How I Deadlifted 550 Pounds

Anthony Mychal Deadlift 550 Pounds

1. I deadlifted 550 pounds last weekend. It went up smooth. A little too smooth. Here’s the video.

2. This is a recollection of how I trained this past summer. You’ll find out not only how I trained the deadlift, but also how I juggled barbell strength training, bodyweight gymnastics training, and tricking. I’ll also lather on top how I came to train the way I trained.

3. This isn’t a short essay, so you might want to find the hyperbolic time chamber. By the time you finish reading this in there, you’ll only lose one Earth day.

3a. You can skip to the sixth heading if you want the waffles without the syrup.

4. Maxing out is like being in a car on the free road. You’re told to push the pedal to the floor, but you think about what might happen. Will the car rumble? Will there be a speed bump?

5. Usually there are rumbles. Rattling. Bumps. But this time? Nothing.

6. Maybe I’m bragging. I could have deadlifted more. I only need to hit 615-630 to have a triple bodyweight deadlift at a height of 6’4”. So yeah. Humblebrag. Maybe. But the humble is real because I’m still trying to understand how I pulled 550 pounds.

FIRST, THE EXERCISES I DID…

7. I haven’t back squatted in months. I haven’t benched in a year. I don’t train for powerlifting.

8. I pull from the floor with different grips. Wide(r) snatch grip deadlifts being my go-to. They work the upper back more than conventional pulls (ahem, “X” physique wizardry, ahem), which is a biggie for me. More on wide grip deads here. And 90% of the time I did Romanian style snatch grip deadlifts.

Klokov Snatch Grip Deadlift

9. I pull snatch style for the same reason I front squat: less load on my body. My snatch grip deadlift training weights are a lot less than my conventional deadlift training weights. There’s more range of motion in snatch grip deadlifts, and the wide grip taxes the smaller muscles of the upper back. Lo and behold, you’ll always conventional deadlift more.

10. By training the snatch grip deadlift, I get a solid stimulus with less central nervous system destruction. I train my lower body, but also save freshness face for tricking or whatever else drops into my lap. At least, in theory …

SECOND, UNDERSTANDING THIS CRUCIAL DIFFERENCE…

11. Exercise selection was my first adjustment. Second was programming. In order to understand how I ended up where I did, let’s take a historical tangent.

12. James Smith, also known as The Thinker, was my mentor when I interned with the PITT football team. He worked with the skill players. Buddy Morris worked with the bigs. (Below are snippets from memory, so I hope they are accurate.)

13. When I was an intern, it was the start of the off-season. James’s athletes rarely trained above 85% of their max. Most training was around 70%. The emphasis, for the skill players, was more on sprinting. Strength training was all about accumulating work … if you didn’t know better, you’d think his athletes were slacking off under the bar.

14. There was a value on strength; don’t get me wrong. But, for the skill players, there was less value in using the maximal-effort method to build strength. For most team sport athletes, a maximum muscular contraction akin to a 1RM never happens during sport.

15. You might recognize the max-effort method from Westside Barbell, but it comes from Zatsiorsky’s three ways to achieve maximal muscle tension:

  • Repeated-effort method: lifting a non-maximal load to failure or near failure
  • Max-effort method: lifting a maximal load (>90% 1RM)
  • Dynamic-effort method: lifting a non-maximal load as fast as possible

16. Achieving a maximum muscular contraction is different than getting stronger. A fourth, less talked about, category of training is the sub-maximal effort method.

  • Sub-maximal effort method: lifting a load lighter than a max for sub-maximal number of repetitions

17. The athletes maxed after a few weeks of sub-maximal training. (Skill guys only maxed on the bench. Maxing the squat wasn’t worth the risk. Maxing the bench wasn’t either, really, but sometimes giving a group of 18-22 year olds something to show for their work is important.)

18. Monday they were told to work up to 90% of their max. If they felt good, they went for a new max. A lot of them felt good. A lot of them set new maxes.

19. If they weren’t satisfied, they tried again Thursday.

19a. Two maxing sessions in such short times? What gives?

