Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Finnish Deadlift Routine - With A Twist - By Jim Duggan

When I began powerlifting, in the 1980s, the primary source of information was Powerlifting USA magazine. Contest results, training articles, upcoming events, and anything related to powerlifting were covered in each issue. As I've often mentioned, Dr. Ken's column "More From Ken Leistner" was one of my favorite features of the magazine. Even before I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ken, I was a fan of his writing. Another popular feature was the "Workout Of The Month." As the name implies, it was a monthly routine described in great detail, right down to the sets, reps, and poundages. It was usually written by one of the "big name" lifters of the day. The implication was that by following a champion's workout routine, you too can build great strength and increase your lifts. All you had to do was wait for each issue to arrive in the mail. 

Fortunately, today we do not have to wait a month to obtain training information. Training routines are just a click away. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that is so readily accessible is also useless, particularly for drug-free lifters. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between what is quality lifting information and what is not, especially for newer trainees. Let's face it, there is a lot of misinformation out there. However, we are lucky in that there is also more than enough timeless information that is worth its weight in gold. 

One particular nugget that has been around for a long time is the "Finnish Deadlift Routine." Originally published in PL/USA during the Summer of 1981, it was reprinted several years later, and has been discussed and debated by many authors, discussion boards, and forums over the years. I am going to discuss my experience with this routine and offer my opinion as well as apply it to the training of a drug-free lifter. The original Finnish Deadlift Routine was written by Jaska Parviainen. A quick search will reveal that he has written a few strength articles, and introduced a number of ideas to the lifting world. Now, to break down the routine. The routine is comprised of three cycles for a total of twenty weeks. Deadlifts are performed twice per week. 

The first cycle is seven weeks long, and requires the lifter to perform stiff-leg Deadlifts off a 5" block (what we refer to as "deficit Deadlifts today). In other words, you will not do standard Deadlifts at all for the first seven weeks, only stiff-leg Deadlifts for sets of ten repetitions. The second cycle is also for seven weeks, and like the first cycle, you will be lifting off a 5" block. However, during this second cycle you will be doing regular Deadlifts, using your legs, this time for sets of five repetitions. The third and final cycle is for six weeks, and will have the lifter performing regular Deadlifts only this time off the floor for various repetitions. 

Poundages are determined as a result of percentages of your one-rep max at the beginning of the program. The routine boasts of some impressive gains for those who follow through and complete the program. As you can see from reading the program, an increase of up to 50 pounds can be expected. Along with the increase in strength, there will be an accompanying increase in size and muscle. The exact phrase the author uses is "back musculature worth bragging about." If bragging is your thing, then you're in business! At the beginning off the year, I decided to give the routine a try. Over the years, I've attempted to follow the Finnish Deadlift Routine but never followed through the entire three cycles. This year, I decided I was going to make it through the whole program, but with a twist: Instead of doing Deadlifts with a barbell, I was going to use a Trap-bar, but not just any Trap-bar but my thick-handled trap bar, which I purchased several years ago. 

Now, I would like to explain some very important observations that I've made after completing the routine. The first and most important point I'd like to make is that deadlifting twice per week is definitely too much work for a drug-free lifter. There is simply too much volume for a natural lifter to make gains on the routine. This is especially true when you consider that other heavy movements are usually performed in a lifter's overall program. What I did to adapt this routine to my needs was to simply eliminate the "lighter" of the two deadlift days. I would simply do the heavy day once per week. Sometimes, because of my work schedule ( rotating shifts) I would deadlift once every eight days. Later in the program, during the final cycle, I would give myself extra days of rest between Deadlift sessions. I cannot emphasize this enough. Drug-free lifters cannot blindly follow advanced routines that were developed for lifters that are not natural. However, there is no reason why a drug-free lifter can't improvise, and make it work for him/her. A little imagination, some trial and error, and a lot of hard work can overcome a lot of barriers. The second point I'd like to make is some people may have never done trap-bar Deadlifts off a 5" block. This is not a problem. Like any new movement, go slowly at first and perform the movcement in good form. The first cycle calls for stiff-leg Deadlifts. If you have never done stiff-leg Deadlifts with a trap-bar, then begin slowly. 

