Tag Archives: deadlifts

The World’s Greatest Deadlift

If you were to research the heaviest deadlift ever performed in a powerlifting competition, you would come across a lift of 1,015 lbs by Benedikt Magnusson from Iceland on April 2, 2011.  In fact, our good friends at YouTube even have a video of the momentous occasion by this mountain of a man:

Sweet. Mother. Of. God.

He makes it look insanely easy and your jaw just sort of drops as you see that bar bend as if it were a plastic straw.  It’s incredible.  It’s utterly amazing.

And to me, it’s not the world’s greatest deadlift.  Not by a long, long, long shot.

See, today I saw the world’s greatest deadlift.  It was a full 700 lbs. less than what Mr. Magnusson pulled off.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense does it?

Here’s the the thing: the lift was from one of my absolute best friends, Sam.  What makes it the greatest deadlift I’ve ever seen or been aware of is that Sam has been through an absolute war with leukemia over the last several years.  I’m not even sure I can recall how all the rounds of treatment went, but if I’m not mistaken, it was something like:

  • Diagnosed with leukemia.  Goes through traditional treatment and chemo.  Leukemia in remission.
  • Leukemia returns a year and a half later.  Doctors change the game plan – Sam gets a donor stem cell transplant.  The process to prepare for a stem cell transplant is hell – utter and complete hell.  Your immune system is essentially wiped out with more noxious chemicals than you can imagine and when you are near death, they give you a blood transfusion with the stem cells.  The transplant put leukemia into remission again.
  • A year or so later… leukemia returns.  Again.  A stem cell transplant is currently the closest thing to a “cure” for blood-based cancers, so when remission kicks in, it’s usually a good sign that it won’t be coming back… unless it does.  Sam goes through the whole process and gets a second stem cell transplant with the same soul-crushing prep process.  Thankfully, it takes and leukemia goes into remission again.

Well, today I have a less-than-stellar lifting session as many of mine have been as I’ve increased my running.  This doesn’t put me in a great mood, of course… and then out of no where, a text message pops up on my phone, I see my buddy pulling that damn 315 lbs. up for a single rep and I’m completely, totally amped.  Because I know what that single rep means.  I know what the struggle has been for him.  And I know that while he has pulled FAR greater weight in his time on many an occasion, maybe this one rep was one of the sweetest.

BANQUET2

So here’s to Sammy (pictured front left from about… damn… 15 years ago) and the fighters everywhere who inspire us and put our own problems into proper perspective.  It’s not about the weight on the bar, but about the fight in your heart and soul.

Way to go, Sammy.  Way to go.

P.S.  Yes, that is me front right with actual hair.  Shocking, I know.

The Fine Line Between Possibility and Stupidity

People who lift weights… I mean really lift weights… tend to get viewed through a certain lens by a large bulk of society. Muscle = moron in a lot of contexts. You need look no further than your average Planet Fitness commercial. It’s as if there is an inversely proportionate relationship between size and smarts. It’s fairly ridiculous, but since it tends to make for an easier way to categorize or pigeonhole people, then hey… why the heck not? There are certainly people I’ve met who reinforce the view that weight trainers are not even as bright as the iron they throw around, however, there is also an inherent sense of wisdom in those who take their lifting seriously that I don’t think anyone outside of the lifting community ever really understand.

Let me see if I can illustrate a bit.

I stroll into my basement gym on the day I will be doing deadlifts. Now, the deadlift is a fairly straightforward exercise: the bar is on the ground and your job is to pick it up off the floor to a standing position. There is more technique to it than just that, but at the end of the day, that’s about it. Bar on floor. Bar being held in standing position. Ta da!

Bar waiting for a deadlift

But the deadlift, like many big lifts in weight training, is also a greater truth serum that sodium pentothal. Either you can pick up the weight or you can’t. There is no debating with it. There’s no reasoning with it. And the beauty… perhaps the misery… of the deadlift is that when the weight is too much for you, it stays completely stuck to the floor. On a lot of other lifts, there can be a modicum of movement before you bomb out and sometimes you can pull the bar a few inches up in a deadlift before all hell breaks loose… but much of the time, there is absolutely nothing.

That’s humbling. It never feels good. You know what else it is? An incredible learning experience in the shape of steel and iron.

When you get pretty serious about weight training (as I believe I generally am), there is a pursuit of pushing yourself a little further all the time and over a period of time. You are continuously pushing the outer edge of what you believe to be possible for yourself. I could deadlift 405 lbs. before and suddenly… huh… I can lift 425 lbs… and now I can do 445 lbs… and I never thought I would get there. Then one day… BOOM! I’m stuck. I can’t get any more than 445 lbs. I know exactly where I stand at that moment – again, the weight simply does not lie.

But what I am trying to do is move past that limit and see what else I can accomplish. At it’s most basic level, when I go down into my gym and lift weights, I am constantly looking to see what my limits are and how I can exceed them. It’s as if the entire activity has nothing to do with getting bigger or getting more muscle or any of that and everything to do with learning more about who I am, how I handle adversity and whether I can pick myself up when I get knocked down. It’s a constant learning and testing experience when done properly. In some ways, those who take this activity so seriously have a finer understanding of who they are than 99.9% of the people on the planet.

It’s certainly not just weightlifters either. Endurance athletes looking to run farther and faster or the Crossfit devotee who is looking to finish their WOD with more weight in less time fit the bill as well.

Everyone in this community who takes training (not just working out or going for a light jog or looking to “tone” up for Summer) seriously is always walking the fine line between find out what is possible and pushing themselves too hard to potentially get hurt, burned out or maybe just get funny looks from family and friends. To many, all of it looks more like stupidity than possibility. But sometimes you need to risk a bit in the search for greater self-knowledge. And trust me… I don’t want to get hurt (been there a bunch of times) or burn out (I am there right now because my ego outstripped my recovery ability)… but I must confess I do enjoy the funny looks from time to time. 🙂

So before you see someone who takes their weight training incredibly seriously as basically a semi-evolved primate… stop and ask yourself… when was the last time you put yourself in a situation where you were forced to figure out what was truly possible? And then think about what it would be like to do that 3… 4… 5… maybe even 6 times per week.

If you realize it’s been a while, then I would prescribe a little bit of iron therapy. You would be amazed at what you will discover about what is possible within you.

January 15, 2011 Training – Deadlifts

Just a little video action from yesterday.  It’s interesting because I had been playing around with what I was doing on this lift of late, from not using a belt to doing full stops between reps… and then it hit me: stop trying to be cute and just lift the freakin’ thing.  End result?  A great set that I truly enjoyed… plus I got to let out a battle cry on that last rep.  That’s just a good day any time you can do that.