“Hey bro would you mind answering these questions?”
That’s how I opened my first email (on facebook none the less) to Jason Pegg. If you had asked me who he was a few months ago, I wouldn’t of had a clue but thanks to social media sites like twitter and facebook, we’ve actually had the chance to share information and interact almost daily. You see Pegg isn’t just some dude. He’s actually pretty strong.
Jason has a 870 pound squat and a 710 pound deadlift. Not to mention that he is a member of the Elitefts advisory board. So the dude knows what he’s doing. Here’s proof
To be honest, this conversation started out of my desire to improve my deadlift and fix some of my training flaws. Here’s what occured during our conversation.
JS:I have trouble keeping my hips from rising too fast. I end up straightening out my lower body too soon and this limits how much I can pull from the beginning. Ive used different grips and pulled from a deficit in hopes that it’ll correct it. Hell, I even tried to pull with less weight slower to improve my technique. What can I do to fix it?
JP:This could really depend on so many things, and could vary widely from individual to individual. Its really hard to say. It could be that their head is down, causing their back to round. That is an easy fix. Some guys just lack the back strength to hold an arch. it could be A lagging muscle group. Weak abs for example don’t provide enough intra abdominal pressure to stabilize the spine, which causes, again, the back to round. This is big in your run of the mil trainees, and bodybuilders, because for whatever reason they think that they don’t have to train their abdominals to be strong. I’m not going to go that far into it, because i will just end up pissed off and flying off the handle into some weird tangent that ends up being far away from the original question! That being said, I would always look at your technique first. without seeing someone actually pull, if i had to give them something to focus on to improve their form, it would be
1. Don’t deadlift facing a mirror. you spend too much time looking at your body and not doing what you’re supposed to.
2. Keep your head up and back. I don’t mean that they should be trying to see the mirror behind them, but the head needs to be flexed into the traps.
3.Keep your butt down, and your chest up. In the start position, you really need to focus on pushing your chest out through the space between your arms. It will make perfect sense when you try it. Quit trying to do slow deadlifts too. That is about as effective as trying to shovel smoke. you have to deadlift violently.
Now, saying that, you obviously want to work guys up to it so they don’t fuck themselves up, but you should never have any kind of controlled tempo when deadlifting, unless it is a static hold at the top. Honestly, too, you shouldn’t look to do variations of the lift if you’re having trouble with the main lift. It just tends to emphasize technique breakdowns. toss the deficit pulls for now, and work them in later. You have to realize too that everyone’s structure is different, and the only place you will see a “perfect” deadlift is in the pages of your personal training manual.
There are some guys with deadlifts well over 800lbs that seem to do more stiff-leg technique, but you should also see this with EVERY REP. If it starts happening when the weights get heavy, it is one of the issues I discussed earlier.
JS:Most people tend to lose the bar half way up the thighs. What can this be attributed to more? Lack of hamstring strength or upper back/grip strength and what can someone do to correct it?
JP:Again, it could be a form issue. did they start with a rounded lower back? how are their feet placed on the ground? Are they parallel? If your feet are parallel, you aren’t going to be able to get maximum contractions in the hip, which will often lead to missed lifts right at the top. I used to have this problem. Your feet should be angled out away from the midline, anywhere from 15-45 degrees.
It has also been a grip issue for me in the past. There is nothing you can do immediately to fix that, save for throwing the straps on. That’s something else I believe too. there is nothing wrong with using the straps in the deadlift. let your other back work and specific grip work fix that.
Fuck the broscientists who cant even pull double their bodyweight, but don’t hesitate to say “straps are wrong , bro,” they don’t know shit. as far as correcting it, obviously fixing their feet and improving their grip strength is good. Working on getting stronger all over is a good thing to. And, honestly, although guys hate to hear it, sometimes there is just too much weight on the bar.
JS: What accessory work have you found to be the best for improving the lockout? It is more “upper hamstring” work like pull-throughs and good mornings or do people need to just stop whining about how weak they are and get strong in a wide variety of posterior chain movements (box squats, SLDL’s etc).
JP:”Posterior chain” (I hate that term) work will always help. If you can get strong doing them, you’re going to get stronger all over, regardless. Exercises that work the hip extension and knee flexion together are good as well. I love GHRs, but i think that pullthroughs are stupid as a “strength” exercise. I think they have their merits, but if you’re doing a pullthrough as one of the main ways to get your deadlift up you need to look at your program. reverse hypers done correctly are infinitely better. I was able to really push my deadlift up by just deadlifting. Doing it for reps with submaximal weights. Im not talking 50% but reps at 70-85 percent of your 1rm.
That is whats worked best for me. if you were looking for an exercise to really help your deadlift, that wasn’t a deadlift, I found that when i started doing heavy, high rep barbell rows the right way (not that dorian yates 70 degree angle shit) and my lockout fixed its self. DB rows done in the same fashion will help as well. Shrugs are good for this as well, so long as you don’t turn them into hang cleans without the rack at the top. run the reps up. Don’t do rack pulls. they’re good for adding some muscle, and getting weight in your hands, but they don’t really do much for your lockout. Ive done 545 plus a green and blue band, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 pounds or so, and couldn’t lock out 730 at my last meet. The carryover just isn’t there.
JS:People that are more bodybuilding based love powerlifters because they have huge backs. What are a few tips that you’d tell a bodybuilder to add into their back training
JP:Let me preface this one with a disclaimer. This isn’t meant to offend anyone, and these are broad generalizations of my observations from college gyms and the local YMCA. I know there are legions of bodybuilders out there that this wont apply to, but there are probably twice as many guys who it will. I have seen and know some bodybuilders whose backs are absolutely ridiculous. HUGE backs. Sorry guys!
Honestly I think that they would gain a lot from making the switch from training bodyparts to training movement patterns. i think that they would be well off to cut the volume down, and move the frequency up, but this goes hand in hand with dropping the bodypart splits. Guys wont do good mornings because they have hamstrings and biceps tomorrow, and dont want their hamstrings to be sore. Also, in no particular order, my tips to the average local bodybuilder would be:
Your back is something that you cant cheat and “pump up” to look huge. You don’t need so many exercises. You’re pissing up a rope trying to really focus on improving your teres. Quit wasting your time. Get off of the damn machines too, and put a barbell and dumbbell in your hands. Ive literally seen hundreds of bodybuilders who will not do a single barbell or dumbbell lift for their entire back workout. Leave your ego at home and bend over. kind of like I was talking about before, those Yates rows are doing your back a disservice. Quit worrying about “feeling” the muscle and the “mind muscle connection.” Its all Weider principle bullshit. Your back responds well to heavy loading and hard work. I guarantee your back gets bigger and thicker doing 315lb barbell rows for 10 than it does doing seated cable rows with 180lbs worrying about getting a “peak contraction.”
Basically, what it boils down to is that doing heavy, BASIC back work will do more for you. I guarantee if you did nothing for your back but deadlifts, chinups, and barbell rows for 2 months you would shit when you saw how much better your back gets, especially when you compare it to the machine centric back programs most guys follow today. rewire your brain and fix your training for a huge back.
JS: Thanks Pegg
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