Deadlift Mechanics: The Setup Position

A good deadlift, as with all over big lifts, starts with a good setup. There is more to the deadlift than grabbing the bar and standing up. Here are a few quick pointers to effectively find your setup position.

Stance

  • Feet should be hip width apart. Line up the outside of your feet with the outside of your hips. Your legs should be perpendicular to the floor.
  • Grip the bar just outside your hip width. If possible your arms should also be perpendicular to the floor. If you have relatively wide hips, your arms may angle out slightly.

Setup Position

When you drop into the setup position to begin your pull, here are a few markers you can use to find that good starting position for a strong pull.

  • Your shins should remain perpendicular to the floor. As you rock back into the starting position, rotation should be around your knees, bringing your hips down and your head and chest up.
  • Your shoulder blades should be directly over the bar. Keeping upward tension on the bar and your arms straight as your rock back, continue rocking back until your shoulder blades rotate back over the bar.
  • Keep your back straight and flat. You can do this by taking a deep breath into your lungs, tightening your core, and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly downward – try and tuck them into your back pockets.

Setup Hints:

Don’t waste time thinking about your setup. Once you get your grip on the bar immediately take your breath, tighten your back, and rock back into the starting position. As soon as you are in the starting position immediately begin your pull.

 

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Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 8

Week 8: Week 8 finishes off the program with a devastating amount of volume.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is moderate, volume is very high.
  • Pull-up strength is tested, let’s see if you’ve improved.

Week 8: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work.

  • Shoulder Internal and External Rotation
  • Sets/Reps: 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight, your shoulders should still be burning when you’re done
  • Alternate right shoulder then left, internal then external for each set

Pull-ups: Week 8 let’s test your pull-up strength – how many pull-ups can you do without assistance

  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • If you cannot get any pull-ups on your own, you can use assistance – use the same amount of assistance you used week 1:
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 3 reps
    • Perform 3 sets to failure

If you want to continue or accelerate your pull-up progress, consider doing your pull-ups more frequently each week, at the beginning of a workout.

Barbell Rows – 30 second incremental sets:

  • Get a good drink of water before you start these sets, you won’t be unstrapping from the bar until you’re done!
  • If you need, warm up to your 10 Rep Max (10RM) weight; you don’t want to be aggressive with the weight selection for today’s workout, we want to maximize the reps you can complete
  • Weight: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: Reps are incremental every set, and are timed; it’s easiest if you have someone timing the reps for you
    • You will perform your sets every 30 seconds:
      • Start your sets every 30 seconds – 0:00, 0:30, 1:00, 1:30
      • Notice that you do not get 30 seconds of rest for each set; 30 seconds includes your set and your reps
      • It works best to have your timer call out when you have 5 seconds to start so you can unrack the weight and be ready to go
      • When you rerack the weight, don’t unstrap your hands, you won’t have time to strap back up
    • Your reps are incremental
      • Set 1 you perform 1 rep; set 2 you perform 2 reps, continue to increment with each set
      • Keep going until you cannot complete all of your reps in the 30 seconds
  • Rest: The longer your set takes, the less rest you have
    • If your set takes 5 seconds to complete (likely your first 5 sets or so), you will have 25 seconds of rest, if your set takes 20 seconds to complete, you will have 10 seconds of rest.
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps, you will need them. If you do these right, your grip will be smoked even using straps.

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported, Drop Set:

  • Weight: You will use 2 dumbbells:
    • First Dumbbell: Use your 10RM
    • Second Dumbbell: Use a dumbbell about 20% less than the first (if your 10RM is 150lbs your second dumbbell should be about 120lbs; if your 10RM is 30lbs, your second dumbbell is 25lbs…and you likely haven’t been doing BWOW for very long).
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 3 sets
    • Complete as many reps as you can with the first dumbbell, drop it and immediately continue with the second dumbbell
    • Repeat with your other arm for 1 set
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise, again, you will need it.

Standing Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, then perform your lat pull-downs to force your upper back to perform the majority of the work

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Lat Pull-downs: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 3 sets of 10 reps with both hammer curls an lat pull-downs
    • Start with the hammer curls
    • Complete lat pull-downs after your curls
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
    • No rest between lat pull-downs and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and cable rows, 1-2 minutes
    • Keep your technique strict. Limit your use of upper body momentum for both the curls and lat pull-downs.