Good form is imperative, and the routine calls for NOT placing the bar on the floor between reps. The continuous tension between reps makes it easier to concentrate on maintaining good form. I've always enjoyed pulling off a block, and using a trap bar was a minor adjustment. I found that the sets of ten were a nice way to break into the program. It will make you hungry for the heavy stuff that will come later. And, trust me, it will get heavy. When the time came to begin pulling from the floor, it took a while to get comfortable. After nearly four months of pulling off a block, that is to be expected. But the biggest twist I made to the routine took place during the final cycle. 

Sometimes I would take 12-14 days between deadlift sessions. I simply listened to my body, and didn't attempt to lift unless I felt recovered from the last workout. The biggest mistake a drug-free lifter can make is not allowing for sufficient recovery between workouts. As for the auxiliary exercises, I decided to stick to One-Arm DB Rows and Bent-over Rows. I did not do the pull-ups or hyperextensions like the routine called for simply because I do not have a chin-up bar or hyperextension bench. If you have those pieces of equipment, I would only advise you to chose one or the other. Sometimes less is more when it comes to getting stronger and recovering between workouts. 

One thing I did do during the final cycle was to substitute Good Mornings for the Rowing movements. I've always enjoyed doing Good Mornings and have always felt that they are a super strength building exercise. Again, if they are for you then do them. Listen to your body. As I mentioned before, I utilized a thick-handled trap bar for this routine. I've always enjoyed using thick-handled barbells and dumbbells. Yet another benefit from following Dr. Ken. Naturally, the 2" handles will make it more difficult than using a regular bar, but when it comes to getting stronger, whatever is harder is better. I completed the final cycle on July 1st, nearly 25 weeks after I began. That day I pulled an easy 515 Lbs, in good form. I'm sure I could have pulled another 10-15 pounds, but I've always been conservative when it comes to poundage progression, and now that I'm 57 years old I see no reason to change. Besides, I plan on using this routine again and I want to stay hungry. The Finnish Deadlift Routine is an excellent way to build strength and increase your Deadlift if you're willing to be creative and work hard.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Latest Strength and Sports Newsletter - By Jamie Labelle

Connective Issues BLOG/NEWSLETTER 

Vol. 1/No. 1/APRIL ‘21 

Musings about the world of mental and physical training for all human beings who desire to improve or maintain themselves for their sport, job, activities of daily living or for the sole purpose of looking and feeling better. 


Subject“A” is a male in his late 50’s with fabulous hair. The 309lbs he is currently carrying around is not healthy, considering the fact that his college playing weight was 225lbs. In recent years his inconsistent workouts were not helping. However, the eating habits of this individual required a drastic change...NO, he actually needed an INTERVENTION! 

The intervention came in the form of a 29-day diet, which typically ends in disaster for most people who either can’t complete the task or successfully lose the weight, only to gain it back along with additional pounds after once again sliding back into old habits.. 

“A” is now on day number ninety and going strong at 275lbs. In about a week he will be tackling an exercise program. This hopefully, will become part of his daily life when it is blended into his new eating habits. More on his specific program, as well as similar situations, ahead in future issues. 

Subject “B” is a high school female athlete with good skills and toughness on track to play at the college level. The current issue is her weight. Through a combination of an unfocused diet and dad’s bulky genetics, her weight is now interfering with her great skill. Our concern is that the body weight (fat tissue) increases between senior year and that famous freshman year. More on “B” in future issues. 


Menu con’t 

Subject “C” is a 14year old talented wrestler, entering our facility for his first workout. In a previous consultation meeting, dad claimed that the little grappler could do sixty chin-ups. We also learned that dad is a bit more “enthusiastic” than his young son after speaking with the boys coach. Dad has been recording (filming) EVERY move, pin, nose bleed, burp and fart. 

We tell dad that if his son could do more than three Quality Repetition chin-ups, the first 12 training sessions would be free. 

On chin-up #2 the struggling athlete is starting to lose his grip with his left hand. We advise him to “squeeze with his left” but after barely completing his second he could not continue safely. 

At home, dad is reviewing video and notices that almost every time his son uses his left to grab and hold an opponent he cannot maintain his grip. Once again, the controlled reps allowed us to uncover a weakness that went unnoticed during the herky-jerky, sixty rep, chin-up session, which focused on the destination, not the journey. 

