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With no contests planned before the GNC Pro Deadlift at the Arnold Sports Festival in March of 2012 I have been training with two purposes: 1. Improve the weaknesses in my deadlift and 2. Set myself up for the most productive pre-contest phase (before the Arnold) that I have ever had. I began my off-season training by building a foundation of basic strength with a 6-week cycle of high volume front squats and RDL’s. I used a basic 6x6 scheme performing 6 sets of 6 repetitions with the weight increasing each week for 6 weeks. This built a great foundation upon which I was able to build more specific deadlift strength.
I used my “bread and butter” deadlift movement in the second phase of my off-season program to try and push my low back strength to new levels. The movement I used was the deficit deadlift, pulling a conventional deadlift while standing on a 3-inch block. The larger range of motion with this movement creates much higher time under tension and is extremely effective at strengthening the spinal erectors of the low back. I used a 4-week phase of triples with descending volume and ascending intensity (i.e. 5x3, 4x3, 3x3, 1x3) that ended in a defacto testing session of 1 set of 3 repetitions with as much weight as I could handle. I was extremely pleased with being able to pull 635x3 with no belt from a 3-inch deficit. A video of this lift can be found on my You Tube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/BDERM1 . This is a personal record and is a clear sign that my low back strength is in fact reaching new levels. I also incorporated raw back squats during this phase, but instead of the typical 5x5 scheme I have used so many times in the past, I decided to change things up and go with a 5x3 scheme. I also incorporated the use of chains with this heavy 5x3 raw back squat cycle and I have seen great dividends from this. I will save the 5x5 cycle for my peaking phase before the Arnold and attempt to achieve a new personal best 5x5 raw back squat.
In order to attack my glutes (one of my weaknesses) I used moderate to heavy sets of 5 on the barbell hip lifts. These continue to produce great gains in terms of glute and hip strength. I also used RDL’s to attack the glutes, but this time I switched to a much wider grip (i.e. snatch grip). This puts much more emphasis on the glutes and has proven to produce great strength gains as well. Videos of both movements can be found on my You Tube page.
In the past my lockout strength on the deadlift has been my strength. However, since I tore my spinal erector a couple of years ago, I have not been able to push the partial rack deadlifts as hard as I typically do, and this has resulted in my lockout strength lagging a bit at times. To address this I am currently in a cycle of rack deadlifts with bands attached to the bar. The bands ensure there is maximal tension throughout the entire range of motion of the lift. I am doing 3x5 with descending heights on the rack deadlift (i.e. 24”, 21”, 18”, 15” – height of bar from the ground). This week I was able to finish with 700 pounds of bar weight and over 300 pounds of band tension for a set of 5 from 21”. The back was a little sore after this session, but with the use of HMB each day the back feels great only 2 days after this training session.
I will finish the final two weeks of this training phase and then I will take a week to reload for a 4-week preparatory phase before I start my 8-week peaking phase for the Arnold. Until next time: train hard, train smart and outwork your competition with HMB!