Cable Rows:

  • Weight: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 20 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short between sets, 1-2 minutes

Standing Barbell Curls: You may add standing barbell curls if your biceps aren’t smoked by now

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10RM
    • Set 2: Bump the weight up slightly from set 1
    • Set 3: Bump the weight up again from set 2
  • Sets/Reps: Complete 3 sets to failure; try to complete at least 10 reps on all sets
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes

Assessment:

Ok, I’ll be honest. The intent of this workout is to completely smoke your upper body. Your back and biceps should be totally exhausted when you’re done, and your conditioning should be taxed as well. Enjoy!

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 8 v1 – Web

BWOW Plans for this cycle:

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Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 7

Week 7: Week 7 focuses on lifting more weight and building strength.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is kept high, volume is moderately high.
  • Pull-up strength is addressed by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises, and performing pull-ups with added weight.

Week 7: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work.

  • Face Pulls
  • Sets/Reps: 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups, all sets will be with added weight if possible.

  • Add weight to your sets, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Use a weight vest
    • If you cannot get at least 3 reps without added weight, don’t add weight
  • If you cannot get at least 3 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 3 reps
    • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure
    • On your last 2 sets, perform a drop set: complete as many reps as possible with added weight, then drop the weight and continue to failure again

Barbell Rows:

  • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
  • Weight: Try to increase the weight slightly from last week
    • Set 1: Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • Set 2-4: Use your 5RM
    • Set 5: Drop Set – 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM
      • Set up your weight without collars for quick weight changes; use two training partners to change the weights for you.
      • Start with your 1RM, and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and have your partners change the weight to your 3RM, and continue rowing without rest. Don’t take your hands off the bar or unwrap them if you are using wrist straps. Row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 5RM and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 10RM and row to failure.
      • Weights don’t have to be strict selections; select weights you can easily change quickly.
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Sets 2-3: 5 reps
    • Set 4: As many reps as possible; use some cheat technique to get additional reps
    • Set 5: Until you (nearly) regret googling BWOW, and your back and biceps are burning.
  • Rest: Take enough rest for your muscles to be fully recovered, except during your drop set (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported:

  • Weight: Use your 10RM, try and bump the weight up slightly over your previous 10RM

Note: If your gym does not have heavy enough dumbbells for the massive back strength, a common problem for BWOWers, particularly if you lift in a commercial box, you can wrap a chain around your wrist to add additional weight to your dumbbell rows.

  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Set 2-3: Row to failure, try and beat 10 reps
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Lat Pull-downs:

  • Weight: Set up 1 plate above your 10RM on the lat pull-down machine
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure, try and get at least 10 reps without cheating with upper body momentum
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
  • Keep your technique strict. Concentrate on initiating the pull-down with your lats, minimize your use of upper body momentum.

Standing Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps):

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Cable Rows: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rows: 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Start with hammer curls
    • Complete cable rows after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between cable rows and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and cable rows, 1-2 minutes
    • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating your row with your lats and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly at the end.

Standing Barbell Curls:

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10RM
    • Set 2: Bump the weight up slightly from set 1
    • Set 3: Bump the weight up again from set 2
  • Sets/Reps: Complete 3 sets to failure; try to complete at least 10 reps on all sets
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes

Assessment:

  • Overall volume this week remains close to that used the preceding weeks. Weight should increase somewhat, and work both your back and biceps very well.

Workout Plan:  2013 Winter – BWOW Week 7 v1 – Web

BWOW plans for this cycle:

 

 

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Proper Lift Setup – Tight is Right

The problem: Many strength trainers spend hours, maybe weeks, researching the perfect workout or trying out the latest lifting fad. More experienced lifters focus their effort honing in the technique for their squat, deadlift and bench press. Far too many, however, miss one of the most fundamental aspects to lifting big weights – perfecting the setup.

The solution: Neglecting your setup is a huge mistake. A proper setup leads to stronger lifts. The setup is the one point in the lift you have the time (and your wits) to enable you to do everything perfectly every single time. To set up correctly your entire body needs to be tight before the bar even comes out of the rack or off the floor.

How does a tight setup aid your lift?

  • Efficiency: An improper setup leaves you expending more energy than necessary before even starting to lift.
  • Stability: A tight set up allows you to control the weight easily, giving you greater stability with which to start your lift.
  • The Weight Feels Light: Setting up tightly gives you a mechanical advantage. The weight feels much lighter coming out of the rack, or off the floor. Although it doesn’t matter how heavy it feels, the lighter the weight feels, the more confidently you will attack your lifts.

Squat Setup: The idea for this article came up while watching one of my lifters setting up to squat. Before unracking the weight she dropped down slightly, and then slammed up into the bar. Extra movements like this do not help with the lift and by doing so she loosened up before lifting the bar.

