Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting Back To Basics - By Jim Duggan

      Every lifter and strength athlete began their training journey doing similar exercises. Regardless of how old you were when you first wrapped your hands around a barbell, we all began with simple movements. The basics. Presses, Squats, Curls, Bench Presses. Perhaps, if you were fortunate enough to have been exposed to the proper training information and guidance, you also learned to do Deadlifts.  But, even without Deadlifts, a beginner can make tremendous gains in strength and size by sticking to the basic, multi-joint movements. No need for isolation movements ( lateral raises, concentration curls, pushdowns) because hard, heavy work on the basics was all that was needed to become bigger and stronger. And as long as the gains continued, then all was right with the world. Until, however, the lifters hit the inevitable plateau.
     Every person who has ever lifted weights has hit a sticking point in their training. That time when the gains slowed, and eventually stopped. Overtraining,  or simply the fact that the body has simply adapted to whatever stresses you have imposed on it, is the bane of all strength athletes. And while there are many solutions to this condition, ranging from a simple tweaking of your workout routine to taking a break from training, most lifters make the mistake of completely overhauling their entire strength training program. Abandoning the movements that have been the staples of their routines, and replacing them with inferior exercises. Or simply not doing any heavy exercises at all. Sometimes they will revert to a program consisting solely of bodyweight exercises. Maybe they will do a bodybuilding program of "pumping movements." In any event,  their strength will wane, their size will decrease, and their motivation could very well disappear for good.
     The absolute best thing to do at this point is to reevaluate your training, your goals, and the plan by which you will achieve your goals.  And while your goals might not have changed, time and other necessities might have caused you to make changed to your lifting routine that is causing you to fall off track insofar as it relates to achieving your goals. The solution to your lack of progress might very well be to return to the movements that have worked in the past. Exercises that have helped countless people get bigger and stronger over the years. I will offer my own training as an example.
     Over the last several years, I have avoided training in commercial gyms, for the most part. I rationalized this decision by noting that most gyms are woefully lacking in quality equipment. Shoddy bars, old free weights, lack of quality machines, plus the ever present crowd of pampers and toners made the gym experience something that I wanted to avoid. And while I was able to train effectively at home with a selection of weights, dumbbells, stones, and anvils, my training was not as complete as it should have been. I was not doing Military Presses, Squats, or barbell Deadlifts. Yes, Dumbbell Deadlifts are an effective movement ( particular if done for high reps) but they are not the same as heavy Deadlifts with a bar.  I was doing DB Presses, DB Deadlifts, weighted Step-Ups, and lifting my stones. And while I was making gains, and getting stronger,  there was still something that was lacking. I was missing that feeling you can only get from doing heavy, low-Rep Deadlifts. That feeling you experience from doing heavy Deadlifts that we've all experienced. That indescribable "hit by a truck feeling" that only Deadlifts can provide.
     At the beginning of the year, I joined a commercial gym and began doing the basic barbell movements again. Yes, the gym is not a serious lifting facility. But I was doing the basics again. However, there was one minor issue: The weights were not round, they were a ten-sided polygon that didn't allow for the bar to be placed on the ground smoothly. It's difficult to describe in words, but imagine having plates shaped like STOP signs, and loading them onto a bar and lifting it. Not a favorable situation. But it was a situation that is easily corrected. I ordered a Texas Power Bar, and, along with my York weights, I am able to do Deadlifts at home. And while it is not unusual for someone to do Deadlifts in the comfort of their home, I am willing to bet that not too many people get to Deadlifts in their living room! Since my home is built on a concrete slab, there is no basement.  Nor do I have a garage. So, the only solution is to lift in my living room. Not your usual workout facility, but I am doing heavy Deadlifts again, so, who cares about amenities? My whole body feels stronger, and the Deadlifts have even carried over into my stone lifting. So why complain about barbells in the living room?
     It doesn't get any more basic than the Deadlift. And with a first-class bar, quality weights, and a renewed enthusiasm, what more can I possibly want?


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