Home Posts tagged "Powerlifting" (Page 8)

Excessive Dorsiflexion in Athletes

EricCressey.com Subscriber-only Q&A

Q:  I figure you would be a good person to ask about a question I have; it deals with excessive dorsiflexion and athletes.  Kelly Baggett was explaining how people with excessive dorsiflexion rarely are good athletes. He said it is related to hip position. Could you elaborate on the subject? A: As usual, Kelly is right on the money!  Why else would I have endorsed his Vertical Jump Development Bible last week?  I honestly wonder if the two of us are on some sort of wavelength with one another, as I think you could use our thoughts interchangeably in most cases!

To answer your question, if there is too much dorsiflexion at the ankles, it is generally a sign that you're not decelerating properly at the knees and hips, so the ankles are taking on an extra percentage of the load. I would suspect weakness of the knee and/or hip extensors.

To be honest, though, not many people are really capable of excessive dorsiflexion, as their calves are so tight. I suspect he's referring more to the fact that the heel is further off the ground and the knee is tracking forward too much as compensation (related to the quads being overactive, too).  If you look at the research on jump landings in female athletes, you’ll find that they land with considerably more knee flexion than their male counterparts.  We know that weak hamstrings are very common in females, and that this is one reason for their increased risk of anterior cruciate ligament injuries.  The hamstrings are hip extensors, meaning that they also decelerate hip flexion.  If they don’t have enough explosive and limit strength to control the drop of the hips upon landing, there’s no other option but to flex the knees extra to cushion the drop.  It’s an unfortunate trend that just plays back into the quad-dominance (deceleration of knee flexion). Obviously, dynamic flexibility plays into this tremendously, too. If you can't get ROM in one place, your body will seek it out elsewhere.

Q: I have an imbalance - one leg vs. the other. Do you suggest doing 100% unilateral leg-work for a while to cure the imbalance?

A: This is a tough one to answer; it's never as simple as "right and left." Generally, you'll see muscles on each side that are a bit stronger or weaker. For example, in right-handed individuals, they'll typically be stronger on lunging movements with the left leg forward. The left ITB/TFL, right quadratus lumborum, and right adductors will be tight, while the right hip abductors, left adductors, and left quadratus lumborum will be weak.*  There are more complex ramifications at the ankle and foot, too.  Often, the best way to address the unilateral imbalance in a broad sense is to figure out where people are tight/weak and address those issues. I've seen lunging imbalances corrected pretty easily with some extra QL work or pure stabilization work at the lumbar spine. The tricky thing about just doing extra sets on one side is that your body will often try to compensate for the imbalances. You might get the reps in, but are you really doing anything to even yourself out if you're just working around the dysfunction? This is just some stuff to consider.  I don't think doing more on that side will hurt, but it won't always get you closer to where to want to be.

*If you’re interested in learning more along these lines, I would highly recommend Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain (5th Ed.) by Kendall et al.  This is truly a classic text that every fitness professional should own.

Q:  I am a strongman competitor and am thinking about incorporating squat briefs into my training. I talked to a powerlifter buddy of mine and he said he would recommend briefs for max effort squats and deadlifts to keep the hips healthy. What do you think about this?

A: Well, my first observation is that you’re not going to be using the briefs in competition, are you?  Specificity is more important than people think; what’s specific for a powerlifter won’t necessarily be specific for a strongman.

However, given the nature of the training you’ll be doing (powerlifting-influenced), I wouldn’t rule the briefs out right away.  It depends on whether you're regularly box squatting and/or squatting with a wide stance.  If you are, I'd say that they're a good investment, and you could use them 1-2 weeks out of the month.

I would, however, caution against using them as a crutch against poor lifting technique.  There are a lot of guys who just throw on briefs because their hips hurt, not realizing that it isn't the specific exercise that is the problem; it's the performance of that exercise that gives them trouble.  For example, hamstring dominant hip extension/posterior pelvic tilt allows the femoral head to track too far anteriorly and can cause anterior hip pain.  If the glutes are activated appropriately, they reposition the head of the femur so that this isn't a problem.  Unfortunately, a good 80% of the population doesn't have any idea how to use their glutes for anything except a seat cushion.

Have a great week!


