Your Tongue Position Matters during Deadlifts and other things I learned at the Nor Cal Fitness Summit

This Sunday I was fortunate enough to attend the 1st annual Nor Cal Fitness Summit in Mountain View, CA. Being surrounded by such awesome, brilliant people kind of made my face hurt…a lot. There is a BIG difference between knowing how little you know and experiencing how little you know firsthand. Needless to say, I walked out of there feeling both super jazzed and like a total noob with a lot of work to do.

Here I provide a wee little sampler of the all of the cool things I learned from this amazing event.

1. A Proper Deadlift is like a Unicorn

What would you say if I asked you what a unicorn was?

“A mythical creature with magic blood that looks like a horse with a narwhal horn”, might be your answer. Now, if someone tapes a horn onto a horse, does that make it a unicorn? Of course not!

When you spot a unicorn, you KNOW it’s not a horse in disguise. The same can be said with deadlifts; watching a proper deadlift, where the back is flat and hips are loaded, is magical — you just KNOW you witnessed something amazing. Everything else (camel backed, knee driven) is just a horse with a horn taped on.

This concept can be applied to help find someone’s ideal form for an exercise. Everyone is built differently, so everyone’s proper deadlift is going to look different. This means we need to tinker with different postures/movements/positions, and when we see that beautiful, shimmering, technicolor mane fluttering in the breeze, we know we are onto something.

Moral of the story: seek out the elusive unicorn.

2. We need to get down

One of the speakers, the epic Dan John (if you don’t know him, look him up. Everything he says is gold), said that the most important thing we aren’t doing is falling. We need to get down on the ground and learn how to fall… or else.

Why? Because it could save your life.

The majority of injuries in elderly populations are from falling. To prevent potentially fatal injuries later in life we need to learn how to fall, roll, and get back up. Being able to fall is even more important (life-saving) than losing that 5 lbs (not life-threatening). In other words, you can’t look good in a swimsuit if you’re dead.

3. A Kitten Dies every Time you Screw Up.

Whilst talking about falling/ground work. Dan John had someone put their right hand on their left knee and told him to do various things like get into a plank, sit down, lie on your belly etc.

“If you take your hand off your knee at any point, a kitten dies”.

Two kittens died on that fateful day.

Meanwhile, everyone in the audience roared with laughter, and eventually the murderous sicko could sit down without killing any more innocent kittens. This was a fun, silly, yet effective way to get someone to do a movement correctly.

4. Transform your Feet into Talons

During an unexpectedly interesting (sorry, not a runner) and actionable lecture on injury-free running from Dr. Emily Splichal , I gained an in-depth understanding of how your feet play a huge role in optimal movement.

I want you to try this: stand completely barefoot on a hard surface. Now, lean on to one foot, keeping your foot flat and distribute your weight equally throughout your foot. Then, spread your toes apart and drive your big toe into the floor, trying to pull your heel and big toe together. Hold this for a few seconds.

Feel anything deep in your hip/butt/stomach? Weird, right?

This foot move is called short foot, and it helps to stabilize the hip and other deep core muscles. When short foot is timed properly it can make a BIG difference. As an example, perform a squat and do short foot right as you are standing up.

5. The Position of your Tongue can make you more Flexible

Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?

Pretty wild stuff. During Dean Somerset’s talk (same presentation as the unicorn thing), he had people alternate between having their tongue on the roof of the mouth and bottom of mouth while performing hip hinges.

Basically the tongue is connected to the diaphragm. When the tongue is put on the roof, it pulls the diaphragm up. When the tongue is placed on the bottom of the mouth the diaphragm relaxes.

If we are lifting heavy things we don’t want our diaphragm relaxed — we want it working hard! Thus, before you brace your abs for a beastly deadlift, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. On the other hand, resting the tongue on the bottom of your mouth can allow you to get a little closer to touching your toes.


These are just a few of the many things I learned this weekend. I’m really excited to share and implement all of the info I absorbed. Hope you learned something from this too!

Want to know more about these topics? Interested in Personal Training?

Drop a comment below or email me at


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