Sunday, December 28, 2014

Upping My Axle Deadlifts

It's unknown to me if I got a bastardized version of the Armstrong Pull-up program or I bastardized it in my own, twisted head.  Either way, that was my first exposure to the notion of a pyramid set way back in 2006-2007.  Pyramid sets seem to be used in two ways.  The first uses weights and involves using lighter weights for higher reps.  Then, you increase the weight and drop the number of reps. The bodyweight version is simply to increase the reps in the set until you fail to hit the last number of reps in the last set.  I used it back in 2007 frequently with pull-ups.  While I didn't dramatically increase my single-set rep count, I did manage to maintain as I bulked up from 157 lbs to 180 lbs.

So, where did I bastardize the Armstrong thing (and pyramid setting)?  I added a drop set to the fun.  In other words, when I hit my max set, I would work my way back down doing the same sets that I used to work up to the max set.  I've done this with weights before as well just BW.  The latter formed one of my favorite, pressed-for-time and short on equipment that can be found here

Like I said, I don't know if this was innocent, bad recollection or my training-obsessed mind just looking to squeeze a lot of work into a bit of time.  Neither would surprise me

So, the Armstrong Program has been floating around for so long that it got its own web site not too long ago.  It seems to be that popular.  Other than that, pyramid setting seems to be relegated to the dust bin of the training universe, along with lat pull-overs and hyperextensions.  Like these two, there doesn't seem to be a good answer as to why. 

Florida's Strongest Man...and Deadlifts
Just like The Dungeon Spring Break Classic, Brevard, and the Bacon Beatdown strongman competitions, I had to forego doing Florida's Strongest Man.  Work and my body don't cooperate very often.  I suspected that this could happen but I trained for this competition as though I was going to do it just the same.  Among the events was a 325 lbs axle deadlift, for most reps, in one minute.  My previous deadlifting prowess was abysmal.  I just don't get much opportunity to train this lift.  So, I had to build up my numbers, and fast.  This show was only two months after my first show, and it was a heavy one.  So, I elected to pull the idea of pyramid-drop set hybrid out of my bag of tricks, turning my sunday in to my deadlift training days. 

Am I really going to Blog about DEADLIFTING???
Yeah, I know, by blogging about what amounts to my deadlift program, I'm about to jump into such crowded, mucky swamp of vanilla-like uniformity with the rest of the mostly-shitty strength training sites.  Just about all of them have a deadlift program.  Plus, I've generally sworn to not be like everyone else.  Still, I'm going there because:
  1. I tried it. 
  2. It worked.
  3. I appears that nobody else did it like this
Still, with strongman competitions increasingly becoming more alike one another (god forbid), you'll likely run across an axle deadlift event for reps, if strongman competition is your fancy.  After all, axle deadlift is cheap and fast to set-up.  Unfortunately, poverty and time constraints don't inspire the same creativity for strength sports that the do for me. 

So, the first thing I found out in those seven weeks was that the total volume worked best if kept to a total of 40-50 reps of deadlifting (excluding some warm-up sets; of which I don't do many).  I don't know why that was. It just worked out ridiculously well.  I made very regular progress.  I don't keep records either.  I do remember that the pyramid-drop sets looked something like this:
  1. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
  2. 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2
  3. 3-6-9-12-9-6-3
How well did this work?  Well, as I lamented above, I didn't get a chance to do the competition.  My friend, who has been competing for six years, told me 15 reps in this event would probably put me in contention to win the event.  The day of the show, I had such a burning desire to figure out what I could do in a minute.  So, I tested myself and this is what I came up with:
Now, keep in mind when I first started doing this after Tampa, I was only doing 315 lbs for 6 reps!   I have no idea how the rest of the show would have affected my deadlift performance.  This is all I have to go off of and I banged out 17 reps in a minute.  That would have tied me for second place in that event.  The guy who also got 17 reps, a friend of mine who I affectionately call "Rabbi,"  outweighs me by a very noticeable margin. 
The winner of the event got 21 reps.  FUCK!
But what about accessory work?

Fuck, do I really have go into that too???  Well, what is a deadlift program without accessory work, I guess.  Yes, I did have some guidelines for that too. Even at 50 reps, give or take, this deadlifting generally fried my spinal erector muscles.  So I chose two accessory lifts, one upper body and the other lower body.  Neither of these lifts would hit the lower back. 
For my upper body lift, I'd usually do pendalay rows with the axle.  After all, I had the bar already loaded.  I also did weighted pull-ups and bent presses (I can't be that normal) on occasion. rep ranges on the Pendalays were 5-7 reps.  Pull-ups were 10-15 reps.  The bent presses were two reps per side (lots of time under tension with just two reps).  All were done 3-6 sets. 
For the lower body, I grabbed two kettlebells (or a T-handle) and did swings.  15-20 reps for 4 sets.  I also stumbled onto this sort of sumo deadlift-squat hybrid that I have no idea what the name of it is.  It's right here, about 30 seconds in...
I'd also do that for about the same rep range as the swings.  Frankly, anything that hit the hamstrings and glutes will work well; just avoid hitting the lower back muscles again.  Remember, hit the upper body after the pyramid-drop set and then do the lower body stuff afterwards. 
That's as close as you're ever going to get to me being conventional in a blog entry with a "program"  for a long, long time hopefully.  It's also the most concrete proof I've found that this rep scheme works extremely well for popping up reps in a surprisingly shot period of time.  Frankly, it's so much fun for me that I'm still doing it on my deadlift Sundays.  My most recent exploit was 350 lbs for 8 reps.  That used to be my max three years ago when I started deadlifting.  This whole rep scheme just shows that you need to keep  your eyes and your mind open to many different training protocols, even if it's from the Bodyweight Crowd. 
"Rabbi"...Nice job, chico!

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