The Deadlift

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The Deadlift is a big deal here at CrossFit. Why do we like it so much? There are few exercises that provide such a total-body effect on the body than the Deadlift. Whether you want to build muscle, lose weight or just get strong, you should be Deadlifting. 

As valuable as Deadlifts can be, many trainees struggle finding the correct starting position. Since the Deadlift can be loaded heavier than all of the other lifts, we want to make sure that we’re doing everything correctly to avoid injury and to increase mechanical efficiency. Learning to do it correctly will allow you to reap the benefits of the Deadlift for a LONG time. 

Today we’re going to share the 5-Step Deadlift method. I first heard of this setup method from the folks at Starting Strength, although others advocate a similar approach. The beauty of this approach is two-fold: it works for ANY body type and it makes the setup repeatable and consistent. Once you learn it, you won’t wonder if you’re in the right position - you’ll KNOW. 

Onto the method. Here are the basic steps: 

Load a barbell with a moderate weight that you can use. It should be heavy enough that you have to think about it when lifting, but not so heavy that you get unnecessarily fatigued. 

Step 1 - Using a hip-width stance, walk up to the bar until your shins are 1 inch away.

Step 2 - Using minimal knee bend, reach over and grab the bar just outside your shins. DO NOT MOVE THE BAR. 

Step 3 - Simultaneously move your shins to the bar while dropping your butt. When your shins kiss the bar, that’s it - stop moving. DO NOT ROLL OR MOVE THE BAR. 

Step 4 - Squeeze your chest up and away from the bar while letting the ‘slack’ out of your arms. You should feel the weight heavy in your hands. 

Step 5 - Drag the bar up your legs while pressing the floor away. 

Easy, right? The method works because of a couple of key points. First, the bar starts at your midfoot, which is the EXACT spot required to lift heavy weights. If the bar is NOT at midfoot, you likely won’t be able to lift it or you’ll recruit muscles (lower back and quads) that shouldn’t be working to perform the lift. Second, this method ensures that your hips are in the correct position and that the bar sits directly underneath the scapula. This arrangement allows for maximum muscle to be applied to the bar, thus the most weight will be lifted (or, lower weight will be lifted more efficiently). 

My favorite definition of the word ‘virtuosity’ is ‘doing the common uncommonly well’. Just like any simple pursuit, Deadlifting has some nuances that need to be mentioned. Let’s talk about some of the common things that can go wrong at each step. 

Step 1 Faults - This is the ‘mother’ step, in that any problems here will be amplified down the line. Starting with your shins too far away makes your hips go too low in Step 3. This will push the bar forward of the midfoot and make your lower back do the work. This is commonly referred to as the ‘squatty’ deadlift. Avoid this by making sure the bar is exactly one inch away from the shins. You can double check by doing a ‘side peep’ rather than looking straight down at your shins (which tend to ‘go back’ when viewed from the front). 

The opposite sometimes happens as well, and a trainee ends up too close to the bar. This will make step 3 harder since the hips will be too high in the air and take the quads out of the movement (since the knees are already extended). No bueno. The Deadlift should be a concert of ALL musculature working to achieve the task. Seen from the side, the hips should be slightly lower than the shoulders, and the scapula should be directly over the bar. Get the bar over midfoot and this will happen. 

Step 2 Faults - When reaching over for the bar, make sure that you don’t allow your knees to bend. I use the cue ‘unlock your knees’ here to give athletes an idea of how far they should flex their knees. Also, the grip should be just outside the shins. Any wider and you’ll be setting up with your chest closer to the ground than is necessary. 

Step 3 Faults - When you bring the shins to the bar, you should also be dropping the hips down toward the ground. This step SETS the hips in place for the remainder of the pull. The most common error we see here is that the athlete drops too low and pushes the bar forward. Once your shins touch the bar, stop moving! 

During this step, it’s also helpful to slightly push your knees out towards your forearms. This explains why many experienced Deadlifts take a slightly ‘toes out’ stance during their setup.