Keeping your body tight allows you to transfer all of your power from your legs doing the work directly to the bar on your shoulders and eliminates energy leaks. Done right, the bar feels lighter and moves more easily, wastes less energy, and mentally prepares you for your lift.

  • Hand Position: Bringing your hands in closer to your shoulders on the bar increases the tightness of your upper back. Bring them in as closely as your flexibility allows, while still enabling you to drive your elbows forward under the bar as you lift the weight.
  • Bar Position: Bring the bar down from on top of your traps (high bar position) to the shelf between the base of your traps and your delts.
  • Tight Back: Once you have your grip on the bar, and have positioned the bar on your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together to contract your lats and tighten your upper back.
  • Big Air: Take a large breath of air into your lungs, and tighten your core. This will create intra-abdominal pressure, providing stability to your spine.


What is Big Air?

When I get under the bar very very tightly it feels like my body is a loaded spring. Let it go and it drives the bar up easily out of the rack, even with a loaded down bar. For more tips on your squat setup, read ‘A Perfect Setup Leads to a Bigger Squat’.


Setting up your squat

Bench Press Setup: You’ve seen a lot of guys do it, hell I used to this before I knew what I was doing: before unracking the weight, he pulls his body up off the bench and as his shoulders come back down onto the bench he unracks the weight. This is probably the worst thing you can do to prepare for your bench press. Before unracking the weight you want to have your body in the perfect position and completely tight. There is no way to properly set up with a moving target!

  • Shoulder Position: Place your shoulders on the bench and squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly. Think about trying to squeeze a quarter between your shoulder blades and holding it there throughout your full set.
  • Leg Drive: Place your feet under your knees with your toes pointed slightly outward. Push through the balls of your feet driving your hips towards your shoulders. This will push your lower back into a slight arch, and it will tighten your entire body from your toes through your traps. Maintain your leg drive throughout all reps in your set.

Note: If you have lower back issues, consult your doctor before benching with an ‘arch’.

  • Lock Your Elbows: Squeeze the bar tightly, and try to lock your elbows before unracking the bar. You want to be able to bring the bar straight out over your chest, instead of lifting the bar up then bringing it out. This works best when you have a bench with adjustable height. With the perfect rack height you can nearly lock your elbows before coming out of the rack. Your spotter should have to just bump the bar up slightly, then help you guide the weight straight out, at which point you’re already locked out and ready to begin your first repetition.

Deadlift Setup: Deadlift setups are the trickiest. I watch deadlifters squat down to the bar loosening their entire upper body, and then jerk up as hard as they can to pull their new PR. Let’s look at this approach – loose upper back, heavy weight, jerking the bar with all their strength. Let’s say you’re going to tow your friend’s car out of the ditch with your Chevy. Do you connect the chains between the vehicles leaving 30’ of slack, then floor it getting your truck up to speed before the chain tightens and jerks the bumper off your friend’s car? My first thought is usually ‘well they won’t be wasting space in my gym too long’.

A proper deadlift starts with a tight upper body and a smooth, strong, steady pull:

  • Big Air: Take a deep breath into your lungs and tighten your core. This will create intra-abdominal pressure which stabilizes your spine. This is best done before you drop your hips down into the starting position. Once you drop your hips you will be unable to pack your lungs full of air.
  • Tight Back: Squeeze your shoulder blades together tightening your back. As opposed to your bench press technique, where you try and pinch a quarter between them, try and tuck your shoulder blades down into your back pockets. This will reduce the shortening effect on your arms while still allowing you to tighten your upper back (shorter arms equals a longer range of motion).
  • Pull the Slack out of the Bar: Pull upward on the bar before starting your deadlift eliminating any slack between you and the bar. You should have a smooth, strong pull when you start your deadlift, and not jerk the bar upwards.
  • Don’t Squat to the Bar: Rock back bringing your hips down and your head and chest up. Keep your back tight and upward tension on the bar as you rock back, dropping your hips to the starting position. Don’t squat down to the bar letting your knees drift forward over the bar and loosening your back and arms.

A tight setup on the deadlift allows you to transfer all of your pulling power directly from your legs to the bar. It allows you to turn your upper body into a solid lever, minimizing energy leaks as you begin your pull.

I probably frustrate many of my lifters. When squatting I’ll make them rerack and start over several times before they even take their first repetition, but the setup is that important. A proper setup can easily be the difference between a missed lift and a new personal record.

