The Myth Of Perfect Form

igor-lukanin-200kg-snatch



If you were to go on to Youtube right now and look at some of the biggest lifts ever pulled, you know what you would find in the comment section? Something that sounds like this: “You are going to throw your back out, you should drop the weight and work on form”…”Why didn’t you do it like Ed Coan or Arnold? You are bigger than they are, you should have done it the right way”….etc.

For example, let’s look at an old, old video of Kevin Nee Deadlifting 905 raw:


Blurry video, but amazing right? Now click here to read the comments. What is amazing about most of the “highly skilled” commenters is you will usually find 1 of 3 things if you were to look at their own video playlists: Call Of Duty game tutorials, Carly Rae Jepsen karaoke videos, or how-to’s for fixing grout on the kitchen floor. Well then, you ask, how do they know so much about deadlift technique that they can critique this pro Strongman?

The answer is: They can’t. The problem with many people is they have this pre-conceived idea of “perfect form” in their head that is just not a reality. They are taking what they have seen of a deadlift at 135lbs and they expect a deadlift at 900lbs to look the exact same way. Just like there is no such thing as a perfect body, a perfect life, or a perfect pizza because opinions of perfect are so subjective, there is no such thing as “perfect form” because literally every body is built differently, and will alter the lifts to conform to their body type.

Let’s look at a video of LBEB Athlete Igor Lukanin as he snatches 200kg:

Yes that was a 200kg snatch, and the most common feedback on this video was “wow his knees really cave, he is going to hurt himself. He should drop weight and work on his form.” Let me explain something: Igor has been training in Olympic Weightlifting for over 18 years. EIGHTEEN YEARS, can you fathom that? That is almost as long as some of you have been alive. What he has done is found a way to most effectively move for HIS body type. Does he move in a textbook way? No. Does he snatch 200kg and CJ 245kg? Yes! The textbook was is great, until you get out of the textbook and into the real world where everyone has a different build: long limbs, short limbs, scoliosis, one leg longer than the other, etc. 

One of the biggest things working with Marshall on Strongman has taught me is that in order to be the strongest you can be, you need to figure out how to use your body type to move the weight. I find that a lot of people will say ” I am going to keep the weights really light and just work on getting perfect form.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great for an ABSOLUTE beginner with no prior experience. If you have been lifting for more than 4-6 months and are still doing this, you are just lying to yourself. It’s easy to have “perfect” form when the weight is light, but constantly working on form isn’t going to help you when the bar is loaded to the gills and you don’t know how to grind through a lift, or how to correct an Olympic lift mid-flight because of a small error.

I feel that too many people worry about letting their otherwise good form deviate slightly on a heavy lift, so they just decide to not lift heavy, and chastise others for doing so. 

 Let’s take a look at two more deadlifters, same weight, different styles. First is Misha:


Misha’s butt is very low, almost like a clean deadlift, and his upper back is relatively flat, with hips below shoulders.


Next is Konstantinovs:


You can see that his butt is much high, and he is letting his upper back round a bit, with the lower back still tight, similar to the method that we teach. Notice his shoulders are barely above his hips.

Two very different styles, same weight. Amazing deadlifts. But is their form perfect? NO! They are different builds, and they are utilizing their build to their best advantage, which is what you should be doing. Konstantinovs will not have a disc shoot out his butt from rounding his upper back, because he has trained his body to move in that position as effectively as possible.
If you spend your entire life keeping it light and focusing on “perfect” form, you will never amount to much, because you are afraid of the grind. That being said, you obviously need to focus on having as good of form as YOU personally can have, but don’t spend your life chasing that “perfect” form, not only because it doesn’t exist, also because you will never want to go heavy enough to put that form to the test. Address your mobility issues, work your weaknesses, and get COCK-DIESEL STRONG!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00337642259894523803 Kevin Wilkey

    I am grateful that others in this industry feel the same. I have taken the last 7 months off working on my form. When I say off I mean have not maxed. It has taken that long to get back up to where I was before. I can honestly say that from practicing what a handful of coaches have preached about foot, hand, head, and any other body part possition there is, I have found what feels most most powerful to me right now. It has been a fun, frustrating but ultimately rewarding experience to become a better olympic lifter. This is the most vicious cycle, it no wonder it takes 18 year like Igor to become great. Thanks for the support. LBEB 4 LIFE!

  • Anonymous

    same here bro, 6′ 160 (i know, skinny as fuaarkk) but i have that 425 dead and 325 squat (working on those, dont hate) and people will be like well…you could have done this or this better…meanwhile, they’re fat and not even close to my numbers

  • http://strengthinc.com/ Ed Coan

    I agree that form is something that is really of a fluid nature and not so much a static rigid concept! I think when we approach a lift with the idea of not getting hurt and doing it properly we want to be very rigid about it.

    that shouldnt be the case at all… even myself my form being far from perfect is something that has continually gotten better and evolved over time! This is a good post especially with the video references!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07007389790642986216 Josh Vernier

    Another perfect example would be Bob Peoples.

