Mixed grip deadlifts are fucking stupid

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Warning: strong language.

Also warning: rant.

A mixed grip deadlift is when you hold onto the barbell with one hand in a supinated/underhand position (palm facing out) and the other in an overhand position (back of hand facing out).

It can make deadlifting feel lighter or easier on the hands by sandwiching the bar between the opposing fists.

I reckon everyone should stop doing it so fucking often, and here's a comprehensive list of reasons why: 

  • It looks dumb

  • It is dumb.

An overhand grip with straight arms and good scapular retraction (shoulders back and down) will recruit the big, broad muscles of your lats to connect your arms, core and back to the lower-body powerhouse of the pull. 

The underhand grip, on the other hand (lol), will force that shoulder into a more protracted position, resulting in more tension through glenohumeral joint of the shoulder, specifically the long head of the biceps.

The glenohumeral joint is sometimes referred to as the 'true shoulder' and is involved in all of your favourite arm-based activities. If you like doing stuff, this is a joint you'd probably like to keep intact.

Biceps tears can and do happen during heavy deadlifts, and are more prevalent in the supinated arm. Chronically speaking, biceps tendinopathies are not much more fun.

Basically your lats are a lot bigger and stronger than one half of your biceps* and so will do a better job of taking that load and keeping your shoulder safe.

*if this is not the case please do a shitload of lat pull-downs every week for the rest of your life, thank you.

Let's have a closer look at your lats. From the Latin words “latissumus” (broadest) and “dorsum” (of the back), they cover a lot of body, originating at the centre of the body from :

  • the spinous processes of T7-L5 vertebrae (ie: quite a few mid-low backbones)

  • the wide, super-strong sheet of fascia around the lower back 

  • the top crest of the pelvis 

  • the lowest 3-4 ribs 

  • the bottom corner of the shoulder blade, 

… and ending in a single tendon inserting into the top of the humerus at the other end. 

 

We all know and love the lats for their 'pull up' actions (adduction of the arm, as well as shoulder extension and medial rotation), but aside from that they also contribute synergistically to rotation, lateral flexion and extension of the trunk. So when lats on both sides are contracting simultaneously they have a powerful stabilising effect on the spine, they keep the barbell close to your centre of gravity, and can help you keep your back from rounding. Conversely, having one shoulder more protracted and externally rotated than the other will mean one lat is in a stronger position than the other – which may lead to slight bending or rotating to that side. You don't need me to tell you that this is not ideal posture under load for the spine.

Injuries aside, constantly training one side differently to the other will OBVIOUSLY result in different muscle development on each side. The underhand side will get a gimpy lat. You don't want a gimpy lat. 

The benefit of the mixed grip deadlift is that at heavy loads it will allow you to lift more. This is because squeezing the weight between the opposite-facing hands gives your grip strength a boost. Grip is often the weakest link when deadlifting and the mixed grip is a neat way around that – at heavy loads. 

So if you are a competitive powerlifter : ignore me, get off the internet and listen to your coach.

Everyone else : the mixed grip is for competing, testing rep maxes, and for your heavy-ass working sets. It's a great tool to be able to whip out of your pocket when you really need it, but if it's constantly used in training it will actually limit strength gains. Leave it in the pocket when you're warming up or training light.

 

But I can't hold on to the bar any other way, it keeps slipping out of my hands.”

If your grip strength is your limiting factor in the deadlift, here's an idea: train your grip.

Or try chalk, straps if you must, or hook grip (thumb around the barbell, fingers over thumbs.)

 

But I don't like hook grip it's uncomfortable.”

Consider the possibility that you are a giant sooky lala. Call yourself a waaambulance.

 

But I alternate which hand is which so it will even out.”

No, you don't. Unless you keep a training diary featuring sentences like “Working sets 1, 3 and 5 were in a left-hand supinated mixed grip setup, working sets 2 and 4 and back-off set were right-hand supinated,” I don't want to hear it. I also would rather peel my eyelids off than read that diary.

You may think you're alternating your grip but I call bullshit. You're probably overhanding your dominant side more often or at heavier loads than the other side. Just keep it simple, stupid : double overhand until you're working really hard. 

But we should be training the back to be strong and resilient pulling in a variety of positions and planes.”