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Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 6

Week 6: Week 6 increases the weight to be lifted, and maintains a relatively high volume of heavy sets.

Training Goals:

  • Weight is increased and volume remains moderately high. This should be a challenging week.
  • Pull-up strength is addressed by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises, and performing pull-ups with added weight.

Week 6: Strength Building/Hypertrophy

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body with some shoulder pre-hab work

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups, and use added weight where possible.

  • Add weight to your first two sets, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Use a weight vest
    • If you cannot get at least 3 reps with added weight, don’t add weight
  • For remaining sets, if you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get 10 reps or more on your own, add weight to your subsequent sets as well
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows:

  • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • Set 2-3: Use your 5RM
    • Set 4: Use your 3RM
    • Set 5: Drop Set – 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM
      • Set up your weight without collars for quick weight changes; use two training partners to change the weights for you.
      • Start with your 1RM, and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and have your partners change the weight to your 3RM, and continue rowing without rest. Don’t take your hands off the bar or unwrap them if you are using wrist straps. Row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 5RM and row to failure.
      • Rack the bar and change to your 10RM and row to failure.
      • Weights don’t have to be strict selections; select weights you can easily change quickly.
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 10 reps
    • Sets 2-3: 5 reps
    • Set 4: 3 reps
    • Set 5: Until you feel like puking, and your back and biceps are burning.
  • Rest: Take enough rest for your muscles to be fully recovered, except during your drop set (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported:

  • Weight:
    • Set 1: Use your 15RM
    • Set 2: Use your 10RM
    • Set 3: Use your 5RM
    • Try and push the weight slightly above your previous RMs
    • Note: If your gym does not have heavy enough dumbbells for the massive back strength you’ve built in the last 5 weeks, you can wrap a chain around your wrist to add additional weight to your dumbbell rows
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 15 reps
    • Set 2: 10 reps
    • Set 3: 6 reps
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Lat Pull-downs:

  • Weight: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 10 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively short, 1-2 minutes
  • Keep your technique strict. Concentrate on initiating the pull-down with your lats, minimize your use of upper body momentum to cheat.

Standing Barbell Curl/Cable Row Superset: Pre-exhaust your biceps, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps):

  • Weight:
    • Barbell Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Cable Rows: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rows: 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Start with barbell curls
    • Complete cable rows after your barbell curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between cable rows and barbell curls
    • Short rest between barbell curls and cable rows, 1-2 minutes
  • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating your row with your lats and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly at the end.

Assessment:

  • The weight this week should be challenging, and the volume should leave your back and biceps completely spent. Try and push the weight up above your previous maxes, without sacrificing technique.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 6 v1 – Web

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Overcoming Weaknesses in Your Deadlift

The problem: After early success and rapid gains on your deadlift, you’ve hit a plateau and progress has stalled. Your regular personal records (PRs) have slowed or stopped.

The solution: Identify and overcome the weak link in your deadlift power – being able to lock out 500lbs doesn’t do you a bit of good if you can’t break it from the floor. As I have previously done with the Bench Press here I tear your deadlift down into the potential problem areas and recommend approaches to overcome them. It is possible that these strategies may overlap.

Training Maturity: To effectively eliminate weakness in your deadlift, you should be at a relatively mature level as a lifter. Before you start working on your deadlift weaknesses:

  1. Perfect your deadlift technique. You will have the greatest gains, and slightest chance of hurting yourself if you first focus on deadlifting properly. The deadlift is one of the most effective exercises on the books, but performed incorrectly it can have the greatest potential for injury.
  2. Build a solid foundation of strength. Before correcting weaknesses, develop the sufficient level of pulling strength. Work on your fundamental deadlift strength until you are at least an intermediate level on the deadlift with proper technique. You can find a good Strength Standards for Deadlift at http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/DeadliftStandards.html.


Deadlift Demonstration

The two common deadlift weak points:

Now that your technique is fundamentally sound, and you have a solid strength base, let’s look at where your weak points may lie and how to improve them.

  1. Weak off the floor
  2. Difficulty locking out

Weak off the Floor:

Breaking the bar slowly off the floor does not necessarily indicate significant weakness. However, more explosive power off the floor inevitably leads to bigger pulls.

Key Technique Points: To improve your power off the floor, perfect your setup technique.

