by Stuart McRobbert
(Chapter 12 of BEYOND BRAWN, copyright 2006 by Stuart McRobert, reprinted with permission)
This chapter is included for five reasons:
a. To show that a typical hard gainer, if not restricted by age or structural problems, can build up to respectable weights -- in my case bent-legged deadlifting 400 pounds for 20 consecutive rest-pause reps -- though the deadlift may not be the exercise that best suits your body structure.
b. To explain the real-life step-by-step practicalities of a training cycle, how a cycle is modified as it evolves, and how the ups and downs of life have to be accommodated.
c. To take you through the key lessons learned.
d. To confirm that I am no armchair instructor.
e. To show that abbreviated and basics-first training works.
This chapter is a revised and expanded version of an article published in issue #21 of HARDGAINER (November-December 1992). You are not going to get only the positive side of the training cycle. You are going to get the full story, to help equip you to avoid the mistakes I made.
The first requirements for realizing a very demanding goal are loads of resolve, heaps of persistence, and tons of effort. Whether your demanding goal is 300 x 20 in the squat, 350 x 20 in the deadlift, 300 x 5 in the bench press, or whatever, you really have to want it. There is no easy way to reach a demanding goal. If you do not want it enough to pay your dues, overcome expected and unexpected obstacles, and give your pound of flesh, you will not get to your goal. The names of our game are effort and progressive poundages. While cycling training intensity does not mean full-bore effort at every workout, you must get into sustained periods of intensive workouts.
There are two crucial considerations to keep in mind when viewing my personal training achievements:
a. I have never taken bodybuilding drugs, and never will.
b. My genetic endowment is almost the opposite of what is needed to develop great strength.
While 400 x 20 is fine deadlifting for a hard gainer, it is not much in today’s world where the genetically gifted elite grab the publicity and attention. But while some of these men are awesomely strong, more than a few of them are far less strong than their posed lifts (sometimes using fake plates) suggest. I did not use a lifting belt or any lifting gear other than grip support. I was 195 pounds -- at 5-9, and about 15% bodyfat -- when I did the 400 x 20, so I was pulling over twice bodyweight. This was in July 1992 when I was 33 years old.
When appraising my genetic endowment for lifting weights, there is nothing to marvel at. Two areas come out as better than average, i.e., calves and body structure for the deadlift and stiff-legged deadlift. Everything else ranges for average hard-gainer material to worse-than-average, with arms in particular being the pits for bodybuilding.
I had extensive work and parental responsibilities during the deadlift cycle. These prevented my resting and sleeping as well as I should have in order to recuperate speedily from training. I am a real-world person, not someone who can devote himself to his training with little or no thought for other aspects of regular life. As typical working hard gainers it is not just our genes that work against us. There are other out-of-the-gym factors as well.
REASONING FOR THE DEADLIFT FOCUS
For almost all of my training years -- right until this 400 x 20 deadlift cycle -- I have always considered the squat the exercise to concentrate upon. While my deadlift poundage can almost be depended upon to increase so long as I am injury-free, work very hard and infrequently, and eat and rest enough, the same cannot be said of the squat. For years I tried to make the most of a relatively poor body structure for squatting, and neglected to apply myself to an exercise I am mechanically much better suited to -- the deadlift.
As it was I spent many years focusing on the squat while omitting the deadlift. The 1992 experience proved that while my back and knees would cave in from the squat, the deadlift could be kept moving.
I am not in a minority of one on this point; and I believe that the minority is a substantial one among hard gainers. If you cannot get great results from the barbell squat, and assuming you have put in some effort and investigated suitable modifications such as those described in BUILD MUSCLE, LOSE FAT, LOOK GREAT, then promote the bent-legged deadlift, especially using the parallel-grip bar, to at least equal status with the squat. (But not the stiff-legged deadlift, because it does not involve the quadriceps.)
If you cannot barbell squat but have access to a safe alternative that mimics the squat, e.g., the Tru-Squat, exploit it to the full.
