Rounded back deadlift vs with hip hinge
For about 20-30 years, the hinge deadlift technique has supplanted the intuitive rounded back deadlift technique. The new method developed along with the emergence and development of powerlifting, and it was supported in line with the prevailing trend by many researchers dealing with the mechanics of the human body. Earlier, for thousands of years, the automatism of the muscles with the nervous system adapted to it regulated the range of torso bending and bending of the legs depending on the weight lifted and the height at which it was located, as well as the player’s height and other physical predispositions. It was a deadlift technique with rounded backs. In this way, the nervous system automatically determines the best and safest position when performing all activities. There were probably also cases of hinge lifting then, but they concerned athletes to a lesser extent. Players with very well-developed torsos and abdominal muscles bend their backs automatically. A torso trained in this way determines the dynamics and elasticity of the body and achieves results in all sports disciplines. Intuitive use of the body also took place in other strength sports. This technique is how the great legends of bodybuilding, deadlifting, and related disciplines raised it.
Why Is The Hinge Lifting Technique Incorrect?
This technique is based on using the torso as a cantilever beam supported by the pelvis. This method uses one of the worst and most unreliable load-carrying structures (Figure 5). The human body has not evolved a mechanism for such lifting. Trainers teach it in hundreds of thousands of gyms around the world (pictures 1-4). Doctors and therapists outdo each other in explaining how to lift using the hinge method in thousands of publications, thematic blogs, and videos on YouTube, trying to keep up with the modern trend. This publicity exposes the most active part of society to a gradual loss of health. These people enthusiastically follow the recommended way of doing the exercises. But instead of strengthening your body, they ultimately weaken it, and for a lot of money.
The spine is wedged in the hip girdle in a movable manner. In this way, the sacrum, which is its extension, is embedded between the iliac plates, forming the iliopsoas joints. This mobility further weakens the effect of this bracket. The technique also disables the spine’s proper functioning as a mechanical transmission that activates muscle levers around the entire torso. It is worsened especially in the first phase of lifting, when the work of the back muscles dominates, and the muscles of the front part of the trunk are largely excluded from work. All the more dangerous are the powerful bending and shear forces concentrated at the junction of the spine and the pelvis—beam support—marked in Figure 2 as the shear zone S. Can you lift with this technique and develop muscles? It is possible, but it destroys the structure of the fibrous rings, mainly in the section indicated in the illustration above. They are successively overstretched from the back of the spine. The consequence is flattening the discs and pushing the annulus fibrous towards the spinal cord in other positions, mainly while sitting, but also with torso movements. The bending moment diagram for a cantilevered beam with a load at its end is shown in Figure 5. There are also shear forces along the entire length of this beam. However, it is known that the zone at its anchorage, where tangential stresses occur, is hazardous in this respect. In the case of curvature of the trunk in the hip joint, these are the vertebrae in the area of the sacrum. The players in the photos above take the worst positions in reverse numbering order. The athletes in photos 4 and 3 adopted the most dangerous posture for the spine. A slightly better posture is presented by the competitor in photo 1. Although his spine was set straight like a stick adjacent to it, it was actually somewhat bent, eliminating lordosis. However, this is insufficient before its successive destruction, mainly in the L5-S1 section. The hinge flexion technique is completely unnatural. Therefore, most exercisers are unable to assume the recommended postures. I think that thanks to this, some of them can at least partially protect their spines.
Critical Statements Regarding Hinge Lifting
In the avalanche of voices promoting hinge lifting, there are opposing opinions. They are not numerous, but they appear more and more often. An outstanding physiotherapist from Australia, Dr. Andrew Lock, was and still is one of the strong opponents of this technique. In his statement from several years ago entitled: Embracing the Bent Lumbar Spine in Lifting, he justifies why lifting with a bent back is safe and indicates the adverse effects of hinged lifting. In his articles, he points to the need to learn how to bend the spine during rehabilitation in order to avoid further injuries. The deadlift with a rounded back is, according to him, definitely a valid exercise.He also publishes many interesting articles on the mechanics of movement and rehabilitation after sports injuries on the website https://breakingmuscle.com. Another statement is a text on the B2R website run by a team of reputable people who actively promote fitness and health. The author is Sam Ogilvie, and the article’s title is: Is It Bad to Bend Your Back? A significant revival in the discussion on the above topic has been introduced by a new study on lifting with a bent back, which in fact, with its results, restores old patterns, and which is called: Flexed lumbar spine postures are associated with greater strength and efficiency than lordotic postures during a maximal lift in pain-free individuals (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33799053/) The conclusion of this study is contained in its title. What is important, however, is a certain revival introduced by the publication of its results in medical, rehabilitation, and sports circles. However, the reaction is moderate. Only the authors with a more critical approach to the hinged lifting technique drew attention to the contradiction of its results concerning the applicable standards and the need to adopt appropriate decisions.
