We’ve all seen it, the guy Deadlifting far too much weight with a horribly round back hitching through to lock it out. Only to go ahead and try and fix his “weak lockout” with heavy rack pulls, adding even more weight to an inefficient Deadlift only to have a hitchier lockout. If these people were to learn to lift more proficiently first, most of the time they will find the problem isn’t their lockout at all.
Variation and Overloading movements are extremely beneficial, but only when the lift is technically proficient first. If you are unsure of your own technical proficiency it is extremely beneficial to hire a good coach. A lot of people who think they’re moving well could often be moving a lot more efficiently under a well-trained eye. If you want to be good at something learn from someone who has already done it. Allowing yourself to learn from someone with more experience will make you a far better lifter in the long run. I understand that a lot of people want to figure things out for themselves. Having a good coach doesn’t take away from the self-learning, it only enhances it as you will gain a much deeper understanding of your own body and how you respond best to the movement.
Have your coach assess your movements and/or record yourself. Look for points of break down and consider which muscles are dominant and which muscles are lacking. Also look for ways you could change your movements to engage the lacking muscles more before assuming that they’re weak. Knees caving in during a Squat can suggest Quad dominance and a weak posterior chain, but it can also indicate inadequate loading of the hips and lack of posterior engagement. Always be sure that your movement is correct before you assume weakness. Otherwise, you may end up wasting a ton of time strengthening muscles that don’t necessarily need to be worked so hard.
Sometimes you may have to take a step back in weight to take 2 steps forward in technique, which will lead to more strength in the long run. Putting strength aside, lifting correctly will also mean more longevity in life and in competition. When you are lifting correctly and genuine weaknesses are exposed, now is the time to look to variations of the main lifts to get stronger. It’s easy to assume that variations only strengthen one portion of the lift, all variations will strengthen the lift as a whole.
Take deficit Deadlifts, for example, the first thing people think is that they help off the floor. While this is true, the fact that you are moving through a greater range of motion is still going to benefit the rest of the lift as well. Having to generate more speed to get to a lockout is still going to make your lockout stronger.
A sumo block pull teaches you to maintain better positioning under heavy loads and works the upper back and quads extremely hard, which also happen to be 2 of the most important muscles for getting a Sumo Deadlift off the floor.
Take this into consideration when choosing the right variation movement to correct any weaknesses that you have identified. Weaknesses are always best corrected in the movement that you are weak in. Knee cave in the hole of a Squat due to weak glutes isn’t going to be corrected by doing a bunch of hip thrusts. You need to activate the glutes in that movement, this is where something like a box Squat will correct that weakness.
Having said that, doing some direct isolation work on the weak muscle groups after you have done your variation work is still beneficial as it builds muscle mass in the weak area. The larger a muscle is, the more potential for strength there is.
Hire a coach, learn to move properly, keep on top of your weak points and you will be amazed at how far you can push yourself.
-Coach Steve @redbearlifting