A Deadlift Algorithm

I thought it was bad when I started dreaming about code. Now everything I enjoy has been codified. Coding bootcamps will do that to you.

Now I’m not saying that thats a bad thing.

Quite the opposite.

Thinking in code-which is just a language for logic-provides a fresh perspective on an idea you already “knew”. I say “knew” because, as Einstein puts it:

Codified thinking provides a very different mental narrative than the typical train of thought. In terms of explanations it is unusual in that it is extremely explicit, and it is expressed in a language that is universal: logic.

It can provide remarkably elegant explanations as well.

For example teaching a person how to deadlift is surprisingly difficult. All the movement is, is picking something up off the ground. An archetypal movement that any able bodied person is capable of.

But go ahead and try and explain to someone how you pick something up.

The best I can come up with is “simultaneously extend at the knees and hips while keeping the object near to you” which might work, but is vague and definitely not an explanation you would say to a six year old.

In the past the most effective method has to been to “trick” the athlete into the proper movement with verbal cues. “Chest up” doesn’t literally mean raise your chest, it means retract your scapula, and engage your lats. But in effect retracting your scapula back and down gives you a more prominent chest.

A typical set of cues when teaching the deadlift would be “chest up”, “tight gut, tight butt” and “push the world away through your heals”. There are more but past three cues most tend to lose focus.

However presented in an algorithm, the deadlift becomes remarkably clear:

Which is just saying ‘If your hips and knees are extended, you have completed the lift. If that is false and your weight isn’t on your heels, engage your lats to bring your center of gravity back. Now extend at your knees and hips. Now repeat those questions until the lift is completed.’

The real beauty of this algorithmic thinking is the last part-the recursive aspect, which just means the function will re-execute as soon as it is done until some criteria is met. In this case, when knees and hips are extended.

So were someone new to the deadlift to implement this deadlift algorithm; their train of thought might go something like “are my knees and hips extended? No. Is my center of gravity back on my heels? No. Ok then I need to pull the bar in close with my lats. Ok now extend my knees and hips.”

Then they would ask themselves the same questions again, and again until they had completed the lift.

Instead of holding three cues in mind-which is tougher to do than you might expect when you have weight in your hands-using the algorithm, you can ask your self two questions.

Simple.

Now go pick up 1100 pounds.

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