• Chris K

How Fisting Could Improve Your Deadlift

As of the writing of this article, I've never been fisted. I did get punched at a Craig Charles jazz gig once, which not many people can say.


But I have used coaching cues where my clients had to imagine it happening.


During the following article I will link deadlifting, effective coaching and fisting. Strap in, have your safety word ready and let's dig in.



Teaching someone to move better is a process. You watch how someone moves, establish how it needs to change, communicate that change and then teach the person in-front of you to maintain those changes by creating a vivid image in someone's mind that lasts:


1) long enough to change the movement immediately


and...


2) long enough to maintain good form when training without the coach


In today's article we will be focussing on communicating technique changes and creating vivid images in the mind of our clients.


The Problem


A common issue with deadlifting can be finishing the lift by extending the lower back, lifting the rib cage and leaving the pelvis tilted forward.


I appreciate the previous sentence may make about as much sense as a chocolate fireguard so I'll show you what I mean in picture form.


Picture taken from legionathletics and the following article about anterior pelvic tilt: https://legionathletics.com/anterior-pelvic-tilt/

The Change We Want To See


We want to see the hips finishing the deadlift rather than the lower back. We want you to be stood tall, not leaning back, we want your ribs and your pelvis to be more or less parallel with one another as you finish the lift.


Client, friend and co-host Shrubs demonstrating a lovely deadlift lockout


Why do we want to see this?


From a performance point of view, finishing with the hips reduces the amount of movement of the lower back, which can increase the amount of weight you can lift and cranks on the back much less.

Back crankers will usually tip their pelvis forward as they arch their back, potentially increasing the risk of injury towards the front of the hip joint and the lower back.


Finishing with the hips and keeping the back stable often reduces the hip tilt to hit many birds with one fist-flavoured stone.

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From a technique point of view if you finish the deadlift with your hips, your lower spine will be in a more consistent position throughout the lift meaning you have fewer moving parts to meaning it's easier to maintain 'good' form.


From a safety point of view, arching/hyperextending your lower back while deadlifting a large weight has a higher chance of causing lower back injury as when the lift is finished with lower back instead of the hips, there is more force going through the spinal structures in the lower back, the front of the hips, and the abdominals are in a lengthened position which makes it for difficult for them to aid with your positioning.


Finishing with the hips distributes the forces through the body more effectively.


Communicating The Change We Want To See


We have two main types of instruction, more commonly known in the fitness space as coaching cues.


Internal cues: an instruction to use something within the body to complete a task.


External cues: focuses on anything but the body. A vivid image is painted in the imagination of the lifter to create the desired change in movement pattern.


An example of an internal cue for our deadlifter would be "tense your glutes hard to finish the lift."


An example of an external for our deadlifter is:


"Resist getting fisted in the butt at the top of the lift. Really lock it down."


The more vivid and easily understood the external cue is, the better the person will be at applying the change when they are training alone.


Your external cues can be distilled down over time. Eventually, you'll be able to use one word or hand gesture to communicate the cue quickly. In this example it could be distilled to "resist," "fist" or I could make a fist.


External cues work better for most people. External cues turn the emergency brakes off and allow people to get out of their own way.


So "Resist the fist" makes sense to me as a coach.


It's graphic.

It's a powerful image.

It won't be forgotten in a hurry.


Before you start banding this cue to everyone, carefully consider when it's appropriate and only proceed if you know you will do no harm.


"Resist the fist" is one of many cues you may use to effectively change movement. As long as someone is able to get into a positions required, teaching them to get there requires you to use the correct coaching cue to unlock the door to moving better. When you want the cue to stick in their mind forever it needs to be memorable.


Next time you or a client need to change a movement agree upon an incredibly vivid image and you'll have good results. If you have a client who doesn't visualise well, your coaching will need to be very different, which highlights the need to know the person in-front of you well enough to not put your foot in it with an inappropriate coaching cue.


In conclusion, fisting may help some people deadlift better, but the key to great coaching is to find the cue that works for the individual and that no one coaching cue will work for everyone.


By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach



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