20. James said that sub-maximal training can build strength, but it’s common to de-train the neural bits and pieces that go into expressing maximal strength—rate coding, inter-muscular coordination, intra-muscular coordination, and other things I pretended to know about.

21. A lot of people are quick to underestimate their strength upon first maxing after not maxing for while. Once the neural bits and pieces wake up, strength jumps … hence maxing twice in one week with the potential to do better the second time around. (And a lot of people did, indeed, do better the second time around.)

THIRD, CHOCOLATE CHIP BULGARIAN COOKIES…

Bulgarian Olympic Weightlifting

22. Sub-maximal training is usually considered the old school Soviet method, and it’s usually contrasted with the old school Bulgarian method.

The majority of the Soviet training was centered around 75-85% of a one-rep max for about 50% of all lifts, and 20% are done at 90-100%. The Bulgarians trained mostly at 90-100% max. Circa-max weights are 90-97%.

– Westside Barbell

23. I did my share of Soviet style training, but I also Bulgarian style of training. Matt Perryman’s Squat Every Day is a good read.

24. Bulgarian style training interested me because I was out to juggle lifting, tricking, and whatever else summer threw my way.

25. My thinking = if people can learn how to squat every day, why can’t I learn how to do whatever at a high frequency? If someone can squat Monday and squat Tuesday, why couldn’t I squat Monday and trick Tuesday?

26. This is my chocolate chip cookie theory. You’re “baking” things into your being. Much like chocolate chips become one with a cookie once baked, you become one with something you do often. I wrote about this theory + movement here.

27. The upside of daily max training = using a low(er) volume for starters. The downside = the mental toil of vacillating to a sweet spot weight every day. It took me longer than expected, and it’s why (I’d guess) those that use a more Bulgarian approach tend to be minimalists. It’s easy to say: snatch – clean and jerk – squat. That’s your training. Find your daily sweet spot, give each exercise the effort and attention it deserves.

28. I’m not an Olympic weightlifter. I found maxing squats and deadlifts daily to be too time consuming, too physically draining, and too mentally draining.

FOURTH, KNOWING AROUSAL… (NOT THAT KIND OF AROUSAL)

29. Training daily teaches you how to be emotionless in effort. You can’t train daily if you’re consistently blowing an o-ring. I learned how to train heavy, but not necessarily psyched. Heavy-but-not-psyched training is what I call stoic training. Wrote about it more here.

30. At first, stoic training was framed against near-maximum training. How heavy can I lift while keeping my breathing in check and, all things considered, not really trying?

31. I started to think about the opposite end of stoic training—not the high end, but the low end. There’s climbing to a high end of performance without effort, but there’s also a low end of performance without effort.

31a. In other words, what are you capable of with little or no warm-up? What can you do an hour after you’ve rolled out of bed? Without coffee?

32. So we enter a triforce of categorization:

  • Your resting (low stoic) function—things you can do with little stress damage.
  • Your alerted (high stoic) function—things you can do with mild stress damage.
  • Your amped (psyched) function—things you can do with high stress damage.

33. In other words, your resting function is like how much damage you can hit for on your Basic Attacks. Your alerted function is how much damage you can hit for on Super Attacks.  Your amped function is how much damage you can hit for on your Limit Breaks.

Cloud Limit Break

33a. Or something …

34. So think on two levels (holy pun, Batman!): you have your Overall Level. Then each of these attack thingies has a level. There’s a correlation between the two in that your Overall Level dictates your Attack Level potential. But it’s also possible to Level Up your Attack Level underneath your Overall Level’s ceiling.

35. So you’re Level 50. Your Basic Attack Level is 35. You can improve your Basic Attack Level to 40 and still be Level 50. Same for Super Attack Level. But your Limit Break is always tied to your Overall Level.

36. A lot of people Level Up fighting bosses. Big enemies. Creatures that can only be killed with Limit Breaks. Creatures that do a lot of damage to your HP.