    • Don’t waste time setting up. Once your hands are on the bar you should be dropping your hips to the starting position then pulling without hesitation. I see far too many people pause at the bottom thinking about the lift before pulling (far too many = almost all). Nothing good can happen here:
      • By thinking about the pull you are talking yourself out of it.
      • You cannot fully fill your lungs with air with you core compressed at the bottom of the lift.
    • Fill your lungs fully with air before dropping into the starting position. Big air in your lungs will provide intra-abdominal pressure protecting your spine, and giving you great stability.


Demonstration of Big Air

  • Tighten your upper back. Squeeze your shoulder blades tightly and drive them downward. Think about tucking them down into your back pockets.
  • There is no stretch reflex in your first deadlift repetition. Work on creating a stretch reflex by dropping your hips quickly into the starting position, and immediately pulling explosively back up.

Strength Improvements and Training: Improving your strength in certain areas can help you build more power off the floor.

  • Quad strength: If you’ve properly built a solid foundation of strength this is likely not your primary issue but it bears mentioning. If your quads are weak initiating the pull off the floor may be more difficult.
  • Stretch reflex: Train every rep without the advantage of the stretch reflex; start every rep in training from a dead stop. I use a technique I call the 3 count setup.
  • Deficit deadlifts: Training your deadlifts from a low platform, or standing on 1 or 2 plates, can help you build low end power.
  • Pause deadlifts with a low pause: Pause deadlifts with a low end pause can help build low end power in your deadlift.
  • Pause squats and box squats: Building low end strength in your squats with pause and box squats can carry over to power off the floor in your deadlift.

Explosive Training: Improving the explosiveness in your lower body will help you to condition your body and central nervous system to engage all of your muscle fibers at once giving you a powerful initial pull. Concentrate on an explosive pull off the floor without ‘snatching’ or jerking the weight by pulling all the slack out between you and the bar and maintaining upward tension on the bar until you begin the pull.

  • Speed Deadlift: Include speed, or dynamic, work in your training program with some type of deadlift variety. The weight should be light enough so that you can drive the bar up explosively while maintaining perfect deadlift form. Condition yourself to start your pull off the floor with 100% of your muscle mass regardless of the actual weight you are pulling. For example if you are deadlifting 50% of your 1 rep max (1RM) the bar should move twice as fast as when you pull your 1RM.
  • Vertical Jumping: Vertical jumping varieties can help you generate the instantaneous explosive power you need to initiate a heavy pull. Jumping higher requires more power, so your goal over time is to increase the height of your vertical jumps. Some effective jumping exercises include:
    • Box Jumps
    • Depth Jumps
    • Box Squat Jumps
  • Accommodated Resistance: Using bands and chains in your deadlift training can help you build more power off the floor. Since the weight is lighter at the floor, you should concentrate on starting the pull off the floor with as much speed as possible, using this momentum to complete the lift as the weight increases.

Locking out at the top:

Let’s start with the proper definition of a deadlift lockout: standing fully upright, chest up and shoulders back, hips and knees fully extended (locked out). A strong lockout requires a strong posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, and lower back), and powerful grip.

Key Technique Points: Lockout technique in the deadlift requires you to be able to keep your chest up and drive your hips forward once the bar passes your knees.

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together tightly and keep your head and chest up.
  • Engage your glutes at the end of the pull to lock your hips and knees out to finish the pull powerfully.
  • Grip: Once your grip begins to slip, your body will tendency to stop pulling even if you had the strength to complete the lift. Here are a couple of techniques to improve your grip on the bar.
      • Alternating over/under grip: Over-Under Grip: Grip the bar with one hand pronated (overhand) and one hand supinated (underhand). Which hand you use is your preference, but generally speaking it’s more effective gripping with your dominant hand pronated. Using the over-under grip prevents the bar from rolling out of your grip.
      • Hook grip: Grip the bar with both hands pronated. Instead of wrapping your thumbs around the bar, lie them along the bar and wrap your fingers around your thumbs. This is a very effective grip, locking the bar in and preventing it from rolling or slipping out of your grip, but it can be exceptionally painful.


    Hook Grip Demonstration

    • Chalk: Be generous with the chalk, its usefulness cannot be underestimated. Every surface of your hand that touches the bar should be coated with chalk (and preferably only the surfaces of your hand, not the bench, the floor, the mirror…). Once you’ve chalked your hand nothing touches your hands except the bar! If your gym does not allow chalk, try liquid chalk.
    • Gloves: The bar slides relatively easily across the surface of your pretty gloves. It does not slide easily across the surface of a well chalked hand (without taking chalk, skin and calluses along with it).
    • Wrist straps: No

Strength Improvements and Training: The muscles in your posterior chain are the primary movers to lock out your deadlift. With proper training you’ll find your deadlift actually accelerating once the bar crosses your knees.