  • Jake

    For the people who HAVEN’T been lifting for 18 years, form DOES matter. Wouldn’t it be better for new lifters to decide “Oh hey, I should prioritize good form” instead of telling them, “If you’re going to lift 300lbs, don’t worry about form so much, just do it!”?

    The variable here is experience. Lots of experience = I’m not going to tell you how to lift ANYTHING. Very little experience? You should probably watch your form for a good long while.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04678365233334359802 john jagger

      nice comment dude!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05333814195848636859 Brandon Morrison

    If you were to read the last paragraph, you would see that I did not say to “just do it”, I said have as good of form as you can possibly have, and address your mobility issues and work your weaknesses.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t disagree more. The human body has incredible capacity to adapt and compensate for poor movement. One rounded back deadlift, even 1,000 rounded back deadlifts may not herniate a disc but it is likely an indicator of poor bio mechanics (pelvic/thoracic/hip mobility) and certainly results in the athlete lifting less than s/he otherwise would be able to. Igor is clearly a phenomenal weight lifter but his anatomy does not differ to such an extreme degree that that type of valgus force is somehow optimal for him. Maybe he isn’t getting injured, but he could likely snatch much more weight if he corrected the problem, opened his hips, and externally rotated throughout his movement. Our bodies will allow for some wriggle room and it is to be expected at the high ends of our capacity (in a 900lb deadlift, for example) but our anatomy is fundamentally the same, they are still faults, and regardless of your PR, you’re still leaving weight on the ground if you aren’t correcting them.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12985368207372790975 Peter "Fucking" Baker

      Fyi, konstantinovs admitted that he was able to increase his deadlift when he starred rounding his back.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, you must work with a lot of elite level athletes to have such profound knowledge about them. Please find the nearest tall building and commence a parachute-less freefall. Poor bio-mechanics? Are you shitting me? After doing probably 100’s of thousands of reps in Igor’s 18 year Weightlifting career, do you think he hasn’t found how his body moves optimally? This is one of the most ignorant arguments I’ve ever seen.

  • http://practicalpaleolithic.com/ Adam Farrah

    Great post! Lots of food for thought here.

    BTW, the correct term for those commenters on YouTube is “YouTube Scholar” LOL

    Adam

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous above (10:54am) – it is obvious that you have no idea what you are talking about. You have just clearly demonstated your ignorance on the snatch.

    The limiting factors in the snatch are how much you can pull (Igor’s form is pretty perfect), how low you can catch (“knee cave” allows many people to get lower), and how fast you can move under.

    The limiting factor is NOT how much you can overhead squat. Igor can overhead squat a LOT more than he can snatch.

    If OHS were the limiter, perhaps your evil “valgus force” would be detrimental. Standing this weight is easy for Igor and therefore eliminating this knee cave will NOT increase his snatch. In fact, keeping a verticle shin will very likely limit the depth of his catch and result in a loss of kg.

    Save your biomechanics lectures for the level 1 CF certs…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04678365233334359802 john jagger

      s&c coach by any chance?

  • Anonymous

    How about multiple rep sets? We all know that max effort singles will never look great but what about a maximum effort 5?

  • Anonymous

    I think you are confusing two completely separate topics. Youtube Scholars and Proper Lifting Form.

    Youtube Scholars should be ignored…just let it go.

    As for perfect form, i think the message you are sending here is very mixed. In the oly lifts (where i have the most experience) form is extremely important, and you should work on it, every time you make a lift, light or heavy. While I do agree that working on your form by only lifting light weights is stupid, i completely disagree that you shouldnt strive for perfect form on every single lift.

    I think telling people that you should find some way that seems to work for you and ignore decades of coaching refinements is setting yourself up for sub-optimal results, and actual empowers the Youtube Scholars.

  • Anonymous

    pr’s are very rarely, if ever, perfect or pretty.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07159286075362944907 Jason

    Yes find a form that works for you, but more importantly find a pace/progression that works for you. Getting out there and maxing out as hard as you can without regard to form is a bad idea.

    Finding your form and then progressing heavier and heavier over a period of months/yearsis a great idea. In olympic lifting your 50kg/100kg/150kg/and 200kg snatches should all look very similar. Even if the form is unorthodox.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12139232010103902217 MrSmurf459

    At the end of the day i do believe in working on best form as possible but lets be real when you attempt a max effort single or max effort multiple rep set your form will get a bit shaky! And i know one thing for sure as an individual gets stronger the weight that were once maximal become sub maximal and those sub maximal weights are definitely lifted with close to perfect or better form! This is from my experience and others!