Snapshot of Takeaway Points
- A lift that requires optimal mobility plus technique to execute
- Structural balance indicators give you goals to achieve
- Just performing the honest lifts will improve overall mobility
Honest lift definition: A lift that requires optimal mobility plus technique to execute
This term came out of a conversation with Dr Peter Lundgren where we were discussing lifts that keep athletes true and they can’t cheat on. Lifts that not only challenge an athlete’s strength but other important qualities such as mobility and co-ordination. Cheat on an honest lift and it can end in injury. Lack mobility in the required areas and you won’t be able to execute.
The front squat is high on this list due to its overall importance and transfer to athletic performance. Optimal ankle & thoracic mobility are needed if you want to execute this movement perfectly. To keep it as honest as possible I recommend you perform 90% of your front squats without a belt or any knee sleeves. We want to test and improve the integrity of your core and joints within the lower body.
If when performing this movement you resemble a horny dog or cashew nut then you are performing this incorrectly. Assess by starting at the ankle joint and working your way up the kinetic chain. If you lack ankle mobility then no amount of releasing your piriformis complex is going to progress you quick enough.
To program this lift properly and improve your front squat, check out this previously written article on Front Squat Tips.
Snatch Grip Deadlift from a Deficit (SG DDL)
Executing this movement requires adequate hip mobility combined with lumbar stability. In fact improving hip mobility will often improve lumbar stability. So, if you want a big deadlift or stronger lower back to improve athletic performance, you need optimal mobility at the hip joint.
Utilising a top down approach, which I first learned from Andre Benoit, you can actually improve the range of movement week to week and sometimes set to set. To complete you assess the range you can complete a snatch grip deadlift with perfect form and then increase the range of movement. Optimal range is a four inch deficit, but most can’t start here. Instead you can start with feet on the floor or even raise the barbell 1-4 inches.
At my gym (Winning Health Solutions) in Southampton we have cut up small mats to allow tiny increments. This means we can progress clients slowly and encourage their soft tissue and nervous system to adapt to the longer range accordingly.
Seated Behind the Neck Press (BTNP)
It’s a common misconception that the behind the neck press is bad for the shoulders. It is in fact quite the opposite and provides huge benefits. The key variable is due to injuries and being able to perform the movement pain free. You need healthy shoulders to include the BTNP in your program.
The general requirement is adequate thoracic and external rotation mobility. Common technique issues arise from the elbows moving forward and in front of the head/torso during the movement and wrists that are bent back instead of locked out.
A fantastic assistance lift for the BTNP, which in fact is another honest lift, is the tomahawk press. Throw this in as a warm up before the BTNP for 2-3 sets, or 10 minutes of 2 submaximal repetitions paired with the Dr Lundgren Mobility Drill.
For program design purposes, it is best to alternate phases on and off the BTNP. For example 2-3 weeks on BTNP and 2-3 weeks using an alternative press. The upper body needs more variation than the lower body and including the BTNP week in week out is tough.
A movement attributed to the Soviet Olympic weightlifter Viktor Sots. Weighing in at under 100kg, stories suggest that Sots could power clean, then front squat down and press from the deep front squat position 140kg for 3-5 reps and rumoured to have a maximum of up to 170kg. Many confuse the Sots press as behind the neck but this is a variation as Viktor performed them from the front rack position.
Much like the other honest lift the front squat, the Sots press requires optimal ankle & thoracic mobility. Just having to sit in a deep squat position for an extended period of time provides great hip and ankle mobility benefits. This is why Ido Portal has his 30-30 challenge; spend 30 minutes a day for 30 consecutive days in a full squat position.
To progress into this movement should you need be unable to perform initially, I like to use raised heels, even if you are weighing Olympic weightlifting shoes, and alternative bars that allow you to get into position.
- Starting point: 5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, mid pronated grip
- Progression 1: 5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, mid supinated grip
- Progression 2: 5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, barbell behind the neck press
- Progression 3: 5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, barbell press from in front
- Progression 4: 2.5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, mid pronated grip
- Progression 5: 2.5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, mid supinated grip
- Progression 6: 2.5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, barbell behind the neck press
- Progression 7: 2.5kg plates to raise heels using Football bar, barbell press from in front
- Progression 8: feet on floor using Football bar, mid pronated grip
- Progression 9: using Football bar, mid supinated grip
- Progression 10: using Football bar, barbell behind the neck press
- Progression 11: using Football bar, barbell press from in front
*You can indeed utilise a Swiss bar if you don’t have access to a football bar.
Structural balance indicators
|Deadlift from Floor||100%||250kg|
|Deadlift Snatch Grip, 4” Deficit||80%||200kg|
|Seated Behind the Neck Press||34%||85kg|
|Sots Press, Clean Grip in Front||30%||75kg|
Whether you are a professional athlete or a simply someone looking to improve health, improving these lifts will have a hugely beneficial effect for you. Just performing the lift with the progressions will offer benefit. As your soft tissue improves and your nervous system sees the range as normal you will be able to move from an easier range and progress to a more challenging range.
Often I place these movements at the beginning of a block/program to encourage full range of movement back into my client. As we progress, maximum weight or specific movements can become more important so the honest take a back seat and sometimes are out completely, or sometimes utilised as an assistance movement.
I hope to see the inclusion of more honest lifting moving forward!