Increasing the Deadlift without Deadlifting

Why the Deadlift?
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As I get older, one of the most functional, and therefore, important to practice lifts, is the deadlift. Snatches and the clean and jerk are great too, but reaching down to haul a ton of weight off the ground has proved to be the most beneficial movement for me and continues to be so.

At my last house, I had a huge garage and a nice open backyard, and there was plenty of room for barbells and throwing them around. The new place? Not so much. 

Since I hate going to the gym, this has meant that I haven’t been doing much barbell training in the last couple years. Instead I’ve grown my collection of kettlebells, clubs, maces, sand bags, etc.
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The funny thing is, despite not deadlifting for over 3 years, I walked into my son’s boxing gym, tired and sick, and pulled 265, only 40 pounds less than my last max 3 years ago. (I know, HUGE numbers.)

Having only recently gotten back on track with my strength training, this not unpleasant result made me wonder, how much could I increase my deadlift without actually deadlifting a barbell? 

After all, athletes of Westside Barbell (westside-barbell.com) do tons of assistance work for their lifts. By comparison they perform the actual lifts about once a week. Louie Simmons is religious about developing a solid foundation to build on, literally.

I started the program with the idea of using the following exercises as a base: 
  • Weighted and unweighted dead hangs to improve grip strength and endurance. 
  • Kettlebells for building hip power and the vital muscle and power in the hamstrings and glutes. 
  • Atlas Stone lifts, including the triple extension (what the strongmen do in comps) and good mornings.
  • Finally, I would use sand bags to approximate the biomechanics of the deadlift, while still not actually deadlifting.


Additional exercises may include things like reverse hypers, hyperextensions, and good mornings with a sandbag or dumbbells, as well as various planks and even reverse prayer style sit-ups.

So one of the first workouts looked like this:

Warm-up:

  • Joint rotations
  • Over-Unders
  • Bodyweight good mornings


Workout:

  • KB Swings. Starting at 44# and working up to 70# for max reps (higher if it gets light, or buy a heavier kettlebell.)
  • Sandbag deadlift (gripping either end on the length) 3-5 x 3-5. Not to failure.
  • Deadhangs from a pullup bar (shoulders engaged) for time, adding weight as necessary ( I use a backpack with weight.) 3-5 sets or until a time limit is reached, 5 minutes for example.


This was heavier than it looks, at least for me, so I planned on doing this 2x a week at most.

By the end of the first week I had already deviated from it. The second workout was:

Warm up, as described above, then:

Double kb swings @53#
Double kb cleans @53#
Ring pullups for strict form x2-3

It had been a busy couple of days and the body was shot, so I felt like I was moving twice the weight. After about 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps in each, and 2-3 sets of pullups immediately following, I was done.

Somewhere in there I remember throwing in some situps and Pavel planks (clenching every muscle while in the plank.)

First Deadlift Max Check 


My plan was to check my max on the deadlift every 2 weeks, but last night I found myself in the boxing gym, feeling more energetic than I had in days. After some warm-up stretching and a rope climb, I loaded the bar. I did:
The old rusty outdoor barbell. Extinct.

225#x3
265#x2
285#x1

The first 2 sets were not hard. That wasn't my intention. I probably could've done 5 or 6 reps at 225# and even after 285#, an increase of 20# in one week, I felt like I could have pulled a few more pounds.

Still, this was an improvement, and it makes me think I might just check in on my max every week, instead of every 2.

So just how much weight do I want to pull in the deadlift? 

My goal is to hit 405 within 2 months. Which will give me no more than 4 actual deadlift sessions, all consisting of max lift attempts. 

This week the work continues, so keep checking back as I update my progress.



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