  • Posterior Chain: The posterior chain is greatly overlooked aspect of your training plan – yes, yourtraining plan. Your glutes and hamstrings should get just as much attention as your pecs and your quads (they don’t, do they?). My rule of thumb for glute and ham training volume is 8-12 sets per week depending, of course, on where I’m at in my training cycle. The most effective posterior chain lifts I’ve found are:


You don’t need a GHR bench to incorporate this effective exercise

  • Hip thrusters
  • Pull-throughs
  • Grip Strength: Have you ever shaken a great deadlifter’s hand? Chances are they crushed your mortal hand. If you want a strong deadlift, you need a strong grip.
    • Deadlifts: Use double overhand grip as you warm up until you cannot hold the bar any longer. Then use alternating grip without chalk until you absolutely need the chalk.
    • Farmer walks: In addition to some great conditioning, farmers walks can do wonders for building your grip.
    • Wrist straps: No

There are other implements aimed at helping you build your grip strength, but my preference is grabbing a bar and holding on to it as you work through your training.

  • Upper Back Strength: Although your upper back is not actively involved in the pull, statically it needs to be strong enough to support the weight. As with your posterior chain, your back should get as much attention as your pecs in your weekly training plan. I also like to balance my training volume in the frontal or vertical plane (ie pull-ups) with volume in the sagittal or horizontal plane (ie barbell rows).
    • Pull-ups: If you can complete more than 5-7 pull-ups, do them weighted.
    • Lat Pull-downs: One of the few machines regularly in my training plan.
    • Barbell rows
    • Dumbbell rows

For more on back training, check out my Back Workout of the Week.

  • Lockout specific strength: You may want to include lifts in your program that directly train your lockout strength:
  • Accommodated Resistance: Using bands and chains in your deadlift training can help you overload your deadlift lockout. Since the weight is lighter at the floor, you can lift weights that are heavier at lockout than you would normally be capable of.
  • Rest: You will find that deadlifts work your entire body. You, therefore, use your entire body when deadlifting. If you are not allowing yourself sufficient recovery, and not promoting proper recovery (ie rest, diet, supplementation), your deadlift strength will suffer. If you find yourself struggling with a rep weight, back off, recover, and come back stronger.

Take action: Assess where you have the greatest potential for improvement. Rework your training program with a strategy to eliminate weak links in your pulls, and get your deadlift progress back on track.

Check out these sponsors: These advertisers are not associated directly with this site, but help me provide the content to you for free…

Chalk up for a better deadlift grip and bigger pulls:

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Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 5

Week 5: Week 5 modifies the intensity, increasing volume again.

Training Goals:

  • Volume is ramped back up for one week and weight is decreased.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.


Week 5: Hypertrophy/Muscle Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body and a little pre-hab shoulder work

  • Shoulder internal rotation and external rotation
  • 3 x 15 with a moderately light weight – just enough to get the shoulders burning for the last reps
  • Alternate right and left, internal and external for each set

Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • Add weight to your first set, such as:
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 10 reps on your own, add weight to your subsequent sets
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows, Dead Stop:

  • What is a dead stop set barbell row?
    • Dead stop barbell row technique
    • We’re using dead stop barbell rows this week to eliminate the use of any momentum and isolate your upper back. The reps should be tougher, and your back should work harder.
  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 10 Rep Max (10RM)
    • You will use the same weight for all sets unless:
      • If you can’t get at least 8 reps without any cheating decrease the weight
      • If you get more than 12 reps without cheating on any reps increase the weight
  • Sets/Reps: 5 sets x 10 reps
  • Rest: Keep rest relatively brief to keep the intensity up (2-3 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported: As with the barbell rows, dumbbell rows will be supported to minimize any use of momentum to make the sets and reps easier.

  • Weight: Use your 10RM weight, you should use the same weight for all sets
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure
    • If you get less than 8 reps, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 12 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise



Hammer Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset: Use this superset to pre-exhaust (and hopefully completely exhaust by the end of the workout) your biceps so that your lats have to do more of the work.

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Lat Pulldowns: Use your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Start with hammer curls
    • Complete lat pull-downs after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between lat pulldowns and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and lat pulldowns, 1-2 minutes
  • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating the pulldown with your lats.