This began the creation of a program, not specific to the sport of wrestling (he’s already doing that in the wrestling room) but a program geared to HIS specific needs. We create programs for the “wrestler”, but the strength training aspect has almost nothing to do with attempting to mimic a single leg takedown in the weight room. 

Subject “D” is a professional football rookie in the “beast” shape of his life, eight weeks prior to the first training camp of the season. During one of the workouts he is able to complete twelve sets of uphill sprints with less rest and in record times, than in any prior sessions. All while wearing army boots. Just to be clear, the boots are not necessary, they were worn to stabilize and protect the ankle. The hills are large and all sand. On day one of the football camp, he is winded after doing ten simple up-downs and is baffled by the experience. 

His body was in a state of overtraining and was now faced with the upcoming and intense double sessions practices, coupled with a need to “show his stuff” in order to make the team. The overtrained athlete only has but one choice; rest to recover. Unfortunately, there was no rest in sight as it was show time! 

Each week prior, he had increased the volume of exercise and at one point was doing double sessions of conditioning, as well as, lifting weights six days per week. The additional football skill sessions with one of the veteran players, was also taking place on three separate days per week. He was slowly deteriorating and had no idea. At the time all he knew was, “more is better.” 



Hello (again) and welcome 

“It’s been a while” 

This little publication (now a blog/newsletter)was created in the early 90’s. It was just starting to pick up a little speed, as it was being read by our clients, teams, athletic coaches and trainers around the United States but then came to a halt. At the time, it was receiving some positive reactions from some noteworthy people who were near the top of their game. For many reasons we discontinued the “publication,” as we were beyond busy. Honestly, it was definitely not a floating boat in our revenue stream, actually it was free. Just add in a growing family, teaching, coaching, bills, career and BURNOUT...well you know the deal. 

So now we are back. We will be periodically re-issuing all or parts of the back issues, with necessary modifications. Unfortunately, at first glance, little has changed. In the words of one of the few experts in the field, “over the last thirty years, the industry has deteriorated exponentially.” 

With that, I welcome you to the new and improved, bi-monthly content and format of the Connective Issues blog/newsletter. A smattering of opinions, facts and ideas surrounding the industry of training and exercise, related to the development and maintenance of the human musculature and a whole lot more. 



One QualityRepetition 

Part 1; Initiation of movement 

Although there are many other factors involved. In teaching one quality repetition, that has always been the mainstay of our program, since its inception some thirty-seven years ago. It is our main course, our fundamental standard and our “platinum” package. It involves using the muscles to initiate movements instead of momentum. 

For exercises that commonly begin in the concentric phase, such as a chin-up, bicep curl or machine row, a smooth transition from a paused or a motionless position is crucial… 

It activates the muscles that move the resistance, which is a much more intelligent and safer way to initiate a repetition. Just think how “vulnerable” a person’s joints, connective tissues and muscles are at the beginning of a regular chin-up. 

It places the stress on the muscle or groups of muscles which is vital if the goal is building muscle that will improve your strength, health, flexibility and the ability to decrease the incidence and/or severity of injuries. If that “package” of outcomes, in its entirety is the goal, then starting the repetition in this manner is a requirement. 

It improves the probability that the resistance is correct for a given INDIVIDUAL. It begins a movement where the results can be recorded with a higher degree of accuracy in order to provide the type of overload that is necessary, safe, real and consistent. 

It most definitely does not commence with any rocking, jerking, swaying, screaming or even the very common, off-loading one might witness prior to “lift-off” on a seated cable row for instance. 

For exercises that commonly begin with the eccentric phase, such as a dumbell squat, bench press or certain leg presses, a smooth activation phase from a paused or motionless position is important… 


Initiation of movement con’t 

It usually dictates how the rest of the repetition will go...assuming that one wants to be safe and effective. 

It places the focus on fatiguing the muscles rather than completing and falsely counting/recording a full repetition. 

It assists in making muscle fatigue inroads into that aspect of a repetition (eccentric) where most trainees possess more “strength” than in the concentric...hoping that one’s goal is to get the most out of each rep, set and workout. 

Part 2; Movement 

For exercises that usually begin in the concentric phase, this is a little more simple (for the trainer, anyway) as we ask the person to “drag” the weight throughout the first part of the range prior to reaching the full range. We do not count. Our focus is on control and trying to use the natural and correct stabilizing properties that assist within the modality of choice, which allows that specific muscle or group of muscles to be solely responsible for performing the work. 

