Thursday, February 05, 2009

Head Faults Revisited

Here is the premise: Best positioning equals best force production. Let's call this concept "Best Fit". The body has natural positions from which it can perform the most work. This may due to maximizing leverages, best joint contacts, best length tension muscle relationships, etc. But just as we all agree that the best means for a human being to lower it's center of mass, make itself more stable, and lift heavy objects is the squat, so too within that movement there is "ideal" positioning and setup.

During any human movement of consequence, the most effective means to generate peak force is to try and approximate this "best fit" ideal. Take the photos above for example. The athlete is in a safe environment. He is not about to get run over by a car or stampeded by a herd of crippled yaks. Ergo, there is no functional reason for his head to be in that position while deadlifting. Ever. Especially when this head position leads to a failed lift! What?! We know what motivates you, you performance whooors.

So now that you understand why the head positioning in a deadlift matters (less force production potential), let's talk about what's likely going on so that you can understand why you should banish the head fault.

1) Our mid-line stabilization concept extends beyond just the low back. Yes, it includes the neck too. Simply put, chicken necking is a first order positional foul. We don't let our athletes lift with a rounded lumbar spine, we shouldn't allow this neck position either. Mid-line stable athletes are badasses.

2) It is clear from the photos above that the athlete has translated from a poor set up into an even worse position. The human spine is set up to be extremely mobile for weight baring column. However, it does not tolerate inter-segment movement under peak compressions well. In fact, this is the primary mechanism of injury for disc derangement, to say nothing of screaming hot facet joints or nerve root silliness.
Bottom line. Keep your spine quiet. Don't generate a bunch of dynamic end range spinal movement when you are attempting your max lifts.

3) This is my favorite. Lose the head, lose the pelvis.
An extended cervical position upstream allows for rounded shoulders and lumbar flexion downstream. Don't believe me? Let your head flop back and see how easy it is to let your pelvis tuck under into the dreaded "dog poo" position. Forget lumbar disc injury, putting your neck back into an unseemly position will allow for your hamstring anchors to essentially pull loose. Poof, instant loss of power. Watch athletes in a deadlift for example, as soon as the head goes they loose all hope of making the lift.
The head is like a keystone keeping the whole system in balance. Thus, loose the head, loose the pelvis.

4) There are probably some issues of alleviating neural tension and some deep seated mass extension movement components to the head extension fault too, but they go beyond this blog.

Coach K-head-in-line-please-star


Aaron said...

WOW that's horrible. No wonder I missed it the first time.

Note 1) Check my head.

Note 2) Get a tan.

Anonymous said...


You should just end it. Why go on....why?


FilthyBrit said...


You have a point. But I also just discovered that you've given up alcohol in anticipation of the Crossfit games. That may be the single most damning indictment of a human being I have ever heard. Until you resume swilling booze, you are not fit to criticize Dial or anyone else, let alone represent SFCF at the games. I am ashamed of you. Ashamed.


Anonymous said...

All I do is represent Michael!!!! I rep 415 all day!!!! Im deep in the streets

Ross Naughton said...

Michael is correct; Lucas' asseverations must be discounted on the basis stated. Also, C-rin arguably resembles a massive, adrenalized, highly territorial-and-about-to-charge mammal --- if not a crippled yak --- so Dial may have a mistake of fact defense.

Corrine said...

Thank you, I think!

Anonymous said...

Do you recommend chicken necking during cleans or snatches?