Sunday, September 30, 2018

Deadlifting for Lousy Deadlifters - Mark VanAlstyne

I am a lousy deadlifter.

It's my favorite lift but I suck at it. I once had a plateau in the deadlift that lasted nine years. I was able to get my deadlift to a semi-respectable 600@181 in 2010, and have been able to maintain this over the next four years despite many injuries including a triceps tear and a herniated lumbar disc.

Brad Gillingham assessed me back in 2010 and said I had powerful quads but underdeveloped gluteal muscles. Gluteal conditioning was missing in my training. I was never locking out my hips in the deadlift or the squat. In other words, I never contracted my glutes forcefully at the top of either movement.

I have always noticed that single ply and raw lifters seem to be better deadlifters than many (not all) of the lifters in multi ply suits. The single ply suits aid the gluteus maximus less and allow for deeper squats. The further below parallel the lifter squats, the more gluteus maximus activation. The same can be said about raw lifters. This means multi-ply lifter needs to supplement equipped squats and deadlifts with raw exercises which utilize the gluteal musculature.

I do a variety of assistance exercises making sure I contract my glutes hard at the top of the movement. I mixed in Romanian deadlifts with a cable or kettlebells, low box squats, reverse hypers (with my lumbar spine always in extension), and kettlebell swings.

I use a three week rotation very similar to the Cube method to train my deadlift. There is a rep week, and I find this helpful in staying healthy and fresh. I may also take a week off from deadlifting every 3-6 weeks or whenever I feel stalled or overtrained.

I use three different types of bars: a Texas deadlift bar that has a 28 mm. diameter grip, a Texas power bar that has a 30 mm. diameter grip, and a squat bar (mine is 7 feet long but an 8 foot bar is fine) that has a 32 mm. diameter grip. The thicker bars flex less and are harder to hold on to so they offer more of a challenging pull. I also save baby powder on the legs for the meet only.

Assistance work should focus on glute lockout strength. Romanian deadlifts, and kettlebell swings are my favorites. Pick one or two and do 3 sets of each for 6-10 reps following your deadlifts.

Regarding equipment, if allowed, a multi ply canvas or poly suit will act like artificial glutes. Using them in the deadlift, especially the sumo deadlift, should help increase the power of the pull. I switched to an Inzer Leviathon squat suit, but I found that wearing it backwards really made the suit work better for me. Narrowing my sumo stance helped me get more pop out of the suit, but I have been working on widening my stance to shorten the movement and take some of the pressure off my lower back disc injury.

Grip Strength:
Grip strength is important for any lift but especially the deadlift. Bob Bridges taught me years ago that holding the bar in your fingers and not the palm will actually prevent the bar from rolling in the hand as much and will also shorten up the pulling distance. Static holds can help this type of strength. I like farmer's carries with two kettlebells for this purpose. Grip them with the fingers and not the palms. Squeezing potato chip bad clips is also helpful especially for pinky strength. Also, if your hands are big enough, the hook grip is worth trying.

Regarding the execution of the lift, don't concentrate on pushing the feet into the floor. Think about getting your hips forward as fast as possible and pushing the floor forward. This will speed your lift through the sticking point.

Hip Structure:
Stuart McGill, PhD, is a renowned lumbar spine expert who feels that many lifters do not have the hip structure to deadlift conventional with their spines in a safe position. I agree with this because I hurt my disc deadlifting off the floor. In fact, I can't even lift conventional off three inch blocks; I need six inch blocks to be in proper (safe) spinal position.

The Plan

Week 1:
Speed deadlifts - sumo off floor using deadlift bar and deadlift suit plus double black mini bands, 10 sets x 1 rep, 60 seconds rest between sets; assistance work.

Week 2:
Max effort - sumo deadlift raw off 3" blocks using regular power bar, 500 x 2 sets x 2 reps; assistance work.

Week 3:
Sumo pulls - raw using reverse purple bands in power rack using squat bar, 445 x 3 sets of 6-7 reps; assistance work.

Week 4:
Speed deadlifts - sumo off floor using deadlift bar and deadlift suit, 425 plus double black mini bands x 10 sets of 1 rep; assistance work.

Week 5:
Max effort - conventional raw deadlift off 6" blocks using squat bar, 495 x 2 sets of 1 rep.

Week 6:
Conventional deadlifts  - off 3" blocks, 445 x 2 sets of 5; assistance work.

Week 7:

Week 8:
Speed deadlifts - sumo off floor using deadlift bar and deadlift suit, 495 plus 80 lbs chains attached to bar, 10 sets of 1 rep; assistance work.

Week 9:
Max effort - sumo raw off floor using squat bar, 485 x 3 sets of 2 reps; assistance work.

Week 10:
Sumo deadlifts (full gear) from floor, 475 x 6 sets of 1 rep, concentrate on speed and form; no assistance work.

Week 11:

Week 12:
Meet - 560/605/620.

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