For the month of August, I decided to address one exercise that gives me the toughest time: THE DEADLIFT! I wouldn't consider myself weak in this lift, but the exercise does not come easy to me at all. Growing up, the bench press became a favorite of mine because I was pretty good at it. As the years progressed, so too did my favorite lifts. After benching like crazy, my focus was on the front squat because I knew it would make my power clean better (for the record, it did!). Then I became a "kettlebell guy" and tried to get as strong as I could in the core KB lifts. But never was the deadlift something I bragged to friends about...
I have tried a few different training methods to improve the deadlift. I tried Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 program with the Hex Bar and my deadlift greatly improved. I thought to myself, this strength is going to translate to the barbell. Once again, I was humbled with the lift. After the struggle, and maybe a little depression, that ensued after my lack of strength, I moved on to the Westside Barbell program. If you aren't familiar with Westside (Not California, his gym is located in Ohio. Speaking of California, the movie Straight Outta Compton was one of the better movies I have seen in recent memory. Go check that movie out!), google Louie Simmons and you'll get an abundance of resources on this man. He is "The Godfather" of power lifting here in America. After completing a phase or two of Westside, I saw some gains and weights that were once a challenge for me became a little easier. But yet, I was still not satisfied. So I moved on...
Next Man Up: Dan John. I modified his Even Easier Strength Program and cut it back to 20 days. I also did not complete all the lifts each day. But I never missed a deadlift workout. So the first ten days looked like this:
Day 1: 2 x 5
Day 2: 2 x 5
Day 3: 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
Day 4: 2 x 5
Day 5: 2 x 5
Day 6: 2 x 5
Day 7: 6 x 1
Day 8: 1 x 10
Day 9: 2 x 5
Day 10: 1 x 5, 1 x 3, 1 x 2
After I completed the first ten workouts, I repeated the same rep scheme for an additional 10 workouts. To summarize the training, I performed the deadlift Monday thru Friday, altering the weight for each session and cycling through the different rep options. If the weight felt light, I continued to increase the load. If I felt tired or the weight was feeling heavy, I took it easy. It was truly about "feel". On Day 19 I set a personal record for a 5 rep max. On Day 20, I broke that 5 rep max record by 10 pounds. The program worked so well that I stopped doing it (another one of my genius ideas)!
The program was a success but throughout the process, I finally realized one thing regarding the deadlift: STRENGTH IMPROVEMENTS TAKE TIME. RELAX AND ENJOY THE RIDE! My next challenge for this month: High Rep Back Squats. Here is hoping this goes well, stay tuned!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!