Beginners and early intermediates should give equal priority to the squat and deadlift in their training. But once they have got to the intermediate stage -- when they look like they lift weights -- they should be able to see how they compare in the two exercises. Assuming the same degree of application to each exercise, if your squat is about the same or ahead of your deadlift, then you have a squatter’s body structure. If your deadlift is well ahead of your squat, then it is the deadlift that is favored by your body structure. At this stage, at least some of the time, you should have specialization cycles in which you focus on the exercise you naturally favor. Make the most of whatever natural bias you have. While the very gifted can do very well in almost every exercise, the rest of us may have to settle for finding just one or two exercises in which to excel, but without neglecting other areas.
I started weight training in 1973. I got little or nothing out of most of those years other than lots of experience of what does not work despite single-minded determination and application. I never got into any variation of the deadlift in a serious way until about 1988. Until then it had been the squat for my thigh, hip and lower back structure. I then got into low-rep deadlifting. After about three years of hard work in both the stiff-legged and bent-legged versions, but not both of them in the same cycle, I was capable of deadlifting 500 pounds. I was, however, still giving more focus to the squat, but was not getting results proportional to my application.
During the deadlift-focus period I am now going to describe I found I could progress on the deadlift akin to how the famous squatters did on the squat -- train hard, rest a lot, eat well, and you can add weight to the bar almost every week, and do so for a long time. This was so very satisfying and made me wonder what I might have done had I clicked with this important reality early in my training life.
BREATHING, AND DEADLIFTING TECHNIQUE
When deadlifting heavily, whether in the stiff-legged or bent-legged version, I always used grip aids. I had neglected to do serious grip work and was paying the price by having to use the crutch of heavy grip support.
During the bent-legged deadlift the stress upon the body from holding the bar in the standing position while pausing to breathe is very great, and will increase fatigue. The alternative of breathing while the bar is on the floor or platform -- while in the crouched setup position -- is not satisfactory either. The lower limbs and back tire from being kept in the setup position.
What I used to do was maintain my grip on the bar, though relaxing my hold, while the bar rested on the platform. I also maintained the positioning of my feet. But I did not keep my knees bent in the starting position. I straightened my knees, while keeping my hands and feet in position, and took a few quick and deep breaths with my knees and elbows straight -- my back would naturally round during this pause. Then I would bend my knees, get in position with a flat back once again, set the bar against my shins, and pull the next rep; and then repeat the process.
I always set myself up in a flat-back position, and the initial drive from the floor was with both thighs and back strength. But my knees soon locked out and the deadlift became a total back exercise. This became exaggerated after I developed knee problems -- by taking more of the load on my back I reduced the stress on my knees. When my form got ragged, my back would round quite a lot at the top of a rep. While I absolutely do not recommend this round-back style of deadlifting, I got away with it for quite a long time. Even when I got injured at the end of the cycle I do not think the excessive rounding of my back was anything more than a contributing factor at most. But I urge you not to duplicate my deadlifting form. Use much more thigh strength than I did, and keep your back flat.
Natural squatters usually use lots of thigh strength in their deadlifting. They are more able to maintain a flat back than are less-gifted squatters who use more back strength because of comparatively weaker thighs. Natural deadlifters have a tendency to want to bent-legged deadlift more akin to stiff-legged deadlifts (but with slightly bent knees) than the regular style that uses lots of thigh pushing strength.
THE LONG CYCLE
I started the deadlift cycle on 21 November 1991, and peaked at 400 pounds for 20 reps on 9 July 1992. That was a cycle of nearly eight months. Prior to the November start I had done some preliminary work in the stiff-legged deadlift, building to sets of five reps with 300 pounds while standing on a platform so that the bar touched the laces of my shoes between reps. Today I neither perform this excessive range of movement myself, nor recommend others do. I do the stiff-legged deadlift on and to the floor, with 20-kilo plates on the bar.
