Training Log – 8.16.12 – Max Effort Lower (and How Not to Deadlift)

In the pit for Volbeat at Orion Music and More festival 2012

A couple crazy days of work and even crazier days of amazing live heavy metal music meant an extra day in between training sessions. In case you didn’t know, my name is Tony Bonvechio, and I’m addicted to live music. Four incredible concerts in five days between last Friday and this Tuesday meant attacking the iron with ringing ears, bloodshot eyes and a creaky neck – but no excuses!

After cancelling their US tour with Lamb of God due to some royal injustices in the Czech Republic, French metal masters Gojira played a handful of small (read: freakin’ tiny) headlining gigs. I was lucky enough to catch them on back-to-back nights – in Worcester, Mass., on Monday at the Palladium (where my insane addiction to live music began in college) and on Tuesday at the Studio at Webster Hall in NYC. There was a pro camera crew at Tuesday’s show so they were clearly filming some sort of music video, which is really cool because the intensity was out of bounds and I was front and center for the whole thing. Can’t wait to see my ugly mug on DVD!

Check out the 0:25 mark in the video below to see me get a fist bump from Gojira’s lead guitarist Christian Andreu – the first fist bump of the entire show!

Anyways, on to the lifting. From reading my blog, you guys probably think I do nothing but heavy singles. That’s not exactly true, but I did happen to start this blog in my phase of training where I happen to be working up to heavy 3’s and 1’s on my main lifts.

On Thursday, I worked up to heavy singles on the safety squat bar, then 5/3/1 sets and reps on deadlift. WARNING: the deadlifts shown below are UGLY. In a bit I’ll discuss why, and the important lessons you can learn from my terrible form.

Thursday – 8.16.12 – Max Effort Lower

1A. Box Jumps

28” x 2 sets x 3 reps

32” x 1 set x 3 reps


2A. Safety Bar Squats











3A. Deadlifts









4A. Barbell Glute Bridges




4B. Backward Sled Drags

300 x 30 yards

300 x 30 yards


5A. Glute Ham Raises

35 plate x 2 sets x10


5B. Reverse Crunches

2 sets x12


The video shows that I had good speed on all the heavy squats, but they felt really slow. Realistically I could have gone a bit heavier, but the safety bar is helping me realize what my big weaknesses are: knees shooting in (from weak abductors/tight adductors) and upper back caving (weak spinal erectors/low back/abs).

Now on to the elephant in the room – that ugly set of deadlifts at 465. We see a lot of problems here:

  • Hips start a bit too high
  • Shoulder blades not pulled together
  • Lats didn’t stay tight
  • Back not arched hard
  • Hips shoot up early/chest caves
  • LOTS of upper back rounding

They were pretty gross. There are a few positives (broke the floor quickly, good bar speed, good use of hips/glutes at lockout), but it’s far from textbook form and frankly, I’m a little embarrassed. As a strength coach, I would NEVER let one of my athletes get away with such sloppy technique, and I should hold myself to the same standard.

In an attempt to pull some heavy weight, I let my ego be the boss and I threw proper technique to the curb. Granted, heavy deadlifts are rarely pretty and any maximal lift is going to have some technique breakdown. Some of the world’s best deadlifters round their upper backs on purpose to increase mechanical advantage. Bret Contreras wrote a great article about this phenomenon in a T Nation article.

Check out these videos of some insane round back deadlifts by powerlifting behemoths Konstantin Konstantinovs and Andy Bolton, respectively.

Pretty crazy, huh? Almost any coach would recognize those lifts as improper form and downright dangerous for 99 percent of the population. The keys here are that Konstantinovs and Bolton

  • are elite lifters who have mastered their technique
  • have freakishly strong lower backs and abs to stabilize the spine
  • avoid END RANGE spinal flexion

The last point is of utmost importance. Elite lifters know how to flex/extend the spine without reaching the point of deviation from neutral that would cause injury. That said, almost all of us (myself included) ARE NOT elite lifters, and we need to deadlift with pristine form if we want a long, healthy lifting career.

Finally, my crappy form reminds us all how important it is to get VISUAL FEEDBACK on our lifts. This does not mean watching yourself lift in the mirror (and definitely not flexing in the mirror). As a matter of fact, if your gym has mirrors, it probably sucks. When you go to the gym, you need to go to TRAIN – and hopefully that means training with a lot of like-minded people who know good technique and can give you immediate feedback. When they’re not around – and even when they are – it’s extremely helpful to use video to analyze your technique.

In my case, the environment was pretty happenin’ at Xceleration. Heavy metal pumpin’, the whole gym watching me get ready to do my top set of deadlifts – I was gonna pull that sucker no matter what it took. Unfortunately, what it took was unsafe form. Even more unfortunately, I didn’t realize how bad it was til I saw the video. Which means I’ve probably been using less-than-stellar deadlift form more often than I’d like to admit. But now I know and can quickly correct it during my next training cycle.

What are you not seeing that good training partners and visual feedback could fix? Next time you train, take videos of your lifts and find out. 

If you found these tips helpful and liked what you read, say so! Spread the word on Facebook or Twitter, and leave a comment below!

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One comment on “Training Log – 8.16.12 – Max Effort Lower (and How Not to Deadlift)
  1. […] keep in mind that I’ve fallen victim to some really sloppy deadlift form recently. The strength coach in my head was barking at me not to listen, to keep my chest up and […]

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