The Post Where I Slap the Wrist of a Deadlift Troll

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As it happens I don’t get a ton of hate mail or “troll” activity that’s directed my way.  Part of that is because I generally – not always – steer clear of controversial topics (CrossFit, intermittent fasting, Jacob vs. Edward) that somehow always gets people’s panties all up in a bunch.

On the other side of the coin, I like to think I go out of my way to provide top-notch content with a little lightheartedness that doesn’t come across as me being an uppity know-it-all snob.  And even if I do take a strong stance on something, I’m always willing to keep an open mind and respect other’s opinions on the matter.

That said, on the off-chance that I do get someone going out of their way to be a big meanie head and write me a scathing email or comment, I’ve learned to politely say “thank you,” or ignore them altogether and move on with my life. It’s just not worth getting into a war of words with some people.

It was a hard pill to swallow when I first started writing. I took any negative feedback I received as a direct blow against my character, and I’d be lying if I sat here and said that it didn’t sometimes affect my mood.  I wouldn’t cower in the corner in the fetal position sucking my thumb or anything, but there were times back in the day where I’d be thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to turning on a Julia Roberts’ movie and crushing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

When you think about it though, anytime you open yourself up to the masses and decide to write in an open forum, whether it be blogging, articles, or any form of media, you’re going to expose yourself to criticism.  It’s the nature of the beast, for better or worse.

Throughout the years I’ve learned to pick my battles.  Sometimes I deserved to be called out and I was always appreciative (although maybe not right at that moment) in the long-run, because part of why I’m in this industry and why I write is to learn and help people.  I’m not that much of a conceited person where I can’t say “my bad, I’m wrong” and move on.

And then you just have those people who have nothing better to do with their lives than to be a big, fat meanie-head.  Like I said, normally I ignore stuff like this and use it as a good laugh, but for some reason I felt this particular person, based off his holier than thou tone alone, deserved a little taste of his own medicine.

I think most of you reading will agree.

Here’s the email that was sent my way in its entirety – with a few words/lines highlighted on my end.

Why are you stating that an upper rounded back in a deadlift is incorrect. Please explain the shear you speak of.

So I guess Konstantin Konstantinov must be a shitty deadlifter eh? The fact is it depends on body composition and the weight being pulled.

It would be nice if you trainer, no back and no trap, types get your shit correct before you put this crap on the web.


+500lb deadlifter

So, essentially, what this guy was saying was that:

1. He read ONE blog post of mine (I don’t know which one) and decided that that encompassed my entire thought process on everything deadlifting. And….

2. Because he watched a Russian deadlift once, on the internet, that that somehow makes him an authority. And….

3.  He’s a +500 lb deadlifter (allegedly), so he obviously knows what he’s talking about.

For starters, one blog post doesn’t define me and my thoughts.

Secondly, here’s a picture of some random dude juggling some chainsaws.  Man that is nifty!  I could probably do that!  In fact, I know I could do that because I saw it on the internet.

Thirdly, isn’t it funny how everyone somehow deadlifts over 500 lbs????  Uncanny.

Anyways, here was my initial response to him (with more to follow afterwards):


Well, if you actually read more of my stuff, you’ll understand that I’ve also said that when someone is lifting heavier loads it isn’t always going to be pretty.

And as a coach and trainer I’m certainly not going to teach someone to deadlift with a rounded back. It’s just not worth the risk. If or when they get to the level of Konstantinov then they’ll get a little more leeway..

Thanks for setting me straight, though, I really appreciate it.

+570 lb deadlifter (ie: more than you).

I’m sorry.  I just couldn’t resist closing off my response with that last line.  Childish, I know – but sooooooooo worth it.

So lets break this down in a more conducive, less confrontational way.

His main beef with me was stressing how I’m not a fan of people deadlifting with a rounded upper back.  Specifically he asked if I could explain this whole “shear” phenomena, as if I was pulling a random word out of my ass.

Let me clarify a bit before I proceed.

For starters, as the co-owner of a gym (and as such: having the luxury of paying liability insurance), part of, if not the most crucial component of my job is to keep people from getting hurt.

Think about how much responsibility we accept when a parent drops off their 14 year old kid to train with us. How do you think it bodes for business if we have kids injuring themselves left and right because we don’t take the time to teach them how to lift correctly (but more on that in a bit)?

As someone on my Facebook page so succinctly noted, “it must be nice to Monday morning quarterback from a far. If they did have their butt on the line everytime an athlete picked up a bar, this junk would be the last thing you would be arguing about.”

More to the point, if we were to look at the biomechanics of the lumbar spine (or read anything Dr. Stuart McGill has written in the past 15+ years:  HERE and HERE would be a nice start), we’d understand that the spine can handle compressive loading fairly well (assuming it’s not loaded and someone is living flexion), but it’s shear loading that many fail to pay attention to.

What is shear loading?

When the (lumbar) spinal muscles – namely the erector spinae, longissimus, iliocostalis, etc – are doing their job when lifting heavy things off the floor, they’re mainly counteracting perpendicular forces to the axis of the spine which attempt to slide the components away from their normal axis.