To be sure to establish my deadlifting style, as I had not done the regular deadlift for about two years, and to get plenty of gaining momentum going, I started off very light -- 220 pounds. While I finished with 400 x 20, I only moved to 20 reps at the end of the cycle. For almost the whole cycle I was performing sets of 15 reps in the deadlift.
I could have started the cycle at a bigger poundage and tried to compress the eight months of relatively slow progression into 4–6 months of quicker progress. Patience and a slow rate of progress are imperative for success, however, so I resisted the urge to hurry. On hindsight, if I had been more patient I could have extended the cycle.
In the early part of the cycle, because the poundage was light, I did all 15 reps continuously -- no short pause before each rep. The plates touched the platform between reps in what could have been considered “touch and go.” This was a mistake because it was easy to touch only one side of the plates on the platform, lose the vital symmetrical pulling style, and jar myself into an injury. For continuous reps, only go down to a point an inch or so above the platform. This helps prevent possible torque and jarring. But as the cycle progressed, fewer of the reps were done touch and go. I gradually moved into a rest-pause style.
I always deadlifted with a pronated grip. I had found that a mixed grip (one hand supinated, and one pronated) exposes me to an increased risk of injury because of the torque produced. To hold onto the bar, and free myself from concern over losing my grip, I had to have grip support. I used metal hooks fixed onto adjustable wrist straps. By using these there was no way the bar could fall from my hands. But had I never used any assistance other than chalk, had I added poundage at a slower rate to give my grip a chance to adapt, and had I added some thick-bar holds for extra grip work, I could probably have managed without the crutch of the hooks.
I usually deadlifted once each week. There were two occasions, not late in the cycle, where I had to deadlift on the sixth day rather than the usual seventh day. Especially in the late stages of the cycle I sometimes took more than a week between deadlift workouts, to guarantee full recovery.
Each deadlift workout consisted of warmup sets -- one to begin with, and three once the poundages became heavy -- followed by a single work set of 15 reps. After a few minutes rest I would do 8 reps with 220 pounds in the stiff-legged deadlift while standing on a platform for a full range of movement. This remained at 220 pounds throughout the cycle. The only workout I did not do it was when I did the 20 reps with 400. Then I did not want to do anything but collapse, pull myself together, pick myself up, and go home.
Until I reached 330 pounds (150 kilos), I added 5 kilos (11 pounds) to the bar each week. I did 330 x 15 on 30 January 1992. At this stage I think I was doing 10 of the reps continuously and the remaining five in rest-pause style -- do a rep, pause for a few breaths, do another rep, pause for a few breaths, etc. Once I had started a set of deadlifts, and was strapped in, my hands never left the bar until all the target reps were done.
During this deadlift-dominated cycle the other exercises were secondary and I would not have hesitated to drop anything that got in the way of focus on the deadlift. I would have dropped to a one-exercise-per-week schedule (deadlift only) if it became necessary in order to keep the deadlift progressing.
My basic schedule was this:
b. Bench press
c. Bent-over row
d. Calf work
b. Military press
c. Calf work
Abdominal work opened most workouts, to warm me up. In the bench press, row and press I used a 5 x 5 set-rep format -- a light and a medium warmup set followed by 3 work sets with the same poundage. I rested several minutes between sets to ensure that, with few exceptions, I made all the sets of 5 reps. So long as I made all 3 work sets of 5 reps for a given exercise I would increase the poundage a little at the next workout for that exercise. Calf work was a couple of hard sets in the standing calf raise, for about 20 reps per set. The squat was usually done for 20 reps a set though at above 250 x 20 it was denting my recovery ability for elsewhere. Had I not had to drop the squat due to knee problems I would have needed to have kept it under 250 x 20 so as not to mar progress in the deadlift.
My choice of training days was not ideal. At the time, I was employed as a school teacher three days a week -- on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesdays and Thursdays around midday were the best times to train in order to minimize potential disruptions and maximize concentration.