Step 4 Faults - Now that the hips are in position, it’s time to flatten out your back. This step is where the ‘shirt wrinkles’ appear. It’s also where things start to get uncomfortable, since pulling your chest up requires a massive contraction in the muscles of your trunk and upper back. Don’t be shy here! You should try to pull 75% of the weight into your hands and bend the bar before it even leaves the ground. Also, keep your head and neck in a neutral position. You can place a plate or chalk bucket about 6-8 feet in front of you as a ‘target’ to look at while pulling.

Additionally, the lower back needs to be set and must remain rigid. Imagine that your butt is a cannon and that you want to poop on the wall behind you (not directly down at the floor). It’s a crass cue but it works to visualize the low back position and the ‘turned over’ hip. 

Step 5 Faults - Now is the time to ‘squeeze’ the bar off the ground. Don’t think about picking it up. Think about PUSHING the floor away, like a leg press. At this stage, the trunk is just there to transmit force from your legs to the bar. The LEGS do the work!

Other points: 

  • When performing multiple reps, try to use the same process and aim for midfoot when placing the bar on the ground. You can repeat steps 3-5 for each rep. This will add consistency to your approach and make the last reps of a set easier. ‘CrossFit’ reps done in groups of more than five reps can be improved by aiming for midfoot on each and every return. Only add speed when you’re accurately touching down at midfoot and your hips are starting from the same consistent position. 

  • We advocate for the hook grip when Deadlifting, as it is a stronger grip than the regular overhand grip. The mixed grip is ok, although it has some drawbacks at heavier weight (rotating bar, biceps tendon pulls, pec cramps, etc). Start with the hook grip and get used to it. Your thumbs will stop hurting after a while, and athletic tape will help.

  • When training the Deadlift, intensity beats volume (if the goal is to get strong). I recommend that everyone train it at least once or twice a week. The Starting Strength linear progression advocates for progressively heavier sets of five, which has worked well for me. Additional sets can be added at lower intensities as a trainee develops. 

  • If you’re unable to keep your lower back in extension during the pull, there are likely one of two problems: 1) you lack the body awareness of how to set your low back in extension or 2) your low back isn’t strong enough for the weight you’re using. To remedy #1, try this cue: when setting up your pull, push your belly towards your feet. For #2: lower the weight until you can hold it and slowly build up the weight.

New Member Spotlight: Brian Ranes


Read about new member Brian Ranes! Read about how hes found a second home at DelVal after him and his wife (Jen) moved, his favorite memory so far and some other things he enjoys doing outside of CrossFit.⁣ Follow the linktree in our bio (Blogs & Post)!

Q: Why did you join CrossFit Delaware Valley?

A: My wife, Jen, and I just moved to Drexel Hill this past summer after my job as a research biologist was relocated to University City. We have been fortunate to belong to some great gyms, and even more fortunate to visit gyms around the United States, Canada, and Europe. Our standards are high for the quality of coaching and having an environment that is both fun and encouraging but also competitive and motivating. It can take time to really know if a gym is the right fit, but we knew within the first two or three classes that DelVal was the right choice for us.

Q: What's been your biggest accomplishment?

A: My biggest accomplishments are usually just showing up to the gym when my wife is busy. I've been happy with my running lately and also with my double-unders.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm working on pacing and breathing through my nose so I'm not constantly taking breaks and gasping for air.


Q: What's your favorite CrossFit Delaware Valley memory?

A: My favorite CF DelVal memory so far is feeling good running back down the hill on a Broomile late on a summer day with a thunderstorm off in the distance.

Q: What motivates you to continue training at CrossFit Delaware Valley?

A: My motivations are as follows: 1) my wife 2) feeling strong and fast 3) not being weak and immobile when I get old.

Q: Any additional comments?

A: My other interests outside of CrossFit include: flying airplanes and making art. Also, here is a link to a blog I wrote about my first CrossFit competition!

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SwoleMateSaturday: Megan & Chris Waite

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#SwoleMateSaturday! Read about how Megan and Chris Waite met, who started CrossFit first and how their feeling about being soon-to-be parents!

