Tripwires and How They Can Help Improve Your Deadlift

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A few months ago I picked up a copy of the New York Times best-selling book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, who also penned doozies like Made to Stick and Switch, which cover a gauntlet of human behavorial novelties

This is important because as a fitness professional, and as someone who works with people who generally like to make excuses on why they can’t train on any given day – a headache, car troubles, explosive diarrhea – anything I can do to better equip myself to better understand people and why they do what they do is a win in my book.

Although to some degree common sense enters the mix.With regards to the latter (explosive diarrhea), maybe not hitting up the local taqueria and crushing a plate of fully-loaded f bean burritos the night prior would be a good idea, mmmmkay?

With Decisive, while the principal theme tackles one of the most critical topics in our work and personal lives – Namely, how to make better decisions – there were also several other “mini” themes that I felt were every bit as interesting.

Take for example the notion of setting tripwires in our daily lives. As the authors note, “couldn’t we all use a few tripwires in our lives? We’d have a “trigger weight” that signaled the need to exercise more, or a trigger date on the calendar that reminded us to ask whether we’re investing enough in our relationships. Sometimes the hardest part of making a good decision is knowing there’s one to be made.”

One of the more shining examples of a tripwire noted in the book revolved around the band Van Halen.  The band’s eclectic and often acerbic lead singer, David Lee Roth, was known to be quite the diva back in the day.

Or was he?

Van Halen was one of the first bands in the mid 1980s to really make a name for themselves through their elaborate shows. As Roth recalled, “We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max.”

To put it lightly:  the band’s production design was astonishingly complex.  And, as the authors noted from Roth, the contract specifying the setup was, “like reading a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages,” because it was so technical and complex it was like reading a foreign language.

To make a long story short:  Van Halen had it’s own road crew, but because of the elaborateness of their show much of the prep work had to be done beforehand, before the eighteen-wheelers arrived.

Another thing to consider was the risk of injury to the band.  Because of all the pyrotechnics, lights, smoke, and ninjas (<—okay, no ninjas), the band was often worried that something may go wrong, and because their traveling schedule was a shit show they really didn’t have enough time to do a top to bottom check to make sure every thing was in place and that every bolt was secure.

How, then, would the band know that they were at risk?

A Bowl of M&Ms (That’s How)

One of the more egregious stories of the band back then was how they had it in their contract (the one mentioned above) to have a bowl of M&Ms placed backstage with all the brown ones removed.

Not surprisingly many deemed this an a-hole, diva(ish) move on their part.  But in reality it DID serve a purpose – mainly as a tripwire for the band to be on alert.

As the author’s state in the book, the band’s “M&M clause” was written into its contract to serve a very specific purpose.  It was called Article 126, and it read as follows:

“There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

The article was buried in the middle of countless technical specifications for the set-up of the show.

The bowl of M&Ms served as a tripwire for Roth and the band to quickly ascertain whether or not the venue took the time to carefully read the manual, and whether or not that took the necessary precautions to do shit right (my words, not the author’s).

If they (Van Halen) saw brown M&Ms they knew, right away, that the stagehands didn’t read the manual and that their safety may be in jeopardy.

So obviously this serves as a nice segue to deadlifts.

It’s no secret that I have an arguably unhealthy affinity towards deadlifts.  I love deadlifts, and feel there’s no exercise that comes close to providing as many benefits.

And as luck would have it, my friend, and soon to be married to the lovely Jen Sinkler, David Dellanave, talk about a super couple, just released his new product titled Off the Floor:  A Manual For Deadlift Domination.

As you can imagine when David reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in reading an advance copy, he had me at the word ‘dead.”  There was really no need for the lift part.

Now I’ve read my fair share of deadlifting manuals, and while I never grow tired of reading them, many of them often have the same message and it’s rare when I learn something new.

Looking into my own mirror I’ve been struggling to attain the lauded 600 lb deadlift for years now.  It’s a number that I’ve come close to – my best pull is 570 lbs – but for some reason, whether it’s due to some low back issue, stagnancy, fatigue, or any number of other things, I haven’t been able to achieve it.

It wasn’t until I read Dave’s manual where the whole idea of tripwires hit me over the head.

I know whenever I start to push the envelop and ramp up my DL training, I’ll inevitably hit a point where one of a few things happens:

1.  My back gives me the middle finger.

2.  I’m overcome by a drained feeling.

3.  I grow frustrated and end up pouting in the corner. *slams door*

The cool thing about Dave’s manual – and there are many – is the point he hammers home about Biofeedback.  In short:  unlike Van Halen, as much as you’d like to, you can’t feel like a rock star every single day of the week.  Likewise, you can’t always pull heavy (whether it’s heavy singles or doubles or triples) to the point where you shit a spleen and expect to make concerted progress.

Too, who says you always have to pull with the same variation? I know I tend to gravitate towards conventional pulling, but have been toying around with more of a narrow sumo stance lately and I love it.  On that topic, Dave himself has pulled 3x bodyweight in three separate deadlifting variations, including the Jefferson deadlift, at around 608 lbs.

Like, whoa.

Getting to the heart of the matter, what Dave’s manual taught me – other than how close minded I’ve been when it comes to listening to my body – is that I need to establish my own tripwires, and understand that getting better at deadlifting isn’t necessarily always about grinding out reps.

Deadifting more often (fluctuating frequency, and intensity) may be the answer for some, which is something he hits on in this manual extensively.

Choosing a different variation may be the answer as well.  As an example, I never really thought about choosing grip specific pulls like the Reeves deadlift to help work on weak links.

And maybe most important of all just learning to listen to your body.  Maybe you’re utilizing the wrong variation and that’s why your back hurts?  Maybe you’ve been training at a high(er) percentage for too long, and just need to ramp down the intensity?

Who knows – it could be anything!  But this manual really helped to shed some light on my own training, and I can only imagine it will help do the same for many who are reading this right now.

For more information, check out the link below. For a mere $49 it’s a steal. I promise it’s unlike anything you’ve read before.

–> Off the Floor: A Manual For Deadlift Domination <–

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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