Deadlift and Shoulders Deadlift and Shoulders

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Thread: Deadlift and Shoulders

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Deadlift and Shoulders

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    Hi, Mark.

    I've been working on my deadlift form and have a question - when setting up, as part of getting my chest up and a straight back, should I retract my shoulder blades, or is it ok to let my shoulders hang naturally (which for me means they are slightly rounded downwards)?

    I'm thinking I should retract them - which effectively brings my chest about an inch closer to the bar, because my arms/shoulders are not as extended - but I've read through the DL section of SS and looked at the pictures many times and am not clear on this point.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    North Texas


    I do not coach a scapula retraction as a part of deadlift form. I focus instead on spinal position, which must be held in rigid thoracic and lumbar extension. It has been my experience that normal anatomical position is the best position for both the spine and the shoulders, since the traps are going to do the work of transferring force from the back to the arms anyway. A heavy deadlift will pull the scapulas out of retraction at some point during the pull, and they will end up where they would have been had they not been retracted in the first place.

    The scapulas are the structures that transfer force from the rigid back to the arms and down to the bar. The traps function in isometric contraction during the deadlift (and clean and snatch) to hold the scapulas in place as the bar travels up from the ground. During this trip the back angle stays constant, anchored by the hamstrings, and the quads open the knees to push the bar away from the floor. The job of the traps is to anchor the scapulas in place so that the force can be transmitted up the rigid spine and then across the traps to the scapulas, from which the arms hang. An active concentric contraction of the traps does not aid this process, and may in fact be detrimental if the traps get pulled out of concentric contraction by fatigue from trying to stay shrugged. And if the shrug changes the vertical relationship of the scapula/bar/mid-foot line, then it alters normal pulling mechanics. A very heavy record deadlift might well require a trap cue to keep the upper back from rounding off too much, but lifters at the level I coach do not need to think about a trap shrug.


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