Bravo, I couldn't agree more – that must be why I see you doing so many Jefferson deadlifts, hey? Or single leg deadies, single leg good mornings, single arm ring rows, landmine/torsonator stuff, Pallof stuff, renegade rows, KB windmills, TGUs ... IDGAF but if you want to train odd positions or rotation just train it properly – mixing grips at light weights is half arsing everything.

The most reliable way to ensure your training is balanced is to perform bilateral movements symmetrically (as often as sports-specificity allows), and use unilateral movements to detect and correct imbalances. 

Mixing grip on a deadlift is a handy trick, but one that should be used sparingly - once you've perfected everything else about your deadie and it's time to get heavy.

Rant over.

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Growing Pains: Hamstrains

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Since starting a new page in my career at Evolutio, I’ve had the honour of attending a mid-season footy training night at Richmond Central Football Club. My role there is to assess any injuries that the athletes are carrying and clear them for return to sport, advise them to rest or to seek further management.

In my previous life, I’ve done a lot of sports training in the form of footy, indoor netball and various fun runs; but never as a physio who was responsible for assessment.

My first thoughts at RCFC were:

  • The familiar smell of Metsal, grippo and sweat. Yum.

  • The challenges of trying to tape over body hair.

  • The overwhelming number of hamstring injuries! This comprised of over 50% of the injuries I saw that night.

So, what are hamstrings?

The hammy is a group of muscles in the back of the thigh (duh!) which consist of the semimembranosis, semi tendinosis and biceps femoris.

Okay, but what exactly do they do?

When doing isolated movements, such as at the gym, the hammy bends the knee and extends the hip.

Moving onto the more functional side of things… During sports, like footy, the hammy is in charge of stopping ballistic movements. It does a powerful and sudden contraction at the end of a large footy kick or at the end of swinging your leg forward during each stride of a sprint.

How do they get injured?

You know what they say; there are a hundred ways to skin a cat…

Pretty much everyone will be familiar with strains in one form or another. Strains are tears in the muscle fibre which occur when moving something that is too heavy. Muscles are at a greater risk of strains when they are already fatigued.

Firstly, let’s look at that kick. Something has to stop that leg from rocketing into outer space. In this position, the hamstring is in its most stretched out position and at a disadvantage to produce power. Do this a few dozen times in an intense match and you’re bound to feel its effects.

Moving on to sprinting; similar story here. Your hammy isn’t going to be as stretched out but instead of a few dozen kicks, you are striding hundreds of steps in a match or at training.

Moving on: How to prevent hamstrains

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Warming up

Warm up, warm up, warm up. I’m a huge fan of dynamic warm ups. They get your muscles moving in the full range and synchronises your motor neurons to work together like a well rehearsed orchestra.

Slowly build up the intensity of your warm up by adding light drills. In footy, this might be jogging or light kicks. Build up towards running and medium kicks followed by sprints and large kicks. Before you know it, you’re training at full intensity.

Cooling down

Cool downs are important, too. Don’t just go from full blast workouts and drills to suddenly not moving. Keep those muscles moving by walking around or jumping on a low resistance bike.

Stretching can help but I generally reserve this to only while the muscle is warm so straight after exercise is best.

Between training and matches

Keep those hamstrings strong. Remember I mentioned that strains are at risk if they’re tired? If your hamstrings are strong, they will do every movement with less effort. Hit the gym to do some leg curls or deadlifts to name a couple of examples.

Practice makes perfect. If you’re not good at running, get good at running. If you’re no good at kicking, get good at kicking. If you can do these things consistently each time in a stress free environment, you’re less likely to stuff it up on game day.

Already injured?

Strains can occur in varying degrees. So depending on how severe it is, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks before you’re back to sports.

Typical management of strains involves RICE initially, massage and heat then gradual return to sport. If the symptoms of the strain are persistent or recurring, it’s not a bad idea to get it looked at by someone at Evolutio to get you back quicker and better than before.

 

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TRUST(ING) THE PROCESS (PART TWO) #TTP: CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

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Okay, so, now it's my turn to blog and I'm going to be a bad cop to Phill's good cop.

If you've been into the clinic or met us you'll you know that these are pretty obvious roles for us – his hair is higher, he smiles a lot and he has less of a tendency to go off on elaborate angry rants for unclear reasons.

