How to Build Super Strength (How I Added 130lbs to my Deadlift in 2 Years)
Want to add 30lbs to your deadlift in JUST THREE WEEKS??? is not something you’ll find on this website. But it’s something you’ve read before isn’t it?
The biggest perpetrators of this are fitness magazines and online fitness ‘coaches’ who try to scam you for their latest programme that will ‘totally add super strength in six weeks’.
Which is tempting – I mean who doesn’t want to be stronger? I certainly do. But it’s the time that is the giveaway – can you really add that much weight to your lifts in such a short space of time?
Here’s the thing – I lift weights primarily for strength and overall health. And not just physical health but the mental benefits too. And so gaining strength is a big part of that. Knowing you won’t ever compete in powerlifting is by-the-by. I just want to be strong for life. If you want to know why, read this.
Building Strength – The Foundations
Here’s where I was 2 years ago – I’d just left a period of illness and unwellness behind. I’d hit a wall of exhaustion that took me weeks to get over. When I came out the other side I was weak, unfit and out of shape.
Part of how I got there was over training. Too much intensity, too much cardio, not enough food, recovery or sleep. It was at that point I changed the focus of my training to strength.
Two years ago my deadlift one rep max was in the region of 100 kg (to convert to lbs, multiply by 2.2). For the initiated, a ‘one rep max’ is the most weight you can lift in one go.
100 kilos isn’t great.
Last week I was deadlifting. I felt good. Using the Joker Sets method, I started to up my weight. Up and up and up – the reps kept coming. Until I was at the peak of my previous achievement – 155 kilos. I’d lifted that much once before.
Adding another pair of 2.5s to the bar I walked up to the platform. And made those numbers mine.
This translates into other aspects of life:
'Get rich quick' 'Lose weight fast' 'Improve your life in 2 weeks'
Here’s the thing: you don’t just lift a few weights, wait 2 years and BAM! You upped your max by 130lbs. It doesn’t happen overnight either.
But if you want it, you will get it. Let me tell you how.
How to Build Strength Consistently Over Time
If someone asked me ‘What’s your secret’ – I’d tell them there is no secret. Just consistency over time. That’s the ability to stick to a programme day after day, week after week with one thing in mind – to get stronger.
130lbs in two years sounds dramatic. But break it down. That’s an average of 5lbs per month. Doesn’t sound so impressive now does it? But those consistent, small steady gains have added up to a big gain (and a lot more work unloading the bar).
Like the Scott Adams ‘systems’ approach, my system involved training every day that I was supposed to – doing enough work to progress (but not more). Missed workouts lead to a lack of consistency as does flitting around with different programmes.
If you lift, you probably have ‘that guy’ in your gym. The one who always has Jim Stoppani’s latest training book folded under his arm. But somehow looks (and lifts) exactly the same as he did 5 years ago. Is his inability to stick to a programme (ANY PROGRAMME!) limiting his progress?
But you can’t have consistency if you don’t train smart. If you spend three months of the year injured, your consistent approach goes out the window. Training smart means:
Doing the minimum work required to achieve your results
Taking recovery seriously (more on this later)
Backing off lifts when you don’t feel good
Consistency means showing up to the gym – even especially on the days you don’t feel like it. Do what you need to and leave. No one who follows you on Facebook needs to know how you ‘aren’t feeling the gym today’.
Consistency means having a good programme. That’s why I like 5/3/1 – it isn’t a 4 week programme. Or a 6 week programme. It’s a ‘The Rest of Your Life’ programme.
People want a program that will add 40 pounds to their bench in eight weeks. When I ask how much their bench went up in the last year, they hang their heads in shame. – Jim Wendler
I’ve written extensively on my experiences training with 5/3/1. They are some of my most read articles on this site. But I don’t believe that it is the only method to build strength – just the one that works for me.
It doesn’t really matter to me what strength programme you do, as long as you have one and stick to it. Or don’t – but don’t expect a consistent gain in strength.
Strength Gains and Building Intelligent Recovery into Your Training
As I’ve grown older, my focus in training has changed. I’m much more focused on the long term. I still want to be lifting and enjoying my training well into my forties, even fifties.
But you’re not going to get there without looking after yourself. When it comes to recovery, I look at the holy trinity of:
I get a much better benefit from the stretching in the Wim Hof method. He uses controlled breathing to force oxygenated blood to the target area. You’ll look weird doing this in the gym – but I’m way past the point of caring.
Be Strong For Yourself
This is a tag I use on Instagram quite a lot. But it has real meaning. Strength training can teach you much about life. It teaches you the value of hard work and putting it in daily to get what you want.
It teaches you to overcome set backs and to have the discipline to show up even when you don’t want to.
Which is why I laugh when the haters crawl out of their burrows – like the guy who said he wouldn’t read my articles on lifting until I could overhead press my body weight. He doesn’t get it and probably never will. If the only reason you lift (or do anything for that matter) is for personal validation, you are mentally weak and will remain that way.
So if you lift weights – don’t do it for other people. Do it for you. Do it to build a better you and to teach you about success in other aspects of your life. I don’t believe in the maxim ‘Lifting is Life’.
But it can make you better at life.
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