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The Evolution of a Deadlifter's Training

June 4, 2002 02:22 PM

I started lifting in what I like to think of as the "golden years" of powerlifting, the early 80s, before politics and training gear destroyed the sport. I always wanted to be as strong as I looked so my training consisted of benches, deads and squats, with a few assistance exercises. I hit upon a deadlift routine in my first year of serious training that looking back was quite effective. I weighed about 170 owned one of those cheap leather GNC belts they sold for 20 bucks. My deadlift routine was one set of 5 done every Friday. I started at 315 (no baby powder or oil and very seldom any chalk) x5 and added 5 pounds every week. This was started in February of 1981; by September of 81 I pulled 425x5. Not bad progress considering no drugs or real gear! (As a side note my bench routine at this time consisted of one week 1 x8 the next week set of 5 the third week a set of 3. the results? My first 8 was 165 185x5 and 205x3 by February of 82 I was doing 245x8 265x5 285x3 but did not translate to a single very well. After going through the cycle I would drop down to the 8s and add 5 pounds going through the cycle again. I have used this routine with varying amounts of success through the year) For whatever reason after this success I stopped pulling and went more to a pumper routine leaving the dead behind for a couple of years. I would pull occasionally but it was just too "tough" of an exercise at this time in my training.

Real Powerlifting...progress then regression

In 1985 I decided it was time to give up the pumper aspirations, my hips were too big and I don't like to diet, plus those guys are just too weird. At this time I met a true training genius at the gym I trained at named Mike Davis. He was considered an "iron guru". One of the guys he was training at this time was super-heavy powerlifter who was a good squatter but after training under Davis squatted 1040 in the gym with just a single ply suit and old superwrap 10s. The guy would never listen long enough to put it together in a meet, he still did a 907. Mike was a firm believer in the basics and the 3 lifts only. I trained with him after my first pl. meet where I squatted 650 and pulled 640. (yes I was on the good stuff a little dianabol) He told me that there was a new organization starting out (imagine that) and it was going to be drug free. In 6 months training with him I squatted 705 as 242er of course drug free. (in fact 86 was the last time I used any roids and that was just d-bol) My deadlift did not experience as great as success however. Mike believed in training the dead once a week at most. I have been following mike's philosophy pretty much through the years until I came across ptp. The squat routine I used during the time was what we called the 1-3-5 a single, drop 50 for a triple and then take off the wraps and drop 100 for 5. It has worked for the bench also. It did not work as well for the dead however. My best dead during this period was 625 and I pulled 600 less than 10 times between the years of 85-96. In fact through a lot of those years I was barely pulling in the 500 range. I never trained more than 2 days a week and rarely pulled more than 2 times a month.

Steve Wilson and 20s.

Around 1996 I came across an article that claimed the great Steve Wilson (who pulled 850) pulled 2-3 times a week 2-3 sets owith 225-275 for 20 reps. Well by this time I was willing to try anything to get my lifts moving again. 225-275 came out to 26-32% of 850 so I plugged those numbers into my dead and gave it a try. My training partners thought it was ridiculous but my dead started to move.(Another side note, In April of 96 my 2 partners and I decided to give up the gym scene and go to our garages. The best thing we ever did.) After about 6-10 weeks of 20s and some moderate singles I pulled 595. At my first gear free meet at the end of 97 I pulled 605. I felt I had another 20-25 pounds in me so the routine was working. It did need some tweaking however so for my next meet in April of 98 I made adjustments and 2 weeks before the meet pulled 605 for 3. This turned out to be a mistake so close to the meet. Did pull 630 but petered out at 660. Over the next year or so had varying degrees of progress including pulling 675, but progress was starting to stall.

Enter Pavel and PTP.

I came across the add for ptp in one of those goofy magazines you get in the mail was very skeptical about "Russian strength secrets". Haven't we heard it all before? Well I took a chance and it turned out to be the best thing that has ever happened to my training. Even this late in the game for me. The first w.o. I did with out a belt I thought I was going to slip discs, injure myself and never walk again. I tenderly pulled 265x5. I was still skeptical, but went on without the belt. It took me over a month before I ventured over 400. Then I started to pull "heavy" 2-4 days a week with out the belt. Even when I did pull heavy with a belt I did not experience the soreness I did in the past. It took 2-3 before I tried 500 with no belt and it also came up. Training exclusively with no belt I pulled 655 in February of 2001. I was beginning to be a big believer! My training partners (one has squatted over 800 in his day) thought I was nuts going to heavy with out the belt but the weight continues to go up. My training consists of 5-3-1 done 3 days a week, usually heavy on Monday. For example I have discovered great success going 3-2-1 Monday and 5-3-1 wed and sat. Last week (Feb 11 I went 500x3 525x2 555x2 was only supposed to do 1 but felt too easy). The other days I might go 315x5 365x3 then 405x1 425x1 445x1 drop down 365x2 315x4. In the past when I would pull a heavy double I would be sore for 4-5 days, I never let me repeat that never get sore anymore. In fact I pulled 555x2 Monday and then pulled 545x1 585x1 and 605x1 Thursday and still did not get sore. In the past I would be unable to get out of bed after so much pulling. I have pretty much stopped benching because I think the bench is so overrated and have turned my attention to standing presses. That is all I do pretty much these days 3 days a week for the dead 5-6 for the presses. I do chins 2-4 sets of 5 spread out through the day. One thing I might add that I think has also helped my dead and recovery ability is the kettle ball. Actually I bought the kettle ball handle. My wife says my belly is too big so started using it more to burn fat but I think it has helped my dead also. I have one loaded with about 40 pounds and I do 2-5 sets of 10-25 reps non-dl. days. I do the swing/snatch. I have another one loaded at about 60 pounds and do them after pulling for 5-10 reps 2-3 sets. 3 weeks ago I pulled 630 without a belt and I think there is no doubt they helped. The bottom line of all this dl training is Pavel is "dead" on with regards to strength training. I never do more than 5 reps I train anywhere from 3-6 days and have little if any soreness. I just wish these "secrets" were revealed to me 20 years ago! I hope this article can be of some use to anyone who might be stuck or stalled. You don't need drugs to make what I feel are, phenomenal gains at times and you don't even need a gym.