Deadlifting Lessons

I recently received some excellent deadlift coaching at a local CrossFit box as I was working my way up to a one rep max.

As I was working through the sets this coach commented that I was trying to use my arms more than I should.  So he encouraged me to move my hands closer together.  I moved them a little and he replied, “more… move them more.”  Eventually my hands were MUCH closer than they’ve ever been during a deadlift.

But I decided to trust the coach and give it a go.  As an aside, this coach can deadlift close to 500 pounds and weighs around 190 pounds so, yeah, he knows what he’s talking about!  So I set my feet, took a deep breath, and pulled the weight with ease.  I quickly looked at him and he just smiled and said, “See? I told you so.”

My next attempt was going to be a new personal record (PR) for me by 10 pounds.  I chalked my hands up and approached the bar.  The coach then said, “Take your shoes off.”  I laughed and said, “Come on… how’s that going to help?”  He went on to explain how taking my shoes off would help me sit back on my heels and better engage my hamstrings and glutes.

So I thought, what the heck, why not?  I took my shoes off and approached the bar.  Again I set my feet, took a deep breath, and pulled the weight with ease.  It was a new PR and I was pumped!

At this point my faith in this coach was at an all time high and I wondered what his next suggestion was going to be.  The first thing he said was to add 15 more pounds to the bar… which we did.

And the last thing he said before I attempted the lift was that my mind was going to want to quit before my body would.  He said when you get to the point where you don’t think you can lift it keep going and just pull the damn weight off the ground.

Again, I chalked my hands… approached the bar… and set my feet.  I took a deep breath and pulled as hard as I’ve ever pulled in my life.  And you know what?  He was right.  I got to that sticking point in the lift where my mind wanted to quit but I decided to keep pulling.

The other folks in the box were now screaming and cheering me on and all I remember was the incredible feeling I had once I moved past the “sticking point” and slowly stood up.  I had smashed my old personal record by 25 pounds!

As I sit here tonight reflecting on how it all went down, and what we can learn from it, I think there are several take aways.

First, it’s good to have a coach helping you from time to time.  I still work out at home with my kids a lot… but having a coach watch me a few times a week has been extremely helpful.  Mike also continues to help me when we work out together on the weekends.

Second, technique and form matter big time when it comes to moving your body and lifting weights.  A small change in my hand positioning and taking my shoes off helped me more than I could have ever imagined.

And, most importantly, the advice this coach gave me about how my mind would quit on me before my body would just may have been the best advice I’ve ever received.  He was so right.  My mind did want to quit… but my body was able to keep going.

So the next time you’re working out and your mind wants you to give up just know your body likely has more in it.  Of course I’m not saying to be reckless and hurt yourself… but I am saying it’s OK to suffer a little and challenge yourself.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups (and deadlifts)!