As my boy Dean Somerset noted,  “McGill showed elite powerlifters could get their spines to within a few degrees of full flexion and maintain that position through the pull, whereas amateurs or intermediates would go beyond full flexion without control and wind up exposing their discs to stupid forces and injury, so teaching a rounded back to a beginner is completely different than allowing an experienced puller to creep into flexion during their max lifts.

It also doesn’t talk about how when the experienced lifters are training with less than max weight they get closer to neutral and work on maintaining and grooving that pattern while staying away from flexion.”

For the visual learners out there, it goes a little something like this:

Now, to be fair: guys like Konstantin Konstantinov have a TON more leeway because he’s trained his body to stay out of danger when the shit hits the fan. He’s the elite of the elite. Using him as an argument as to why lifting with a rounded back is advantageous is borderline the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Excuse me while I go throw myself in front of a mack truck.

Moreover, it’s important to note that as a coach I’m ALWAYS going refrain from teaching the deadlift with a rounded back because it’s just common sense.  It’s important to engrain the proper motor pattern, and CEMENT that pattern with smart, properly progressed strength training so that if or when they do start lifting heavier loads, they’ll be better prepared to not crumble like a deck of cards.

That and so their max pulls don’t end up looking like this walking ball of fail:

So that’s my more “polite” response. Agree?  Disagree?  Want to give me an internet high-five?  Please share below.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • Rees

    I chortled throughout that entire reading. Not a full on laugh, but not just a chuckle either. Haha. Good post dude.

    April 23, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply to this comment

  • Louie Guarino

    Jacob is better #1...and honestly, this was as condescending yet funny of a response ever given...and nice play with the billy madison. lolll

    April 23, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      The Billy Madison clip was PERFECT, right? Thanks Louie, always appreciate it when you chime in. Like I said, I generally ignore emails like this one. But for some reason I couldn't let this one go without a response.

      April 24, 2013 at 7:25 am | Reply to this comment

  • Prakash

    Deserved Internet high five TG - Pwnd him big time! Love the Chuck Norris pic

    April 23, 2013 at 11:52 am | Reply to this comment

  • bigfatliar

    I only deadlift 315, except for when I'm on the internets. Then its 700+ all day!

    April 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Kirk This is more appropriate

    April 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Steven Trolio

    Haha, very good post Tony. I appreciate the sarcastic/witty email response just as much as the description of shear loading, which simplified things for me. Also, that last video is simply awesome.

    April 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      It was a little out of character for me to stoop to his level, but I couldn't resist. I wanted to make up for it by at least writing something that was going to help people and shed some light on why preventing shear loading is important.

      April 24, 2013 at 7:31 am | Reply to this comment

  • Conor Nordengren

    Tony, as you emphasized, HUGE difference between teaching a beginner athlete to deadlift and an experienced lifter pulling a PR. Nice response!

    April 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • naveed

    Awesome post Tony! it's a very silly argument your troll friend made.... pretty much the equivalent of saying "oh you don't dunk from the free throw line? You must have never seen Michael Jordan play"

    April 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jake Johnson

    Great job educating and making this guy look like an asshat at the same time. People these days... Jake Johnson

    April 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Reply to this comment

  • FreakSammy

    The next time I see an internet jockey who brags about how much they lift (or how well they play guitar, for that matter) who follows up with a video proving it will be the first time.

    April 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Now THAT would be epic. I think Ross Enamit did that once. Someone called him out and said that he couldn't deadlift 400+ lbs. Ross filmed it and made it look EASY and just looked at the camera and said, "nice try, my friend" or something along those lines. It was pretty much the best video ever made.

      April 24, 2013 at 7:33 am | Reply to this comment

  • deansomerset

    Gotta love that the guy was a deadlifting expert yet didn't even know what the hell "shear" was. People who don't understand the science yet still think they know what they're talking about. People like that are the reason Tracy Anderson is a real thing and Kim Kardashian is allowed to exist.

    April 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Greg Nuckols

    I think you touched on a useful distinction as well. There's a difference between what's advantageous for an elite level powerlifter and what's advantageous for an athlete. The PLer pulls to increase his/her pull. As such, thoracic flexion shortens the lever arm and lets the hips stay closer to the bar in the sagittal plane, typically allowing for a bigger deadlift. The athlete is pulling to enhance sport performance. Sure, some degree of flexion may allow for increased loading, but how much of that increased loading translates to improved performance? I'd say not much at all. Even if the risk is fairly low, the reward is minimal to non-existent.

    April 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michael Ward

    Was the video at the end of the OP? Ouch....

    April 23, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Dumb PT student

    I was going to say that I saw worse deadlift form today (he was on a mini box to increase ROM, and his spine literally looked like a rabbit's when it's balled up as he pulled), but then I saw this guy thrust and he took the cake

    April 23, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Eric Bach

    Awesome and completely agree with you. Risk. Reward is a huge factor in being a coach, specifically with younger athletes

    April 23, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    Hey Tony dumbass doyouevenlift? rounded back deadlift is so common. andy bolton once pulled 900 lb for reps with rounded back while eating a sandwich. then he ate the bar and the plates.

