Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Article published Feb. '95. I hope you're happy now, eh!
In previous articles I have talked about Bill Starr's method of increasing the Deadlift by not deadlifting.
Now I would like to talk about one of our many 4-week revolving deadlift cycles.
This cycle involves squatting down to a very low box.
For most, an 8 inch high box is recommended. Lifters under 5 feet 6 inches may use a 6 or 7 inch box. The lifter must sit down completely on the box, as if sitting on a street curb waiting for a bus, and then flex off the box and stand erect.
This will be very strenuous on the legs, hips, lower back, and glutes, as well as the spinal erectors.
It is important to maintain the same body position that is used during your deadlift.
By doing this, you are accomplishing many things, such as working through a full range of motion. How many lifters lower their glutes to within 8 inches from the floor? with the bar on your back, you will not be able to raise your glutes, as is possible when deadlifting. This will also overload and isolate the lower body pulling muscles to the max. I guarantee it!
A key to strength is flexibility. Without the box it is impossible for most to achieve such a deep position while squatting.
A close stance will build the lower back and legs, whereas gradually widening your stance will build hip strength. I am sure you have seen someone at a meet miss a deadlift at the top because he or she could not lock out the hips. The low box squat will correct this problem by building the glutes and hip flexors.
How do you know if you have weak hips and glutes? If you have to re-bend your legs to complete a deadlift, you are in this category.
We do a lot of a few things in the gym. So when doing the 8 inch box squat on deadlift day, do as many as 10 sets, or until fatigue, of 3-6 reps. Try to get a record for 3 or 6 reps every workout they are performed.
When performing the 8 inch box squat, we use a variety of bars. Usually a regular bar is used; however, our bigger lifters will use the Buffalo Bar by IronMind. It is more comfortable, with its cambered design. The late Matt Dimel used it frequently in training.
The Safety Squat Bar is also very popular at Westside. It places most of the load forward and works somewhat like a front squat. Weight packs and dumbbells are also used on occasion. One should always use a variety of special equipment to hit the body at different angles.
Researchers have shown that speed work should be followed by strength work, then endurance work. Therefore, by all means, lift explosively in the beginning, follow this with heavy sets, and conclude the workout by reducing the weight and doing a set or two to near failure.
After the box work, do High Pulls to chest level while standing on a 2 inch high platform. To do a high pull, keep the back straight and the head in a natural position. Now pull the bar to chest level with the elbows out to the sides and raised as high as possible. You should feel a tremendous contraction in the traps and upper back.
We favor the high pull to the power clean because racking the bar on the clavicle is extremely hard on the wrist and biceps, and it is fairly hard to master correct form.
Start with a simple grip, palms facing the body. As the weight becomes heavier, use a hook grip (place the thumb around the bar first, then wrap the index finger, and, if possible, the middle finger over the thumb). This will lock the bar into the hand. Use lifting straps if necessary.
It is my opinion that lifting straps should be used more often in training. Continuously using an alternating grip in the deadlift will lead to back problems because it causes the spine to twist. This is easy to illustrate when one watches a lifter windmill the bar. The curl grip hand will do the twisting because the bar is held farther away from the body than the other hand, where the palm is facing the body.
To keep from windmilling during a sumo deadlift, simply place the foot on your curl grip side out an inch or so closer to the plates. This will recenter the body.
For high pulls, start with a wide grip and come in slowly until you reach your optimal grip for deadlifting. Do 5 or 6 sets of 3 reps. Pause each rep for 2-3 seconds.
You can also try to hold the bar slightly off the floor up to knee level for 3-5 seconds, then complete the pull.
Be EXPLOSIVE on each reps.
Try to do a set every minute and a half.
Your 1-rep goal should be 50-55% of your deadlift.
Now do either more direct low back work such as reverse hypers, calf/ham/glute raises, or back raises, if your lower back needs attention.
If your upper back needs more work, do lat bar work, rows, seated dumbbell power cleans, or shrugs.
Also do ab work, such as weighted situps, hanging leg raisese, and/or side bends.
This workout should be performed for 3 or 4 weeks, try a max, and then switch to a different series of exercises for the next mini-cycle.
Does this work? We have had some of the greatest deadlifters in the country, with subtotals worth talking about. Some of these people are not even built to deadlift.
At Westside we do a lot of neck work. One only has to look at Chuck Vogelpohl to realize this. [See top photo].
We use a 4-way neck machine for most of the work. But we do manual neck work, the type football players and wrestlers sometimes use.
Just look at your top lifters such as
Their necks are huge. A strong neck will help all three lifts - by pushing the head into the bench while bench pressing; driving the head and neck into the traps while coming out of a squat . . . while deadlifting, the head should be in a natural position, with the eyes looking about 10 feet ahead at the floor. When the bar leaves the floor, the head is gradually raised until the completion of the lift. The head and neck act like a lever that helps straighten out the upper back during the lockout.
If you see stars or feel like someone punched you while deadlifting, try neck work.
Olympic lifters increase their squat power to help their cleans and snatches and, in a similar fashion, so will super low box squats. I guarantee that whatever is holding you back (glutes, hamstrings, or erectors), this type of squatting will bring it to your attention, fast, as that muscle group will wear out first.
I know that most lifters would work on their weaknesses if only they knew what they were. You will know quite quickly after doing these one time.
This program will give you a strong start and finish, flexibility, and a powerful grip -
Everything needed to excel at the lift that wins or loses all meets.
Note: Read this article again, and this time notice just how massive an amount of info has been presented in one single page of a magazine. Crazy, beautiful stuff!