Monday, July 27, 2009

The Bruce White Story - Wayne Gallasch

440 lbs. on a 3 1/2" diameter bar -
thumbless reverse grip.

Left - Pinch gripping a smooth 100 lb. plate in each hand.
Right - Pinch grip chins on a 2" rafter.

Top photo shows Bruce White finishing a 633 deadlift at 160 bodyweight.
Lower photo - 660 from knee height between regular deadlift sets.

Left - Pinch gripping a total of 115 lbs. on a smooth plate.
Right - Lifting a 115 lb. anvil by the horn.

The Bruce White Story

by Wayne Gallasch (1978)

(Editor’s note – we have had this article on hand for some time. At the time we received it Bruce White held the world dead lift record and even though he trained under what we would consider adverse conditions and without any competition to push him, he still did some remarkable lifting. We thought readers could benefit from reading of his training procedures, etc. - Peary Rader)

Those of you who follow or are interested in power lifting and strength feats are probably aware that Bruce White of Australia has unofficially held the world lightweight dead lift record for a number of years. As such, he is the only holder of a senior lifting world record in this country.

Although I have known Bruce for a number of years through his letters, I hadn’t met him due to his inaccessibility in a remote corner of southwestern Australia. It was a great pleasure to be able to recently visit and train with him and obtain his story and training principles for readers of IronMan.

Bruce is a quiet man with an average looking build but the outward appearance is deceptive. He is a very enthusiastic and dedicated lifter and has been working towards his ultimate goal for many years. Bruce aims to dead lift 700 lbs. as a middleweight which by formula would rate as the greatest dead lift of all time. This would rate higher by formula than John Terry’s 600 lb. dead lift as a feather, which most consider to be the best ever dead lift in proportion to bodyweight. Bruce expects to reach the magical 700 lbs. within the next two or three years, and to reach a personal peak in dead lifting about ten years from now.

Mr. White, senior, started young Bruce on weight training on their wheat farm when he was four years old. Training consisted of regular light work on a variety of exercises up to the age of 15. At this time Bruce took over the planning of his own training routines and decided to train hard on the dead lift, his favorite exercise. Over the last ten years Bruce has, of necessity, had to train alone as very few visitors, let alone lifters, call on him.

Most training is done in is large, well-equipped gym in the back yard. The gym also contains a fantastic strength library with many books and magazines on all aspects of weight training, nutrition, psychology, philosophy, astrology, yoga, and an almost complete set of IronMan.

Bruce likes to average 9 to 10 hours sleep a night, which is probably more than most of us get. However, as a retired farmer at age 35 (with 6 children) he is kept busy with his family, various interests and training.

A positive mental attitude is just as important as hard training and a good diet, and Bruce is a mental-power type lifter who can do best in contests and on special occasions. Another important point is the keeping of training note books listing every workout, and I saw about a dozen such books listing every lift made over the past 20 years. This also made it easy for me to obtain information of Bruce’s outstanding and varied strength feats over the years. Haphazard training has never been used, and a strict program is always adhered to.

The Olympic lifts have not been practiced nor does Bruce spend much time on bench presses or squats, as he is a true dead lift specialist. The squats are done occasionally when dead lift training is not too intensive, and his best official squat is 390 lbs. as a lightweight (Aust. record) and 420 as a middleweight.

Bruce has what I call a typical dead lifter’s build being 5’7” tall, with short legs and very long arms and back. Usual weight is about 158 lbs. His hands are and average 7¾” long, with 7 ¼” wrists and 12” forearms.


Training 4 to 5 days a week is usual with plenty jogging and fast walking on non-training days. (Bruce’s house overlooks the Indian Ocean, being only 50 yards from the beach.) The high dead lift work has been of great help in finishing heavy attempts, as the final pull is the hardest for Bruce. He has never trained with the bar lower than 9” from the floor or done stiff legged dead lifts. I noticed that the initial pull from the floor to knee height was very strong and easy at all poundages.

The way Bruce improves his initial pull for the first few inches is to occasionally move a very heavy bar just off the floor – this weight being well in excess of his best dead lift. This is the nearest to isometrics he uses.

