Deadlift – Accessory lumbar stabilization – Training

Traditional deadlift form is key, so getting the proper hip/low back assessment as well bar height, foot placement, and grip position is critical.

The next big step that needs to be covered to optimize training volume and safety with load progression is learning to create lumbar stabilization via tension and motor control of the surrounding trunk muscles, namely the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats) and Quadratus Lumboram (QL).

The lumbar spine works not just in the sagital plane but within all 3 dimensions, thus there exists a multi-dimensional requisite of tension and force generation to generate force safely from the hips through the spine. The strength required to perform a hip extension dominant compound movement such as the deadlift doesn’t only come from training the glutes and hamstrings, but rather a combined tension and stiffening of the trunk muscles. One would likely come to the conclusion that training the spinal erectors would provide the best stability but we can not omit the attention that we must give to providing combined posterior and posterior lateral stability of the lumbar spine via the Lats & QL.

When we look at the anatomy we are provided a map of the structures that would act as armor to withstand the shear forces of an anterior loaded deadlift.

In viewing the Lats we can appreciate its large surface area which affects both upper extremity movement as well postural stability. The Lat’s for review produce upper arm extension, internal rotation adduction and horizontal abduction. Activation of the Lat is critical to the lumbar spine as it plays a synergistic role in bilateral extension and unilateral trunk flexion of the lumbar spine. The fact that we have 2 lats mechanically provides a force couple around the spine which through the facial network provides stability into the insertions along the ribs, spine, sacrum, and pelvis to maintain a neutral form.


Because the human muscular system is a network of redundancy, enlisting all that we can to provide optimal stability is an inherent and integrated function. In other words, we are hardwired to take the path of least resistance, but with a complex movement such as a deadlift, requiring so much tension and attention to detail and form setup, any little extra cues we can give to the posture of the spine can and will prevent injuries.

In order to transmit the force from the hips to the bar we need rigidity in the spine, without it the flexion moment of the weight can and will damage the lumbar discs.

The less leaks in power along the kinetic chain the safer and more efficient the lift will be.

Learning to create the correct amount of tension in the lumbar fascia requires setting the lat’s via motor control of the scapula. Don’t believe me give this a try:

Place your arms by your side, now begin to squeeze your arms into your ribs, slight internal rotation, and finally depressed or push down your scapula. This should either do 1 of 2 things. 1 it should give you a sense of tension throughout the lumbar that is not at all forcing the spine into extension, and 2 it should make you feel like a stone cold badass.

This motor pattern may seem difficult for many as we live in an anterior dominant world (I.e. driving, eating, working, loving, being on facebook) so implementing it with accessory training can help to bump up the skill and volume progress. Hence using accessory work for improving scapular depression motor control via lower trap will help to hone in on increasing tension throughout the Lats and QL.

Providing ample time between heavy bout of deadlifting can give needed recovery time to allow soft tissue and other various structures (I.e. bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons) to adapt. This means that accessory work is critical and does play a direct roll in improving motor control of lumbar stability. As well if you are on the fence about not lifting heavy on every single session, learn more about the de-training effect or the carry over effects of training. This topic will be covered on next weeks Back to Basics 101.

We have seen some great info come from coaches such as Bret Contreras about Glute development, so we will focus on the other girdle.

In today’s video I cover a scapular depression lat activation strength session and a simple yet very difficult and effective unilateral farmers walk for the QL.

The name of the game is recovery, because adaptation requires time. Improve in lumbar stability and tension development and keep yourself injury free.

Doc Novo out.


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