IAP is being produced while deadlifting/squatting/hip thrusting?. Again, we refer back to Bret struggling on ring dips.

        • chris says:

          (empirical) science has worked, works and will work in building knowledge. purely “thinking”, posing theories without testing them empirically works miserably. and yes, if u donate enough money, every sport scientists will immediately be able to conduct studies that investigate and deliver results about deadlifting and pelvic floor strenght – while “independently thinking” wont. regardless if youre gonna rush to transfer money from your bank account right now 😉 , eventually there will be enough data on this topic. as u may have noticed if u read the linked comment by dean somerset, theyre already investigating it. exciting, isnt it?

          btw, if disregard or discard the importance of the empirical scientific method, u should stop using computers, mobile phones, medicine and airplanes. maybe also take of your non-cotton clothes. 🙂

          • JXXD says:

            The pelvic floor is definately a key area for which science needs to look into in the future. It could be considered as one of the true ‘foundations’ of the human body. Nobody is ever going to build a house on dodgy foundations (stability). Nutritionally, we have to consider eliminating much of what weakens it also.

        • Bret says:

          I didn’t struggle on ring dips from pelvic floor dysfunction JXXD! It was stability at the shoulder joint that limited me. After ten minutes, I could do a couple of them. This is common – many stronger lifters are initially very humbled by ring dips, but in a couple weeks their strength skyrockets.

    • Steven Sequoia says:

      If you listen again to Bret’s podcast and his
      Discussion of his ring dip experience, vis á vis his and Brad’s discussion of neurological
      Adaptations to cable vs. machine exercises; he did say that after 10 minutes of practice
      He did progress. The adaptations necessary
      Are motor unit recruitment and neurological in nature. Additionally, if you break down the mechanics involved, it’s not core stabilization that is the issue; it’s scapulo-thoracic (plus scapulo-humeral) stability, adapting from working only in longitudinal axis (traditions dips) to the longitudinal AND the lateral AND the normal axis (ring dips) that provides the neuromuscular difficulty.
      Balance is a measure of ones ability to center their mass over their point of ground contact. How would Pilates then prepare one for suspended feats of strength? Are you asserting that Pilates is adequate training for gymnastics?
      Your assertions that Bret’s ring dip experience “must prove” deadlifting IAP isn’t the bee’s knees as well as your non sequatorial inclusion of your totally irrelevant fascination with feline hind quarter behavior are straw men of Dorothy proportions…

    • Steven Sequoia says:

      I’m sorry…there are just TOO many golden nuggets here JXXD (I’m assuming your name refers to the drugs you are taking)
      “I can imagine that many advanced Pilates practitioners would make ring dips look easy?” Reminds me of the famous quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts”.
      I can imagine pink unicorns frolicking with leprechauns, does that make it so?
      From what empirical, observed and statistical basis do you draw this conclusion? Have you conducted, read or been otherwise privy to some formal or even observational study demonstrating the gymnastic prowess of Pilates aficionados or even professional dancers? I know that the first thing I think of when I see a ballerina is: “she should really be a gymnast!”
      Also, asking Bret what he thinks of “Those who say…” And “what do you say to prove otherwise…” Is like you, JXXD, asking (which you are essentially) “what do you think when I say…” And “what do you say to prove otherwise…” Bret doesn’t have to think anything, the burden of proof is on you to “do all the thinking” and provide cogent arguments that are not based on fallacious thinking. As Chris mentioned to you here as well, if the existing hypothesis is that “deadlifting does X” (the null hypothesis) and you state “deadlifting does Y” it is up to YOU to prove that it does Y. YOU must disprove X, not the other way around. But, I guess you probably should have known that, if, maybe, you know, stayed in school instead of getting all JXXD.
      Stay in school kids! Don’t do drugs!

  • MIchele says:

    Women usually lie about their age to make themselves younger. Why is your mom trying to make herself over. She can’t possibly be 62.

  • Darthzilla99 says:

    Hello Bret. I am a long time lurker and was not sure where else to post first. Thank you for the good articles you put out. I love your work and I love hip thrusting and cable twists (I get weird looks at the gym doing these since I am a guy). Your mom is doing great.

    Anyways, I had two off topic comments/questions I wanted to inform you about.
    As a guy, I want to get a butt that makes women go wild. I am doing Starting strength right now with some of your work as assistance when it does not interfere with Starting strength. I in particular was wanting to get my glutes to where it keeps my pants from falling in the back. Even as a 340lb guy, I have to wear large waist pants and keep the belt tight to keep it from falling. What part of the glutes should I focus and with what movements in addition to doing SS (I am trying to do it to the mostly letter like cleans instead of rows like a lot do.) Thanks.

