Monday, September 14, 2020

Franco Columbu Deadlift Training (1973)

Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

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One of my most important goals in bodybuilding is to develop maximum strength. My philosophy has always been that muscles that are developed to their maximum potential size and muscularity should also have maximum power. 

The deadlift has always been an important exercise in my training program. Many bodybuilders neglect their lower back development, which is a serious mistake. When a bodybuilder does not exercise the spinae erector muscles the lower back looks weak, especially when it is contrasted to wide lats and well developed shoulders.

Deadlifts build incredible overall body power in addition to helping build a completely developed muscular back. Heavy deadlifts have given me a great amount of strength which greatly helps me perform other exercises such as bentover rows and squats. Handling heavier poundages bentover rows has helped me broaden my upper back and build up the rear delts. A stronger back has also enabled me to use heavier poundages in the squat and this has added much to my thigh development and power.

My system for increasing strength in the deadlift is one that I have developed through trial and error training. It is ideally suited to my needs because it is incorporated into my bodybuilding program which allows me to make progress in muscle building as well as strength.

My training requires a lot of careful planning and dedicated workouts. I train six days a week, five days being exclusively devoted to an intensive bodybuilding program

and one day - Saturday - I spend on my deadlift program.   

A full week is needed between deadlift workouts to allow for complete recuperation. In fact, I only attempt maximum poundages once every two weeks. Otherwise the muscles, ligaments and tendons do not fully recover.

Although I do not perform any deadlifts on the Monday through Friday bodybuilding days, heavy bentover rowing and heavy squats help to strengthen the lower back and aid my deadlift power program.

Another thing that I feel is very important is forearm work to build a powerful grip. Strong forearms and hands greatly enhance your ability to pull the weight off the floor and exert maximum effort throughout the lift. 

It is my belief that the best way to improve your deadlift is to practice the lift itself. I don not place a great deal of importance on a lot of assistance exercises with the exception of leg presses, stiff legged deadlifts, and good mornings. Leg presses are particularly valuable and, along with squats, build the tremendous leg strength necessary to smash your deadlift records. 

I start the lift with my legs well bent and my hips low and most of my initial pull comes from the driving strength of my thighs.

Training Program

200x6, 300x6, 400x6, 500x4, 600x3, 650x3, 675x2, 700x1. 

Leg Press: 
500x10, 600x10, 700x6x2 sets.

Stiff Legged Deadlift, standing on block: 
315x8x3 sets.

Good Morning:
315x8x3 sets.

The poundages listed above are the ones I do on my heavy day. The next week I will work up to only 650x3i. In other words, one week I use maximum training poundage and go for a limit attempt, and the following week work up only to a medium poundage for a triple. This helps prevent injury and allows me to fully recuperate between limit training sessions.

On my heavy day (maximum attempt day), I try to add weight to my previous best. If I am unable to make it, I strip a little weight off and settle for what I can get. I always try to make some kind of improvement on my twice-monthly heavy day.

Although the squat is not an actual part of my deadlift program, I feel that is important to the lift. I am going to list my squat poundages because it is helpful to my overall strength building program. 

I squat twice a week, on Monday and Thursday.

Monday (heavy):
200x8, 300x8. 420x8, 500x6, 585x4.

Thursday (medium):
200x8, 300x8, 400x8, 500x6.

It should be mentioned that I go all the way down in the squat while keeping the back straight and looking up all the time. I do other leg exercises on Monday and Thursday, and they are strictly for muscle development, but they don't contribute any strength for the deadlift.

Other than forearm work, the only other exercise in my bodybuilding program that I feel is helpful for the deadlift is the bentover row, which is a part of my lat program. It helps to strengthen the lower back to some extent, so it is worth mentioning. Using a wide, snatch grip, I perform 4 sets of 10 with 225. 

When deadlifting, I prefer using a relatively narrow grip. My hands are placed about a half inch outside of where the knurling starts on an Olympic bar. Keeping the hips low and the head high, I begin the pull slowly using both leg and back strength. Once the bar is about six inches off the floor I try to accelerate the force of my pull as I come straight up with the bar while continuing to look up all the time. I have found that trying to start with a fast pull is no good because the hips come up too fast and you lose the full value of your leg power.


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