Tag archive

strength building

5 Simple Cues for a Bigger Deadlift

Today’s guest post by Adam Pine, an awesome coach out in Boston whom I had the chance to meet and crush BBQ with in Kansas City at the Fitness Summit.

Not only is Adam a smart dude, he’s extremely strong.

To the tune of bending caste iron skillets with his bare hands,wrestling grizzly bears for conditioning, and deadlifting 700+ pounds. 
Okay, the first two are a lie (but I wouldn’t put it past him), but Adam knows his strength, especially as it comes to the deadlift. When he talks strength, we should all listen. Here are his tips to help you pull a bigger deadlift next time you hit the gym.

Great deadlifters can make lifting even the heaviest weights look easy.

It takes these lifters years of practice to gain mastery and perfect their deadlift technique. Experienced lifters have listened to hundreds of cues trying to perfect their form.
Often the right string of word creates a remarkable connection between your mind and body, allowing you to perform a movement seamlessly. However, the same cues aren’t always going to connect and make sense to everyone.
In this article I’m going to follow the basics of the hip hinge, followed by 5 essential cues for better deadlifts.  They’ve connected with me and many of my clients.

How To Hip Hinge
If you are learning how to deadlift, you’ll want to learn how to hip hinge. Here are two great cues for learning the hip hinge.
An uncommon one I like is, “Make a hand sandwich.” Simply put your hands on your waist and touch your stomach and thighs together as you push your glutes back to the wall behind you. You’ll feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings as you hinge back.
Another great one I picked up from Ben Bruno is the landmine hinge. This one makes grooving the hinge really easy, as the bar acts as a counterbalance.

Here’s a video of Ben doing Landmine RDL’s. You can do these with or without weight to pattern the hip hinge.
Those are two great tips for getting started. Let’s get into some simple cues for a bigger deadlift.
1. Make your arms long


This is a great cue for both novice and advanced lifters.

It prevents you from shrugging the weight and from deadlifting with bent elbows. Both of which can limit the amount of weight you’ll lift and increase likelihood if injury.

Keep your arms as long as possible to create a short ROM and a better leverage for driving the weight off the floor.

A common cue you hear is to pull your shoulders back and down. This is a good cue for keeping your back flat and creating tension.

Rather than pull your lats into your back pocket or shoulders back and down, make your arms as long as possible. Your arms only act as a rope to connect your hand to your body. Your hand acts as the hook that connects the bar to your body.

Be careful not to reach too far as well. This will cause your back to round and can increase the likelihood of injury overtime. Some great lifters do use this method, but I would not recommend it for most as it can be extremely taxing on the lower back.


For the most efficient bar path, setup and keep the weight close to you.

The bar should be riding up your body through the entire lift. Start with it close and pull the weight into you the entire time, it should skim your body throughout the lift.

If the bar travels away from your body it will increase lumbar flexion or lower back rounding. As the bar drifts from your body, you see an increase in form breakdown.

That’s why it’s so important to brace effectively and create a ton of tension through the rest of your body.

Common Mistakes: When using this method, do not pull your shoulder blades into your back pocket to create more tension through your lats. You do not want to shorten the length of your arm, let them hang as long as possible.

It also becomes difficult to maintain that position (shoulder blades in the back pocket) with heavy weight. This can cause your shoulder blades to protract or rotate forward as a result causing you to round.

For an optimal setup, make sure to keep your arms long and maintain a neutral spine.

A video posted by Adam Pine (@adamnpine) on

In this video you can see when the weight’s heavier (710lbs) it becomes difficult for me to maintain the lats back and down position.

2. Be immovable

Get as tight as possible. Something we hear all the time. What does this really mean in the context of a deadlift?

Getting tight means you have to brace hard and create tension through your body. When braced you should feel rock solid, like nothing on Earth can move you.

You can brace at the top of the deadlift or the bottom. I’ve done both and I prefer breathing and bracing at the bottom because I don’t have to hold my breath for as long.

Grab the bar and take in a big breath of air – a lot, like your just came up from drowning.

When you take that air, focus on breathing into your lower back and belly. This will fill up the entire area that a weightlifting belt covers.

After that, flex your abs as hard as you can like you’re about to get punched in the stomach.

You should feel completely rock solid and immovable at this point.

You want to maintain your braced position throughout the whole lift. If you have a leak in your brace, heavy weight can expose it.

Common Mistakes: Not breathing, or taking a big breath into your chest or belly only. Try to fill your entire torso with air, beginning with filling the lower back and belly.

3. Your torso and hips should act as a teeter-totter

A video posted by Adam Pine (@adamnpine) on

600 X 4

In the video, I grab the bar and my torso is more-or-less parallel to the floor. I brace and right before I initiate the pull, I drive my chest up and my hips lower like a seesaw.

