Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It Doesn’t Always Look Pretty (and That’s Okay)

On a one-rep max lift, you get that motherf—er up however you goddamn have to.

Paul Carter showing how a really fricken' heavy deadlift is done.

With a max lift, it doesn't always look pretty. And that’s okay. In fact, chances are good that you’re actually stronger with this less-than-ideal form.

With that said, last week I posted this video of my one-rep max power clean and press:

To my delight, the video was very well-received. The majority of responses were to the tune of “What’s your excuse?”, and similar motivational mumbo jumbo, which is cool to think I have the ability to inspire thousands of people with a simple video.

A few intrepid souls went against the grain, however, and pointed out the biomechanical imperfections of my power clean. Lo and behold, they were spot on in their analysis.

In fact, you don’t need too well-trained an eye to see that I go into some pretty severe varus (bowing out) at the knee.

I could have just chalked it up to haters doing what they do best. But instead, I decided to point out that for safety, I generally perform cleans from the hang position while wearing my prosthesis. (I’ve actually written extensively about my own lower body training methods HERE.)

That afternoon, I was simply on a high from proposing my master’s thesis earlier in the day, and I decided it would be fun to show off a little.

The smoking gun that I failed to remind everyone of, though, was that this was a one-rep max! And one-rep maxes don’t always look pretty.

For comparison, here’s a video of me performing the same lift at 76% of my max:

You’ll notice that my technique is much cleaner, which it better be at that intensity.

Where some lifters run into trouble is when suboptimal technique creeps into their submaximal training. Rounding your upper back a little on a max deadlift is one thing. But allowing yourself to round rep after rep with light loads spells trouble in the long-term.

The important thing is that there be a limit to the amount of leeway one affords themselves. If you’re a beginner, that limit may be zero.

But as you progress deeper into your lifting career, identify your goals clearly, acknowledge the risks, and understand where you are in your training cycle, you do earn some wiggle room.

Nobody’s saying to go out and pick up three times your bodyweight off the floor with a fully rounded back like Swerve here (what an apt nickname!):

But a little hunch in the upper back or a little varus at the knee, once in a while, probably isn’t going to kill you -- and will actually make you stronger in the moment when it counts.

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