37. My strategy is different. It’s about boosting your Basic Attack and Super Attack Levels to their maximum ability given your Overall Level’s ceiling. Benefit here being that you can kill lesser enemies without as much effort, and lesser enemies do less damage to your HP, which means that you can fight more often.

38. Or something …

FIFTH, THE ANTIFRAGILE, RANDOM, TALEB LOVING PART

39. Recap:

  • Smith – Accumulate easier work
  • Smith – Retain maxing skills by semi-maxing
  • Bulgaria – Bake abilities into you
  • Me – Learn how to train closer to your ceiling with less effort

40. Once your Overall Level is high enough, you need to think about how you function under the ceiling. I’d rather have Level 40 abilities available at all hours of the day, rather than Level 60 abilities available only once every week. This is what makes high frequency training go round. It’s not about getting better in absolute terms, but rather learning how to tap into your abilities more with less stress baggage.

Goku Super Gravity

41. So think Goku in super-gravity. You have the level of gravity (100 times Earth), which is the first factor. Then you have what you’re capable of under those conditions, which is the second factor. It’s not about being “just O.K.” in 100 times and then moving onto 110 times. It’s about mastering 100 times. It’s not about absolute. It’s about relative capacity in a certain state.

42. Consider this accumulating easy work. Go to the gym Monday, train. Go back on Tuesday, train. Wednesday, train. If you can’t repeat the training with the same effort, it’s too hard. You’re trying to make your body function as if an advanced environment were commonplace.

43. At some point, you need to boost the overall gravity level because absolute defines your ultimate ceiling.

43a. Once you adapt to a dose, how do you encourage further adaptation? A random larger dose.

44. This gives two ideas:

  • Gradually increase your ability to do meh emotionless work. Master 100 times, move to 105 times, move to 110 times.
  • Introduce a random shock. Go 150 times one day, only to return to 100 times the following days.

45. The shock is just enough to get the body worried. When you push the absolute, you have to respect stress and adaptation.

SIXTH, THE PROGRAM … (FINALLY!)

46. I invented this whole philosophy, right after I stole the Even Easier Strength program from Dan John.

46a. I ran a 6-7 day Even Easier Strength mutation by adding in 2×5 days on called for rest days.

Week 1
Mon (1) 2 x5 Tues (2) 2 x 5 Wed (3) 5-3-2 Fri (4) 2 x 5 Sat (5) 2 x 5

Week 2
Mon (6) 2 x 5 Tues (7) 6 Singles Wed (8) 1 x 10 Fri (9) 2 x 5 Sat (10) 5-3-2

47. Even Easier Strength is everything I just wrote about wrapped in one program. It’s high frequency. You “bake” a low stoic ability into your body with the 2×5 days. The 5-3-2 days work up to a heavier weight to keep your nervous system on its toes. This is the “high stoic” day.

48. Accumulate decent work. It’s all about the work.

49. The 6×1 day is your psych day. The goal is to set a new max or die trying. This is the “random” high stressor.

50. Going into this, I estimated my deadlift max to be around 450 pounds. I don’t remember ever pulling more than that.

51. On my 2×5 days, I used either 225 pounds or 275 pounds. 80% of the time it was 225 pounds.

52. On my 5-3-2 days, I usually worked up to 365 pounds. Maybe, once or twice, I went to 405 pounds.

53. One month into the program I was surprised to see myself pull 455 pounds with ease on a 6×1 day. Two months into the program I was surprised to see myself pull 500 pounds with ease on a 6×1 day. Three months into the program I was surprised to see myself pull 550 pounds with ease at Camp Nerd Fitness.

53a. I was surprised with the 550 pound pull because, just a week before, I failed to pull 500 pounds.

54. I trained front squats the same. My 2×5 days were almost always at 185 pounds. My 5-3-2 days were up to 275 pounds. After month one, I front squatted 335 pounds. After month two, I failed going for 345 pounds. I upped the 2×5 weight to 205 pounds for month three. After month three, I failed going for 345 pounds again.

Anthony Mychal Front Squat

55. Other logistics – upper body barbell work =  weighted dips, weighted chin-ups, and sporadic barbell rows. None done with much care or effort. Upper body “other” work = planche training, lever training, gymnastics ring work, handstand work. Most of this training didn’t follow the Even Easier Strength template.

