Training Session – The Deadlift with Matt Duncan

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a training session with Matthew Duncan from Fitness Playground in Surry Hills. We were focusing on one of my favorite lifts, the Deadlift. I thought I’d “pen” a few notes on the experience to share.

One of the biggest things that the experience reaffirmed was that you should never stop learning. Surrounding yourself with experts and being open to learning is great way to keep expanding your knowledge base. Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and has great passion for the work he does. His enthusiasm is infectious and his humility striking in an industry often crowded with egos and know-it-alls.

Lessons Learnt:

Doing the Deadlift is a challenge to your posture.

As you progress through heavier weights, you will find ‘weak’ spots where your posture starts to fail. For some it may be weak lower abs for others it may hip stability allowing the knees to collapse, for many it is a mobility issue. Once you find your functional deficit, work on it. Being a multi-joint movement means correcting your deadlift is ultimately correcting your overall movement. Failure to correct deficiencies will at best limit your progress and at worst lead to injury. Outside of competition lifting, the deadlift (and any other lift, push or pull for that matter) is about posture first, then it’s about moving the heavy thing. Once your posture is compromised, the lift is over. Check yourself before you wreck yourself!


Sometimes, the best solution may seem counter intuitive.

Within a few minutes watching me lift, Matt had some small but significant changes to make. As someone with long legs, I always considered a slightly wider stance to be better for me. Not a sumo stance, but a little outside hip width. What Matt noticed was that this tended to put too much pressure on my knees made my grip unnecessarily wide, and that since my hamstring mobility was not limiting me, I should bring my feet and hands in a touch closer to the middle. I’ll be honest, I thought Matt was just making things harder for me, but then I tried the new posture and the bar flew up off the floor! Excellent! There is more than one way to look at a problem. The experience of experts is invaluable. Always get the best advice you can, in lifting and in life.


When in doubt, work the anterior chain.

If you’re having trouble getting the bar off the ground, and you’re not sure what is holding you back, work your anterior chain. Hardstyle planks, Reverse V-sits, Reverse Crunches. Again – not the most intuitive solution to what is largely a posterior chain exercise, but having that extra grunt to stabilize the pelvis and spine means the force from your legs is more effectively transferred to the bar. Give it a try.

Working with Matt was a great experience. I look forward to trying out a few new things at the gym and sharing what I’ve learned in the practice.