Hammer Curl/Cable Row Superset: Continue the bicep pre-exhaust, and perform high rep cable rows to engage more of your back muscles in the rows (rhomboids and lower/mid traps):

  • Weight:
    • Hammer Curls: Use your 10RM
    • Cable Rows: Use your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 supersets
    • Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 10 reps
    • Cable Rows: 3 sets of 20 reps
    • Start with hammer curls
    • Complete cable rows after your hammer curls
  • Rest:
    • No rest between cable rows and hammer curls
    • Short rest between hammer curls and lat pulldowns, 1-2 minutes
  • Complete your curls with proper form, and minimal use of upper body momentum to curl the weight. Concentrate on initiating your row with your lats and squeezing your shoulder blades tightly at the end.

Assessment

  • Emphasis this week is on thoroughly exhausting your back and biceps. The volume is higher this week and by the end of your workout you should be completely spent.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 5 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 4

Week 4: Week 4 focuses on building back strength.

Training Goals:

  • Volume is reduced, and weight is increased.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

Week 4: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Face Pulls
  • 3 sets x 15 reps with a moderately light weight



Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 10 reps on your own, add weight to your sets, such as
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows, Cluster Sets:

  • What is a cluster set? You will perform a set of 5 reps and rack the bar. Don’t unwrap your wrists or take your hands off the bar. Rest 8 seconds and continue the set, rowing to failure. Do not use excessive upper body momentum for today’s sets.
  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 5 Rep Max (5RM)
    • You will use the same weight for all sets unless:
      • If you can’t get 5 reps with good form in the initial part of the set, decrease the weight
      • If you get more than 5 reps in the second part of the set after the 8 second rest, increase the weight
  • Sets/Reps: 5 sets x 5 reps plus reps to failure after the 8 second rest period
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps if necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Unsupported: Dumbbell rows will be unsupported. You should be able to row slightly more weight than doing them supported on a bench.

  • Weight: Use your 10RM weight, you should use the same weight for all sets
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets to failure
    • If you get less than 8 reps, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 12 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes), no rest between one arm and the other within a set
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Chest Supported Rows: Use whatever chest supported rowing machine your gym has. Goal is to eliminate any cheating, and emphasize just the muscles in your back for these sets. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the end of each repetition, pausing momentarily before lowering the weight again.

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 15RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3 sets x 15 reps
    • If you get less than 12 reps, or cannot keep your chest on the bench, reduce the weight
    • If you get more than 20 reps, increase the weight
  • Rest: Keep it short, 1-2 minutes



Standing Hammer Curls:

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 4 sets x 10 reps
    • Minimize upper body momentum to cheat
  • Rest:
    • Keep your rest short, 1-2 minutes maximum

Assessment:

  • Emphasis this week is on moving more weight and building strength. Volume isn’t as high, if you need to increase the intensity, shorten your rest periods.

Workout Plan: 2013 Winter – BWOW Week 4 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle:

 

 



The Night Before Christmas…all Through the Gym…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the gym…

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the gym

not a dumbbell was stirring

not even those pretty little pink ones…that are much too light for even the girls there…

 

When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter

I rushed to the front door, to see what was the matter…

It was the friggin powerlifting team, trying to get in

and they were getting madder and madder…and MADDER!

I said ‘now go away we’re closed, go away you can’t stay,

Go eat your turkey, and stuffing, and ham…and whey.

Max effort workout on Christmas Eve? That’s just not right,

Go fill up your bellies, watch football, hang stockings this night.’

 

‘Open up this dang door!’ I heard the heavyweight bellow.

‘Ok, Ok, calm down you big scary fellow.

I’ll open the door if you’ll relax and all just be mellow

But rerack your weights when you’re done, they make my legs all jell-o!’

 

They rushed to the back, with plates soon clanking and clattering,

a big white chalk dust cloud on everything besmattering.

Shouted words of encouragement, that were all none to flattering,

all business these guys, weights left no breath for chattering.

Again at the door I could hear a loud pounding,

over the din in the back, more urgent it was sounding.

‘What could it be now!’ through chalk cloud I wheezed

Whoa! it was Santa Claus, and he looked not a bit too pleased

 

He shook at them his finger, ‘Naughty list! Every one of you and all!

You frighten young children, and shake noobs from the exercise ball,

with heavy ass deadlifts you drop to the floor with such gall!

You get nothing this year, not under the tree nor your stocking. Nothing, nothing at all!’

Replied the big guy ‘yes we’ve besmirched squat rack curlers, booted them from our shrine

ridiculed upper body whores, half squatters, and other such swine.