The thing to remember about the good-bad cop routine is that they are on the same team. I agree entirely with Phill - in its essence, trusting the process is a very important message. I just have one lil' issue with it and a couple of things I'd like to add. Politely... More or less.

My issue with #trusttheprocess is that I often see it being used to excuse plateaus in progress or injury recovery; to condone consciously bad training choices or to mask piss poor performances due to over training.

Overtraining is an issue that I can and will write several more blogs about, but for the moment let's just define it as excessive exercise volume leading to fatigue, suboptimal performance and elevated risk of injury and illness.

I'm #allin for the original meaning of the phrase – playing the long game, pushing through when things get hard, realising that for every few steps forward there may be a step back, sticking to the program when you're having the odd bad day and it doesn't feel like things are moving in any direction.

Consistency is and always will be the key to progress, so I have absolutely no bones to pick with the OG #TTP.

Pain and fatigue are part of training, and sometimes you just need to quit yer whining and get the work done. Some seasoned athletes even go into a specific type of overtraining – it's called functional over-reaching and it's a short, controlled period of extra high training demands and fatigue that is usually followed by rest/reload and then a burst of progress (which is the point).

But listen up, here's the thing about EVERYTHING in strength and conditioning: the right thing to do is always somewhere in the middle. More training is good for you, up until the point where it's not (devastatingly this even applies to hip thrusts).

So is it possible to over-trust the process? Absolutely yes, if that process is no good.

Yes, we should all trust the shit out of the process, but only after taking the time to #questiontheprocess. YOUR process has to be right for YOU. Every single one will be different – depending on goals, injury history, sport, age, training age, season, etc. etc. etc.

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So if you think I might be talking to you, take an honest look at your training and ask yourself:

Are your results plateauing or regressing?

Can you remember the last time you ACTUALLY deloaded?

Do you find yourself always training at the same loads or intensities because you can't break through?

Are overly tired, hungry or sore?

Do you get unreasonably irritable/emotional or struggle with motivation?

Do you have trouble sleeping, miss periods or find your heart rate elevated at rest?

Do you have an injury or niggle that just won't get better? Or an infection or illness that you can't kick?

If these questions are striking a chord, your training volume may be too high. And even if you don't care about your health, keep in mind that overtraining will steal your gains, stall your progress, and if left unchecked it WILL result in injury.

If you are continually training the same way without set goals and clear progress, then you are putting a hell of a lot of effort into throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks.

What we all need is a system that gets the most results with as little effort as possible. That's what good programming is, and that's the kind of process you can trust.

Now I don't know you, but I don't think you're very good at picking your own process. That's because very few people are – only trained, experienced and smart coaches are good at it for athletic performance, and only trained, experienced and smart physios are good at it for injury rehabilitation. Even if you are one of those I'd still bet against you because the other thing you need is objectivity. Personally, I'm horrendous at picking my process – if left unsupervised I'm just as likely to row a half marathon for Christmas or exercise myself into hospital. 

So, I pick physios and coaches that I trust and then work out my process with them – making sure they have enough info to tweak it as we go, because programs evolve with every session.

Then I quit my whining, get the work done and hashtag the crap out of it.

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Our new friend: Tiff

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So, we've got a new physiotherapist; a former roller derby queen with the nickname 'Fat China' snowboarder, heavyweight champion of sleepy and easy cutter & gladwrap enthusiast. We put together a fun, little interview so you guys can get to know her.

  1. What inspires you?
    Phill inspires me.

  2. What is the most important thing in your life?
    Being able to do the things that I love with the people I love; spending time in the outdoors.

  3. Who is your favorite actor?
    I do love Hugh Jackman, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I like him particularly for his versatility; he can be Wolverine, he can sing dance.

  4. Who’s your favourite person in the world?
    Can it be my dog? Yuna. I love my brother’s dog too.

  5. What is your favorite childhood memory?
    My favourite childhood memory would have to be when I went to New Zealand when I was 7.  My parents took me to some glacier climbing in Franz Josef. And like, you’re not allowed to climb anymore so I got to do it when I was tiny.
     
  6. What is your favorite drink?
    Beer. My favourite beer is called Engine Oil. I also brew my own beer.
  7. What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?
    Cafe grande.

  8. Pick one, Nike or Adidas?
    Nike

  9. Pick one, Pepsi or Coca-Cola?
    Pepsi

  10. Pick one, summer or winter?
    Winter