SEVENTH, THINGS FOR YOUR BACK POCKET

56. I got stronger. Dan John always talks about random freak strength gains on this program and The 40-Day Program. I now believe him.

56. I wrote about some of my experience on The 40-Day Program, too. Here’s one, another, and a third.

57. I’m not sure I remember what it feels like to have fresh legs. I think this is what high frequency training does. It allows you to transcend the physical and enter the mental. We often think we can’t train because of some 48-hour rule or whatever. But sometimes it’s just getting real: yeah, your legs aren’t 100% fresh. Big deal. Go do the work. You can do the work.

58. Warm-up. You’ll always feel better after the warm-up.

59. This isn’t the best way to juggle activities if you want to truly prioritize a sport. I’m a mediocre trickster and I only dabble. If I wanted to be uber special super great tricksterman, I would do things differently. But for my purposes, it works.

59a. If you want to trick, check out the tutorials.

60. I wouldn’t train like this year round. I’m looking forward to the day when my legs have a chance to feel normal. I don’t even know what normal feels like, to tell you the truth.

61. Be a goonie. Do your own experiments. Fight for something that matters. I was afraid to drop back squats for years because a lot of people say that back squats are the key to a strong deadlift. I can say, six months beyond back squatting, I’ve never felt stronger in the deadlift.

62. The big take away = know the different between your Attacks. Focus on the repeatable attacks. Too many people hinge their worth on weekly Limit Breaks. You can’t do a Limit Break every attack. Limit Breaks are volatile. Your Basic Attacks and Super Attacks? Those are your worth. Master those and you’ll kill the right enemies and get enough consistent EXP to Level yourself to the moon. And guess what? That ticks your Limit Break higher.

63. As Mike Webster once said:

“So you have to tinker with it, lift enough to stimulate growth and strength gains, and do it in such a way that you can recover and adapt before your nerves forget all about the fact that they had to lift something heavy a few days ago. You can try and track every little thing, or you can just work hard, lift in an appropriate rep range with a weight appropriate to that rep range, and let your body figure it out, because it’s smarter than you anyway, and we’re still trying to figure out how it all works. You just need to put together a reasonable schedule, be consistent with it, and accept that some days you will feel like crap and feel weaker and still blow it out of the water, and some days you will feel great and miss lifts you got last time with ease. Don’t stress over it, just stick with the weights, eat and sleep good, and you will get stronger. It’s a process, and it takes weeks, months, and years rather than days and hours. So consistency, rather than training to the point where you have failed with a given weight, and rather than gotten one more rep with five pounds less, is what will make you grow. Go to failure or don’t. Just make sure you leave the weight room knowing you’ve done something in there, and chances are you’ve done enough.”

 

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Photo credit: bgolympic.org

MAYBE YOU’RE A SUCKER


You can’t fool me.

I know this isn’t your first rodeo, trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of.

But you’re not a quitter, which is why you’re here.

You might be a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

39 comments… add one
  • Dustin October 3, 2014, 2:49 am

    This was an enjoyable read. I’ve lifted weights every day for just about a year now (in mid-October), and I’ve followed a similar intuitive philosophy of just realizing when I’m going at it too hard. Occasionally I throw in those limit breaking sessions, but most of the time I’m just on cruise control. I can usually tell when I can make a jump in weight on the bar or if I need to back off because I went up too quick (those little forest fires start to show up). Congratulations on the pull, it sure was smooth.

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:25 pm

      Thanks man.

  • Juhana Jääskeläinen October 3, 2014, 11:36 am

    That’s pretty amazing, pulling 550 at that height + bodyweight, and with an overhand grip. You’re a lot stronger than I thought you were. Much respect. Btw, how much weight can you do for reps?

    This is off topic, but do you have any experience in dealing with back injuries? I herniated a disc in my lower back 10 weeks ago, and even though it’s getting better, I still can’t squat even the empty bar without some feeling of “pressure” in my back. Same with sitting, I can sit, but the longer I sit, the more it hurts.

