A Quick Ah-HA Moment

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As is the case every Friday night, I typically come home from work around 6 PM, give Lisa a high five, grab my laptop and a few books, toss them into my backpack, and walk down to the local Starbucks or Panera Bread to have a little “Tony Time.”  Tony Time, for all intents and purposes, is just a 3-4 hour window where I can just kinda veg out, march to the beat of my own drum, catch up some reading or writing, maybe catch a movie, or simply walk around with no rhyme or reason. 

Some people re-energize after a long week by going out with friends or colleagues and getting plastered during Happy Hour.  I, on the other hand, prefer to keep it low key and just peruse the local bookstore.  Or, sometimes I’ll do something manly and chop down a tree or something for the hell of it; but mostly I’ll just go into nerd-mode and read for a few hours.

That being said, this past Friday just so happened to be the Friday where Lisa was having three of her friends over for some Mary Kay make-over that she had won by dumping her name and number into some random bowl at a local salon a few weeks prior.  Not that it has to said, but I’d rather pass a kidney stone…….twice, than experience three seconds of that.  So, with backpack in tow, I hightailed it out of there.

I arrived at Panera, ordered some food, signed on to the free Wi-Fi (sweet!), and set up shop for a few hours.  Namely, I just caught up on my “Stuff You Need to Read” folder that I inundate on a week-to-week basis with blog posts, newsletters, and articles that I otherwise just don’t have the time to read during the week.

I read a lot of stuff.  However, one article in particular really resonated with me and gave me one massive, unadulterated, “why the heck didn’t I ever think of that” moment that, frankly, I hadn’t had in a loooooong time. 

As some of you are well aware:  one of my main goals in life is to have a tickle fight with Alicia Keys deadlift 600 lbs.  Recently, though, I’ve been failing miserably.  Without going into all the boring details, I messed my back up not too long ago, and well, I’ve haven’t been pulling anything too significant since late Spring.  It was nothing too serious – I could still train hard – but it’s been fairly frustrating not being able to train like I normally would if I were 100% healthy.  Actually make that more 90% healthy – I can’t even remember the last time I was 100% healthy.  Is that even possible?

Anyways, as of late I’ve been feeling like a rock star with my training, and it’s only been within the past three or so weeks that I’ve really been able to ramp up my deadlifting shenanigans.  Of course, as always, it’s been a struggle for me to try to figure out how I can go about taking my 570 lb deadlift to the next level and try to hit 600.  Of course, if I wanted to get sloppy and put on 30-50 lbs, I could probably do it.  But I like staying lean, and everytime I start pushing the envelope and try to amp up my deadlifting volume, my body just takes a beating.

And that’s the key word to consider: volume.

I had an epiphany over the weekend after reading THIS article.  I do waaaaaaay too much when it comes to deadlifting. 

Now, full disclosure:  My body responds very well to volume – especially when it comes to deadlifting.  In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for me to pull heavy(ish) twice per week, and following that protocol definitely helped take my pull from a paltry mid 300s to over 500 lb deadlift.  Thing is, I didn’t adapt.  I continued to follow the same format, thinking that that was what I needed to do to get to 600.  I’m starting to think I was an idiot.

You see, deadlifting is a pretty CNS intensive movement, no matter what.  Even more so once you start talking about pulling upwards of 2x-3x bodyweight.

So, to make a long story short, like I said, I had an epiphany after reading about Vince Urbank and how he went about taking is deadlift to the next level.  This is Vince making 881 lbs his bitch (FML):

Anyways, in the article linked to above he basically said that he had this system that took him from 500ish to high 600s, which entailed hitting a PR every week for three weeks.  It looks like this:

Week 1:  work up to a PR.
Week 2:  assuming he hit one the week prior, try to hit another PR.
Week 3:  same.
Week 4:  no deadlifting and just hammer accessory work (basically give the spine a breather and deload).
Week 5:  start cycle over again, make people crap their pants.