I was ill during the first week of February, and could not train. I returned to deadlifting on February 13, with 286 pounds (130 kilos) for the usual 15 reps. On February 21 I used 308 pounds (140 kilos) and on February 27 I was back on schedule with the 150 kilos I used before getting sick. That 150 kilos felt heavier than the pre-sickness 150 did. On hindsight I should have worked back into it over an extra couple of weeks. I got away with it only because I was not maxed out at the time.
I moved to 160 kilos (352 pounds) over two weeks, using the pre-sickness 5-kilos-per-week increment schedule. I was now down to 8 continuous reps and 7 rest-pause reps per 15-rep set. At 352 pounds I reduced the weekly increment to 2.5 kilos (5.6 pounds) to help ensure that my form stayed tight and the gaining momentum was not killed by excessive weekly increments. On hindsight, the 2.5 kilos per week increments should have started earlier than they did, and the cycle lengthened accordingly.
I had a bad year in 1992 for injuries. Throughout late 1991 and early 1992 I had elbow problems caused by excessive zeal for specialized grip work, and not working into it progressively enough. This prevented all grip work and hampered me in all major exercises except the deadlift (because I was using grip supports). Due to an injury sustained while playing soccer in 1991, I had a problem with my right big toe until late 1993.
In late February 1992 I started using a hip belt for squats during the Thursday workout, for much regretted supplementary thigh work. This was an example of trying to improve on what was already a very productive schedule. When something is going well, leave well alone.
I started very light with the hip-belt squat -- 85 pounds -- to get the hang of the exercise. It was awkward to begin with. I had to use a 2-inch board under my heels, though balance was still awkward. Being more mechanically suited to the deadlift than the squat probably exaggerated the awkwardness of the exercise for me. Plenty of people have prospered on the hip-belt squat but I am not one of them, at least not if it is done with a 2-inch board under my heels. My knees moaned from the first workout. The “moaning” was not enough to stop me. I mistook it for the discomfort of acclimatizing to a new exercise, and stupidly applied the “no pain, no gain” maxim. I persisted with the hip-belt squat for 5 or 6 workouts before I finally got the message that the exercise was damaging my knees, and abandoned it in early April.
To be fair, my knees were sensitive and quite easily irritated. Had I done the hip-belt squat in a power rack or from within the safety bars of a squat rack, holding onto the uprights to maintain balance without a board under my heels, I may have prospered on the exercise. I now vigorously oppose raising the heels while squatting other than by a regular heel of a shoe. (Raising the heels increases knee flexion and pushes the knees too far forward, greatly increasing the stress on those joints.) Never mind that some of the big physiques can apparently safely squat with their heels raised on a board, though they may pay the price in years to come. What matters is how your knees react. I paid a heavy price for my misjudgment.
With my knees injured from the raised-heels hip-belt squat, they now could not tolerate regular no-elevation barbell squatting. Even squats with light weights produced days of discomfort afterward. The soreness became unbearable and in June I dropped the squat.
While the knee problem ruined the squat, it did not mar the deadlift cycle. I was not using my knees a great deal in the exercise anyway. By taking my knees just a little more out of the movement the deadlift could continue to progress. The effect of this was that the stress upon my back was increased as my thighs contributed less to the movement.
On 24 April I did 385 for 15 reps. I was down to 5 continuous reps and 10 rest-pause reps to get all 15 out. Then I got injured, but not while deadlifting.
While performing standing barbell presses I felt something “twang” in my upper back. The pain was immediate. I visited a chiropractor the next day and had two vertebrae in my upper spine adjusted. There was instant improvement and within a week my back was feeling 100%. From then on I did my overhead presses while seated and with my back supported against a high-incline bench.
Being cautious I did not deadlift again until 7 May, and then only with 330 pounds. A week later I did 363 for the usual 15 reps, and a further week later I did 374, and a week after that (28 May) I did the 385 I had done before the upper-back injury.