    I know this probably isn’t the place to ask, but your deadlift video kind of inspired me, so now I have a reason to get my back into better shape!

    Thanks!

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:25 pm

      I don’t know about reps. I’ve never repped out at any decently heavy weight.

      I’ve had back injuries, yeah. They’re the most complicated ball of wax in the business, methinks.

  • Ezequiel October 3, 2014, 12:42 pm

    Great Deadlift man!

    How did you warm up for the 2×5 sets? I’ve always wondered this about Easy Strength.

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:23 pm

      Just as you would for any other lift or at any other point. Start lighter, add weight until you get to the working weight. Obviously your strength then dictates how many warm-up sets you’d need.

  • Chris October 3, 2014, 2:24 pm

    Double overhand, and you control the barbell to the floor. Get out.

    Fantastic article, certainly inspiring.

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:22 pm

      Thanks man. When you lift in a garage, a controlled eccentric is a must.

  • Angelo October 3, 2014, 2:32 pm

    Metaphors and references I can whole-heartedly relate to…..Damn, Mr. Anthony. You have a new reader!

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:22 pm

      Thanks man. Glad to have you along.

  • William M. October 3, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Great chapter, I love the idea of “baking” skills in, This reminds me of how as a runner I try to add daily “spices” of sprint work even during my easy distance days. Then once a week have your main effort workout and then another “medium” workout a few days later while still doing your spices on easy days. Great read man I think your certainly on to something here. What you think about eventually going through maybe a 4 week “sharpening” phase were you focus on upping intensity and recovery to try to blast through your maxes?

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:22 pm

      I don’t know about the sharpening or how you’d go about doing it. All I know is that, at the end of those two-three months, I think it’s important to get away haha.

  • Bear October 3, 2014, 5:02 pm

    That 550 looked way easy, congrats!

    Peace ~ Bear

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:20 pm

      Thanks man. Also, thanks for sharing the article over at DD forums.

  • JC October 3, 2014, 5:20 pm

    That was a good article. While I won’t do this immediately, as I’m still focusing on some upper body gymnastics work, I was looking for something to do to increase my deadlift and squat. I just finished Starting Strength, so I was looking for an intermediate routine. Ant, do you recommend I try this, or should I be looking at some more basic intermediate programs before trying this method? The prinicple appeals to me, which is why I want to give it a shot sometime.

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:20 pm

      I’d say go play if you want to play.

  • Brett October 3, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Your articles and the thoughts contained within are always insightful – I learn something new, or change my perception somewhat with every one.

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:19 pm

      Thanks man. That’s an awesome compliment to get, and I’m glad you stick around and read.

  • Chris October 3, 2014, 11:27 pm

    Double overhand grip on your max DL too? – good effort!

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:18 pm

      It’s hooked. Thanks!

  • Brian October 6, 2014, 8:31 pm

    Hey Anthony,

    Great read. I really want to try this program. Would it be suitable for fat loss, do you think? Right now I’m IFing at about 12-13% bf – tackling fat loss your stated preferred method of eating one meal a day 2 days a week on two rest days. Been working well. Ive been doing the max effort lifting method and it’s just..Seriously taxing in a deficit. Not sure if daily training would be just as taxing. Thanks.

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:09 pm

      Depends on the severity of your deficit and how you’re structuring a lot of your nutrition with cycling and such. Try it and let me know how it goes.

  • Brian October 6, 2014, 10:40 pm

    One last question – How did you tailor your IF regimen to this daily training? Did you still carb cycle? Maybe just “re-fed” on certain days when you felt like you needed them?

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:10 pm

      It’s called the “hit a point of non-care” plan. I fast, yes. I cycle carbs and cals, yes. Which days? Doesn’t matter, as long as it gets done. Most of my own experiments confirm this.

  • Staci October 7, 2014, 3:35 pm

    I love all of this. I’ve found it ALL true in my training.

