If the safest way to deadlift is with a neutral spine, why is it that the worlds best dead lifters in history lift with a rounded back? They found that this position is the one that allows them to pull the greatest load, and also to be pretty safe and stable. People get self conscious when they realize they can lift heavier with a rounded back, and automatically assume their bodies are dysfunctional. More often than not, this isn’t the case. This discussion has nothing to do with optimal spine health, its simply about techniques utilized to lift the most weight, safely.

With a neutral spine posture, you rely mostly on your back extensors (erector spinae, multifidi, QL) to keep your spine stabilized and maintain the arches. But if you slightly round your back, you get both active and passive support. So the misconception that the spine is not stable in a round position is completely flawed. The spine does indeed stabilize in a rounded position.

In a neutral position stability comes from your elector spinae, intra abdominal pressure, and muscles surrounding the core like the rectus abdominis and obliques, which when they contract they actually produce a flexion torque, meaning that they encourage a rounding back.

If you SLIGHTLY round your upper back you get active plus passive support. The thoracolumbar  fascia surrounds the muscles in the core and around the back. When the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi muscles contract they stretch out this fascia and aid in stability of the spine. The activity of the abdominal muscles naturally pull the spine and the core into slight flexion. Lastly the spinal ligaments are also more taut with the back in slight flexion.

It is important to consider the use of the word “SLIGHT”. Slight flexion implies flexing the spine a few degrees, while always avoiding end range flexion.

In conclusion, the majority of contribution in the rounded back deadlift comes mostly from active muscle contraction, but doing so allows the passive structures to also generate stability, and this is what allows us to lift heavier loads, safely. Spinal extensors are stronger in flexion, and the increased intra abdominal pressure and core strength in this position help prevent the spine from flexing too far forward, thus protecting it from injury.

Stay tuned for Part II: Good vs. Bad Rounded back deadlift

Stefanie Cohen

Part 2: The low bar squat is NOT just for powerlifters

Part 2: The low bar squat is NOT just for powerlifters


The low bar squat doesn’t “carry over” to the snatch and the clean and jerk. Or so its stated by many fitness enthusiasts. What does this even mean!?

To be competitive we need to get stronger right? An occasional PR in a strength movement isn’t enough. I’m talking about a plan that allows you to make improvements in the strength movements OFTEN. But why do olympic lifters back squat at all if it’s not a contested lift. They squat to get STRONG. A strong squat equals a strong snatch and clean and jerk.

No. It’s not a perfectly linear relationship. But it almost always means that if your squat and pull are getting stronger, so will your olympic lifts.



But why?

Why does building up your squat help your weightlifting total, if the squat is not “specific” to the snatch. In a squat you take the barbell of a rack and put it in your back. I don’t think you are ever in this position during an oly lift. The important concept here is that strength is a GENERAL ADAPTATION that WILL in fact carry over to a more specific task.

So, to get stronger, doing a non-specific movement in order to acquire GENERAL STRENGTH, it makes more sense to use the non-specific movement that allows YOU to lift the most amount of weight. This is why I used the word “theoretically” in the last post. You should use the technique that allows you to move the most weight.

Oh okay, you think that the low bar squat will “create the bad habit” of leaning over too much, which can potentially ruin a clean. If you are regularly performing the snatch and clean and jerk, and front squatting almost every day, as any good olympic weightlifter must, I can almost guarantee that you won’t just suddenly forget how to do a clean by performing a low bar squat.

Whats my take in all of this? Utilize a program that allows you to hit regular  PRs in the strength movements, and pick a squat technique that allows YOU to lift the most weight, or if you’re feeling adventurous combine both.

By: Stefanie Cohen


Low Bar Squats vs. High Bar Squats

Low Bar Squats vs. High Bar Squats

Before diving into the argument of the high vs. low bar squat to increase performance in weightlifting I want to cover some basic biomechanics for you.

Every joint that is involved in an exercise has a moment arm.  The longer the moment arm is the more load will be applied to the joint axis through leverage.  As an example, think of trying to get a nut and bolt apart.  You probably can’t do it by hand, partially because your fingers moment arm isn’t big enough. In order to move them you use a wrench, which provides you with a much larger moment arm and requires less force applied by you to result in more force applied to the nut.


low bar high bar

HIGH BAR BACK SQUAT-  In this bar position the moment arm around the hip is slightly longer than that around the knee.   This means the hip extensors (gluteal muscles) will be doing a little more work than the knee extensors (quadriceps) in terms of the force they’ll need to generate to overcome the load. This is a slightly more “quad dominant” position.

HIGH BAR- In this squat you can see the moment arm around the hip is at least TWICE as long as the moment arm around the knee.  This low bar position involves glute and hamstrings a lot more than the knee extensors (quadriceps). The hip extensors are able to produce more force than the knee extensors, especially in producing hip extension, or the concentric portion of a squat, which is why this squat variation [in theory] enables heavier loads to be lifted.

I use the word “theory” because this is simply a biomechanical explanation for the use of a low bar squat vs the high bar squat. The bony morphology variance from individual to individual may result in favoring of one technique or the other, completely disregarding the aforementioned theories.

Follow up this article with

 Part II: Low bar squats are NOT just for powerlifters

By: Stefanie Cohen