I then hurt myself again. While stretching at home, doing a familiar back movement, I got carried away and went for extra stretch. I felt another twang and regretted the enthusiasm for stretching. Great care needs to be given to stretching exercises because if you get carried away you will injure yourself.
Shortly after the second twang I went to the chiropractor again. Now I needed an adjustment in the lower spine. I did not think the problem was serious so I only took an extra few days off training before deadlifting again -- twelve days of rest instead of seven. I felt fine so off I went. On 9 June I made the pre-injury poundage plus an increment of 2.5 kilos. Now I was up to 177.5 kilos (390.5 pounds).
It was about at this time that I foolishly bench pressed without a spotter or any safety device. I got stuck at the bottom. Alone I had to wrestle the bar down to my midsection before being able to sit up. In the process I damaged my right shoulder. With the use of ice, and tolerating the discomfort, I persisted with bench pressing till the end of the deadlift cycle, but the damage was done and would be with me for a long time.
You may be wondering how I could have done some of the foolish things I did. “Didn’t you know better?” you may ask. I did know better. I knew I was taking form liberties. But I was caught up in the emotion of a cycle that was going very well in some respects, and reveling in handling large weights in the deadlift. I was apparently getting away with the liberties I was taking, so I kept on at it. My heart was ruling my brain. But eventually I came to grief, and confirmed all that I teach in my writings -- that taking liberties with exercise technique is foolish.
NEARING THE PEAK
I was now down to 3 continuous reps and 12 rest-pause reps, and the strain was extreme -- actually, it had been very severe for some time now. I switched the workouts around so that the first exercise of the week was now the deadlift. On 16 June I did 396 pounds (180 kilos). The 396 was a very big moment because it meant that four 20-kilo plates could be put on each end of the bar. Eight 20-kilo plates on a bar for rep work, for a hard gainer who has really suffered over the years, was satisfying in the extreme.
People like me are the ones conventional bodybuilding throws on the trash heap. After many years of following the popular advice I finally discovered the information that can make even a hard gainer respectable. But the “respectable” is not relative to what the top competitive bodybuilders can do. Had I not finally pursued basic and abbreviated training I probably would not have gotten past 160 pounds bodyweight and a 300-pound one-rep deadlift.
On 23 June I deadlifted 182.5 kilos (401.5 pounds) for 15 reps, all of them rest pause. I was ecstatic.
Though I had been doing 15-rep sets, I had long harbored a thought that 15 reps would not be enough and that I would need to do the “magic” 20 to feel that the job was complete.
On 30 June I poured it all out and did 18 so-very-demanding reps with the 400-pound brute. Though it was summer we had a relatively cool and breezy day on the 30th -- only 950F (or 350C). I could have done the entire 20 reps, but held back because I wanted witnesses other than the usual teenagers at the gym. Except for some local soreness and heavy systemic fatigue, I had no negative reaction to this 400 x 18 workout.
Once there was around 370 pounds on the bar, the thought of the next deadlift session caused me considerable anxiety, even fear. I would have five regular days and then, 48 hours before the deadlift, my mind could settle on little else except for the deadlift. My intestines literally churned in anticipation.
On 9 July, just before midday, I was to peak. My wife and a photographer were there to witness the event, and activity in the gym ceased as I got into the set. I did not feel as strong as I was for the previous deadlift workout, and it was very hot, with no air conditioning, and zero breeze coming through the open windows of the third-floor gym. I was later to find out that 9 July was, till then, the hottest day of 1992 in Cyprus. The local meteorological office reported 107.60F (or 420C). All this took its toll because getting from rep 10 to rep 20 was hellish. My deadlifting style cracked up more and more with each rep -- excessive rounding of my back and some asymmetrical pulling. My style had been much better at the previous deadlift session.