Read more

Newsletter #4

An Interview with Bob Youngs

As one of the best powerlifters in the world today, Bob Youngs has forgotten more than most lifters will ever know. Bob has more under-the bar-knowledge than almost anyone you'll meet, and just as importantly, he’s as down-to-Earth as they come. I’ve been working with Bob as he works to rehabilitate a few old powerlifting injuries, and in the process of interacting with him, I’ve come to realize just how much the strength and conditioning community is missing with this guy flying somewhat “under the radar.” Fortunately, he was more than willing to do this interview for us; enjoy!

EC: Hi Bob. Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

BY: Eric, it’s my pleasure. I have learned a lot from your Magnificent Mobility DVD as well as your articles. You have also been a huge help in trying to get me healthy.

EC: Let’s fill readers in a bit on your background. From our interaction, I’ve come to realize that people would be hard-pressed to find someone with as much experience under the bar as you. Our readers might not realize that, though; can you please fill them in on the Bob Youngs story a bit?

BY: I’ll start in the beginning. I started working out when I was 15 in 1985 and I haven’t stopped since. In high school and college, I trained to try and improve my abilities in sports. I played football, hockey, and baseball in high school. I then played just football in college. I ended up graduating with my degree in exercise science from Central Connecticut State University. I did my first powerlifting meet in February of 1991; so, I have been competing for 15 years now.

In 1996, I moved to Columbus, OH and began to train at the Westside Barbell Club under the tutelage of Louie Simmons. That is where I really started to learn about strength training. At Westside, you not only have Louie to learn from, but guys like Dave Tate, Chuck Vogelpohl, Amy Weisberger, and all of the rest of the guys. You also had people like Kent Johnson, Chris Doyle, and the late Mel Siff stopping in to see what we were doing. In 2000, I moved to Florida and started my own private powerlifting gym that I named the Southside Barbell Club. Southside Barbell has produced eight lifters who have totaled ELITE in the sport of powerlifting. Since 1999, I have been helping out lifters on the Q&A at Elite Fitness Systems.

EC: We have a lot of up-and-coming lifters, trainers, and strength coaches on our subscriber lists, so I’m sure that they’d love to hear where you looked for education and inspiration as you ascended the powerlifting ranks. Who were your biggest influences?

BY: My biggest influence is Lou Simmons. He has more knowledge than anyone I have ever met. Lou is also one of the kindest guys you’ll ever meet; I have an incredible amount of respect for him and he is so willing to help anyone. Dave Tate is another person who has helped me more than I could ever repay him for. I hated Dave when I first met him, but I got to know him better and he is now one of my best friends in life and lifting. The person who helps me the most with my training now is Jim Wendler. I bounce my ideas off Jim and he helps me separate the good ones from the stupid ones. I often tell people that Dave is the big brother I never had and Jim is the little brother I never had.

As far as reading materials go, I have been reading a lot of articles by Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Robertson, Michael Hope, and you lately. I seem to be really getting hurt a lot recently and I have had to spend a lot of time learning about mobility, flexibility, program design and rehab.

My inspiration comes from many people.  My girlfriend, Michele Stanek, really helps keep me focused. She helps me deal with the highs and lows through which a lifter goes. My son, Chris, is an inspiration to me in a way that can be hard to explain. I guess the easiest way to explain how Chris motivates me is to say I know I need to do everything right because he is watching my example. It may seem like a cliché, but I want him to grow up and be a better man that I am. In order for him to do that, I have to show him how through my actions and not my words. My mother has always been my biggest fan. I think she has been to every meet I have ever done. She was also at every game in which I played while I was growing up. My mother is a breast cancer and leukemia survivor and has been through a bone marrow transplant. My parents moved down to Florida and live a couple of miles away from us now; so, I get to see my Mom a lot. She lives with pain every day, and in the process, has shown me what true determination is. My mother never gave up – no matter how bad things got – and it make me realize that I have the greatest mother in the world. I am who I am in large part because of her. Thanks, Mom!

EC: They say that experience is the only thing that can truly yield perspective; I’d say that you’re a perfect example of that. Speaking of experience, what were some of the mistakes you’ve made along the way, and what would you do differently?

BY: I’m not even sure where to start on this one. The easiest way to explain this would be to quote Alwyn Cosgrove, “A complete training program has to include movement preparation, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardiovascular work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration. Most programs cover, at best, two of those.”

My program only included strength training and some core work for the longest time, and I am now paying for that with chronic injuries. Now, I have had to learn about the other parts that I was missing; the more I incorporate this stuff, the better I feel. However, 15 years of not doing what I should have been doing has really cost me. I have torn my pec major, triceps tendon, intercostal, and biceps tendon. I also currently have a bulging disk in my lower back.

Could all these have been avoided? Probably not all of them, but I think some of them could have. If I had to name the biggest mistakes, it would be not using a foam roller and not doing any mobility work. In the two months I have been using the foam roller my tissue quality has improved dramatically. I have been doing mobility work, under your guidance, for about a month and I have seen some incredible improvements.

EC: I know you’re an avid student of the iron game, and read loads of books and watch every DVD you can get your hands on. What are the top ten “must-have” selections from the Bob Youngs library of books and DVDs?


1) Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatsiorsky

2) Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance by McGill

3) Science of Sports Training by Kurz

4) The Westside Barbell videos by Simmons

5) Magnificent Mobility DVD by Cressey and Robertson

6) Encyclopedia of Kettlebell Lifting DVD by Cotter

7) Sports Restoration and Massage by Yessis and Siff

8 ) Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey

9) Under the Bar by Tate

10) Supertraining by Siff

I put “Supertraining” last because it is the hardest and I feel the others will help you understand it better.

EC: In addition to learning outside the gym, right off the top of your head, what are five things that our readers can do right now to become a better lifters, athletes, coaches, and/or trainers.


1) A good program must include: movement prep, flexibility work, injury prevention work, core work, cardio work, strength training, and recovery/regeneration work. Does that sound familiar? In other words, construct programs that incorporate all aspects.

2) Read one book per week. If you ever come over to my house you will see hundreds of books. I shoot for one new book per week.

3) Network within your given sport or profession. If you are a powerlifter, seek out lifters stronger than you and learn from them. If you are a strength coach, seek out another coach you think has something to offer that you don’t have. You get the idea. Most people are willing to share information if you ask them; this is usually the way you will learn the most.

4) Work smarter. Many people work hard; what makes a person the best at any given task is usually working smarter.

5) Have properly defined and realistic goals, and write them down. I am shocked by the amount of athletes and coaches who have one broad goal and no steps to get there. Set a big goal and then break it down into smaller goals. I will use a powerlifter as an example. I hear all the time, “I want to squat 800 pounds.” That’s great, but how do you get there? If you have a current max of 500, your next small goal might be to squat 550. Then, you break that down further to knowing you need to hit X on a given max effort exercise. Now, you have a goal every time you go into the gym.

EC: Awesome points. Far too many people set themselves up for failure with lofty goals that aren’t built on a foundation of specific objectives. What does a typical training week look like for you?

BY: Every weekday morning, I start the day by doing my foam roller work, mobility work, and a bike ride. I make sure I have been awake an hour to allow for the spinal fluid to properly drain from my back (read McGill!) prior to starting to train.

  • Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays are non-weight training days for me. I do some stretching, core work, and walking on these days.
  • Tuesday is my bench assistance night; I actually do this workout at home with some stuff I have in the garage. I do various pushups and kettlebell work for the shoulders, traps, and biceps.
  • Thursday is a gym day, but it is still pretty low-key. I do some lat work, pull-throughs, kettlebell swings, and a single-leg movement. My single-leg movements are reverse lunges, walking lunges, step-ups, and Bulgarian split squats.
  • Saturday is my max effort bench day. I do a max effort movement, a high board press or rack lockouts, some type of row, and end with some type of dumbbell press for reps.
  • Sunday is my squat and deadlift day. One week, I do dynamic work for the squat and deadlift and the next week I do max effort work for the squat and deadlift. My assistance work on Sundays is neck, glute-ham raises, and a single-leg movement again.

I know this is quite different from what most people view as the standard “Westside” template, but this is just how my training has evolved. This schedule allows me to get in the recuperation time I need, and it seems to be working well for me.

EC: I know that you’ve recently taken a new outlook on your powerlifting career. Please fill our readers in on what’s next for you on the competition scene and where you see yourself in the next few years with powerlifting.

BY: I have decided to move down to the 242-pound weight class. I have been competing at both the 275s and 308s recently; my heaviest bodyweight was 305. I am currently weighing around 247 or so. I decided to do this for health reasons; my blood pressure and cholesterol weren’t that great when I was 290 pounds. The new diet actually has been pretty fun, as it has added a new dimension to my life. For people who say it easier to be a big fat powerlifter, it has been easier for me to keep my weight down than it was to keep it up.

I’m going to compete in June at 242 for the first time since 1996. I won’t be completely healthy, but I am looking forward to putting up some decent numbers. I’ll then look to do a meet in December at 242; hopefully, I’ll be all healed up by that time. I’m hoping to beat my all time best total in any weight class at that time.

Beyond that, I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I love the sport of powerlifting, and have since day one. I still enjoy going to the gym and working hard. I like to think I have gotten smarter over the years and I’m hoping that helps me be an even better lifter at a lighter bodyweight.

EC: Great information as always, Bob; thanks for joining us! Where can readers go to keep track of you?

BY: Thank you for having me Eric. I had a lot of fun. I can be reached at the EliteFTS Q&A.

Another week in the books; see you next Tuesday, everyone.

Until then, train hard and have fun!


Read more

Newsletter #3

In this update, we’ve got review of Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training as well as an interview with Jay Floyd.

Product Review: Science and Practice of Strength Training

I get a lot of emails from up-and-coming coaches and ordinary weekend warriors who are enthusiastic about learning more about how to design their own programs, but are absolutely awestruck and confused by Supertraining.  It’s a phenomenal book, but it isn’t exactly one with which you want to get your feet wet if you’re new to the strength and conditioning education scene.  As such, these individuals often ask me if I have a suggestion for a comparable book that is more user-friendly.  I immediately recommend Vladimir Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training.

Admittedly, this book is technical at times, but that’s not to say that you will not be able to think it out.  And, because the ability to think critically is crucial to successful program design, you’ll be better off in the long run when it comes time to write programs for your athletes, clients, and yourself.  Zatsiorsky won’t spoon-feed you cookie-cutter routines, but he will outline which methods do and do not work – and, just as importantly, why they succeeded or failed.

You’ll receive a comprehensible interpretation of decades of carefully logged training journals of elite Soviet athletes; no Western training system has such a substantial and carefully documented pool from which to draw training insights.  The Science and Practice of Strength Training should be on the bookshelf of every coach, sports scientist, and trainer – as well as those of intermediate and advanced lifters looking to get to the next level.

An Interview with Jay Floyd

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jay Floyd, I would highly recommend searching around for some of his stuff and familiarizing yourself with his name.  In addition to being one of the most accomplished lifters and knowledgeable and passionate coaches around, Jay is a rare breed in the strength and conditioning world: a genuinely good guy.  He understands that he’s developing people as much as he’s developing athletes, and he’ll always take the time to help out up-and-coming lifters.  I know because three years ago, I was one of those lifters.  I was on the fence about whether or not to get into powerlifting, and my discussions with Jay were a huge deciding factor in me making the jump into competitive lifting.  He made me realize that I couldn’t ever be the coach that I wanted to be unless I was doing my best to walk a mile in my athletes’ shoes, and to do so, I needed to get back the competitive mindset I had when I was involved in athletics as I grew up.  Simply stated, I owe him a lot.

EC: Hi Jay; thanks for taking the time to be with us today.  We’ve interacted a lot over the years, but I’m not a lot of our readers are familiar with you and your accomplishments.  By all means, bring them up to speed by taking a few paragraphs to brag about yourself!

JF: Well I played football, baseball, and threw the shot put in track in high school, and I have always loved lifting weights.  I started lifting in my room when I was 12 years old; I would crank up “Too Legit To Quit” and lift like crazy.  My dedication to lifting really paid off early for me, as I was able to start at tight end as a sophomore in the toughest classification in Georgia. I went on to be a three-year starter on the football team, was Team Captain, Best Offensive Lineman, Weight Champ, and all those things. I even got to play in the Georgia Dome my senior year.

After high school, I only had a couple of walk-on opportunities because of my height (6ft.), so I decided to just go to school and not play football.  While in school, I got a degree in Exercise Science and immersed myself in learning as much as I could about strength and conditioning.  During this time I also started powerlifting; now, my current best lifts are an 845 squat, 535 bench, 640 deadlift and 2000 total in the 275lb class.

EC: Great stuff, Jay; what are you up to now?

JF: I am now the Strength and Conditioning and Offensive Line Coach at Alexander High School in Douglasville, GA.

When I got here less than two years ago, we only had three 400-pound squatters, zero 300-pound bench pressers, and two over 250 pounds in the power clean. At our last high school powerlifting meet, we ended up with nine 400-pound squatters, three 500-pound squatters, six 300-pound benchers, one 400-pound bencher, and six over 250 in the power clean.  My best lifter did an APC meet last weekend and squatted 650, benched 451, and deadlifted 551 at age 18 at body weight of 260.  All these lifts were done in old single-ply gear; the squat suit he used was my four-year old Metal IPF squatter, which is actually loose on me at 285!

I have written articles for Bodybuilding.com, Athletes.com, and Elitefts.com.  I am also in the works with Landon Evans on something in football that should be interesting and I have developed some exercises with bands that should change the way I coach my offensive lineman in football.

EC: I can speak from experience that coaching entire teams isn’t an easy thing to do, so I’ve got a ton of respect for what you do with your high school kids.  What are the challenges you face on a daily basis in this setting, and how do you overcome them?

JF: Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is lack of support from the other coaches and administration.  Because the school day is so full, the only time you can work with athletes is during a weight training class.  Unfortunately, our administration is not committed to putting our athletes in those classes; this lack of support is actually one of the reasons that I will not be back at this school next year.

We also face problems with the coaches of other sports. Many are ignorant to conditioning and this makes my job very difficult.  They do not stress the importance of lifting and getting stronger to the kids and that makes it tough for me to sell the program to their kids.  For most football players, it isn’t a problem, but basketball and baseball are different stories, though.  The overspecialization is killing the athletes in this country, but no one wants to see it.  A lot of really bright coaches have beaten this horse to death, so I won’t go into it any further.

Another problem I have is more is my fault entirely.  Because I compete in powerlifting, some coaches believe that this is the way we I train my kids year-round.  Although we do have elements of a traditional Westside Barbell program, their training looks nothing like mine.  However, for people who do not know the difference, it looks the same.

EC: What does a typical day in the life of Jay Floyd look like?

JF: I wake up between 5:30 and 6AM, and eat right away.  I will go to the gym and train fellow coaches, football players, and powerlifters until 8AM.  At about 8:15AM, I will start the movements from your Magnificent Mobility DVD and start to lift around 8:45AM.  I am usually done by 10:00AM, but I may do accessories throughout the day when I find the time.  I am in classes from 10:20AM until 3:30PM. If it is football season, practice starts at 4PM and I am there until about 7-7:30PM.  If it’s not football season, I hang around for a bit and then go home.  I just got married, so now the afternoons are reserved for my wife.

EC: I’m sure that - like all of us – you’ve made some mistakes along the way.  What were a few of those mistakes, and how did you turn them into positive learning experiences that benefited your athletes and you as a lifter?

JF: The biggest mistake I have made is not paying attention to mobility.  I am stuck playing catch-up now and it is much more difficult to backtrack than it is to build it in the first place and then maintain it.  I stress this heavily with my athletes now; we do mobility work of some sort every single day.

In my own training, going overboard with bands really hurt my strength.  I neglected my straight weight and raw work for too long my squat and deadlift really suffered. In fact, I just wrote an article called "Starting Strength" for EliteFTS.com about this very subject.

EC: Along those same lines, who in the industry has helped to make you the lifter and coach that you are today?  To whom have you looked for inspiration?

JF: A guy in this field is a liar if he doesn’t say that Louie Simmons has been the one of his biggest influences; I would not be where I am today if not for Louie Simmons, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, and the rest of the guys at Westside Barbell and Elite Fitness Systems.  I only know Jim personally, but they have all helped me and been more than generous with their time and money.  Also, guys like you, Landon Evans, Steve Coppola, Jared Bruff, Donnie Thompson, Marc Bartley, and the other guys at the Compound in South Carolina have helped me tremendously with my powerlifting technigue and gear. Your Mobility DVD has been unbelievable for me.  Landon Evans is always there with brilliant ideas, and Steve Coppola and Jesse Burdick are the same way.  Jared Bruff has been a great friend to me over the past four years, as we’ve done many meets together and he has been my handler at most of them; I would not have done as well as I have if not for him.  Joe DeFranco has probably influenced my program design the most; I have done variations of his programs with my kids with great results.  I also have tons of respect for James Smith, and Jason Ferruggia has been great to me as well.  Those are the kind of people that make this business so great.

And I would be a terrible person if I did not mention my training partners for the past two years.  Clay Livingston, Joey Strickland, and Rich Fendley have pulled more bars off of me than I can count.  I especially want to thank Clay; he has been my constant training partner for the last two years. Of course, I have to thank my wife, too; she has pushed me in powerlifting more than anybody.  It is great to have that kind of support and love at home for what you do.  The best hug I ever received was when she came to the back to hug me after I totaled Elite for the first time; I think she was happier than I was!

EC: How about “book smarts?”  We also all our interviewees what their top ten book and DVD choices are; if you had to pick ten, what would they be?

JF: I think reading and constantly learning is extremely important. If you learn one thing that can help you, then it has been worth it.  I read more articles than I do books.  Books tend to be out-of-date very quickly, while articles are more current.  I do think it is somewhat important to be knowledgeable about the human body and its functions; this knowledge enables you to see through many gimmicks right away.  For instance, I had one guy tell me that he heard squats were great because they release acids that are stored in your glutes; I am not kidding.  Now, this is an otherwise very smart guy, but this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Anybody with any fundamental appreciation of how the human body works knows that this is completely insane.  This basic knowledge also allows you to see through most supplements and save money.

My favorite books and videos?  That’s a tough one.  I read a ton of books that have nothing to do with strength and conditioning, so I might put a couple of those in there as well.

EC: No problem; we’re all about variety around here.  If it helped you, it’s sure to help someone else.  Shoot.

JF: In no particular order:

  1. The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
  2. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  3. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
  4. High/Low Sequences of Programming and Organizing of Training by James Smith
  5. The Westside Seminar DVDs
  6. Magnificent Mobility by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson
  7. The Parisi DVDs
  8. The Elite Fitness Exercise Index DVDs
  9. The Fair Tax Book by Neil Boortz
  10. The Terrible Truth About Liberals by Neil Boortz

EC: Some interesting stuff in there, Jay.  Not many guys can please Billy Graham, Bob Doyle, and Dave Tate in the same breath, but I’d say that you passed the test with flying colors!  Thanks again for taking the time; where can our readers find out more about you?

JF: I’m not up-to-date enough to have a website or anything, but I will hopefully have more articles up on Elitefts.com, and Landon Evans has something in the works as well.  I can be reached at Goldberg_rjf@hotmail.com. Thanks for giving me this opportunity, Eric.

That does it for Newsletter #3; thanks for stopping by for another week.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com.   As always, if you have a friend who you think would like our free newsletter, please feel free to pass this on and encourage them to Sign Up.

Read more

Big Bad Bands

Ask any successful lifter what works best, and he’s likely going to tell you that anything will work, but not forever. With that in mind, it’s imperative for all lifters to have an extensive toolbox from which to draw when it comes to building size and strength. Everyone knows about free weights. Bodyweight-only training has been around for centuries. We’ve got Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley trying to sell Total Gyms, and Tony Little screaming in our ears about his damn Gazelle. However, not many people are preaching the virtues of training with resistance bands – most likely because people aren’t aware of how versatile a set of implements they are. Continue Reading...
Read more

An Interview with Bob Youngs

As one of the best powerlifters in the world today, Bob Youngs has forgotten more than most lifters will ever know. He has more under the bar knowledge than almost anyone you'll meet, and just as importantly, he’s as down to earth as they come. I’ve been working with Bob as he works to rehabilitate a few old powerlifting injuries. In the process of interacting with him, I’ve come to realize just how much the strength and conditioning community is missing with this guy flying somewhat “under the radar.” Fortunately, he was more than willing to do this interview for us. Enjoy! Continue Reading...
Read more

An Interview with Eric Cressey

Eric Cressey has certainly made a name for himself in the short time that he’s been around the strength and conditioning circuit. This can be attributed to two reasons; he is smart on and off the platform. After receiving his master’s degree from the University of Connecticut, Eric continues to help athletes as well as being a contributor to T-Nation and Men’s Fitness. He is no slouch on the platform either. Eric lifts in the 165lbs weight class and has a 518 squat, a 342 bench press, and he has pulled 601. His best total is 1461. Eric has some great ideas and thoughts; now read and learn. Continue Reading...
Read more

Healing the Hips

Ask any powerlifter what his most important joint is, and he’ll promptly answer “the hips.” The hips provide strength and stability in all three lifts. If you’re weak at the hips, you’re not going to do much on the platform. The same goes for all other athletes. The posterior chain is crucial for athletic success.

Continue Reading...

Read more

Frequent Pulling for Faster Progress: 12 Weeks to a Bigger Deadlift

The deadlift is the bastard child of powerlifting; it doesn’t get much love. Maybe it’s the fact that the deadlift is less impacted by equipment than are the squat and bench press, so it may require less practice. Or, it might just be vilified because lifts 7-9 of a powerlifting meet feel like cardio after a long day of lifting. Finally, it may be that many lifters and coaches hold that the deadlift is best trained indirectly, and that the chips will just fall into place if you focus on squats, good mornings, and plenty of assistance work. While this may be the case in some instances, there are also quite a few lifters who have made tremendous progress with more frequent pulling, and that’ll be my focus in this article.

Up until this past July 30, I was a member of the “leave it alone” crowd. All that changed between August and November of this year, though. Going into AWPC Worlds this past summer, my best pull was 556.5 at a body weight of 163. It’s not a tremendous pull, by my own admission, but it was good enough for a Powerlifting USA Top 50 ranking. In preparing for Worlds, I had what I thought was a very productive training cycle; both my squat and bench felt great, and I expected the pull to just come along for the ride and magically improve. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I wound up going out and pulling 567.5 at 164. It was a PR, but I was anything but content with it. Very simply, I felt like crap when the time came to pull. In my mind, there was no excuse for me to not be ready when the time came – especially as a lightweight (who are expected to recover faster between lifts than their heavier counterparts). My opener should have been speed weight, but it came up slower than expected.

My second attempt (567.5) was a good six-second grinder. At this point, I was completely gassed; I practically needed a hit of ammonia just to get out of my chair and up to the platform for attempt #3. Needless to say, I missed the lift after getting it to about mid-shin; I didn’t have anything left to grind it out. In spite of taking home the junior lightweight best lifter trophy, I beat myself up on the inside for the entire flight home from Chicago that night. This flight actually turned out to be one of the most productive two hours of my training career, though, as I mapped out my plan for the subsequent 12-week training cycle.

The end result? A 6% improvement in 12 weeks; I wound up pulling an easy 601 on my third attempt in November, leaving a good 15-20 pounds on the platform – all after setting PR’s on my squat and bench press. So, it wasn’t inconceivable to think that the template I outline below added 10% to my pull in a single 12-week training cycle.

Outlining a Solution

There are seven basic tenets for the program:

1. On the whole, pull more frequently. Specificity of training is more important than you think; it takes practice to fine-tune your set-up and movement execution.

2. Pull for speed after your dynamic effort squats for the first three weeks of the month.

3. During these three weeks, your first assistance exercise on max effort squat/deadlift day should be a deadlift variation.

4. In the fourth week of each month, your max effort squat/deadlift movement will be a deadlift variation in order to allow you to monitor progress. The other three weeks should be squat and good morning variations.

5. Learn to pull in a state of fatigue – which is exactly what happens in competition.

6. Make sure to do your DES/D session before your MES/D session in the weekly training split. For example, I do my dynamic work on Sunday morning and my max effort work on Wednesday night.

7. Overall training stress – a function of volume, intensity, exercise complexity, and a number of other factors – should be fluctuated from week to week using the following format: high, medium, very high, low.

I’ve made some modifications to suit the unique needs of different lifters. As a lifter whose sticking point is at lockout, I focus more on accommodating resistance. Lifters who tend to have problems off the floor would be best off with pulls from a deficit, as I’ve noted in parenthesis to allow you to modify the program as needed. Keep in mind that the pulling below was just one component of my program; I was also doing squat and good morning variations, GHR’s, single-leg movements, and plenty of core work.

12 Week Deadlift Program

Week 1: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (if you’re weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the bands). Bar Weight = 50%, 10 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 3 sets of 4 (work up to them; they should be heavy).

I used a controlled bounce between reps, as I am weak at the top. Those who are weak off the floor should pause between reps.

Week 2: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (if you’re weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the bands). Bar Weight = 55%, 8 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 2 sets of 3 (work up).

Same guidelines as noted above.

Week 3: Very High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Bands (for those who are weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the chains). Bar Weight = 60%, 12 sets of 1.

Note: These last few sets shouldn’t feel much like speed in light of the higher percentage of 1RM, considerable band tension, and accumulated fatigue.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts (wearing straps is fine). 4 sets of 4 (aim to use work weight from week 2).

Same guidelines as noted above.

The goal with week three is to dip into your reserves considerably, so a run-down feeling is to be expected at week’s end and into the first 4-5 days of week 4. Remember that fatigue masks fitness; the idea is to deload considerably in the early part of week 4 so that your system will recuperate to the point of being able to demonstrate its true fitness by later in the week - when you’ll test your max.

Week 4: Low Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No pulling (easy day).

Max Effort - MES/D: Main Movement should be a deadlift variation (e.g. competition pull, altered stance, reverse band deadlift, deadlift against bands/chains, or deadlift from a deficit).

Omit first assistance movement (Snatch Grip Deadlifts) from weeks 1-3.

Week 5: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Chains (for those who are weak off the floor, drop one set of chains and perform these while standing on a 2-4” step). Bar Weight = 55%, 10 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Rack Pulls (just below kneecaps for those with lockout problems; mid-shin height for those who are weak off the floor). 3 sets of 5.

Week 6: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls vs. Chains (for those who are weak off the floor, perform these while standing on a 2-4” step and eliminate the chains). Bar Weight = 60%, 8 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Rack Pulls (just below kneecaps for those with lockout problems; mid-shin height for those who are weak off the floor), 3 sets of 4.

Same guidelines as noted above.

Week 7: Very High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: Speed Pulls – no chains, from the floor (regardless of your weakness). Bar Weight = 65%, 12 sets of 1.

Max Effort - MES/D: First Assistance Movement: Snatch Grip Deadlifts, 4 sets of 5 (aim to use weight from week 6).

Same guidelines as noted above.

Here, we’re still imposing a significant amount of fatigue, but we don’t want any spillover to the last deadlift test (end of week 8) prior to the meet. As such, we’ve swapped bands for chains, eliminated accommodating resistance altogether in week 7, and limited the total work done on our assistance deadlift movement (less distance to pull with rack pulls). You’ll still probably feel run-down, but it shouldn’t be as bad as it was after week 3.

Week 8: Low Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Last Heavy Pull – Competition Deadlift test (with or without suit, depending on how you pull). As a general rule of thumb, the last heavy pull should be no less than 21 days out from competition. I go with four weeks to err on the side of caution.

Week 9: High Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No Pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Speed Pulls – No Accommodating Resistance (test with suit, if you wear one). Bar Weight: 55%, 8 sets of 1.

Week 10: Medium Volume

Dynamic Effort - DES/D: No Pulling.

Max Effort - MES/D: Speed Pulls – No Accommodating Resistance. Bar Weight: 50%.

Week 11: Very High Volume

No Pulling.

Week 12: Rest End of Week 12


Closing Thoughts

Regardless of why so many powerlifters place it on the back burner, the fact remains that the pounds accumulated on the deadlift count just as much as those amassed on the squat and bench press. Sure, thousands of lifters have seen great results by avoiding deadlifts, but that’s not to say that there aren’t thousands more who can benefit tremendously from more pulling; there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you’re searching for a new strategy – especially if you notice you’re dragging when lifts 7-9 roll around on meet day – give this template a shot and let me know how it works out for you.

Note: if you're looking for more options for specializing on certain lifts over the course of a powerlifting training cycle, I'd encourage you to check out The Specialization Success Guide, which includes detailed plans to bring along the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a four-part video series on how to deadlift!

Read more

35 Reasons to Love South Side Gym

A few years ago, Billy Mimnaugh wrote an article for EliteFTS about the South Side Gym in Stratford, Connecticut. In 2004, I got into powerlifting, and last summer, I moved to the southern Connecticut area after finishing my master’s degree at the University of Connecticut. Logically, one of the first things I did was get in with the South Side crew. I was more than happy to make the one hour drive for each training session, as I knew it would help my total. In the past eight months, I’ve gone from a 1,388 total to a 1,532 total at 165 lbs. In essence, I’m a perfect example of what a great training environment can do for someone.

Continue Reading...

Read more

My New Favorite Exercise

Read more
Page 1 6 7 8 9 10
  • Avoid the most common deadlifting mistakes
  • 9 - minute instructional video
  • 3 part follow up series