With your hands on the bar in the bottom position, rock your weight back onto your heels using the bar as a counterbalance so you don’t fall. Your weight is now shifted back, shins are vertical and your hamstrings tense.

As you do this, drive your chest up and lower your hips a bit while finding tension in your hamstrings. You should feel tension throughout your entire body at this point and be ready to explode up with the weight.

This helps to pull the tension out of the bar. Make the bar click before you pull. This creates a smooth transition from setup to driving the weight off the floor.

The next part is simple, lifting the weight.

Common Mistakes: There are two mistakes I commonly see in this area of the setup.

One, the lifter doesn’t pull their chest up at all. Their torso is completely parallel to the floor and their hips are too high making it look like a stiff legged deadlift.

The other mistake is they try to squat the weight. Their chest might be upright, but their hips are too low and they have little-to-no tension in their glutes and hamstrings.

4. Melt your heels through the floor

Drive your heels so hard into the ground that you melt the imprints of your heels into the floor.

Think about pushing the floor away from you rather than pulling the weight off the floor.

This gives you an insane amount of leg drive. It allows you to be extremely explosive while maintaining proper bar path.

This allows you to use your legs to accelerate through the lift rather than trying to pull all the weight up with your back.

Common Mistakes: Using your back to pull the weight off the floor.

Often what happens when you try to pull the weight off the floor is your hips shoot up first and your back rounds. This is puts you in a risky position and a disadvantageous deadlifting position.

Avoid this by simply driving through your heels, using leg drive to explode towards lockout.

5. Crack a walnut between your butt cheeks.

As pass your knees and near lockout, squeeze your glutes together as hard as you can. Think about cracking a walnut between your butt cheeks and humping the bar to lockout.

You want to use your glutes to bring your hips through and lock the weight out without hyperextending your lower back. This allows for a safe and efficient lockout.

Common mistakes: Trying to finish the lift with your back. Many lifters will hyperextend at the lower back to finish the lift rather than squeezing their glutes as hard as possible.

Think about your lower back stabilizing and maintaining position during the movement rather than pulling the weight.

It’s a Wrap

There are lots of great cues out there to help you build a great deadlift. The best ones are the ones that connect with you.

Give these simple cues for a bigger deadlift a go in your next training session to optimize your technique, improving your form to prevent injury, and helping you build a huge deadlift.

About the Author:

Adam Pine is a Strength Coach in Boston, an Elite level powerlifter with a 700+ pound deadlift, and the owner of a rapidly growing online coaching business.

cues for a bigger deadlift
Website: http://www.adampine.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adam.pine.9
Instagram: https://instagram.com/adamnpine/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AdamPine1
Don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter, and if you have questions on programming, accessory work, peaking for a competition, or coaching inquiries, please shoot me an email at: adamnpine@gmail.com.


High Frequency Training: Your Strength Building Solution

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, build muscle

High-Frequency Training is a hotly debated topic.

Some “experts” say you should demolish every muscle once per week, blitzing the body part split. Others say focus on an upper-lower or total body split because training major movement patterns more frequently will stimulate faster gains in strength and size.

I’m with High-Frequency Training. Here’s Why. 

Training Frequency the number of sessions performed per unit of time, is the most important training variable for building size, strength, and skill mastery for beginners.

For those looking to gain muscle and strength, frequent training is the premier and logical choice for the fastest gains. Unfortunately, most people still follow bodybuilding body-part split routines popularized in every fitness magazine over the last three decades. These routines aren’t ideal for anyone except high-level bodybuilders. Luckily, the workout you can download here will help you.




Consider the Following:

If you’re learning a new language is it best to study for five hours one day per week, or 45 minutes seven days per week?

Would you be stronger performing squats in 52 workouts per year or 104?

I would go with 45 minutes per day, seven days per week and 104 workouts without a doubt.

But Why?

Consistent exposure to stimuli is vital for learning new things and movement patterns.

The Research on High-Frequency Training

In 2000 the study Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects 25 experienced participants were randomly separated into training groups. Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, with rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set.

Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day while working in the same rep ranges. Volume was kept the exact same, yet group two had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength. With total volume held constant, spreading the training frequency to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

high frequency training

In a 1997 study titled Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development 33 men and 25 women were tested for rotational strength before and after 12 weeks of training. Groups were split into training groups that exercised one, two, or three times per week.

Although there were no major differences between groups training two or three times per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group. Once again, a higher frequency than one time per week was shown to improve strength gains.

In a 2010 study titled Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of Growth Hormone and Testosterone, it was found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which can be generated in response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy.

This shows that frequent exposure to training increases protein synthesis at the cellular level, leading to greater amounts of muscle growth.

