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With less than two weeks to go until the NAPF Deadlift Championships I am currently in the middle of the last week of my peaking phase. This has been one of the most productive training phases to date. Every area of the deadlift is making at least some kind of progress. This phase I once again used raw 5x5 squat work as the staple for my hip and leg strength and it is paying off. I managed a personal record 5x5 session this past week of 450, 475, 500, 500, 500 (with my previous best being 470x5x5). These sessions are extremely grueling on the body, both in terms of the physiological effect and the neuromuscular effect. But you would be hard-pressed to find a better means to increase strength off of the floor for the deadlift as well as overall core strength. Without the use of HMB it would be very difficult to include 5x5 squats as a regular component of my training.
The basis of my deadlift training has been deadlifts off of the floor against heavy band tension and partial rack deadlifts (with the height off of the floor decreasing as I progress toward the meet) on alternating weeks. On the band deadlifts I was able to hit 3 very easy singles with 600 pounds of bar weight and 220 pounds of band tension. These are also great work for grip strength – the constant tension of the bands adds a new dimension to grip training. Partial rack deadlifts are progressing well also. Two weeks ago I was able to go 700x5 from 15” off of the floor. This week I will once again pull from 15” and go for a heavy cluster of 3 or 5 reps or a heavy set of 3 straight reps.
The grip training has included some of my regular movements, such as Captain’s of Crush static and dynamic hand gripper work, thick bar shrugs with a double-overhand grip and double-overhand deadlifts from the floor. One of the most effective means of training the grip is doing high repetition sets of dumbbell rows without straps. I was able to hit a personal record of 140x20 each arm with no straps without setting the dumbbell down. I also use heavy dumbbell rows for upper back strength and I was able to set a personal record of 210x20 each arm. These have really helped me keep an arched back throughout the deadlifts and have the upper back strength for strong lockouts. So the upper back training is pretty simple as far as rows go: on odd weeks do 5x5 on wide grip rows and on even weeks do one set of high reps without straps and one set of high reps with straps.
After the Arnold Classic I changed up my technique on RDL’s. I have since maintained a much stricter form on these with a much larger range of motion and less knee bend. As a result, my hamstrings have become much stronger. Since changing my technique the heaviest I have gone is 575x6, which was done last week.
Overall, I will be stronger than I have ever been going into North American Championships. The goal, as always, is to beat my previous best self and pull a personal record. You can never control what your competition does – in training or in the meet. But you can always control what you do. The best you can do in preparation for a contest is to outwork your competition, and HMB goes a long way in helping you do this.