If, at any point, he MISSED a PR, he’d take a week off (from deadlifting). 

Moreover, after hitting a PR, he’d drop the weight and maybe do 1-2 sets of high(er) rep sets.  Nothing too hard.  Get some quality reps in, call it a day, and move on.


So simple, yet so freakin smart.

As I noted above, after reading that, I came to the conclusion that I do waaaaaaay too much volume – as far as hitting a 600 lb deadlift is concerned anyways.

I need to stop with this 4×5 nonsense that I’ll often throw in after hitting a heavy single.  Instead, I’m just going to try this system and then perform a metric shit-ton of GHRs so that my hamstrings will eventually have to be given their own zip code.

I’ll keep everyone posted, but I’m really pumped to give this a go.  Seriously, I’m an idiot.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • LOL. Awesome….

  • Barath

    Tony – Good luck in your endeavor. Now, I am sort of ashamed to bring this up, given you are talking about 600 lbs deadlifts, but what the hell….

    I started to seriously try getting better at deadlifts and squats only a couple of months ago, courtesy websites like yours. (I've been working out for a little more than a year, and it largely involved body part splits with sissy weights). I've found that my strength has increased in the last few months, and I have been able to go from ~150 lbs to 305 lbs deadlifts (for 3 reps). But progression now seems much more hard compared to going from 200 to 300. I mentioned this in the live spill at TNation the other day, and TC mentioned that 5×5 (which I have been following) won't likely take me from 300 to 400. He suggested Jim Wendler's 5/3/1. I was wondering whether you or someone here can give me some advice as to what is the best method of progression? I *really* like 5×5, as it has helped me a lot, but do you think its time to change it? I'd appreciate any piece of advice.

  • Lisa V

    “…so that my hamstrings will eventually have their own area code.”

    Now that's funny.

  • R Smith

    Tony, Tony, Tony… What in the hayell?

    Too much volume. Aren't you the guy who chastises us (your loyal followers) about the perils of getting eaten up with volume in our training 🙂 It's about intensity, sir, right?

    All kidding aside, I had an “A-Ha” moment myself over the weekend–and I think this will resonate with Barath: When I look back over my training from the last two years, the 2×1, 3×3, 4×2, 2×4, 3×1 and the like rep schemes yielded the best returns. I can count on one hand the number of times that EC programmed 5×5 (maybe 3). The low reps, while nap-inducing, led to me moving more weight and gaining the most strength.

    Maybe you CP guys ARE kinda bright.

  • These are two goals that I share with people…

    “Hamstrings have their own zip code” – You

    “Have the biggest butt I can possibly have” – Bret Contreras

  • Chad

    Barath I've been on 5/3/1 since January and while my deadlift hasn't budged from 315 the other lifts have seen significant gains. I'm in the same boat as you, bro.

  • Joaquin G

    Good luck Tony, please give us feedback on your progress.

  • Donovan

    TG-

    I remember reading this article when it came out and I was relieved to have found it. I've been training for a powerlifting comp. earlier this month and trying to get my deadlift up as well. Same meet last year, I pulled 515 and scratched on 560. This year, I mixed it up; hip thrusts, heavy rack pulls, the pull through, and GHR variations (for more ideas on that, check out Ben Bruno's vids).

    Long story short, I picked up 560 (45lb improvement) and attained a state record in my class. Not to mention a 435 squat (a 30lb PR!). Biggest thing I got out of that article is how some of those guys use bands and other variations to train the hams and glutes. The thing they all have in common is indeed how they ALL do good mornings, ham curls/GHR and other ham accessory movements on a “typical deadlifting day”. So, I'll be looking forward to your 600 dead soon. 🙂

  • Maybe it's something in the air, but I had an article go up on EliteFTS today that discusses the same thing. Sometimes you need to step outside of what you've always done to get to where you've never been.

    Good luck T!