High-Frequency Training for Hypertrophy and Strength

Full body workouts are the premier and logical choice for beginners. The more muscle you stimulate frequently the more muscle and strength you’ll build, with three or four workouts per week being plenty.

high frequency training

To set up your own full-body workout start with a dynamic warm-up to activate muscles, lubricate joints, and prepare the body for activity.

Before hitting the weights start with some box jumps or medicine ball slams to fire up the central nervous system to lift more weight. Two or three sets of three to five reps should be plenty.

Pick an upper body push, an upper body pull and a compound lower body exercise.

This includes squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, push-ups, chin-ups, rows, cleans, overhead presses, and glute bridges.

Stick with four or five sets of two to eight reps with one or two minutes of rest between sets. Multi-joint exercises should be practiced with a high training frequency and technically mastered for both safety and results.

Plan ten minutes (yes, only ten) at the end of your workout of free time to do things you want to do, whether it’s abs, biceps curls, or somersaults across the floor.

Have fun and enjoy yourself. I highly recommend a qualified coach to get you off on the right foot.

Upper/ Lower Splits

If you’ve been training for a solid year while making significant strength gains you can get more creative.

I recommend intermediates move to an upper-lower split, with halves of the body being hit at least 48 hours apart. Pick two presses and two or three pulling exercises performed in alternative sets on upper body days. Always train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to build those “pretty bumps.

According to The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Chasing the pump is alright, as the accumulation of metabolites from exercise requires the use of anaerobic glycolysis resulting in the buildup of lactate, hydrogen ions, and other metabolites.

high frequency training

This metabolic stress leads to greater muscle fiber damage, furthering the need for tissue repair and nutrient shuttling to the source of damage.

Lower body workouts should be at least 48 hours apart as well, with 72 being ideal for maximum recovery.

Just like the upper body workouts train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to stimulate the metabolic environment to promote further muscle growth.

Here’s a sample lower body day: 1×10/each

  • Walking knee hug
  • Cradle walk
  • Straight leg march
  • Dynamic quad stretch
  • Forward lunge
  • Reverse lunge w/reach
  • Spiderman’s
  • Sub-Scap Push-Ups
  • Body Weight Squats
  • Box Jump 3×3

Weight Room:

1.Front Squat 5×5

2a.Romanian Deadlift 4×8

2b. Side plank 4×30 seconds

3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×12-15

3b. Hanging leg raises 3×10-15

4. Free time/ intervals/ Pretty bumps

*Note: If you’re a competitive athlete this isn’t a program for you. You’ll need more specialization and movement included early in the session. Many athletes succeed with total body programs because they place a premium on recovery. 

 Routines that train movements or muscles only one time per week are not optimal for high-performance strength development, especially for beginners. I recommend training each movement pattern at least twice per week for the best gains in strength, muscle, and performance.
Download the full workout here.


High Frequency Training for Athletes and Skill Mastery

 “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” –Vince Lombardi

For learning a new movement or athletic skill the more frequently you practice the quicker it’s learned, eventually leading to unconscious competence—being able to perform a skill correctly without conscious thought.

Training skills to the point muscle memory is imperative for athlete success and transfer from the weight room. Practicing solid body position and movements like triple-extension to perfection will reinforce movement in the field of play.

athletes, sports performance, high frequency training


These same principles apply to anyone learning a new skill or movement. The more frequently you practice perfect technique the faster the learning process and subsequent gains.

Movement skill development must be grooved correctly until it becomes automatic and follows the following continuum: (Landow, 2013)
Unconscious Incompetence: Athlete looks clueless, unable to comprehend what is needed.

Conscious Incompetence: Athlete understands what’s needed, unable to produce it.

Conscious Incompetence:  Athlete can reproduce with much-needed concentration, but not in series.

Unconscious Competence: Automatic near perfection execution without thought.

Training for athletic gains is a process that can’t be served due justice in this post, but matching movement patterns to movements required in sport is a key step. (No, this doesn’t mean throwing 12lb baseballs.) For more in-depth sports performance specialization read this & this.

It’s a Wrap ( In Dr. Dre Voice)

The process of perfecting a skill, whether it’s shooting free throws or lifting technique, takes much practice. Total body and upper-lower training splits provide higher frequency training to maximize strength and muscle-building gains with compound lifts.  

Put the leg extensions and seven variations of biceps curls on the back-burner and get back to what’s essential: high-frequency training with big movements, your strength building solution. 



McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx

DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960

Landow, L. (2013, August). In Loren Landow (Chair). Train to win. Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance Train to win performance mentorship, Denver, Colorado.

Phillips, S., & West, D. (2010). Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone. Physican and Sportsmedicine, 38(3), 97-104. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.10.1814

Schoenfeld, Brad. “The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24.10 (2010): 2857. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

photo credit: planetc1 via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

Go to Top