    April 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • George

    The internet is similar to being in a fast moving car on the highway--all the half-men with anger issues become "experts" and "tough guys" believing that you're not going to catch them anyway. Internet high-five, by the way, not for the post, but for the Billy Madison clip. In all my time reading your blog I see we appreciate the same films. Perhaps some day we can deadlift and take in a movie in a totally non-stalking, in-the-spirit-of-brotherhood-way. Or not.

    April 24, 2013 at 12:37 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lauren Doyouevenlift

    Ok I wanted to run and hide when I watched that deadlift vid. ps way to take the low road at the end of your response. You're allowed to do that every now and again and you did it well. -Lauren, +800lb deadlifter

    April 24, 2013 at 12:47 am | Reply to this comment

  • Igor Danielovitch

    No, Tony, it's not a great post. It's the second time that you have devoted a whole post to ripping into a reader for impolitely disagreeing with your DL technique ideas. I'd like to say that you are better than that, but clearly you are not better than that. You didn't have to write this post. You didn't have to post the offending letter. You could have just hit delete, and gone about your full and blessed life in a constructive way. You say that you used to feel that these were "attacks on your character". This is ironic. Character reveals itself under duress, which for you, is apparently whenever any random person is rude to you. Your heightened sensitivity reminds me of Donald Trump. A billionaire who still gets in childish Twitter slap fights with other billionaires, and minor celebrities. Because, he too, is sensitive. Perhaps you know down deep that your reaction to criticism reveals more about your character than the criticism ever could. This is why you try to mask your actions with humor, but the reality is that you stooped to your critic's level, and that doesn't make you superior. It just makes you the same.

    April 24, 2013 at 3:31 am | Reply to this comment

    • FreakSammy

      Jeez, that's a little harsh. The first 3/4 of the post were devoted to saying, "Normally this stuff doesn't bother me, but once in a great while I have to respond," or words to that effect. But I'm sure you're always above that Igor.

      April 24, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply to this comment

      • TonyGentilcore

        He IMPOLITELY disagreed with me by saying "you need to get your shit together before putting this crap on the internet?" Sounds like a flat out attack in my opinion. Listen, I don't expect everyone to agree with everything I write or say. But if someone is going to call me out for not knowing what I'm talking about, I think I have every right to respond. Now sure, you could make an argument that I was a little childish with my response. Okay, chalk one up to you. But it's not like I went on a tirade and dedicated en entire post to calling him names. I DID actually respond with a well-thought out post explaining my rationale. If you feel I stooped to his level and liken it to me acting like Donald Trump, well, that's your opinion. Thanks for reading nonetheless.

        April 25, 2013 at 6:17 am | Reply to this comment

    • Barath

      Igor, As far as I can see, Tony didn't "stoop to his level". All he did was take an ill-informed criticism and turn it into a blog post that has useful information for many people. He made the best out of a rather distasteful letter. If he did get a little offended, well, we are all human after all. And I am sure he receives a ton more emails of this kind he just ignores. This particular one has given him a chance to preach something about his pet lift and he took the opportunity. There's nothing wrong or low about that. Forgive me if this sounds rude, but you cannot deconstruct someone's character based on a blogpost, and your preachy tone leaves much to be desired. People like Tony put out free content everyday that many people learn from and it's easy to take such things for granted.

      April 24, 2013 at 11:14 am | Reply to this comment

    • Kyle

      So you're saying you don't pull 500+?

      April 24, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Eric

    I can't stop watching that deadlift video, poor disks

    April 24, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Bill Green

    that's not the worst deadlift i've seen on the internet. you can do better tony.

    April 24, 2013 at 10:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Lea Swenson San Jose, CA

    Knowledge bombs with a heaping side of sarcastic wit! You win...again. :) Love the blog, love this post.

    April 25, 2013 at 12:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • gostillers11

    Internet High Five!

    April 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brent Holm

    Man, I don't respond to your blog in a few days and all hell breaks lose! I'm sorry, I'll start responding more Tony to bring sanity back to the internets :)

    April 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michael

    Just thought I would share a story to back this up. there is a guy who comes into the gym I train at, all he does is brag about his 550 deadlift. Upon observation he has the most rounded back ive ever seen while performing the lift. Long story short he hasnt been in for a while... came in yesterday to let me know he went to the ER and found out he had not 1, not 2, but 3 herniated disks. So I applaud you for shutting this guy down! - Mike

    April 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Wow. Well, in this guys defense, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of people walking around with no symptoms or pain at all who have disc herniations. Hell, if you took an MRI of my back you'd probably find at least one. BUT - that doesn't mean I'm not going to go out of my way as a coach to teach the lift correctly and set someone up for as much success as possible. Thanks for sharing Michael.

      April 29, 2013 at 7:06 am | Reply to this comment

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