  • James

    Barath/Chad,

    I too find that 5/3/1 doesn't help my deadlift, but exploded my squat/bench. Honestly, for me, getting from the 300 range to 420-ish was all about getting in more singles above 90%, and as I hit the high 300's I started adding more RFD work in.

    I was lucky, though, I really had no problems getting through that stage, but watching my athletes improvements now, I can attribute that to the fact that I moved to heavier singles, even triples, earlier than most do.

  • Rozin

    I was reading an article by Brian Schwab (from EliteFTS and an insane powerlifter) about deadlifting the other day. I found out that he only deadlifts every other week starting from the bottom third hole of a power rack and goes down one hole every other week. That means he's only pulling off the floor every 8th week. I thought that was nuts.

  • Great epiphany. Nothing like a good makeover party to jostle your brain toward a new direction. Oh, right. You did NOT attend.

    I used to have the same volume problem. I would do far too many sets to move up to my 1RM max. By the time I reached it, 'd already pulled a couple thousand pounds in volume.

    Geesh, how dumb is that?

    I, too, had to take some time off from DLs as my lower back was hatin' on me. Now that I am back in the game, I see 300lbs in my near future.

  • Barath

    R Smith & James,

    Thanks for your words. I'll take your advice and cut back on volume and try to pull heavy for small reps. What you say makes perfect sense. I put stress on volume, sometimes even doing 6 sets instead of five working up to my max for the day. So, for the next session, I am gonna try cutting down my reps.

    Who knows, Chad and I might hit 600 before Tony 🙂

  • Looks like I've gotta step up my deadlifting game too in anticipation of our future deadlift-off.

    : )

    You're giving away all your secrets . . .

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Katie Mack: as always, thanks for the kind words. Pretty much any exercise can be CNS taxing, assuming of course someone is lifting with a fair amount of intensity. Generally speaking, someone is going to over train via the CNS getting fried far easier than muscular fatigue. Both scenarios are pretty uncommon, though. It just takes the CNS far longer to recover.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Barath: first off, congrats on the outstanding progress you've made thus far – definitely nothing to sneeze at! Alas, I'd totally agree with TC and that's something I alluded to in my last article over there (Much Ado About Deadlifting).

    I'd definitely try giving Wendler's 5/3/1 program a shot – AWESOME stuff.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Ronell: Don't get me wrong, I still pull with A LOT of single, I was just making the mistake of following those single with more volume than was ideal. Stupid!

    Suffice it to say, I'm hoping I've turned a new leaf and will get that 600 lb pull sooner rather than later.

    That being said, I couldn't agree with you more that if you want to take your strength to another level, performing heavy singles is DEFINITELY the way to go! Assuming, of course, technique is spot on and one has a good 2-3 years of (solid) training under his or her belt.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Chad: I guarantee if you walked through CP, you're DL would go up at least 20 lbs. Totally not kidding.

    But, since that really does you no good, GET ANGRY!!!! Go back and search for a post I made titled Intimidate the Weight. That may help get your mindset right……;o)

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Donovan: Dude, nice work!!!! That's an excellent pull. I will say that goodmornings are a definite favorite of mine. Every time I amp it up on those, my DL invariably improves as well.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ James: excellent advice. Again, heavy singles are where it's at people!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Rozin: when you're using the weight that those dudes are using, it makes total sense.

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Kellie: I guess it just comes down to practicing what we preach, eh? I want to see video of that 300 lb pull when you dominate it!

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ Nia: Lets not get too carried away here…..;o)

  • Did he just pull 400 kilos with a double overhand grip?

  • Any particular reason to do GHR instead of 1legRDL's or Kettlebell Swings?

  • Chad

    Tony that “intimidate the weight” blog was a great read. I will revisit that. So are you telling me that I should remove the WHAM! tunes from my deadlift playlist?

  • Dan

    So Tony will you be trying to PR in a deadliest variation every week or just a straight up shit your pants deadlift every week? Having the same problem with stalling on my way to 600lbs and sounds like a good plan

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