Q: (Megan): How did you and Chris meet? How long have you been married?

A: I’ve known Chris since I was in 6th or 7th grade (he’s my brother’s best friend -OOPS). He was always “that guy who sings and plays guitar”. It wasn’t until after I turned 21 that we got together (that alcohol-induced spark I guess). We’ve been married now for almost 2 & ½ years! 

Q: (Chris): how did you convince Megan to marry you? Who started CrossFit first?

A: I used to be much more cuddly, so my antics were cuter back then. WORKED LIKE A CHARM. I think it was when I did backflips, hungover, in dress shoes, in the rain, off of her deck. She saw lots of potential there. I was the first to dive into CF. I wanted to get into better shape before our wedding, and it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. 

Q: (Megan): Did Chris try to convince you to do CrossFit? Tell us how you ended up at CFDV? 

A: Many times! Honestly I was against it for a while, mostly due to a lack of knowledge, as well as fear of heavy lifting. All I had ever been interested in prior to CrossFit was running! I did a WOD with him once, wasn’t prepared for the intensity of it, and had to leave work early the next day! Then I tried again at CFDV (almost 2 years ago) and was much more prepared to ease into it. I’ve loved it ever since. 

Q: (Chris): Do you and Megan WOD together a lot? Who’s more competitive? 

A: Not as much as we would like, but that’s mostly due to time constraints… (AKA I take too long). I try to jump in on a class with her every so often though. I wouldn’t say either of us are very competitive, moreso supportive. I try to make sure she’s moving well, and check how certain excercises are making her feel, but really it’s Meg making sure I’m not doing something stupid. (i.e. Ring Handstands)

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Q: (Megan): Is there any future partner competitions you would do with Chris? Do you think you two will ever compete together if not? 

A: Maybe you should ask him that! I would love to, as long as there’s some kind of hybrid version.. he’s really fun to partner with (when he agrees to partner with me). So I think we all know he’s the more competitive one in the gym.

Q: (Chris): We recently received news that you and Megan are pregnant! How is that going to impact your time at the gym? Do you plan to let your child try CrossFit? 

A: THEY’RE LETTING ME BE A PARENT. It goes without saying, that we’re both over the moon! Of course, the time I dedicate is going to have to be shortened. At least until I can wear the little girl/guy as a weighted vest. (Don’t tell Meg) And I want to try to explain the benefits of fitness when they hit a certain age… not too too early, and let them decide. I’m sure a lot of people say this, but my only CF regret is not starting sooner! So I’d like to give them that opportunity

Q: (Megan): How has being pregnant impacted your time in the gym? Do you plan to continue to workout through the entire time? 

A: It’s definitely forced me to take everything slower and listen to my body. I’ve been trying really hard to make it there ~4x week, but scaling almost everything, which isn’t too much of a change from what I was doing before (lol). I’m definitely planning on working out the entire time. I hear CrossFit helps with labor! So fingers crossed..

Q: (Chris): Do you and Megan meal prep? Do you guys focus on your nutrition together? 

A: NOT AT ALL. I talk about meal prepping a lot, but it ends up as Qdoba more often than I’d like to admit. But especially now, with Meggles being preggles, I’m trying to be more conscious about what we take in… although we have had Ritas and Dairy Queen a lot in the past few months 

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Q: (Megan): If you got a call in the middle of the night for Chris being arrested, what would he be arrested for? 

A: Haha. Probably something stupid involving beer, muscles and his friends. We once had to leave a bar in OCMD because Chris broke a chair while showing everyone how strong he is (eye roll). Either that or being protective over me, his family, or his friends. 

Q: (Chris): Tell us a funny story about Megan! 

A: I dare not tell an embarrassing story about a pregnant woman……… But, I will say that she low-key has the quickest and wittiest sense of humor I’ve ever heard. It’s not a rarity that my “LOL”s are literally out-loud.

New Member Spotlight: Julia Innamorato

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If you haven’t already, meet Julia! Read about why Julia started CrossFit, what she likes most about the sport and her biggest accomplishment so far here at CrossFit DelVal!

