Power lifting, like guerilla warfare, can not go entirely by the manual. Documented evidence of success must be viewed with suspicion because new booby traps always seem to be lurking in the path of advance. Go forward blindly and you get it. The trick is to spring these traps, to clear the way, to realize the speediest way forward must often be exasperatingly slow.
Power lifting progress usually proceeds in this close quarter, hand-to-hand struggle kind of way. Sometimes when you seem nearest your goal, you are the farthest from it. Like when you get ruled out on a final record dead lift attempt because you can't roll your shoulders back for the life of you, even though you have come to the erect position.
What happened? You made it through the hardest part of the lift then had your effort scrapped a mere shrug from your goal. That, man, is what you call a booby trap. Down you go. It is effective because it is unexpected. You can be in for a lot of surprise disappointments this way unless you learn to anticipate these traps and clear the way beforehand.
The particular device - like a radar scope in the dark - that detects and destroys many weaknesses is the indispensable power rack. Nowhere has it gained more favor than in the dead lift. Originally nature never planned for us to be making giant dead lifts with a revolving one-inch bar eight inches off the floor, but ironically she gave us the ferocious urge to want to do something bigger and better than other creatures of our kind.
Rules could not be foreseen thus all areas of strength were not meted out in proportion. Strength of grip, length of arms, proportion of legs to back, varying in individuals, offer either an advantage or a disadvantage. Ideally the best dead lift structure would consist of long arms, long torso, short legs, powerful grip and so on (i.e. large fangs, a glossy coat of fur and prehensile toes). But no, none of us is perfect. We have to make do with what we have and stick it to our sticking points.
But how does one know where one is going to get hung up and when one is right at the threshold of making a super dead lift? That is the hell of it - you never really know until the contest is over. In training it seems all your dead lifts were full and smooth, then in the contest with only ten pounds more than your best practice effort the bar wouldn't rise past the knees, or the grip gave out just above the knees, or the traps wouldn't shrug back.
To know that these weaknesses are hiding somewhere in you means you can saturate the areas with fire power, overkill, in such a way as to preclude any possibility of resistance. The power rack, like a weapons system, can search out and destroy.
To effectively use the power rack through all phases of the dead lift one must start with the lighter weights at the lower positions on the vertical scale. The first repetitions always serve as warmups. On a weekly training basis power rack dead lifts would fall on Saturday, the day for all limit attempts. Since that is the day for full limit squats, it might be wise for these partial dead lifts to precede squats.
In the first phase of the movement the bar rests on the cross pins touching the shins at a point about six inches below the kneecap. Starting with low weights in order to warm up properly the first few sets should consist of repetitions. This phase should consist of five or six sets. A progression of sets would go like this:
335 x 4 reps
385 x 3
455 x 2
500 x 2
530 x 1
600 x 1
Grip straps may be used on the last three sets. After several heavy lifts it often happens that the grip weakens and detracts from the effort of the lifting muscles, the back and legs. Straps may be used for assistance. Perhaps you may want to use straps on the first few warmup sets so as to reserve the grip for the remaining heavy sets in this first phase. It depends on what you are after. If your grip tends to be weak, it may be wise to forego straps until the strength in the hands and back equalizes. At any rate straps are optional. The object of power rack lifting is to get at possible sticking points in the intermediate stages of the lift.
For the middle phase of the motion the bar is raised to the level of the kneecap. The higher the weight the greater the effort that can be exerted. From this point on everything is single reps. Adding more weight to the bar the progression of sets follows:
635 x 1
655 x 1
670 x 1
700 x 1
For the final, high phase the bar is raised to a position four inches above the kneecap. This is a critical point in the lift. Strength is swiftly ebbing, and too often the bar gets hung up on the thigh making it difficult to squeeze out the last simple effort of rotating the shoulders back. Of course, with a fresh start at this high position a good deal more weight than one's regular limit dead lift can be used. A progression would go like this:
700 x 1
720 x 1
740 x 1
750 x 1
By the time the bar is loaded for the last attempt, one is working at the outside limit of his strength. This final effort should include both hand straps and an assistant using the TOUCH SYSTEM.
Half psychological, half physical, the object is to get the feel of this big weight without losing it. The touch system on the dead lift was previously covered in the May 1967 issue of Muscle Builder magazine.
Note: That article will follow in the next post.
The spotter grasps the trapezius of the shoulder with one hand, and the other hand he places flat on the butt. By exerting a forward thrust on the butt and a backward pull against the trap the resultant action is an upward movement of the body.
There is a native rule in power lift training that commands a break-in period for all new exercises. For the first three or four power rack dead lift sessions it would be prudent to do higher reps with less weight and refrain from maximum singles. The slightest variation in regularly practiced movements exerts new and sometimes alien forces on human tissue. You must give this tissue a chance to adjust and toughen itself. The power rack does not make any exercise easier and it was not meant to.
Bill West, mid heavy record holder, is in the process of developing a hand strap with a steel hook that will eliminate almost entirely the grip effort in dead lift motions. The freedom of pulling unrestrained with the back and legs can certainly add new dimension to all kinds of dead lift action.
It is necessary to lift heavier and heavier weights. Don't ask why. And since necessity is the mother of invention, one can expect an expanding brood of ever newer methods and devices to make possible some unimaginable record lifts.