Lindsey Smith, Founder of Moxie Strength & NutritionA former libero at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I am a wellness activist, personal trainer, group fitness enthusiast, clean eating advocate and fanatic of life. I created Moxie Strength & Nutrition as a platform to share my group fitness teaching schedule, but as my passion for health & fitness grew so did Moxie. I am on a mission to partner with small to medium sized corporations to bring uplifting wellness habits to work; creating rejuvenated employees, vibrant work cultures and healthy bottom lines.
The squat and deadlift are both key components to any athletes training program, but the deadlift tends to get the short end of the barbell.
If your leg day does not include squatting, you need to re-evaluate your training program as I believe an athlete’s muscular strength foundation is built in the squat rack. I believe this because the squat is a synergistic, simultaneous movement; in other words the hip, knee and ankle extend together to complete the movement. Thus, it most efficiently mimics the explosive movements of an athlete.
That said, I think we can sometimes develop tunnel vision in the gym. Over training the squat can lead to lower body muscle imbalances – such as the quads overpowering the hamstrings. This in turn can lead to common volleyball-related injuries in the knees and hips as the hamstrings are directly related to knee flexion and hip extension. Therefore, I would like to give some special attention to the Stiff or Straight Leg Deadlift, a compound movement which engages the core and entire lower body with an isolated emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes.
The Stiff or Straight Leg Deadlift should make a semi-regular appearance on leg training days as well; it is the most dominant exercise to simulate powerful hip extension.
Stiff/Straight Leg Deadlift Breakdown:
1. With the barbell placed on the ground in front of you, place feet a little wider than shoulder width apart with toes pointed straight ahead. Bending your knees, squat down and grab the bar just outside your body line using an overhand grip (some people prefer a split grip with one overhand grip and one underhand grip).
2. Remove the slack from the bar, to do so you must engage your back (latissimus dorsi), pretend as if you are crushing oranges in your armpits and pull your lats toward your low back (or back pockets). Keeping a flat back, bring the bar up to a standing position.
3. Perform your first rep by breathing in and keeping your spine in a neutral position, hinge at your hips to slowly lower the bar toward the ground. As you lower really focus on – pressing your hips towards the wall behind you, keeping the barbell close to your body and slowly lowering down on a 4-6 count.
4. As you lower, there should be a very soft or no bend in your knees (straight legs) and you should begin to feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
5. Gently touch the bar/weights to the ground, breath in and explode upright using ONLY your hamstrings/glutes and NOT your back/shoulders. Drive your hips forward, keep your chest pushed open and keep your spine neutral throughout the entirety of the movement.
6. To finish the move, drive your hips forward, fully extended your knees, pull your shoulders back and squeeze your glutes/hamstrings.
7. Complete the desired number of reps and sets with rest times that align with your strength training goals; see below for my recommendations. Remember to work on proper deadlift form first and then increase weight.
a. Muscle Endurance/Stabilization: 12-20 Reps; 1-3 Sets; 50-70% of weight max (in season training)
b. Hypertrophy (Muscle Growth): 6-12 Reps; 3-5 Sets; 75-85% of weight max (off season training)
c. Maximal Strength: 1-5 Reps; 4-6 Sets; 85-100% of weight max (off season training)
*Note it is important to make sure your muscles are warmed up before you jump into your working sets.
*Also, females particularly can struggle to hold onto the barbell as weight increases. Lifting straps are great to take the stress off the grip/forearm and allow athletes to focus on the muscles they are training, hamstrings/glutes. My favorite lifting straps/hooks are LPG Muscle Haulin' Hooks (http://www.lpgmuscle.com/product-category/weight-lifting-gear-hooks-straps/haulin-hooks-weight-lifting-hooks-straps/).