Thursday, October 29, 2015

Deadlifting Update and Competition Live Stream


Since the last post I wrote, I’ve acquired a much better understanding of barbells and their impact on lifting performance. For the advanced lifter, the barbell will either make or break your deadlifting experience, as I found out in my case.

About a month ago, my gym obtained two Eleiko barbells; one standard training bar and one competition bar. Both of them stiffer than the Olympic bars I’ve been using up to that point, but more importantly, their knurling is excellent (the competition bar especially). This small detail has virtually eliminated my deadlifting woes - I now have zero grip issues. 

Now using a proper bar, I hope to take my deadlift to the next level. I’ve also changed my training setup for this lift; the flip side of using a competition bar in training, is that the knurling will really mess up your hands beyond 4 reps or so at max effort. Rather than having to terminate a set due to fatigue, you terminate it because of the pain, and it’s not really the calluses near your fingers that take the beating, but more so the inside of your palms.*

* This might have something to do with my gripping technique which is a bit unusual; I dip, grip and enclose the bar with my hands right before I start pulling, which puts the bar in the middle of my palm, and below the "callus area" - if that makes sense. I call it the dip’n’squeeze. Here's a video.

Speaking of good bars, here's me outside the Eleiko headquarters in Halmstad, Sweden, where I was invited to discuss a co-op of sorts. More on that in the future.

Using the Olympic bars with shitty knurling, I was training in the 6-8 rep range, and increasing the load when I hit 8 reps. This was necessary, because I saw a big drop-off in reps whenever I increased the load, reason being the poor knurling, and the resulting grip issues that I discussed in my last post. The scenario now is the opposite; with the competition bar, gripping is a non-issue, but you're limited to low reps if you value the integrity of your skin.

So what I do now, is a warm-up with the competition bar, followed by 4 reps at 85-90% of my estimated 1RM. Heavy enough, but without any real grinders so far, and aiming to increase this by 2.5 kg (5 lbs) ‘till I hit a true 4RM.  Here’s an exact breakdown of my last deadlift session. All numbers are in kilos.

Warm up: 150 x 3, 170 x 2, 220 x 1, 220 x 1.

Set 1: 300 x 4 - mixed grip, chalk, no belt. Easy and fast, relatively speaking. This goes up 2.5 kg next time. I’ll try my damnedest to get 4 reps, and will increase the intra-rep rest to accommodate for it.

10 minutes of rest

Set 2: 210 x 12 - double overhand grip, straps, no belt. I use straps to spare my hands, and a double overhand grip as there's no point in using a mixed grip with straps.

Furthermore, I believe the double overhand grip will serve to smooth out any muscle imbalance that I've acquired by training with a mixed grip all my life, and gotten quite strong doing so. Since I haven’t trained with double overhand before, I’m starting light and high. Pacing myself here is key, as the potential for injury is there, given my strength with a mixed grip. Indeed, pulling with a double overhand grip, I have to be mindful of keeping my left arm “tight” throughout the set. Otherwise, it feels like the damn thing will pop out of the socket.

Yes, so rather than risking to fuck myself by tweaking my left side, which I’ve trained with an underhand grip, I’m allowing for several months of training before I start pushing the limits in a low rep range here. For the second set, I started doing 170 x 12 the first week, 200 x 12 the second week, now 210 x 12, and intend to increase 10 kg per week as long as I don’t lose more than 1 rep per jump (if so, I will decrease it to 5 kg per week).

Prior to this sequence, I did a few weeks of singles for shits and giggles. 300 kg the first week, 310, 320, and finally 325 kg - check ‘em out on Instagram if you want to. When I hit 310 x 4, I might try a round of singles again. 

By the way, the straps I’m using are called Figure of 8 Straps by Giants Pro. Can’t go wrong with something used by Benni Magnusson, arguably the worlds strongest deadlifter. Easy to wrap on and doesn't come off. No fuss, no bullshit.

Alright, enough of that. The take away point of all this is get yourself a proper bar with good knurling, and you won’t be limited by your grip, as long as you use a mixed grip and chalk for your heavy deadlifts. At some point, consider using straps and a double overhand grip for your back-off set(s); however, use straps sparingly, and don’t rely on them to improve your poundages.

RGA Barbell Challenge Live Stream

This Sunday on November 1st, I will be competing in the RGA Barbell Challenge, where you can watch me squat, press, pull and row big weights live via the stream below.

A great way to round off your drunken Halloween night or hangover, depending on where you're located. Can't watch it live? Don't worry, the videos will be up later.

I've gotten stronger since I last competed here six months ago, even though I'll be entering at the same body weight more or less (105 kg), so there's been some recomp action going on. After the competition, I will probably start writing more about how my views and perspectives on diet and training have evolved in recent years. There's also a major update to The Leangains Guide coming in the foreseeable future.

Anyway, wish me luck! :)


My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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