My audience was appalled, my wife was fearful for my well-being, and I was so possessed that nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to stop me getting the 20 reps. This was the epitome of “blood and guts,” and “train till you drop” training. I was streaming with sweat and there was a pool of the stuff in front of the bar, having dripped there during the rest pauses.
APPETITE, AND THE TOTAL GAIN
I did not make a conscious attempt to increase my food intake. My appetite took care of it once I was deadlifting about 330 pounds. At that stage, immediately after a bout of deadlifting, and the 2–3 days afterward, my appetite was almost insatiable. Then it dipped until the next deadlift workout. The deadlift-free workout had only a small impact on my appetite.
I ended the cycle about 5 pounds heavier than I was back in November 1991. Bear in mind that had I been working on 20-rep deadlifts a few years earlier -- when I was successfully performing low-rep deadlifts -- I estimate I could have done 20 reps with about 350 pounds. The net result of this 1991/92 cycle was a new territory gain of about 50 pounds on the 20-rep deadlift. I was not trained down at the beginning of the 8-month deadlift focus, only out of touch with the bent-legged deadlift. As a result I would not have expected a big bodyweight gain to accompany 50 pounds or so on the bar. Also, I am past the days of eating myself fat to produce big bodyweight gains. It is possible, however, that had I applied some of what is described in Chapter 21 of BEYOND BRAWN I would have gained more muscle.
For four days after getting all 20 reps I had severe muscular soreness, almost crippling. On the fifth day, the worst of the muscular soreness was behind me and I started to feel a twinge going down into my left buttock and thigh. I thought it would fix itself. I had decided that I was now going to drop the sets of high reps and go to sets of 5 reps. On 21 July I was back deadlifting. I did 5 reps with 400 pounds. They felt very heavy and I knew that I was injured. When I did the 400 x 20 I had a feeling of indestructibility, but now I was beginning to feel like an invalid.
I cannot put my finger on the exact cause of the injury. There was the rounding of my back on 9 July that may have done it, or at least contributed. There was some asymmetrical pulling that cannot have helped. Perhaps neither did the damage but set me up for it from something else. Two days after the 400 x 20 I did my usual full-range bent-over barbell rows, while my back was still massively fatigued. Perhaps the too-vigorous bent-over rows with almost 200 pounds was the final straw that hurt my back. I will never know. But no matter what was the single or multiple cause of the problem, I was in for a long period before I could return to regular progressive training.
I am sure that had I had my witnesses and photographer in attendance on 30 June, I could have made the full 20 reps, wrapped up that cycle without injury, and then started the next cycle. As it was I made my goal but got an injury in return. I had, and still have, no qualms about trading the temporary back problems for the 400 x 20. The satisfaction of the latter was, and remains, massive.
All the injuries I suffered could have been avoided. Here are the lessons I learned/had reinforced:
I should have been using the seated back-supported overhead press right from the start of the cycle.
I should never have risked my sensitive knees with any squatting that had my heels raised by more than the height of the heel in my training shoes.
I should not have overstretched.
I should have exclusively used the trap bar for deadlifting.
I should not have done the barbell bent-over row. The one-arm dumbbell row, prone row, or the pulldown would have been a better choice.
I should never have bench pressed without spotters or some arrangement to catch the bar should I have gotten stuck at the bottom.
I should not have used grip support, but should have released my grip between reps and stood upright in order to set myself properly for the next rep.
I should never have taken liberties with exercise form, no matter what training intensity I was using. But the greater the intensity, the even greater is the importance of using impeccable technique.
As well as preventing injuries, following the above would have spared me the wasted time recovering from the various injuries I sustained. That “saved” time could have contributed to the implementation of one of the other big lessons arising from this period -- smaller poundage increases. I should have dropped to increments of 2.5 kilos per deadlift session earlier than I did, and I either should not have had a poundage jump every deadlift workout late in the cycle, or just made it 1 kilo at a time.
