You may think you know the hardest thing in weightlifting. Think again.
“There is no reason to be alive if you cannot do deadlift!”
These iconic words burst out of the mouth of Jon Pall Sigmarsson some 20 years ago as he won against gravity and pulled 1005 lbs from the ground during his pursuit of the Worlds Strongest Man title. In 2014, the strongest man to ever walk the earth, Zydrunas Savickas, pulled 1155 lbs during his 7th claimed title of The Arnold Strongman.
There is arguably no greater feat of strength than the deadlift. While both the squat and the bench are tests of strength, there is no single movement that engages every muscle group from head to toe, is more primal and requires more brute strength, than the deadlift. If squat is the king of all exercises, then the deadlift is the king of all power movements.
I have heard it said before that, “there are weak men with strong legs and weak men with strong arms, but I have never met a weak man with a strong back!” The back is the cornerstone of all strength sports. We need to lift, carry, hold, squat, push and pull. Each of these require a strong back. Heck, even a good bench requires a strong back and developed lats. So why do so many people hate to do it? Simply put, it’s hard!
The deadlift is great fun and easy if you are pulling 135 for reps and hoping to compete in crossfit, but if you are looking for genuine strength, you need to get used to a heavy pull, and reps aren’t the key.
As with all pursuits of gaining strength, you need to keep your focus between 3-5 reps for multiple sets. Pulling 500 for three sets of three reps is a lot different than pulling 135 for 10.
While I am winded after one, I feel like I am going to either pass out or poop myself after the other. Getting used to and looking forward to the latter isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for people to black out after heavy pulls.
Deadlift is hard, really hard. It requires a strong spirit. It requires pursuit of strength and a dedication that not many are willing to pour into anything, but when you get hooked it becomes overwhelming.
After 15 years of training, I still get butterflies in my stomach when it’s time to deadlift. It’s a passion shared by few and understood by even less.
So why do it?
If you want the lame answer, I’ll tell you to train it so that you aren’t a hobbling old man when you get older. So that you can still manage to move your own furniture and carry in your own groceries; so you can pick up your grandkids when you are in your 70’s.
My personal answer however, would be because it makes you awesome.
Anyone in the world can bench and as we all know, every hipster with a pair of spandex will ask you, “What’s your bench bro?” That’s all fine and dandy. What not everyone can do and what requires a real dedication to accomplish, is belong to the 700lb plus deadlift club. I have seen 14 year olds in high school bench 225, so who cares? But I have seen less than 3% of the human population pull more than 700 lbs.
People get paid ridiculous amounts of money to dress up in tights and catch a ball. Is it entertaining? It appears that many feel it is; I am not one of them however. My passion lies in power sports; acts of herculean strength leave me in awe. Big Z’s and 1115 pound deadlifts are far more impressive to me than how fast someone can run 100 yards. His 500 lb over head press inspires me more than catching a ball. A man carrying 1300 lbs for 75 feet in nine seconds impresses me more than a man whacking a ball.
All of these acts require a strong back. A strong back makes you awesome. And being awesome requires a strong deadlift.
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Photo: Flickr/Steve Collins