Q: Why did you join CrossFit Delaware Valley?

A: I joined CrossFit kind of unexpectedly. I was looking for a way to get fit and feel stronger, but I didn’t want to just get another gym membership. I tried that before but could never stick with it. I had heard of CrossFit and found DelVal online. I came in one day to meet with Rob. He just explained everything really and I just thought, “why not!” And signed up without even watching a class.  I’m usually more of a think it over type of person so after I left that day I was really nervous to start, but it was definitely a good decision.

Q: What's been your biggest accomplishment?

A: My biggest accomplishment is that I’m a couple months in and I’m still coming to class regularly. Some weeks are better than others, but I am usually in class 3 times a week. This is big for me as I have always had trouble sticking with any other fitness routine I’ve tried. 

Q:What are you working on now?

A: There’s a lot that I’m working on now. I’m trying to keep up stamina especially when there’s a run involved. I’m also working on double unders and getting some of the weight lifting movements down so I can start adding more weight. 

Q: What's your favorite CrossFit Delaware Valley memory?

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A: My favorite memory is hard to choose because I’ve met a lot of really supportive people that have went out of their way to introduce themselves or help me. One time that sticks out was a WOD with 100 burpees. I was really struggling and was the last one left to finish. Coach Jacki asked me how many I had left and did them with me. 

Q: What motivates you to continue training at CrossFit Delaware Valley?

A: I’m motivated to keep training at CrossFit because it’s different every workout. I don’t get bored because it’s truly never the same routine and there’s so much to learn and work on. Another reason I’ll keep training at CrossFit DelVal is the coaches. They all really want to help you get the most out of every movement which helps me put in the most effort. Joining CrossFit DelVal has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to working hard and continuing to improve! 

FriendshipFriday: Katie Longto & Alicia Fitzmire

#FriendshipFriday! Member Katie Longto and Alicia Fitzmire recently competed in our local competition Girls on Girls- but, did you know they have been friends for 25 years? Read more about how Katie and Alicia became childhood friends, what types of sports they did together as well as their obsession with the Olympics!

Katie(Q): Not many people know you and Alicia were friends long before CFDV; How long have you guys been friends? How did you guys meet? 

A: We're pretty sure we met the summer of 1994, at Marple Newtown Swim Club.  25 years ago!

Alicia(Q): Did you or Katie start CrossFit first? Was it coincidental you both ended up at CFDV? 

A:  I think Katie & I both started CrossFit within weeks of each other, without knowing the other was doing it.  I was living in NYC and Katie was on the West Coast. It wasn’t until many months later that we made the connection that we both had gotten really into a new sport, and of course, it just happened to be the same one. Obviously, I pushed for her to join CFDV when she moved back home. :)


Katie(Q): What were some of your favorite activities to do together while you were younger? Did you play any sports together?

A: We met on the summer diving team.  We both had done gymnasts, so some aspects of diving came pretty natural to both of us.  When we weren't at practice together, we were always trying to create more ridiculous dives as well as practicing gymnastics in whatever grassy field that was available! If we were’’t doing either of those things, we were most definitely on the trampoline at Alicia's house.  I think we could have won an AMRAP cartwheel competition in those days! No one ever got seriously injured, but my parents weren't thrilled with the no-handed cartwheels off the benches at the baseball field.  

Alicia(Q): Were you and Katie in the same grade? What’s embarrassing or funny story that involves you two?

A:  Katie & I were pool friends, so we were in different grades at different schools, but that didn't matter.   Most of our stories are probably only funny to us, or we can’t remember because, well, alcohol. We’ll have to discuss further in a handstand hold, since most of our best conversations took place mid-air, upside down or underwater. 


Katie(Q): You have two boys (5YO and 3YO) and Alicia has a boy (2YO) and a girl (4YO), do they play together? Do you think it’s important to have childhood friends continue between the young ones? 

A: They've had the chance to play together a few times and got along great (aka, total chaos)!  It feels almost like the "third-generation" of family friendships. We both have siblings who are 6-10 years younger than us and they are very close friends- in fact, Alicia and my two youngest brothers were all in her sister Allison's wedding party together. 