To accommodate a slower poundage progression scheme I would have needed to have increased the cycle beyond its actual eight months. Alternatively, I could have broken the very long cycle into two shorter ones. I could have peaked at about 370 x 20 in the first cycle, backed off for the start of the second cycle, built back to 370, and then slowly worked up to the 400 target.
The deadlifting form I used during this cycle, especially in the late stage, had my hips higher (and my back less upright) than a squatter’s deadlift style, with my back not as flat. But I had a knee problem and weakened thighs to contend with, so getting my thighs out of the movement and taking more stress on my back were the compensatory measures. I am not advising round-back, bent-legged deadlifting. Such a style of lifting is potentially very dangerous.
I should have deadlifted on the Tuesday each week right from the start of the cycle, and divided the two training days more evenly over the week.
Had I had no knee problems, and had I developed stronger thighs through parallel-grip deadlifting, and had I used the parallel-grip bar exclusively (rather than the straight bar I used, because there was no trap bar or shrug bar available), the improved form the parallel-grip bar permits, together with greater thigh strength and a slower poundage progression, would have produced much better deadlifting form. It would probably also have produced better overall gains (because the parallel-grip deadlift intensively involves more musculature than the straight bar deadlift).
On the 400 x 20 day I broke one of the key rules for safe deadlifting -- “Keep the final do-or-die rep inside you.” I broke this rule at least five times in a row, to get from rep 15 to 20. Not only that, but I was not feeling 100% on that day due to the high temperature. I should have left the Herculean effort for a day or two later when conditions would have been better.
Regularly during the cycle I should have had someone record my deadlifting form on video tape. Then I could have studied my form and corrected the flaws in my technique.
My being strapped in throughout each set of deadlifts was a major contributor to ragged form and the excessive stress on my lower back. I should have released my grip between reps, which is only easy to do if no grip support is used, and then I should have stood upright during the rest pause. After a few deep breaths I should have held the last one, flexed my lats, held my arms straight and crushed them against my lats. Then I should have quickly tensed my lower back, abs and hips, checked that my hips were in their natural alignment and not thrust out to the rear, dipped at the knees, and then lowered myself into position, grabbed the bar, and lifted immediately.
I was never getting into the proper lifting position because I was starting from a semi crouch. As a result I could not set the stabilizing muscles properly.
To be able to take the bar immediately without needing to look down to check hand placement on the bar necessitates special training. But with practice, it can be done so that the hands automatically go to the right position on the bar, so long as the initial standing position relative to the bar was correct. This is much easier to learn with a parallel-grip bar than with a straight bar. With a parallel-grip bar the gripping sites are determined by the handles (which need to be gripped in their centers, to prevent tipping), but with the straight bar there are no fixed gripping sites. (See BUILD MUSCLE, LOSE FAT, LOOK GREAT for how to take your correct deadlifting grip without having to look down to see.)
During the deadlift cycle I neglected to do some important accessory exercises. In particular I was not doing any side bends, back extensions or shoulder external rotator work. While doing those movements would not have prevented the foolish liberty taking I was guilty of, they may have helped reduce the severity of injury, and aided in the recovery process.
Finally, had I known in 1992 of the therapy I describe in the next chapter, I am sure I could have quickly erased the aches and pains I suffered in my lower back during the final stretch of the training cycle.
Please visit Stuart at Hardgainer: Bodybuilding workouts for hardgainers & other bodybuilders
Views 762 Comments 11
|09-09-2012, 01:00 AM||#3|
Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
Just ordered this book. I have Brawn. Didn't realize Beyond Brawn was 500 pages.
|09-09-2012, 01:54 AM||#4|
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Richmond, VA
Training Exp: 4 years
Training Type: Powerlifting
Fav Exercise: Squat
Fav Supp: Food
I have sort of a love hate thing going on with this article. Love it in general, hate it in specifics, learned some things in general, totally disagree with some things in specifics.
Loved the start! Concentrate on the squat! That's my weakness and I thought the road to my ultimate success. Bring that up, all boats rise. He starts out that way too. But abandons it sort of.
