Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Deadlift Saga

Since there can be a pretty big disconnect between our mind and body when it comes to training, maybe the bigger successes and innovations come not when you plan ahead, overthink and lay out a detailed, 12 week plan.  Maybe success comes from just starting to put one foot in front of the other and seeing where the journey takes you. 

On November 1, Derek taught me the core elements of proper deadlift form to a point that I felt confident enough to start really working the lift.  A couple of weeks earlier I had strained an oblique muscle pretty bad while running a hard 5k, such that I could do very little in the way of training other than squatting and deadlifting.  The heavy squat volume I was doing was getting to my knees a bit and it was becoming less fun, so I figured I would start deadlifting and see where it took me.

So on Sunday November 3, I started deadlifting. In the last 14 days, I have deadlifted 12 of 14 days.  The only days I took off from deadlifting were Fridays when I train with Derek.  Pretty much all I did with him those days was hamstring stretching, squats and lower back flexibility work.  It is probably worth noting that as of today I have lifted 21 days in a row with no day off. 

On Monday November 4 I tried to establish a single rep max for the deadlift (with proper form).  My max on that day was 255.  Today (12 days later) I did 265lbs for 14 sets of 2 and then 265lbs for 10 sets of 1.  38 total reps at 265 = 10,070 pounds, or about 5 tons. 

Beyond my grip getting very weak at the end (I need to switch from a double overhand grip to a mixed grip so I can hold more weight), I still had some strength in the tank after this workout (i.e. this was not a 100% effort).  Overall, my energy levels are very high and my body feels really good.   

Something in the back of my mind tells me that I should take a rest day.  But the other part of me is intrigued by this experiment.  My Grandfather was a farmer and the toughest person I knew -- well into his 90's.  The workload that he put in during an average day dwarfs what I am doing.  And he frequently worked 7 days/week.  Once, in a single day he shoveled over 20,000 pounds of prunes into bins with 5 foot high sides.  This was after working 12+ hours per day every day for two months during harvest.  It is also important to note that the deadlift is a very biomechanically efficient lift and there is no reason it can't be done daily. 

My workout each morning is simple.  I have no preconceived notions as to what I'm going to lift that day.  I just go out into the garage, warm up, start loading weight on the bar, and see what happens.  I usually work up to a weight that feels fairly heavy for the day, and start working with that.  Even if I am a bit sore or tired to start, I usually end up lifting pretty heavy.  Each workout has been with at least 225 pounds or more during this period. 

The workout tends to take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.  This includes all of my warmup stretching, warm up lifts, cool down stretching, etc.  I bet the total time spent on warmup and cool down is probably 20-30 minutes.

My mental outlook has completely changed.  Before I felt like I needed a specific workout for the day, with set exercises and weights that I had lift.  If I didn't meet the goals of the workout, I "failed".  I wasn't really training for anything specific, but I had the mental pressure as if I was.  I obsessed over the workout plan (I don't really know why, but I did) 

Now, I think of my deadlift experiment as just putting in some work each day like my Grandpa did.  If I'm kind of tired or too sore to lift super heavy, I back the weights and reps off a bit, get my work in and I'm done.  The fact I even went out to the garage to do something is the success for the day.  So the concept of a good or a bad workout is essentially gone from my mind.   

As you can tell from the stats, my strength is going through the roof.  Obviously this is a function of dedicating a lot of effort to a lift I have rarely done before.  This growth will clearly taper off over time.  But the more interesting part is my motivation is higher than it has ever been.  I have slept better in the last two weeks than I have in the last couple of years, and even though I wake up sore each morning, its the good kind of sore that comes from knowing you worked hard and your muscles are adapting (just like the first few days of getting back to work on the farm).

I guarantee that conventional training wisdom would say that what I'm doing is completely stupid.  You might be thinking that right now.   And maybe it is.  Maybe I'll destroy my back and be crying on this blog that I can't lift anymore because I deadlifted 50 days in a row.  Lord knows if that happens, it will be easy for others to say, "I told you so". 

Or maybe, just maybe, America has become too complicated.  Maybe we don't need training plans with perfect programming, pacing, periodization and recovery protocols. 

"Perfect is the enemy of the good". 

Maybe we now try to be so perfect and spend so much time analyzing and trying to create the next best, greatest training plan, that we miss the bigger point.  I think my Grandpa had life figured out long before the iphone and google and twitter tried to supply us with all of the answers.  Maybe the answer is:

Work hard.  Repeat. 

You can't sell that training plan.  You can't make a career out of it and write a book and charge people $75/hour to teach them the secret.  No one is going to hand you success from this training approach.  You have to earn it yourself.  But maybe that's the point. 

Where does my deadlift experiment go from here?  I don't know.  I'll guess I'll just have to listen to my body (admittedly, something I am only moderately successful at doing) and see what each day brings.

For some more information on the concept of daily heavy lifting, read this article.   It can probably be summed up with this quote from the beginning of the article:

If your family was captured and you were told you needed to put 100 pounds onto your max squat within two months or your family would be executed, would you squat once per week? Something tells me that you'd start squatting every day. Other countries have this mindset. America does not.

A video from today's session:      

1 comment:

  1. This is a GREAT post, I love it.

    I have an odd arse soreness that a colleague is telling me is a weakness in my glutes, hams that deadlifts would help. Timely post here - but that is not why I love it. I love the breakthru ...