There are those who’ll say:
“A deadlift is a deadlift.”
If you’re coming from the ol’skool gym, bodybuilding, etc. you’ll be more familiar with the conventional, and sumo deadlift. If you’re coming from CrossFit, you’ll be more familiar with the squat deadlift. Depending on where you started out, you’ll probably be calling one of the many versions, ‘the deadlift’… and when you’ll meet the opposite team, you might even argue about what is what.
I’m going to tell you my version, you can, of course, take it or leave it, if it makes sense, take it, if it doesn’t, leave it, all good either way.
First, I’m pretty confident about this one, hell, I’ll do you one better and bet my left nut sack on it. One can lift hip hinge style, and one can lift squat style. Just like there is the squat style kettlebell swing, and hip hinge style kettlebell swing.
- Hip hinge = shoulders low vs squat shoulders high
- Hip hinge = hips high vs squat hips low
- Hip hinge = no ankle dorsiflexion vs squat ankle dorsiflexion
- Hip hinge = knee flexion is a variable vs squat knee flexion is a constant
- Hip hinge = looking at the ground vs squat looking ahead
Why do one over the other?
- Hip hinge target is the gluteus maximus and hamstrings (most of them)
- Squat target is the soleus, gastrocnemius, and quadriceps
- More core work involved with the hip hinge
- Less core work involved with the squat
- The squat is naturally easier to learn
In most CrossFit boxes I’ve been to, they don’t employ/teach the hip hinge style specifically, simply because it does not progress to anything else. Because one can lift heavier weight and keep the spine safer with a squat style lift, this is the lift employed for clean, snatch, etc. Thus they refer to it as THE deadlift. Whereas, if you go to the gym, and things are looked at more as “how does this work a muscle group”, rather than “how does this translate, or progress?”, the hip hinge is referred to as THE deadlift, and to be fair, before anything, there was the conventional hip hinge style deadlift. In the gym, if you want to change the deadlift up to work the quads more, you do sumo deadlifts.
Anyways, enough on that, I’m going to cover the squat deadlift, which is what I will call it to make it clear what style it is. Let me stress, this is my version, as there will be plenty of others, and plenty of people who’ll say, this is wrong, that’s wrong, and so on.
If you watch the video, here’s what happens:
- Create tension between the bar
- Pull the lats down
- Retract and adduct the scapula
- Brace the core
- Start to lift
- Activate the upper trapezius
- Pull the knees back
- Ankle plantar flexion
- Pressing the heels into the ground
- Knee extension
- Follow through with hip extension
- Squeeze the gluteus maximus to pull the pelvis up
- Keep the bar positioned under the shoulders
- Lift the bar up in one straight line
Lift with the shoulders first! You might hear it, you might be tempted to say it, I like my bar close to my shins. To be able to lift the shoulders up first (hip extension), the bar needs to be further away (in squat style), otherwise, hip extension will pull the bar into the shins. I like my strippers booty for squat deadlifts. If I want to get efficient at dead to overhead work, I do need to work on moving those shoulders first.
Doing so reduces load on the back, which isn’t always a good thing, remember, there is training for strength, and there is training for efficiency. Following is an example from CrossFit itself, note how the knees are further back, more hip hinge, also take note of the light weight.
With all that said, it’s like anything, you go to one box and you’ll be asked to push the knees forward more, in another you’ll be asked to pull them back more. My opinion: The heavier you go, the more you need to lean towards the squat style. Otherwise, if you’re lifting that bar, getting the reps out, don’t get injured, and your technique is one of many ‘good’ techniques, keep doing it.