Gray Cook: Get The Toe Touch Before You Teach The Deadlift
Stiffness is there for a reason. When you correct the mobility, do you check the stability? Gray Cook walks you through an example by using the toe touch as a precursor to the deadlift.
Excerpted from Gray Cook: Key Functional Exercises You Should Know
If people can’t touch their toes—and I’m not saying with a deadlift back—but if people don’t have the comfortable mobility to bend forward and touch their toes, you should probably work on that before you expect to teach them a deadlift. We’re not going to let them round their backs in a deadlift, but we need the comfortable tissue elongation so we know they won’t go into panic mode when we start teaching them a deadlift.
Once we have a change in mobility—and mobility doesn’t have to be perfect—if I take somebody’s toe touch from their knees to their shins, I’ve taken away stiffness. When I take away the stiffness, I have an opportunity to inject some patterning, because stiffness is like training wheels.
Training wheels are a crutch. You lean on them. When I take away your low back stiffness, you’re completely vulnerable. If I take you right to a deadlift, what might you do? You’re going to stiffen up your hamstrings and low back again in anticipation of a load that’s too much.
However, if I were to take you to a non-threatening position, like quadruped or kneeling, you may maintain that level of mobility and level of looseness in your low back because I didn’t challenge you above your threshold. Many times we do the correct mobility stuff, but we don’t dose the stability, so we send them right back into their protective postures.
Stiffness isn’t just stiffness. It’s there for a reason.
Stiffness is actually functional, because stiffening up your hamstrings and low back may help you get through life.
You could do the world’s worst kettlebell swing. If that’s only 10 minutes of your life and the rest of your day is bent over working with people, that stiffness is getting you through the day and keeping you out of a range of motion you can’t control.
If you’re going to add length, you better know where to add the strength. You better have a drop-back position that makes it easy for them to learn competency.
Notice I stick the word competency here to remove the whole conditioning scenario from the idea. Three sets of 10 aren’t going to do it. You’re looking for greater integrity in the movement. Every one of these movements is an assessment unto itself.