Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

What the Hell Are You People Doing?

by Mark Rippetoe | February 02, 2021

guy deadlifting while looking up at the ceiling

Modern powerlifting a very silly sport. From silly rules (like the judge controlling the length of the pause in the bench press instead of, you know, the rules doing it) to silly coaching (like looking up when you squat), I'm afraid the whole sport is destined for the same fate as Roller Derby. Except that powerlifting never made it to Saturday afternoon TV as a regular gig. And that Roller Derby is a helluva lot more fun to watch.

Seriously, looking up when you deadlift? Who thought this shit up? A heavy bar loaded with a PR weight, and you're going to look up at the ceiling while you pull it? Has any human being ever picked up a big rock, or an engine block, or a dead pig while looking up? No, nobody does this, because it's stupid. When you pick up heavy things, you look down at the floor so you have a position reference for the lift – where it is in the space it occupies, and where it is in relation to your feet. You do this without being told to do it, because millions of years of evolution has taught bipedal humans how to pick things up off of the ground. So you don't fall down and hurt yourself or break something or destroy the garage or your surroundings or punch another hole in the wall.

You know how when you take the groceries out of the basket and put them in the back seat of the car, you tend to always actually look at the back seat and not up in the air? You know how you pick up a baby and carry the baby so the baby doesn't get hurt, and you can always see the floor and where your feet and you and the baby are going so you don't fall down and kill the fucking baby?

When you pick the bar up and look at the floor, your eyes tell you all kinds of useful things about the bar path, your position relative to the bar, and the bar's position relative to your feet – useful information. You're going to set the bar back down on the floor when you get through lifting it, right? Maybe looking kinda down would be useful during the process.

This isn't complicated. Looking up in the air removes all reference to your position on the floor, and looking literally anywhere but straight up (or even a little bit up) is more useful to the task of moving anything of any weight. Looking down at the floor some distance in front of you is what you would do anyway, anywhere except at the powerlifting meet, since you're not stupid and since you have moved heavy things before, and since you've been using your body prior to receiving highly-valuable “coaching” from an expert deadlifter.

Notice how the powerlifting federations have recently placed spotters behind the deadlifter? How many people who actually fell backwards in the deadlift were looking down like normal people do when they pick stuff up? Hmm?

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