Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Deadlift - Using the Trap Bar

But first! Two filmic things with title 13s I saw over the last week:

"The Fear of 13" -
Storytelling at its greatest here. A guy who spent 20 years on death row talks about some of his life experiences. Really well done doc.

"13 Geboden" a.k.a. 13 Commandments. -
Dutch  language series with good subs. Detectives attempt to catch a serial killer who's using gruesome murders referencing the 10 commandments to redirect society's moral compass. No it's not "like Se7en". 

Serious Business!

It was the kind of gym the old-timer liked: older part of town, a deli next door and laundromat across the street. Rooms to rent upstairs and a bus stop out front. Not a potted plant, no hanging ferns, no lavender carpets, child care pen or sprout sandwiches. No electric gizmos from Bulgaria to measure the molecular velocity of toenails.

It was a black iron gym, dating back before pec-decs, before holistics, before widespread steroid-toy joys and their come-with lies, to a time when meets were held on the basketball floor at the Y and lifters often hung around afterwards to enter the bodybuilding contest.

Lifting platforms.

Posters on the wall touting boxing shows of long ago, old York and Jowett training charts. 8x10s that used to be glossy, autographed by Clarence Ross, Tommy Kono and Argentina Rocca. Jock straps hanging on the shower heads. The place had that feel and smell of authenticity about it.     

The main thing was the gang that trained there. Older crowd, ex-competitors, has-beens, never-wases, guys doing their favorite movements and not what they need; few competed or intended to. No small part of the allure was just talking Iron Game lore with the other fellows or just hanging around and getting out of the house. The owner was burnt out and had long since quit watching the floor and coaching the members. He spent his days at the deli having coffee. 

But in this particular gym, a couple of years ago, there were some college boys training who had decided to get into their first power meet. The lift circus was coming to town, scheduled about five months off. 

These guys were arguing abut how to set up a training program. The strongest and heaviest built guy was lording over the others. He KNEW that the best way to train was the way he trained. He was the strongest, wasn't he? There wasn't any need to do all those fancy routines and figure any percentages. ll a guy needed was to do the basics; if a person had what it takes, he'd succeed.

Now, there is some truth to that. The problem is, that attitude will win local meets, but won't do much good at state or national meets because everybody there has got what it takes. All other things being equal, the guy who uses his brain to set up his training is going to win.

Then he said, "With my squat and bench, I oughta win easy."   

The old-timer in the Wampus Cat Power Club t-shirt couldn't take it. 
"What about the deadlift?" 

The local hero shrugged it off. 

"I just let my squat take care of it and do a few rows. I've tried all that stuff in the magazines, but all you need is to do them once a week or so. Nothing to the deadlift anyhow." 

TRANSLATION: I don't like deadlifts, am not very good at them, have made no progress in a year, I can smoke the squat and bench, and my ego prevents me from facing up to the facts.

The old-timer introduced himself to the gang and allowed  that he had actually been to a couple of meets. Offered to help. Knew the rules, little things like that. The boys bought in.

Until deadlift day, that is. 

The first thing the old-timer did was make the whole bunch max out. They did so. The OT wrote down the rules. Said not a word. He went over to the lifting platform and unloaded down to 135 and commenced doing high-pulls from the floor, clean grip. He set up like an Olympic-style lifter and pulled the bar up to his chin. Lots of leg drive; chin and elbows high, full body extension. Then he slapped on some plates and did a set pulling the bar to the belt buckle.

Next, he went over to the incline bench, got on it face down and had the bar handed up. He started shrugging the bar up toward the chest, using a little elbow-bending pull at the top of each rep and getting a full stretch in between. Pulled his shoulders back, not up toward the ears.

"Okay, give me 5 x 5 on the high pulls and 4 x 8 with the shrug. Increase the weight every set on the pulls and decrease on the shrug. Use the straps if you need 'em. Twice a week for a month."

"But Coach, when do we deadlift?"

"In about three months."

A month later the OT walked in carrying a device about five feet long with plate sleeves on each end and two interior bars bent in a diamond shape. Called it a Gerard Trap bar. The gang stared. Somebody in the back muttered about how he'd seen one before and they weren't no good because they're impossible to bench with.


The old-timer stood in the middle of the "trap" bar and started doing a squat-deadlift move with it, breaking parallel every rep and touching the plates to the floor. Then he put a straight bar in the power rack with the pins set two inches below where the bar would be at the completion of a deadlift. Piled on maybe 90% of his max deadlift. Took a clean grip and just straightened up like finishing a deadlift and pulled his shoulders back. Five reps. Big Deal.

"This month I want 5 x 5 on the power rack. Use as much weight as you can at the top setting. When the reps get easy, lower the pins one notch. When you get to the bottom in two or three weeks, set the pins back up where you started and add some weight. When you've finished the rack-pulls for the day, go do 4 x 8 with one hand dumbbell rows. Do back work twice a week and on the other squat day use the Trap bar like I showed you. 4 x 8. GET LOW. This will build your hip and leg drive."

The third month the OT stayed with the rack pulls and lean-forward shrugs (using the trap bar for the shrugs), 4 sets each, and kept the DB rows. On the trap bar leg lifts, he put a three inch block under the feet, the type used to stand on when doing bentover rows and/or deficit deadlifts. The guys soon found that, done this way, they had to get even lower. Made their quads scream.

With two months to go until the meet, he sat the guys down and talked about the deadlift.

About body proportions and stance.
Keeping the chest high and
When to start the hips forward,
Whether to use Sumo-style or not,
Lifting shoes versus slippers and
Why one lifter needs one thing
and another does not. 

Well! Almost poetic, ain't it. So few words, yet so much in them. I mean
Darkness at the break of noon -
dark night of the soul so soon
Shadows even the silver spoon -
mouth fulla silver spoon but not immune
The homemade blade -
hardened, shiv-capable, but no escape from it
The child's balloon -
Age no matter, you got it crawlin' in ya

and on and on and on that one goes. Perfect! So strong, so supple, both subtle and hammering strength in every statement. Just take a day and see how many meanings each line implies. How many different stories that song-poem tells you. I mean, really . . . 
"the hollow horn plays wasted words" -
The thing kills me every time. The whole of it. Where were us . . .

The local hero shook his head.
"I guess there's more to the deadlift than I thought. You oughta write a book."

The old-timer said he was working on it, but first the gang needed to learn how to cycle for the meet.

"Do what?!?"

Two months later the boys came home with a couple of trophies and some Class II and III badges. Their squats had gone way up and they had increased their deadlifts by 50-70 pounds in five months. The local hero won his class by five pounds with his last deadlift.

The gym owner took the old-timer to coffee.

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