Intrusive Activity that Promotes Hinge Lifting
Many people actively involved in powerlifting, including trainers, therapists, sports doctors, very actively negate the intuitive movement patterns used before the era of “lifting the hinges”, including the deadlift with rounded backs. They probably do it in good faith, but the consequences may be tragic in the future for those who conscientiously follow their recommendations. A significant part of the new trends’ promoters has also become powerlifting enthusiasts, making this discipline almost a religion. They are keen to promote particularly heavy lifts and uncritically embrace “improvements” in the form of kinetic-assist lifting clothing. It is a discipline with beneficial exercises. However, it requires serious changes in its techniques and the resignation from the intrusive promotion of critical weightlifting, which often leads athletes to serious health damage. Young or middle-aged people who are impressed by these “modern hinge lifts” are eager to strengthen their muscles, but at the same time, they damage many structures of the spine. Many of them will pay for it in later years, often with severe diseases of the musculoskeletal system. It’s not like many doctors and therapists convince them that everyone has or must have flattened discs and other spinal defects, but that’s okay because they will fix these defects for them. Straining the spinal structures is a huge loss for the body. You can improve strength and muscle structure that holds the body and spine in the correct position and even heal damaged fibrous rings protecting the remnants of intervertebral discs. However, rebuilding the damaged structures of the spine will not be possible. These damages can make themselves felt very severely in moments of muscle weakness caused by disease infections or other crises of the body, and in old age, leads to disability. I want to draw attention to one of the statements, which, although it does not come directly from scientists, has an equally strong impact and misleading strength training adepts. This speech is an emotional one by two strength-training twin brothers I came across on the website (https://haroldgibbons.com/). They presented relatively sensible ideas about deadlifting, warning many people against serious injuries. Unfortunately, probably based on some known “research” results, they put forward a highly controversial statement concerning the photo below:
As an example, compare the two pictures below and the resulting sheer force on the spine. The picture on the left is of a flexed lumbar spine, demonstrating 9.5x more sheer force than on the neutral spine. If your spine is flexed under load, then as the brothers say, “Over time, I guarantee you, you will end up snapping some shit up.“ Although the person in the photo has a rather excessively bent spine, perhaps due to some defect, I must say that I haven’t read bigger nonsense in a long time. In fact, it’s precisely the opposite. With hip hinge deadlift that the shear forces occur drastically, while with rounded back deadlift, there are no shear forces at all. How bending lifting forces work is shown below. I’m sorry I had to use strong words but massively presented such statements threaten the health of too many people.
Rounded back deadlift
I came across the technique of lifting with a rounded back deadlift during my own rehabilitation after a spinal hernia that I suffered dozen years ago. I believe that I was lucky to find a specialist who treated me with the correct exercises. He was the one who convinced me to constantly use the proper pattern of lifting and bending the body. He was one of the few who propagated this technique. He may not have been an eminent theoretician of the mechanics of motion. Still, his arguments resonated with me, and I believe that following them allowed me to stand firmly on my feet in the literal sense of the word. In the course of further independent exercises, I was looking for different solutions. However, I found that my primary protection from neurological pain was avoiding bending and hinge lifting. I continued my own research related to the mechanics of motion. I became interested not only in the technique of performing exercises but also in human anatomy, mechanics of movement, and their connection with gravity affecting the human body. I believe that it is precisely the lack of joint and thorough consideration of these issues by specialists that is the reason for the lack of apparent progress in the prevention, diagnosis of diseases, and effective treatment of spinal disorders. It is also puzzling that the impact of gravity on living organisms, particularly the human body, is not dealt with by medical science, physics, or any other science. It’s a pity.
Why you should use a rounded back deadlift
In order to explain why the rounded back intuitive deadlift is appropriate, I will first present the advantages of arched structures. There are many of them in the world, but architectural objects are the closest to me. Arch bridges (Figures 7 and 8) are good examples that refer to natural structures found in nature. They are used because there are no bending and shearing forces in them, and all their stabilization is based on the natural use of compressive forces.
In illustration (7), the weights of the roadway and the vehicles moving on it are taken over by an extremely thin arch and transmitted along it to the ground at the places where it is anchored in the earth. These forces and the ground reaction forces directed against them cause tension in the arch structure to maintain its optimal shape determined based on static calculations. A similar method of constructing objects has been used for thousands of years by building stone bridges or vaults joined by loose, well-fitted stone blocks, sometimes with rough stone glued together with a relatively weak mortar (Figure 8). Modern technical possibilities also make it possible to apply this principle to a fragment of the arch. The arch pylon, which is a section of the complete structure, was used to build the Dazhi Bridge over the Keelung River (Figure 9) and the Samuel Beckett in Dubpin (Figure 10).
