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Old 08-05-2011, 09:28 AM   #1
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Default Beginner: High Pulls or Deadlift

Glwanabe and I were having this discussion and I wanted some other views. We were discussing programming for novices, and talking deadlift frequency. We arrived at the following question:

This is for recreational lifters - guys who just want 15-20 pounds of muscle and some strength. Average lifters on forums...

Is it better to teach rank novices the deadlift right from the get go, and have them struggle with form issues...or would the use of high pulls as teaching tool be a better start?

On one side you have deadlifts...potent, brutal, but most novices will have numerous form issues.

On the other side high pulls...they teach leading with the head, and are all but impossible to perform bent over (RDL style).

What say you? Build into deadlifts with high pulls, or start novice recreational lifters with deadlifts?

When I say high pulls, I am using the Hepburn-style...pull to above waist.

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Old 08-05-2011, 09:33 AM   #2
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I posted on this topic in Spart's log earlier. My opinion is that if you want to get good at deadlifting, you need to deadlift. High pulls are different. They have a fair amount of crossover but they are different. Often deadlift form issues are only really exposed at heavy weights. My understanding of high pulls is that loads are generally pretty low so you could still have a novice lifter whose good arch and form gets pulled out of shape by the heavier weights on deadlift.

To sum up my feelings I guess I'm just uneasy about teaching people to do a lift without doing the lift if you know what I mean.

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Old 08-05-2011, 09:47 AM   #3
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People can screw up any lift, even curls. I say to start them off with the deadlift and teach good form.
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Old 08-05-2011, 09:59 AM   #4
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My opinion is that if you want to get good at deadlifting, you need to deadlift. High pulls are different.

LtL
I agree for guys like Spart. For him, I see high pulls as an explosive/dynamic lift, interchangeable with speed deads. As far as weight, I high pull with over 50% of my deadlift fairly easily. It's much more around my DE weight, were I using them.

I want to zero this back in on rank novices who are recreational lifters...guys who have never touched a barbell. I understand your point Al about when they add weight on a deadlift things could go to heck, but to counter that, most recreational lifters already have poor form and RDL the lift.

9 times out of 10 they have the same form issues, mostly RDLing, which can be fixed partly by focusing on exploding the weight up in a manner similar to Olympic pulls. Note the body mechanics in the video. Olympic lifts remove the focus off "pulling the bar off the ground" and on to "exploding the bar off the ground." If most novice deadlifters would take from this and explode with the head it is my opinion that a lot of RDLing would go away.

But I am on the fence here. I don't want it to see like I believe high pulls are the ultimate solution for rank novices, but I do want to make sure I explore this question because I believe it's a good one.

Consider that using high pulls as a starting point for the deadlift would teach novices how to lead with the head and lift explosively, and I think it might be easier to transition them to deadlifts from this point rather then spending months trying to correct RDLing and the tendency to "pull" the bar off the ground while raising the hips.

If you have experience exploding a bar you have a better understanding of what I mean when I tell you to explode up and lead with the head. If you've never used high pulls or power cleans, this concept can seem a bit vaporous or trivial.

It should also be noted that this isn't being seen as a long term approach. We are not considering the use of high pulls for years on end as a replacement for deadlifts.
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Old 08-05-2011, 10:03 AM   #5
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Might work as a fix for the RDL issue yeah. Having fixed this issue myself I would say that it is possible to do whilst just dl'ing though, it just requires a real ego check as your drop your weights back down to get it nailed before building back up.

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Old 08-05-2011, 10:11 AM   #6
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I would say that it is possible to do whilst just dl'ing though, it just requires a real ego check as your drop your weights back down to get it nailed before building back up.
We're not really looking at this from anything other than a rank novice level - training lifters from an absolute square one position.

I just want it understood that I am not posing the high pull idea as a solution for fixing the RDL of lifters who have been deadlifting for a while, though the concept of exploding with the head surely wouldn't hurt.

The question stems from...if I had to train a rank novice from square one, would I start them with deadlifts for the first 2-3 months? I think if they were standing in a gym with me I might use an Olympic pull to teach them the explosive aspects of the lift, while also training deadlifts on alternating days with the idea in their head that they should apply some of what they learned from high pulls.
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Old 08-05-2011, 10:32 AM   #7
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I'd teach form with a bar (or broomstick) on racks, and develop strength and explosiveness with high pulls, focussing on making the first part of the high pull just like the form work with the bar.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:09 AM   #8
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In my opinion I would start any novice lifter on doing deadlifts. I understand that the object is to teach the lifter to lead with the head, but you can coach the deadlift the same way with leading the head. Clean High Pulls are great for helping with the explosive aspects but I wouldn't give it to them as a main lift.

When you teach the clean high pulls, there is a shrug, the arms move, they come up on their toes, and extend at the hips which is a lot going on for a novice lifter just starting out. In turn, i believe it will create a bad habit when you incorporate deadlifts because it will give the beginner to much to think about, and you having to explain the differences, when all you are try to do is teach them to lead with their head.

It is best to start a novice lifter on one lift, such as the deadlift and really coach it up. I think the clean high pulls involve too much coordination and thinking for a novice lifter.
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Old 08-05-2011, 11:42 AM   #9
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I'm with LtL.

If the ultimate goal is to get the novice lifter deadlifting, you might as well start him off with deadlifts. Leading with the head is merely a cue to keep the bar close to the body, prevent the body from moving to far forward, and in some cases keep the lower back arched. For most novice lifters, this will have to be taught regardless of the lift; be it clean, clean pull, deadlift, sumo deadlift, high pull, etc.

As LtL pointed out, issues in technique will pop up with increases in weight/intensity. Its easy to teach technique for any lift with an empty or lightly weighted bar. Best to teach him the intended lift from the get-go.

Also remember the clean pull is merely a clean assistance lift (quick lift, power from hips not momentum off ground). If the lifter is using a clean or power clean somewhere, clean pulls won't really be necessary.

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