    After I hit my last deadlift milestone, everyone here told me I needed to back off my high frequency training and focus on powerlifting and switch to a 3-4 day a week program where I did nothing but lift heavy and recover. So I did.

    And my lifts went down. All of them.

    I switched back to a Bulgarian style program where I’m essentially squatting every day (back squats/front squats/sissy squats 3 days, cleans 3 days), and everything is feeling good/starting to go back up again.

    I had to build back up to the volume slowly, because at first it was too much all at once. I added about 20% a week and right before Camp I was doing 100% of the program.

    I work on an 8 day week, but I’m snatch grip deadlifting 2x a week, and doing high volume light weight deads 2x a week. Snatch grip deads are my favorite. I like deficit snatch grip deads even more. 🙂

    I’ve seen better results there than anything else. And I’ve found that days when I’m really sore from squats the day before? I squat best those days – because I have to take all emotion out of it and say “No, we’re going to do this today”. And I do – but if I go in thinking “shit shit this is going to be heavy” I don’t.

    ANYWAYS ALL OF THIS IS JUST TO SAY I AGREE AND YOU’RE AWESOME.

    🙂

    Can’t wait to see you pull 650 at next year’s camp.

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:19 pm

      A wild Staci appears!

      Good stuff here. I tend to bunk out if I do high volume work, but that could just be because I attack it like an idiot. Or I’m lazy? I don’t know, but this type of training fit my personality at the time, as it seems to be doing for you.

      For me, I find it hardest to STOP this kind of training, which might be something you’ve experienced, too. The idea of getting back into “all or nothing” training is heavy. Like you mentioned, go at it daily and its like, “Meh, doesn’t matter. I’ll be back tomorrow.” But when it’s not like that you don’t listen because you’re afraid of underdoing.

      Ah the perils of falling for iron circle things.

  • James October 7, 2014, 3:49 pm

    Amazingly smooth lift, especially at your height and weight. Excellent form, super strong. I’m also impressed that you used a hook grip. Congratulations!

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:13 pm

      I’ve always hooked for reasons unknown. The idea of tearing a bicep always strikes fear into me. Thanks man.

  • Manuel October 7, 2014, 5:55 pm

    A great post Anthony!
    I’ve been thinking about trying easy and even easier strength for a while now (but only because Dan John is always right).
    I’m doing it in my summer (South Hemisphere) for sure.

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:19 pm

      Do it.

  • Tom October 7, 2014, 10:25 pm

    Your way of synthesizing different ideas into one scheme and communicating them well set you apart. You might be the only fitness writer I read who doesn’t train other others. I dont know if that would help your brand or hurt it

    • Anthony October 10, 2014, 6:21 pm

      I care less about my brand and more about communicating things that are working for me, allowing people to either take or reject things that they might find useful. Beats pushing supplements and other things I have no experience with just to make money, no matter what “brand” comes about.

      I can only do my work. That’s all.

      • dan griffin October 12, 2014, 1:59 am

        You have a penchant for honesty and humility, Ant. That can take you far, with the kind of work ethic you’ve demonstrated. I’ve only been following your work for a month or so, but I’ve seen your injuries, and your recovery, and a lot of smart adaptation in-between. You have common sense, and that’s most uncommon these days. I think you’re a training guru to watch, even though I’m not a guru kind of guy. I am 55, with a lot of years of training hard in different disciplines behind me. The fact that I’m learning a few things from you is surprising and humbling to me. Keep going!

        • Anthony October 16, 2014, 6:01 pm

          Thanks man. You need to teach me how to make it to 55, heh.

  • Bret Contreras October 14, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Holy crap Anthony! That looked very easy. Methinks you had 570 lbs in you. Very thorough blogpost. Nice job.

    • Anthony October 16, 2014, 5:58 pm

      Always an eye opener when you comment here, Bret. Thanks for the kind words, and always an honor to see you around.

  • Connor November 5, 2014, 3:03 am

    Amazing lift good friend!

    You are one of my favorite writers, fitness blogger and athlete.

    Real Life Goku.

    • Anthony November 5, 2014, 6:53 pm

      Thanks man, I appreciate that.

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