It's really cool to be doing this motherhood thing together with kids around the same age.  We're totally gearing up to be pool moms together someday #lifegoals 

Alicia(Q): Tell us a bit about yours and Katie’s love of the Olympics! 

A: We were just obsessed with all things gymnastics & diving as kids. We’d tape Nationals & Worlds and watch that over & over.  So naturally when the ‘96 Atlanta Olympics rolled around, we were all in. When the torch was being carried cross country leading up to the opening ceremony, we headed down to the art museum to watch the torch lighting at around midnight, had a sleepover, then were up at 5am to watch it proceed up West Chester pike - true dedication.  See Katie, you do have it in you to make it to 5:15 am class with me. :)

Katie(Q): You and Alicia dove and did gymnastics- do you think either of those sports have helped you in your CrossFit careers? 

A: Absolutely!  Have you seen Alicia handstand walk?  It's truly a sight to behold. And getting to be partners and do handstands together in a competition was pretty awesome too! But seriously, diving and gymnastics translate great into the CrossFit world, both physically but also mentally. 

Alicia(Q): Did you and Katie keep in touch when she moved to the West Coast? Did you guys make it a point to get together when she would visit home?

A: We definitely kept in touch, but life gets in the way when you have to adult.  We could go months without talking to each other. But when we’d reunite, we always picked right back up as if no time had passed since we were in Katie’s basement crafting our Olympic gymnastics floor routine to Robert Miles - Children.

Athlete of The Month: Rich Prazenica

Athlete of The Month: Rich Prazenica

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Athlete of the month featuring Early Bird Rich Prazenica! Read about why Rich consistently hits up the 5:15am class, some of his favorite hobbies outside of CrossFit and what's been his most challenging workout since joining!

Q: What or who brought you to CrossFit DelVal? How long have you been a member of the gym? 

A: I began CrossFit because I was bored with traditional gym approach and looking for a new challenge.  I’ve been a member at Del Val for about 15 months now.

Q:  You are only ever spotted at the 5:15 am class.. Do you have something against the nightcrawlers? Is there a reason you only prefer the AM classes? 

A: I can count on 1 hand the amount of classes I’ve been to outside of 5:15am. I'd actually prefer training later in the day, so no beef with the nightcrawlers. Since I’ve had kids, I’ve found the only way to stay consistent is do get it done before they wake up.

Q: What has been the most challenging workout you’ve done so far? What do you think about when you’re in a really hard workout?

A: I’d have to give the hardest workout I’ve done to Holleyman, that one kicked my ass. I’d like to have another go at that, now that my HSPUs have improved. During workouts I mostly focus my attention on breathing and completing reps as clean as possible. I try to breeze past self pitying thoughts as quickly as possible.

Q: What are your CrossFit goals? Do you think you will ever do any CrossFit competitions? 

A: My goals are- 3 classes minimum per week, keep my ego in check and don’t get injured. Also, I’d like to get double-unders down in the next few months. I haven’t put much thought into competing, but it maybe something I’d be open to down the road.

Q:Tell us a little about yourself, What is your life like outside the gym? Where do you work, do you have kids/pets/spouse/partner? What is your favorite hobby outside the gym? 

A: I’m married with 2 kids- Kyle(6) and Colette (9mo.)  We have a crazy Australian Cattledog named Kirby, who is currently depressed due to losing his back yard to construction on our house. I work in the HVAC field, programming building automation systems.  Hobbies would be fishing, hiking, and barbecuing. 

Q: What is your favorite lift, movement, or wod? Least favorite of the three?

A: My favorite thing to do at CrossFit is EMOMs with some sort of barbell lift.  My least favorite is the burpee, I have a hard time motivating myself for them.

Q: If you were to perform in a circus, what would you do? 

A: In a circus I’d see myself as a human cannonball, that looks like fun.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents? 

A:I’ve been called a baby whisperer. I have a knack for calming screaming babies.