The Deadlift challenge: Testing my max
I love the deadlift. It’s probably the most taxing exercise, but that means the rewards are great too.
Plus you get to move a lot of weight around. What’s not to like?
As I keep saying unless you have a serious pre-existing back condition, no matter who you are, male or female, you should be making deadlifting one of the key parts of your training.
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It promotes good posture, strong upper and lower back, developed and strong legs, works your grip, improves flexibility…need I go on.
The Deadlift challenge: Building strength
This is the first one of my ‘Challenges’: I’m going to set a program down with an end goal and post my progress as I go along.
This helps me to reach my goals but hopefully it also will help you guys to set yourselves your own challenges and follow along, no matter your targets.
For those interested in also setting themselves a deadlift challenge I’ve put down what sets, reps and techniques I’m going to use each week, to eventually build up to a re-test of my max in around 10 weeks time.
The programming will be more for intermediate/advanced trainees: if you are just starting out stick to perfecting your form and gradually adding weight to the bar while staying in at least the 5-6 rep range.
But I hope you can still follow along and use this for information and motivation.
First up, here’s my max as tested yesterday, the first deadlift session of 2015 after a two-week break over Christmas.
My all-time PR (personal record) is 230 kg (506 lbs), which I did around 6 months ago.
This lift went up quite well so I was deliberating whether to go for matching my PR, but decided to leave a bit in the tank: sometimes it’s better to be a bit conservative when you’re in your maximum range.
So my current max is 220 kg, 495 lb.
I’m going to be programming using the principle of percentages, as outlined in the Advanced Template 1.
So now that I have my current max, I’m going to work out the percentages.
For the sake of simplicity with the weight plates I have available (i.e. I don’t have 1 kg plates in my gym) I will round up to the nearest 5 or 10 kgs.
70% of my 1 rep max is 154 kgs (rounded to 155kgs)
75% = 165 kgs
80% = 176 kgs (rounded up to 180 kgs)
85% = 187 kgs (rounded up to 190 kgs)
90% = 198 kgs (rounded up to 200 kgs)
95% = 209 kgs (rounded up to 210 kgs)
The principle of using these percentages is that you build up the weight gradually whilst reducing the reps and sets until you peak when you test your max again.
You build a base of strength through working below your maximum weight with more reps, and week by week you increase the weight and reduce the volume.
Once you are at an intermediate/advanced level this is important for progress because lifting heavy every week will eventually lead to overtraining and fatigue of your central nervous system (CNS). The heavier you lift, the less frequently you hit maximum weights.
Some of the top deadlifters in the world, like those who are deadlifting in the 360 to 400 kgs range (800- 900 lbs) will maybe deadlift only once a month, to allow adequate time to recover between sessions.
My training cycle
This is the 10 week cycle I will be following.
Week 1- 75% of 1 rep max, 4 x 5 (sets x reps)
Week 2- 80%, 4 x 3
Week 3- 85%, 4 x 2
Week 4- 80%, 3 x 5
Week 5- 85%, 3 x 3
Week 6- 90%, 3 x 1
Week 7- 85%, 3 x 5
Week 8- 90%, 3 x 2
Week 9- 95%, 3 x 1
Week 10- Test max
As you can see the principle is using lighter weights at the start to help speed (pulling even light weights as hard and fast as you can to train your CNS for heavier weights) and solidify good form, and building to a peak.
Although I’ll wear a belt when I test my max (like I am in the picture) during my 10 weeks I’m going to be training without one, to make sure my core and my form is solid and I’m not relying on one.
Come test day the belt will also give me a good psychological boost when I put it on, which should hopefully give me the confidence to hit a new PR (as well as a measure of protection).
Self-regulation and flexibility
When I first started using programs like the one above, I was 100% determined to stick to it, every rep, every set. But I never managed it, not the whole way through.
While it is admirable to want to be on point every session it’s not realistic, and over 10 weeks in any person’s life there are going to be times your schedule is interrupted, something comes up, you have to travel or you are tired from work.
Professional athletes have the luxury of focusing their lives around training. For the rest of us we have to train alongside our normal lives.
So while it is good to set out a program like the one above I’m under no illusions that it will all go smoothly and I’ll be smashing a new PR by week 10, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
For instance I know that there are going to be a couple of weeks where I’m going to be away in the next 10, which means if I can’t train I’ll have to postpone the session till I get back.
But I’ll still get it done. And by planning and having my sessions mapped out, I know what I have to aim for, which should make the chances of success at week 10 (a new PR) much more likely.
I’ll be posting my progress and some videos of my sets to show how it’s going in the coming weeks.
I’ll also be posting an article soon that explains the mechanics of the deadlift while also showing some of the accessory movements I’ll be doing to try and strengthen my overall lift.
In 2014 I wrote about the importance of follow-through. Training is not only good for you health-wise but it can help reinforce this mindset.
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Although this is a post about deadlifting you can apply the theory of planning to any training, or indeed life, goal.
Pick a goal and plan how you’re going to get there. I’m with you.
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