Then he says if you've applied yourself properly and your squat is ahead of your deadlift or vice versa, then that's your predominant lift. OK, I can dig that. My squat is behind my deadlift by about 60-70 lbs, so I'm deadlift dominant, well except those pesky days when I can't pickup my socks off the floor without squatting to help out my back.
Still on board somewhat, then he got into grip aides and basically said you need them if you are expecting to increase your lifts..... Ahem, my lifts increase in relation to my grip, because I actually use my grip when I lift! Enough said.
Then he meandered along with various setbacks that don't relate to me, but I can see they were setbacks for him. Poor old geezer trying to push too hard too often. Maybe he should have read more Tommy Kono or even tried a Wendler approach. Less can really be more.
Still, he wraps up nicely with his analysis of his "successful" goal acquisition thru poor form and lack of "thigh" strength thru lack of proper form training.
So, basically he says do everything wrong, but be mentally strong enough to overcome your body's warning signals and just goddamn pick that effing bar up no matter what, so you feel good.
Well, except looking back, you should have been smarter and done it over a longer period and more efficiently overall.
So what exactly is the take away from this guy?
I am Anton Zdravko Martin!
Best meet lifts: Sq 150 Kg (330 lb), Bench 120 Kg (264), DL 160 (352) @89 Kg (197)
Best gym lifts: Sq 375, Bench 280 (pause), DL 385 @205 or less
Goals: 3/4/5 while healthy and fit
"Hack away at anything which isn't essential. Do what you love, and do it often." Fazc.
"Everything competes for recovery so more assistance is not always the best idea." miked96
"Squat:15 sets of 3 with 150Kg
Deadlift:15 sets of 3 with 150Kg
It's not rocket science." Big Swede
|09-09-2012, 03:44 AM||#5|
Join Date: Jun 2011
Training Exp: 12+ years
Training Type: Powerlifting
Fav Exercise: Bench Press
Fav Supp: Chicken
In reality this is a complete mess of a training cycle. Doing Deadlift death sets, almost to the exclusion of everything else, is beyond ridiculous and he was absolutely begging for an injury. Absolutely begging for it, and boy that's exactly what he got.
What do we learn from this? That his training recommendations for the deadlift death sets are ridiculous, so yes nothing that we didn't already know. Sorry Stuart. I do not like this, not one bit. It's neither motivational nor encouraging. People flock to this for it's training simplicity, but their reward is nothing more than mediocre results and injury for most and moderate success for some. It's a warning sign that a very strange, narrow-minded training methodology which has a poor track record of success has died in popularity over the years for a very good reason.
And in death may it remain.
Last edited by Fazc; 09-09-2012 at 03:53 AM.
|09-09-2012, 10:01 AM||#6|
Join Date: Jul 2011
|09-09-2012, 10:06 AM||#7|
Kettlebells' Angel !!!!
Join Date: Dec 2010
Training Type: Other
Interesting point about the deadlift and straps but I can't imagine that many would want to release their grip and stand up between every rep, even if it did work out better for the lower back.
36.5 kg /80.3 lb Middle-Finger DL (right hand)...
|09-09-2012, 10:20 AM||#8|
Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
I never want to see people limit their rows, pullups whatever, just because they can't grip a weight. At some point most of us will start to row, RDL or shrug weight we can't easily hold. I simply find it too dangerous to try and DOH RDLs or power shrugs when the weight might slip.
Same with one arm dumbbell rows. I can one arm row close to 300 right now, but not without straps. That doesn't mean my grip is weak for deadlifts in the over/under. It isn't. Barbell rows too.
I do not like risking a slipping bar on any lift, and I don't like my strength on lifts to be limited by a poor DOH grip. I'm not doing these exercises to train my grip, nor am I interested in tweaking something if my grip gives out. I want a lock-tight grip so I can get to work.
|09-09-2012, 10:27 AM||#9|
Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
It would work well with Versa Gripps though.
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