Grip training is always of paramount importance and follows all dead lift workouts. Chalk is used together with an ordinary reverse grip without hooking the thumbs, for all poundages. Wrist straps, knee bandages or a lifting belt have never been used and Bruce mentioned that he was firmly against any type of drugs for lifters. His grip training has mostly consisted of lifting smooth sided barbell plates from the floor to waist level, and pinch grip chinning.

A number of different and highly complicated programs have been followed over the years, but here is Bruce’s current routine and it is a fairly simple one.

A limit single dead lift is attempted once every two weeks. Three days before a heavy single day, Bruce does a medium heavy session of singles to prepare his muscles for an all out effort.

No squats are being done now as they are omitted from any special dead lift program such as the current one. Good mornings are done every second training day between limit attempts. Three sets of five are performed bending over to parallel with as heavy a weight as possible. On the day after a limit attempt workout, 2 light sets of 10 reps are used as a sort of “warming” down session, as no further lifts are made of the day of the limit single after the last attempt.

Bruce has tried continuous heavy training, but he found that staleness came too quickly, while the present fort-nightly limits work very well. All training sessions are commenced and concluded by an easy jog in preference to light barbell repetitions. A track suit is always used for training, even in summer.

Before lifting a heavy weight, Bruce takes several deep breaths and then expels all the air from his lungs as he bends over to grip the bar. Approach to the bar must be as physically relaxed as possible but mentally steamed up. Lots of deep breathing helps Bruce achieve this, and also lifting on empty lungs increases leverage and lowers internal pressure.

Although I trained with Bruce on a limit day, no attempt was made to conserve energy for a TRUE limit attempt, as every set of full dead lifts was alternated with a set on the rack from knee level.

The program went like this: (the + sign means dead lift from knee level)

210 lbs. x 10 reps; +290x10; 260x8; +340x8; 310x8; +390x8; 350x6; +430x6; 390x4; +470x4; 430x2. +510x2; 470x1; +550x1; 510x1; +590x1; 550x1; +630x1; 580x1; +660x1.

For working up to a true contest single the reps per set would be 10-5-1-1-1-LIMIT ATTEMPT.

The alternate +sets were done as quickly as possible with about a minutes deep breathing between each set.

Grip training was next and here I observed some incredible feats.

For a warmup, the 50 lb. smooth sided plate was lifted for 20 reps with each hand. Then the 90 lb. plate was raised for 8 reps with each hand. Bruce adds weight via a dumbell rod through the plate’s center (see photo) and works up to limit attempts around 105 lbs. Bruce has moved 121 lbs. off the floor.

Next is pinch grip chinning on 2” parallel rafters, and he has done 10 consecutive reps, and one rep with added weight for a total of 238 lbs. Bruce currently trains by gripping the one 2” thick rafter on its vertical face (see photo). He has done 2 reps, hanging by a pinch grip for 5 seconds, and also a single rep this way with weight, at a total weight of 175 lbs.

To finish off, we rolled the railway wheels out under the gum trees which circle the gym. They weigh 440 lbs. with a 3½” diameter axle. Bruce had just purchased them and lifted them and on this day lifted them for the first time, holding the bar for at least 15 seconds while I took several photos. An incredible impromptu strength feat. The axle is now lifted for reps with an added 20 lbs. on, and Bruce tells me that he expects to do 500 soon. You can see his ordinary thumbless grip used on this in the photo.


Supplements are very important to Bruce and a special cabinet full of health foods are kept in the gym. These are taken 3 times a day after meals. Bruce averages 2,500 calories a day mainly from eggs, yogurt, soya products, meat, fish, honey, fresh fruit and green vegetables. He drinks only fruit juice and rain water. Bruce has found he can train better when a good diet and supplements are strictly adhered to, and takes daily – soya flour, milk protein, germ oil concentrates, Vitamin C, multi-vitamin tablets, kelp tablets, molasses, cider vinegar and homemade energy bars.

Since the age of 11 when he first began dead lifting, Bruce has lifted 300 lbs. or more over 27,000 times; 400 over 6,3000; 500 over 1,000; 600 over 19. Best official lightweight DL – 611 ½ lbs. Best official middleweight DL – 632 lbs.

He has moved 666 off the floor on a number of occasions and also lifted 705 lbs. from the knees on the rack. Records for continuous reps in a set – 24 with 402 lbs. at 160 bwt.; 16 with 450 at 154 lbs. bwt.; 11 with 500 at 165 lbs. bwt., all done with normal reverse grip.

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