Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lifting Milestone

Yesterday, I reached one of the most infrequent milemarkers in weight lifting: a 90lb interval. So I'm going to talk about it. I deadlifted 405 lbs.

First of all, that number is important because it's the first time I've lifted over 400 lbs. But that takes math to realize. 405, on the other hand, is a 45 lb Olympic barbell with 4 45 lb plates on each side. Each 90 lb increment has visual impact. At least, if I performed it in a gym instead of at home, where I don't own 8 45 lb plates, so it looks like this instead:
Look at that bar bow!

That's 4 45s, 4 35s and 4 10s. That's also about a decade of work represented right there.

Every lifter who does more than dabble has a lift. It's more often squat or benchpress than deadlift, but those are the big 3, because those are the powerlifting competition lifts. Shoulder press would be one of mine if I didn't have to perform them standing due to shoulder inflexibility and pain, and I never have a home gym with a ceiling high enough to do so. Anyway, everyone who's kind of serious about lifting has one lift that they stick with, and that they use as their strength gauge.

Mine is deadlift. I don't know exactly what it is about the lift. It has obvious advantages. It uses more muscles than any other single-movement lift. It is definite; either you can pick the weight up or you can't. If I hadn't been able to pick up that 405 lbs, it wouldn't be sitting there on that rack. But for me, there are disadvantages too. I have really long legs, but short arms. I'm not built to deadlift.

But I've stuck with it. I have a day every week dedicated to only deadlift. Push muscles get mashed together. So do pull muscles. But deadlifts get their own day. In fact, I've had more than a few hectic or lazy weeks in the past year where deadlifts were the only exercise I managed in an entire week.

The only other productive thing I've ever been as consistent at is writing. That's 10 years. 20 years if you talk "artistic endeavors" instead of "writing," because I switched from drawing to music to writing. But the weird thing about weight lifting is that it's often not that fun, and at a certain point, it's not that productive. Basic lifting is healthy, but I'm more likely to injure myself at this point than get any benefits. And I lift alone. When you move more than 315 lbs at a gym, you'll get some people watching. Lift 405, and you can really get some attention. I've never been a member at a serious lifting gym, so I've never even seen anyone but myself lift a bar with 8 plates. But I lift at home now, so I don't get to show off. My dog doesn't even watch me lift.

It's a weird thing. I can't really explain it. Picking heavy weight up. Setting it down. Stubbornly. Relentlessly.

495 lbs is the next milestone of this sort. The air gets real rarefied around there, but I don't know if I'll ever make it. I'm closing in on age 32. In a few years I'm going to hit the age where my strength will plateau, then head downhill. I recently spent a year nursing a torn hamstring (I had to choose deadlifting or jogging. I've obviously made my choice). I think I can make 10 plates, but it'll require no more serious injuries.

Regardless, I'm going to try for it.

So weird.


  1. Congrats! That's incredible.

    I did weight training on my own, at home, for 3 years (2008, 2009 & 2010). I took it slow and easy because I was 39 in 2008 and I was lifting alone. I started out at 5 days a week but eventually streamlined it down to 4 days a week. I never really changed my diet, though, so most of my gains were in filling out my arms and back. Never really bulked out, but saw some really nice improvement over time. (For a typical skinny-ish geek guy.)

    Back in January, I hurt my left wrist when I pushed too hard on a bench press and had trouble getting out from under the bar. I took it even slower through March, when I decided to stop for a while. In 3 years of lifting, that was my only real injury--but it was significant.

    I've been considering starting up again, though with no pushing-it goals at all. Just need to continue exercising and staying in shape.

    I think you just inspired me to stop putting it off and get back to work. =)

    Again, great lift!


  2. Good to know you're with me in the battle against the idea that brains and brawn must be mutually exclusive!

    I gave up on bench early on, due in part to having wrists that refused to grow larger than 7" around. So I'm with you on the wrist pain. I think one reason I've gone with deadlift is because I've so often had home gyms and though you can blow out a vertebra or have a brain aneurysm, you can't get stuck under a deadlift bar, and getting stuck is scary for sure.

  3. I prefer deadlifts to squats, that's for damn sure. Pretty much for the reason you gave.

    Once I would get over 200 lbs on squats (which is only slightly impressive, since it's more than I weigh), I would get very cautious. I'm paranoid about knee injuries ever since I hurt my knee in 5K run in college. My peak squats was reps at 225.

    Deadlifts really put the fatigue on. So I always did them last thing. I've never tried to find my 1-rep-max, so I don't know how much I *could* do. But at my peak, I was doing 7 reps at 245 lbs, followed by 8 reps at 235.

    My added caution when doing deadlifts is that my bench and weights are in my upstairs game room. I always wondered how long the floor would take it...and what would happen if I dropped the bar... ;-)


  4. I've got arthritic knees and always have, so the turn-around point on squats has always killed them. Unless I'm lucky/careful I'm not going to have any cartilage in my knees in 30 years. When I work out at a gym, I do step ups instead. They're less impressive but just as effective. Here at home, due to ceiling restrictions, I just let my hamstrings get proportionately way too strong.

    Those are definitely good deadlift weights for reps that high and for the end of your workout. I bet if you focused on them you'd get them up quick. Though I would suggest moving to a concrete surface if you were going to try for much more weight!

  5. i fully understand the milestone you hit, i made my own 400lb lift at the gym a few weeks ago. i was able to complete 3 clean reps of 400lbs, only my lift is the shrug. that being said it is not like the dl, there is far less movement with the shrug but it still feels wonderful to pull 400lbs! the best part is all the shredded fellas in the gym come nowhere near that weight!! the final point to all this, thank you mr ryker for putting me on the path to my goal.

  6. Keep reaching for the stars, brah. Ad astra per aspera!