Dealing with Setbacks and Stalls in Strength
Current Best: 265 lbs (pathetic)
Shortly after hitting 265 lbs for the deadlift at the end of January, I took a week off to deload and repair. After that week of rest, I went back to pull 265 again, thinking it’d be no issue. Holy shit, was I wrong.
I couldn’t break it off the floor, whereas the last time I pulled it, it was no issue. WTF. I committed to pulling it, and after a good three or four attempts, it finally got off the ground. My back felt nice and rounded, and the residual pain I had for days was a nice reminder of the fact.
I realized I couldn’t just bump up my deadlift 10 lbs every week by simply doing 1×5 at the heaviest weight – at least not anymore. At the weight of 180-ish lbs, being around 18% body-fat, I had already plateaued in newbie gains for the deadlift. Excellent.
Setbacks – Take Time Off and Work Back Up
Having dealt with numerous injuries before, it’s almost like clock-work to me regarding what needs to be done to recover and come back.
Whenever I hurt myself, I always rest. I try to keep active as possible during this period, so I continued with basically everything else in my program, minus the deadlifts. I did a lot of walking to keep the blood flowing, and also performed dead-hangs to decompress the spine. I’ve written about spinal decompression before and I definitely felt an improvement with my back pain after incorporating dead-hangs into my routine. My boss pushed my to use reverse-hyperextensions at work (which I never did end up using – probably a stupid decision on my part) but dead-hangs seemed to have helped enough.
After two weeks of no deadlifting, I did one week of RDLs and deadlifts using 135 lbs. It was painless and easy, so I decided to hop back on regular heavy deadlifts again.
Stalls in Strength – Change Your Program
It was obvious I plateaued with my newbie gains, as early as it seems, so it was prudent to switch-up my program.
The more advanced you become as a lifter, the more advanced your program must become to accommodate your strength-gains. Things like sets, reps, percentages, and frequency come more and more into play as your achieve your “lifting seniority”.
I experienced some difficulty finding a program that seemed right for me. Deadlifting 265 lbs at a bodyweight of 180 lbs is still considered “novice”, yet I milked my newbie gains already. Weekly progressions were out of the question for me, but I felt that programs like 5/3/1 or the Conjugate Method were way too advanced and slow for my current status.
Luckily, I stumbled upon “Karl’s Method” of 5/3/1, and felt it would be perfect for me. To summarize, 5/3/1 allows for 10-pound increases in your deadlift and squat 1-rep-max every four weeks. Karl’s method is perfect for an intermediate lifter, as it cuts out the 2nd week and 4th week of 5/3/1, effectively increasing your max by 10 lbs every two weeks.
So, I embarked on this program for my deadlifts – on my second week of the program, I hit 245 lbs for reps. On the 6th week (which was this week), I hit 265 lbs again for reps, without any issue.
Prior to hurting my back, pulling 265 lbs made me feel like this…
However, after a few weeks on Karl’s Method, pulling 265 lbs off the ground makes me feel like this…
Needless to say, I wanted to pull more. I knew I could pull more. But, I want these gains to last as long as possible. If I can keep this up until November I will indeed hit 405 lbs before my 22nd birthday.
For your viewing pleasure, Ronnie Coleman deadlifting 800 lbs. Here’s to greatness!