    Second part, on T-nation there is a thread in the powerlifting section about your 2×4 program and a lot of posters are skeptic about it, saying things like “Oh, I have long femurs like him, never did a glute bridge and I am stronger then him, ” or “while he maybe nice, he’s never trained a high level athlete” ect… Here is the link. http://tnation.t-nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_strength/contreras_2x4;jsessionid=DB418B3F9F9C7D9A307182B8F94F8175-mcd02.hydra

    I thought you might want to know. I look forward to more of your work. Thanks and good luck.

  • Jacob Søholm says:

    Your mom has a really badass homegym 😀

  • Gill says:

    At 47, after years of cycling as my main source of fitness activity, and being desk bound the rest of the time, I was diagnosed w herniated discs at L4 & L5, and degenerative disc disease. I began Pilates and learned much about ‘managing’ pelvic floor. 3 years later (against Pilates instructors advice, but out of frustration and need to just get stronger) I began lifting again- slowly and with some good trainers who’ve taken great care of me. At 54, have a deadlift 1rm of 87kg, and bench of 57kg, squat is getting better all the time- 70kg at last test (extremely limited right dorsiflexion due to a bad ankle break many years ago). I have some minor issues occasionally around back/hip/ankle but have learnt to move my way out of it. I believe that the initial involvement in Pilates really gave me a good base to understand better how to support my body, and I often recommend that beginners do a session a week alongside other training to provide the base- with an expert instructor at first. Have utmost respect and time for Pilates, but I love picking heavy things up 🙂 thanks for great squat pos. post, and yes your mum is the bomb! I want to be like her! Thanks Bret, you nailed several things yet again!

  • Shane says:

    Hi Bret, sorry that this is totally unrelated to any of the article content but I’d really love to get your thoughts on this vid. general and/or specific, being as you are the glute guy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bq6NcAoQDSk

    Regards, Shane (Australia)

  • Marie says:

    Your mom is great!
    Thank you again for very valuable information you put here for free!

  • Jonathan says:

    Best single video on squat depth I have seen Brett, thanks. I love K Starrett but it is al lst a religious position that we can all do identical depth if we just do enough soft tissue work but people are different and Im afraid laws of physics come into play. Long torso short femur guys are going to have difficulties doing a deep free squat ass to grass that others wont no matter how much flexinility you have. Thanks again.

    • Steven Sequoia says:

      Jonathon, you should really check out the post on the movement fix .com “why we should all squat differently”. I’m a long torso short femur squatter. After years of trying to squat to ass to grass depth thinking I just wasn’t trying hard enough (despite the hip pain) or gifted enough, I played around and found my “channel” if you will, my anatomical pathway that allows me to squat deep pain free without but wink. For me, it’s shoulder width stanst, plus 20° foot flare (as long as knees are tracking over the foot). It looks silly, but I can go deep and heavy pain free. Without the ability to have x-rays of our hips we simply have to have to experiment with different positions until we find what works best.

  • Barb says:

    Bret,
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful mom with us. She is awesome and inspiring.
    B

  • ggs says:

    Your Mum is awesome…and your an awesome son for teaching her the go to moves to make aging an almost a non issue…Its Sunday and I want to wish your Mum a Happy Mother’s Day…She is inspiring as is her son…

  • Tiffany says:

    Loved the squat video and thought it was educational for me. It was great seeing a 64 year old woman do so much. I am going to college to become a FT or conditioning coach if I start off some the older clients slowly some them can easily get to a conditioning state instead of phase one. These are inspiring videos to show different ways where people can stuck on how to do a squat that won’t cause injury!

  • Joyce says:

    Delighted to see your mom in action…badass indeed!

  • Jessica says:

    Do you recommend Romaleos or any other type of shoe for squatting?

  • Laurie says:

    Excellent!
    More videos of your mom’s workouts please. She is a rock star!
    Love it!

  • Charles says:

    Re the pilates story, eirik’s article, and your mom: I’d like you and Chris to consider that what many people are looking for leadership in is optimal health, life performance and longevity. I consider resistance training to be fundamental in this, as the Biomarkers book and much new science confirms.

    The glute, athletics and powerlifting angles are great ways for people to relate to lifting and for you to authoritatively and authentically pass on principles which apply to optimal health. But putting optimal health as a clear objective is another step. And surely this is the most common goal across the planet?Ofcourse it puts you smack bang in the middle of the big bunfight that is the wellness industry, with all its charm and error – a vast and dangerous landscape! But if common-sense, science and track-record are leading the way, I would hope you can stand strong.

    Perhaps the optimal health objective just needs to be clearly defined as another one of the training goals. Ofcourse with the science behind it.

    (PS. This comment doesn’t have to go online 🙂

  • Jess says:

    Your mom is badass!

  • Paloma says:

    You mom is awesome! Thanks for sharing!

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