• Training Tactical Athletes To Lift From The Ground
    Learn how to coach all three phases of the deadlift exercise in order to build strength and reduce the risk of lower body injury.
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  • LiftFromGroundLifting from the Ground
    A common task for tactical athletes is lifting heavy equipment from the ground. Tactical athletes need to train their bodies to approach the object they are lifting, achieve a strong starting position, and lift using proper lifting techniques.

    Why is Proper Lifting Technique Important?
    67.8% of the medical evacuations to the pain management centers from Operation Iraqi Freedom were for back pain (2). Between 2004–2007, musculoskeletal injuries - not combat injuries - were the leading cause of medical evacuations from war zones (3). Non-combat spinal injuries were the leading cause of evacuations for both military (31%) and civilians (19%) from war zones from 2004–2007 (3). 

    Only 16% of military personnel and 22% of civilian personnel returned to duty after medical evacuation for a non-combat-related spinal injury (3). Incorporating a conventional barbell deadlift into tactical strength and conditioning programs is a great way to teach tactical athletes proper lifting mechanics and can possibly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal or back injuries. The conventional deadlift will strengthen the gluteals, quadriceps, hip adductors, and the spinal erectors (1). 

    Future articles will show how to adjust the technique if your tactical athletes cannot achieve the start position shown below. Tactical athletes without the ability to get a low start position with their hips should elevate the barbell for a higher start, as well as work to improve the range of motion in their hips and ankles. Proper deadlift technique is shown in Figures 1–3. 

    Starting Position 
    1. Starting Position 
    2. Feet hip to shoulder-width apart 
    3. Toes pointed slightly outward 
    4. Hips lower than the shoulders 
    5. Closed grip on the bar (thumb under fingers) 
    6. Hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart 
    7. Elbows straight 
    8. Bar should be approximately 1 in (3 cm) in front of the shins 
    9. Back flat 
    10. Chest up and out 
    11. Head in line with spine 
    12. Heels down 
    13. Shoulders over bar     
    Upward Movement Phase 
    1. Extend the hips and knees to lift the bar off the floor 
    2. Keep the torso-to-floor angle constant 
    3. Do not let the hips rise before the shoulders 
    4. Keep back flat 
    5. Keep elbows straight 
    6. Shoulders over bar 
    7. Keep the bar close to your shins 
    8. As the bar rises just above the knees, push hips forward to move knees under the bar (Figure 2b) 
    9. Continue to extend hips and knees until the body reaches a fully erect torso position (Figure 3) 

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    About the Author:

    NSCA TSAC Program

    Tactical Strength and Conditioning


    1. Bird, S. Exploring the deadlift. Strength and Conditioning Journal 32(2): 46–51, 2010.
    2. Cohen, SP, Griffith S, Larkin, TM, Villena, F, and Larkin, R. Presentation, diagnoses, mechanisms of injury, and treatment of soldiers injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom: An epidemiological study conducted at two military pain management centers. Anesth Analg 101(4): 1098–1103, 2005.
    3. Cohen, SP, Brown, C, Kurihara, C, Plunkett, A, Nguyen, C, and Strassels, SA. Diagnoses and factors associated with medical evacuation and return to duty among nonmilitary personnel participating in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. CMAJ 183(5): E289–295, Epub 2011.

  • Disclaimer: The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) encourages the exchange of diverse opinions. The ideas, comments, and materials presented herein do not necessarily reflect the NSCA’s official position on an issue. The NSCA assumes no responsibility for any statements made by authors, whether as fact, opinion, or otherwise. 
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