In a separate part of such an arch—arch pylon—the compressive loads stabilizing it have been replaced by a rope structure stretching it on both sides. From the inside of the arch, the tendons lift the main usable part of the bridge, and from the outside, cables balance this load. The effect is the same as in a classic arc. The pylon transmits forces along its axis to the ground, and the resulting reaction force of the earth causes stabilizing compression in it. The bending of the arch and the mutually balancing loads can be selected so that the bending moments are equal to zero. Then there is no shear in the arch, and only the so-called normal, compressive forces occur in it.
This design refers to the way people carry loads using the bent-back technique. In Figure 11, young Arnold Schwarzenegger performs a natural back squat, and in Figure 12, powerlifting champion Ed Coan shows a rounded back deadlift. . His hands lift the barbell from the inside of the arch, much like the strings in a bridge pylon. Two powerful myofascial tapes running along the spine and other back muscles ensure stabilization of this structure at every stage of lifting—they correspond to the cables tightening the outer part of the pylon. This muscle group is the same one used by hinge flexion lifters. Such a mechanism ensures both the safe raising and lowering of the weight for any position of trunk flexion. There are no bridge pylons, bending, or shear forces (Figures 9 and 10). Instead, compressive forces cause muscle tension proportional to the lifted weight, safely transferring it to the pelvis and then through bent legs to the ground. Some tense back muscles protect the spine, preventing mutual displacement of the vertebrae and excessive compression of the intervertebral discs. Rounded back deadlift is safe.However, it should be remembered that in the deadlift it is necessary to lift the weight with the legs parallel from the squat position adjusted to the height at which the barbell is located along with straightening the torso. A diagram of such a construction is shown in Figure 13. An example of a highly effective arched construction is also a fishing rod. Although it works a little differently, its durability can amaze. Bamboo is one of the best natural materials used in fishing rods. Currently, fishing rods are made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Both types have such diverse weaves and fillings that they are more resilient from the side of the bend, their spine, making them even more durable than those made of bamboo. With a slender bending rod, with good skills, you can catch a fish weighing up to 100 kg (Figure 14). The human body is a much more complicated machine than fixed bridges or flexible fishing rods. However, there are some analogies between them. The muscles that shape the body have an elastic-plastic structure. At the same time, thanks to gravity and the nervous system adapted to its parameters, they can freeze in the intended static position for some time. Thanks to this, it can take very different arc positions that allow it to properly maintain the body’s center of gravity during complex exercises or activities.
Vico Anello — Legend of the Deadlift
In the 1970s, Vico Anello was one of the world’s top deadlift athletes. Although he had a severe spinal defect consisting of a significant bend causing the torso to lean forward, he achieved much more through years of hard training than his competitors with an impeccable physique. He lifted over 800 pounds, which was four times his body weight. There is no shortage of pictures of him posted on the Internet by hinge-lifting “theorists” and their crude comments like “If you bend your back when lifting, you’ll end up like this guy.” However, despite having such a severe spinal defect, this guy became a legend of strength sports and currently runs his own gym in Parma, Ohio, teaching young adepts of strength sports. Forward bending hasn’t stopped him from breaking records, not least because the round-back deadlift corresponds to a natural lifting position.
How Have Outstanding Athletes Lifted and Currently Lift?
Rounded back deadlift was a technique used almost until the end of the 1990s. This method can be clearly seen in the preserved photos of outstanding bodybuilders such as John Grimek, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, and Frank Zane. Powerlifting was at the beginning of its development at that time. But even today, with the hinge technique all over the world, deadlift record holders still lift their barbells with their backs bent. While I believe that repeated overshooting of critical loads inevitably leads to the successive destruction of the spine, I must note here the exceedingly human records of Hafthor Bjornsson (501 kg) and Eddie Hall (500 kg). The technique used by these strongmen can be seen in the videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mWIOJr5i4I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oZT9VxojJs On the other hand, Wikipedia, under the entry: Progression of the deadlift world record, lists 20 leading athletes who have set deadlift records from 1982 to the present day. These athletes also deadlifted with rounded backs, and many of them still do. I don’t think anyone will convince them to use the hinge technique. They value their health and the ability to cross new barriers too much.
Figures No. 6, 11, 12, 15 and 16 were used as polemical quotations (Fair Use).