We’ve bent many bars, dropped heavy weights, hoarded plates, called them mine,

and scattered knee wraps and belts, brought in our gym bags, to hell with the sign’

 

‘But before you pass judgment, in that long list of which you speak,

just look at little Tiny Timmy, once puny, scrawny and quite weak

his body shriveled and sickly, no pecs with which to press

and those legs, his squat and deadlift 1RMs, I’m sure you can guess’

 

‘We’ve broken him down, built him up, made him lift, sleep and eat.

We’ve piled weight on his back till he couldn’t get to his feet

Made him lift until failure, when he could do no more reps we roared REPEAT!!!

Now State records he’s earned, and HE’s WON HIS FIRST MEET!!!’

 

‘Now off on your way, back to the eve’s errands with you

and take with you MY OWN list, and it’s a long one too!

Bench shirts and squat suits, tight knee wraps that leave your skin blue

mountains of chalk and weight belts, why a gym bag quite full

of all this good stuff that builds big squat, bench and pull!’

 

Now Santa Claus knowing not what to say, slinked off in silence, his gait now a drag

‘cuz he knew records and gold medals were not in his bag

Once through the door, I swear I saw him scratching his list

and I’m sure the powerlifting team will never again be missed…



Back Workout of the Week – Winter 2013 Week 3

Week 3: We’re going to start increasing the weight this week.

Training Goals:

  • Moderate volume and increasing weight for both back and biceps to begin ramping up strength training.
  • Improve pull-up strength by performing pull-ups prior to rowing exercises.

Volume this week will decline, along with a corresponding increase in the weight you lift.

Week 3: Strength Building

Warm-ups: Warm up your upper body to prep for your back session

  • Shoulder internal rotation
  • Shoulder external rotation
  • 3 x 15 of each
  • In addition to warming up, light internal and external rotation is a good pre-hab exercise to help you maintain good shoulder health



Pull-ups: We’re working on increasing pull-up strength, so we start your back workout with pull-ups.

  • If you cannot get at least 5 pull-ups on your own, use assistance
    • Assisted pull-up station
    • Resistance bands, set up for reverse resistance
    • Use the minimum assistance required to get at least 5 reps
  • If you can get at least 5 reps on your own, add weight to your first set, such as
    • Weight belt to hang weight plates
    • Hold a dumbbell between your ankles
    • Weight vest
  • Use double overhand, wide grip
  • Perform 4 sets to failure

Barbell Rows:

  • Weight:
    • You should be somewhat warm after pull-ups, but if you need a couple of warm-up sets to get to your working weight, take them
    • Use your 10Rep Max (10RM) for barbell rows for your first 2 sets
    • Increase weight to your 5RM for sets 3-5
  • Sets/Reps:
    • 2×10 at 10RM weight
    • 3×5 at 5RM weight
    • Increase weight if necessary; you should be within 1-3 reps from failure on each set
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps as necessary

Dumbbell Rows, Supported: Dumbbell rows will be supported on the bench this week, and work up through increasing weight before finishing off with a drop set.

  • Weight: Your goal is to start with the weight you used last week, if you can’t get 15 reps with this weight, you might want to drop the starting weight slightly. You will use a heavier dumbbell for each set.
    • Set 1: 15RM
    • Set 2: 10RM
    • Drop Set: 5RM/15RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Set 1: 1×15
    • Set 2: 1×10
    • Drop Set: Row to failure, switch to the weight you used for set 1 and without resting row to failure again. Do the drop set first with one arm, then the other.
  • Rest: Rest until you are recovered between sets (3-5 minutes)
  • Equipment: Use wrist straps for this exercise

Cable Rows: Increase the weight significantly on the cable rows this week; repetitions decrease and they are not supersets.

  • Weight: Set the weight to your 10RM
  • Sets/Reps: 3×10
  • Rest: Keep it short, 1-2 minutes



Standing Barbell Curl/Lat Pull-down Superset:

  • Weight:
    • Barbell Curls: Approximately your 10RM
    • Lat Pull-downs: Approximately your 20RM
  • Sets/Reps:
    • Barbell Curls: 3×10
    • Lat Pull-downs: 3×20
    • Start with curls, complete all reps with proper form
    • Complete a set of lat pull-downs after each set of curls
  • Rest:
    • Take 1-2 minutes rest between curls and lat pull-downs
    • Perform curls immediately after lat pull-downs (no rest)

Assessment:

  • Volume declines, but remains moderately high, while weights lifted should increase noticeably. You might not feel as smoked this week, but should have still completed a significant amount of work.

Workout Plan2013 Winter – BWOW Week 3 v1 – Web

BWOW workouts this cycle: