Deadlifting Program for Kuips

One of my friends is a successful bodybuilder and powerlifter. Currently he is focusing on his powerlifting performance. To start he is probably the greatest self-taught athlete I have met. There is a neurological concept known as “mirror neurons”, which is that people can watch someone perform a movement and then after just watching someone can do it themselves. This guy is one of those people who can currently squat over 700 lbs. and still do a back flip (which he taught himself to do). He is an incredible athlete, we wrestled once and he shot in on a single leg so fast that literally in the time it took me to sprawl (meaning throw myself at the ground to try and squash him as he did so) he was able to keep running underneath me and get on the other side of me before I hit the ground. I’ll always remember getting up and spinning around and there he is standing ready to shoot in again (he’s also taller than me), insane.

Another thing about him is his incredible work ethic. The first three times my wife met him she asked: “does he always puke?” This is because he came over to my apartment complex and we pushed the prowler. So getting him to work hard is not an issue. The issue with him instead is to make sure that we don’t train maximally, but we train optimally. So even though there will be a list here, the goal is to just try one or another element for a few weeks and then test how it worked at his meet. Then if it didn’t work add in some new elements before his next meet.

So enough gushing about his athleticism. He is currently chasing a 700+ lbs. deadlift. Now, he has a great body for strength sports, but no real gifts for the deadlift (i.e. long arms like I have). After chatting on the phone for a bit it seems his weak point is breaking the bar off of the ground. Meaning if he can get the bar off the ground he can finish the lift. He trains lower body about three times per week with a squat day, deadlift day, and a volume day (bodybuilding day). So my goal is to give him some exercise ideas to put in to his current training that will hopefully get him to break that barrier. So here are the exercise ideas for each day:

Deadlift day:

Seated box jumps: Between each set of heavy deads have him sit on a box that is between 12-18” and jump up to a box. Aim for either 10 sets of 1, 5 sets of 3, or 8 sets of 2. Aim to jump to a challenging box, but no need to go too crazy off the bat. Think start with a week of 5×3 and on week three do the 10×1 as a peaking cycle. Before each jump relax your legs on the ground and shoot hard from the start. (Part of my reason for putting this on here is to see him put videos of himself doing these since I’m sure his box height will get pretty crazy pretty fast.)

Deficit deadlifts – pull when standing on a one to two inch block and work up to a 3-5 RM (at most) making sure to pause the bar on the ground between each rep.

Pause deadlifts – the goal here is to stand on a one inch platform and pause the weights just slightly off the ground for about 3-5 seconds and then lift the bar. Think set up strong and use your legs to just break the bar off the ground and hold/find your strongest position at that point. Do this for sets of 5-10 reps (2-4 sets). Do this after your main pull movement.

RDLs – sets of 5-10 with either one top set or up to three heavy sets. With his flexibility the goal will be to do this on blocks so he can get a huge range, might even want to do this with his sumo stance (if he wants to compete sumo) otherwise use the same stance as he uses with his conventional deads.

GHRS (glute ham raises) – These will be done with a bar on the back or holding on to a heavy weight infront of the body. Goal here is sets of 6-10 and 3-5 sets of it. Try and push the poundage each workout on this.  Feel free to put this on your leg volume day. If this gets too easy then switch this to Russian leg curls.

Reverse hypers – Don’t just do this movement for speed, but try to do it deliberately slowly on the concentric and eccentric (sets of 10-20 reps). It will be humbling, but it will help with massively increasing your strength in this area. Do this on the days that are the farthest from your heavy squat or deads day so your low back can recover before you pull heavy again.

Ab wheel work – do this for sets of 10-20 reps and throw a weight vest on or plates on your back if this gets to be too easy.

Hanging leg raises or GHR sit ups: add weight accordingly. Perhaps use ankle weights or hold a medball for the leg raises and use a weight plate for the GHR sit ups.

Squat day:

This will come with some different choices depending on what he is looking to compete with stance wise in the deadlift. If he wants to compete his conventional deadlift use these two:

Olympic stance pause squats – place the bar high on your upper back and use a narrow stance. Sit down to parallel or below parallel and pause for three to five seconds and then fire up hard out of the hole.

Front squats – pretty straight forward here. Just front squat the weights.

For the sumo deadlift go with these options:

Wide stance Anderson squats – set the bar on the rack or hanging from chains at about the height of your belly button or waist line. Then squat underneath the bar get in to your wide stance position and from there squat it up. This sucks very badly.

Cossack squats (sometimes called lateral lunges) – throw a chain on your upper back or a barbell and just alternate legs doing wide stance lateral lunges. Your goal is to not stand up between each rep, but keep switching back and forth from one side to the other. This is more aiming to improve your mobility than anything else.

Further note on squat choices: You can just use the safety squat bar for either movement since it pretty much destroys worlds in my opinion. In that if you build that movement it tends to carryover to just about anything that you try (or at least it has in my world). Give it a shot if you like. Also, using the Bulgarian split squat (BSS) for high reps (sets of 10 reps) tends to give good carryover in my recent training experience, but it is meant to be trained for more hypertrophy than maximal strength. (Bulgarian split squat is where you put your rear foot on a bench and do a movement very similar to a lunge. I’m a fan of doing it with either a barbell in the front rack or high bar position, or use heavy dumbbells for it.

Quick example on the programming side:

Deadlift Day

Week Seated jumps Deficit Pauses RDLs Leg raises Reverse Hypers
Week 1 5×3 3×5 4×10 5×20 3×20
Week 2 8×2 Add weight 3×4 5×10 Add weight 5×15 3×15
Week 3 10-12×1 Add weight 3×3 Shoot for 10RM Add weight 5×10 3×12
Week 4 Deload 3×5 1×5 2-3×10 5×10 2×20

 

Squat Day

Week Olympic Pause Squats Front Squats Ab wheel BSS GHRs
Week 1 5×5 4×6 5×20 3×10 3×12
Week 2 4×5 3×6 Add weight 5×15 3×12 3×10
Week 3 5×5 4×5 Add weight 5×10 3×10 3×8
Week 4 Deload 2-3×5 2×5 3-5×10 2×15 BW 2×12

 

Wrap up

All of these movements can be modified to fit his needs. I’m just trying to come up with some ideas to help with the start of the bar off of the floor. Keep in mind his technique (from what I’ve seen) is sound, so this is all about fixing weak points. When your technique is solid your goal then changes to find out what part of the range of motion that you are not as strong on. Folks with great leg strength can start about any weight off the floor on the deadlift, but can have difficulty locking weights out due to not enough back strength to finish. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and good luck to my friend with his training for his competition. If you have any questions or anything you’d like me to add please just place a comment on this post.

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Pookie Monster T-1000 Herminator protocol

Introduction

herminator picture
Approach life with this level of enthusiasm. There can be only one.

My next little writing series will all be catered towards writing training programs (or parts of programs) for friends. My first subject will be writing a program for a great friend of mine that is getting back in to consistent training. This person is one of the better athletes that I’ve met in my life, especially when it comes to predispositions towards strength. I have seen this person squat one and a half times body weight for reps to full depth (they are female) after only training for a few months. However, now that they are getting a bit older recovery isn’t what it once was and having to spend time in “chair jail” (aka working a job) has caused a decline in general work capacity.

This program is meant to run in order from day one to day four each week. If their schedule gets to be too hectic the key is that they get in days one through three. Each session is meant to last an hour tops with time to warm up before hitting their real weights. The aim is to run this basic set up for about one to three months with the end point being where they can’t add weight to their top set each week.

Four days a week of training:

Day Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Main Movement Squat Bench Press Deadlift Military Press
Accessory One leg exercise (lunge, step up, etc) DB rows Romanian Deadlift (RDL) Pull ups/Chin ups
Accessory GHRs (glute ham raises) DB military press Leg press or Bulgarian split squats DB bench press
Accessory Abs – Leg raises hArms Abs – ab wheel hArms

 

Programming

The main movement on each day will involve a total of 5 work sets after doing two sets of the empty bar (for 5 to 10 reps). The goal is to add a little weight to the final work set each week so no need to go full speed out of the gate, but slowly add more weight. For deadlift however there will only be 3 total work sets but the second warm up set will be done with 95 lbs. instead of the empty bar. The goal is for the first week is to just build up to a weight where the bar speed slows down (starts to feel difficult) and then move up that top set slowly each week after. So if the first heavy weight on squats is at 175 the following workout the goal is 180, then 185 and so on.

For the accessory movements, they will be done in a circuit for the lower body days and done in a super set on the upper body days. hArm work will be done by picking a bicep movement and alternating it with a tricep movement. On the upper body day each set of bench press and military press will be superset with band pull aparts or facepulls (for sets of 10-20 reps). The accessory movements will be done for three to five sets depending on how they are feeling that day with at least 10 reps each set (up to fifteen if they are feeling saucy). The goal here is to bump those weights up a bit with time also, but really the goal is to increase work capacity.

Rest periods are going to be as long as they need on the main movement. Try and move at a decent clip for the accessory work. Once again this program is about building back up, not trying to go full blown rocky training montage out the gate.

Conditioning

Walking, running, biking, elliptakilling themselves are all options. The only goal here is to get out and move for at least a half hour at a decent intensity (when it starts to get hard to talk) and doing that for three times a week at minimum. Do this after weights or on days you aren’t lifting at all.

Wrap up

This program is written for someone that is technically sound. Seriously their squat technique after just training for a week was better than my squat was after four years. They are an explosive type athlete which tends to cause greater muscular damage with less work so after their layoff we are being very conservative on the volume. This will be a good program for a month or more depending on speed of which results come along. Also, the reason for only five work sets is that my goal is only the last three sets are somewhat difficult and they will likely be working with around 170-240 in the back squat, 185-275 in the deadlift and 95-135 on the bench press to start so they don’t need to take endless warm up sets.

Once this program is no longer progressing in load for the top set then we are going to start the next phase of the program. That program will probably be a later post when it is time for it. If you have any questions just let me know and thanks again for taking the time to read this.

Life is a Full Contact Sport (genetics and sport final post)

So we talked about the combined effects on genetics and hard work, and then how to optimize for your own sporting success. This final post will get in to how you can apply this to your own life. Now, I will introduce to you the radar graph:

radar graph 1

This graph shows my basic concepts of the different areas of physical performance. Strength is how much force you can produce, power is how much force you can produce in a short period of time. Mobility is how well you can move overall (think an elderly person compared to a ballet dancer). Conditioning is how much work you can perform at a moderate intensity. Coordination is your ability to control your body and move from one position to another. Finally, body composition is simply how lean you are. The goal here is to get as high of a score as you need for your sport and above if you can. Sports like the shot put require huge amounts of strength and power, but very little conditioning. Marathon running requires low levels of strength and power but huge amounts of conditioning. Finally things like Crossfit actually aim for you to have each of those areas highly developed. (This was meant to illustrate a point, not induce nerd rage).

How does this pertain to life?

You need to have adequate levels of each of these, to have not only independence (strength and conditioning are highly related to independence later on in life), but to quality of life. I’m not here to tell people how to live, but take a moment and figure out what is an adequate amount of each for your quality of life. There is a good post in the art of manliness about different base skills required for a healthy man. I like the list that they have, and I have a few of my own that I’ve added.

radar graph 2

Having poor mobility leads to chronic pain and having a hard time doing things like getting down to sit on the floor. Low levels of strength can make in impossible to climb stairs or carry things. Low power and you won’t be able to catch yourself if you slip, or move quickly. Poor conditioning and you will have to catch your breath at the top of a flight of stairs. Bad body composition (too much fat) and you have a built in weight vest to wear everywhere you go, along with increased risks of a variety of diseases of affluence. Take a look and find out what your weakness is and then start working on how you can improve it.

radar graph 3

How long do you want to play the game of life?

Your genetics have you set up to live for a certain period of time. None of us are getting out of this life alive, but your choices each day are either speeding up or slowing down when that end comes. If you come from a family where heart disease is the norm, your diet and exercise can have a huge effect on how soon that end comes. The same idea of auditing your program along the lines of:

1) Training optimally (which is different from maximally or minimally)

2) Recovering optimally

3) Fueling optimally

4) Skill optimization

5) Tactic optimization

I posted in the previous blog different ways to optimize your sports performance. Take and apply that to your life and it gives you a simple framework to see your own life as a sport. Look at your life and find which one(s) are you falling short? Are you doing a poor job of getting sleep, working out, eating, learning, or planning? Turns out if you aren’t saving you probably aren’t going to retire. If you aren’t learning anything your brain is not improving and possibly backsliding. Look at your life and figure out where you should be trying to improve so that you can have a higher quality of life.

Side note:

I haven’t touched on the genetics of intelligence, and honestly I don’t want to at this venture. I do, however, want to make sure that I bring up the cognitive part of life. Sports are great and I enjoy playing them, I also enjoy reading, learning, and working. This blog has mostly covered different aspects of health, training, and coaching, but I would be remiss to not bring up the brain. Take the time to push yourself intellectually from time to time. This might be a new skill, a project at work, or some way of challenging your own personal beliefs. Doing so will help add to making you the greatest total person that you can be.

Injury

Life is a full contact sport. We can make as many “safe spaces” as we want, but the reality of life will hit us literally and metaphorically on occasion. The key here is to prepare. Now I don’t want to turn this in to some type of apocalyptic preppers post or fight club, but everyone is going to get hit hard at least a few times in life. This typically comes in the form of a fall or car accident. Most of us are going to get in 3 or 4 car accidents in our life along with figure you are going to fall and hit the ground. What can we do about this? Aside from the obvious of not text and drive, on the physical side literally strengthening your body especially your neck helps you avoid things like concussions (which I wish I had done more of in hindsight). Having a body that can move quickly, and either catch itself or roll with the fall will keep you safer. Now if you get in a 90mph car accident, no amount of neck strength is going to keep you from getting hurt, what I’m talking about is this is going to help decrease how much damage you take.

The average person also has back pain, knee pain, and neck pain. If you strengthen the muscles in those areas and keep them appropriately flexible you will have a higher quality of life, and that is what my goal is. As a strength coach one thing that we do is find out what are the common injuries in the sport and then design a program to keep those injuries from happening to our athletes. If you can read this you are currently on the field and in the game of life. What are you doing with your training so you can be successful here?

Wrapping up

So ends my little thought experiment with genetics and sport. I hope that you enjoyed this and as always leave a comment on anything you like, or want me to follow up on in the future. My next few posts will be random. I have two friends with different training needs that I plan on posting on what my recommendations are for them.

Thanks again,

-Mike

The Great Filter

In science, a cool and somewhat terrifying concept to think about is the Fermi Paradox or the great filter. Take a minute to watch the video on the link, if you don’t have the time the simple point is that maybe the reason we haven’t contacted any intelligent life in the universe it because at some point the other life forms disappeared (died off, killed each other, etc.) and so were filtered out.

Sport is like this in that at each level you filter out athletes of lower quality (hopefully you don’t kill them). This builds off of my previous post about genetics and hard work. Think about how many kids in this country (Merica) play basketball at some point growing up. Only fraction of them will play in high school, and a fraction of that will be the starters on their high school team. Only a small number will be selected and play AAU, much less lead their teams. From there the numbers split down by only a select number will play in college, specifically a small number at division one schools, and even smaller still when you get up to the professional ranks. At the end of the day you are left with less than a thousandth of a percent (.001%) play in the pros. Of those pros only a small number will be hall of fame members and a handful will go down as legends (think Michael Jordan).

bball graph
This is a bar graph of how many people play basketball in the world and then how many go up and play at the next level.
log bball graph
This is a logarithmic graph, so notice how the numbers rapidly decrease with how many people are involved each time you go up a level. Also, how you can now actually see taht some people do go up levels where before it looked like nearly no one

I’m sure none of this happens to be news to anyone reading this. Each level of sport where you have athletes try out for the team (or be recruited), there are only so many spots. So you cut down the numbers of athletes at each level. How many levels of the filter an athlete passes through depends on two things really at the end of the day; their genetics and their ability to work hard. When you watch the Olympics in a few weeks, notice how the faces of the athletes change, but the bodies of the athletes in any one sport closely resemble each other (all the swimmers are tall with long arms, all the gymnasts are short, all the sprints are jacked and lean, etc.).

Gaming the system

In order to progress to the top of any sport it is important to look at the variables that are common in success and how many people compete in that area. So now take a look at yourself, due to your body type there might be one sport or another that you are genetically gifted for, or is not that competitive.

Genetic gifts

If you happen to have some variance from what average people are like (height, weight, etc.) this is where you find your sport. Say you are incredibly small, things like being a jockey, gymnast, diver, coxen, etc. are good options. If you are really tall sports like basketball, volleyball, and reaching the tallest shelf are now open to you. Say you have long limbs and a short torso if your frame is narrow this is a good build for a distance runner. If you have a wide frame you are more predisposed to be a thrower, goalie (especially if tall), or deadlifter. If you have a long torso and short limbs sports like wrestling, Olympic lifting, and bench pressing you’ll have an advantage. This is an incredibly short list of the possible combinations you might have, but it gives you an idea that maybe you have something you are meant to be great at, you just need to search it out.

IMG_0874
Speaking of genetic gifts and hard work, here are some of our athletes at EKU that I’m lucky to work with.

Go hipster on your sport

Sports like sprinting, basketball, soccer are super competitive, pretty much every healthy human being in this planet has tried to race another person so after a while only those who are successful early (often due to genetics) make it to the top. In basketball and soccer there are so many people in the world that are exposed to those sports, those that are successful truly are the cream of the crop. However, sports like tennis aren’t as competitive from a sheer numbers approach (not saying tennis isn’t a challenging sport, just that not as many people are exposed to it). Heck, I played water polo in high school in the Midwest which is pretty obscure there.

So find a sport that not as many people play. It is easy to be the world’s best when only 100 people in the world play it, compared to the sprinting analogy where you figure you are stacked up against just under 10 billion people. Now you might not have any gifts or want to go obscure, so I’ll write the rest in a form that assumes you have your sport (or someone you know has theirs).

Working hard in your area

If you have the potential to play in the pro ranks, but never work hard enough you might not even make it to the point where you play in high school. This is where coaches like to use the “Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team” cliché, which turns out with his genetics when you then start working hard the rest is history. On the other side you might have the work ethic of a champion, but if you don’t have the genetics then you won’t be playing in college much less possibly in high school.

Ok, this once again isn’t really anything that ground breaking, but the key factor I want to touch on is you have to not only work hard, but you have to work smart. I’m lucky enough to work with college athletes and a number of them get a chance to play professionally. These are motivated, hard working individuals and I wish for the best for them, but what I really want to convey to them is simply this:

Each time you pass through a filter you know one thing; that you did enough to get to that level.

This doesn’t mean that you are doing what you need to do to get to the next level, or be successful on that one.

This means some of the athletes received their college scholarship from just having great potential, but that’s often not enough to make it to the next level. Maybe they never had to pay attention to what they ate before, but now the game is changing. This is where I want my athletes to take a moment and audit themselves, what are they not doing? Have they never taken the weight room seriously? Have they never tried to eat a good diet? Have they always drank and partied too hard? By just changing a few of these variables this might take them from being just on the team, to being one of the best players. Take them from being the best player, to playing in the pros. In order to pass each filter you have to be good enough to make it, and maintaining the status quo is frequently not what is going to make the difference.

Now those changes do require some type of work and discipline that some people just don’t want to do. That’s fine, but understand that if you truly want to be the best that you can be, you are going to have to keep looking for areas to improve. I recently was lucky enough to see some old friends who are PTs (physical therapists) and they were kind enough to point out how I’m jacked up. Not jacked, but jacked up. I need to work on my mobility in certain areas and muscle function so that I can be healthier and in turn be able to train and compete on the level I want.

So looking at your own (or your athlete’s) current performance level, take a quick inventory of all of the things that you are doing (not in order of importance):

1) Training optimally (which is different from maximally or minimally)

2) Recovering optimally

3) Fueling optimally

4) Skill optimization

5) Tactic optimization

So given the sport or activity that you are trying to succeed at, which of these are you doing well? Which of these have you not put any effort at all in to? Those that you haven’t done any work with are likely going to give you the greatest return on investment. Do keep in mind what elements of the sport are most important. Some sports like powerlifting, marathon running, or bodybuilding require little skill in comparison to sports like wrestling, golf, and tennis. Notice, I didn’t say what was easy to do, because the first group of sports require optimal training, recovery, and fueling. So athletes in those sports should make sure they are prioritizing what is really important. “Sports” like golf require huge levels of skill, but don’t require a great deal of physical training, recovery optimization, or fueling strategies so those athletes should emphasize what is the most important element for them. Noted are just a few sports graphically displayed for the importance of each part of their performance done in about five minutes by me. Don’t look at them and figure that they are hard and fast rules, but do try and understand the basic concept and think deeply about your sport.

bball pie chartpower lifting pie chart

marathon pie chart
All of these are meant to be simple examples, not a hard and fast structure to live and die by.

In the realm of nutrition my friend Mike Israetel has put together a great chart describing what elements are the most important for diet success (gaining or losing weight), it is important to apply the same logic to each area listed above as to what makes the biggest difference with improving in each area. Expensive devices like a Normatec are nice, but investing in a better bed and bedding will have a greater impact on your recovery. Buying some weight loss pill might help a bit, but tracking your calories and keeping yourself in a deficit will make a greater impact on weight loss.

At the end of the day getting a little bit more sleep, one more healthy meal, or a slightly better workout might only add another 2% to your performance, but at the highest level of sport that can make the difference between league minimum, or going home and giving up on the dream. Look at yourself and talk with your athletes about what they can do to optimize their performance with finding the holes in their performance.

Wrapping up

So depending on your genetics you might have a natural advantage in some sport, but nothing is guaranteed. You still need to work hard, and more importantly you need to work smart on the areas you are lacking. For the final post in this brief series I’ll get in to how you can apply this to your life. Please like, share, or comment on this and my other posts. As always thanks for taking the time to read this. This whole thing has been a lot of fun for me and I appreciate the feedback that I’ve been getting. If there is something you want me to write on late please let me know.