For exercises that usually begin in the eccentric phase, we continue to ask for a controlled movement, but with a noticeable difference in speed, albeit, a much slower speed than one would witness in almost ANY gym in the world. The reasons for that will be the focus of another article, in a later issue. 

Part 3; The FIRST Pause 

This may be the single most important aspect of the quality repetition which needs to occur at the concentric/eccentric phase exercise “halfway” point

3a...Concentric starting phase exercises; eg. Dumbbell Press/Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise 

If the person cannot pause with a given resistance (at least up to the lower number of the rep range) then the weight is too heavy and needs to be adjusted. 

This required first pause, will take the most energy to complete and maintain throughout the rest of the set and subsequently the entire workout. We treat it as any other skill development task; it must be taught, practiced and repeated. The only requirement for it to be included and recorded as a full repetition, is that a PAUSE must occur at the fullest range possible. 


First pause con’t 

This is also where we begin to TEACH proper breathing, attitude and an absolute requirement of remaining calm, while slightly aggressive (effort wise) with a relaxed facial expression, mouth slightly open and in the best possible body position for that specific exercise. 

3b...Eccentric starting phase exercises; eg. Bench Press/Squat 

This particular first pause requires the most discipline as well as a great deal of energy to accomplish. However, it is also the most dangerous, both in that it usually occurs at a moment in the exercise where the trainee is least protected due to the mechanics of the movement (think bottom range of the bench press or squat). 

In addition, that same danger MIGHT exist and be multiplied based on SO MANY FACTORS related to one’s specific, unchangeable, physical and genetic make-up. This would take an entire book, videos and at least a semester to explain. 

There are however, some adjustments and modifications that exist which are easily applied but sometimes it just goes back to “you are who you are”. 

Unfortunately and partially because of the singular desire to complete and then mistakenly “count” anything resembling a repetition, remains to be one of the reasons why this seemingly irrelevant aspect of exercise is often overlooked. In fact, I’m surprised you’re still reading this! 

Most of the time, the increased speed during this part of the repetition is to aid the trainee in making it past the “sticking points’ inherent in the exercise and/or self, but also because the weight selection is incorrect. 

The other, mostly male reason for ignoring this critical component of exercise (commonly referred to as form), is that it demands using a weight that they can actually handle. Additionally, from a vanity perspective, most males are not able to deal with the fact that for as strong as they appear to be, based on their size (or what they have developed over time), using a true resistance in “good” form during a given exercise might diminish their “prowess” as the strongest member of a gym. The same holds true for both the guy who only took a brief swim in the gene pool and the unlucky guy who only got to test the water by dipping in his toe. In fact, their form could be worse, especially if they are trying to impress other gym members or themselves. No judgement here or any intended harm to anyone...just what we have noticed about people exercising. All could be great and kind human beings (which is what matters most). 


Part 4...The initial return phase after the first pause. 

4a..Concentric starting phase exercises; eg. Pulldown/Machine Leg Curl 

We require and teach a focused and very dramatic slower speed of movement during the first few degrees after the contracted position pause. This sets the stage for the desired speed of movement during the eccentric portion of the exercise. If the trainee can accomplish this, it indicates to us that the resistance is safe and most effective for that specific individual as long as they can maintain that speed along with the necessary body mechanics. As we mentioned earlier, this will further contribute to the eccentric fatigue and develop deeper inroads as our goal is getting the most out of each repetition. 

4b..Eccentric starting phase exercises; eg. Push-up/Lunge 

It is very important during this part of a repetition/exercise to understand that the human body is especially vulnerable and that the focus MUST be on good body positioning (think “bottom” of the push-up; straight back, feet and hands shoulder width and remaining directly under the shoulders). There must be a concentrated effort to engage muscles and not just think of making it through that difficult portion of the exercise in order to complete or count the repetition. Additionally, we offer technique “reminders” to enhance muscle involvement and safety during almost every exercise. 

Part 5...The remainder of the return phase 

Again, this is a controlled, slow movement with no counting from the trainer. If the person is returning the resistance to the starting position on a machine leg curl, the speed of motion is considerably less than on the concentric portion. Maintaining a controlled speed to reach the “top” of the push-up position is also required. 


Part 6...The second pause 

6a...Both Concentric and Eccentric starting phase exercises. 

This pause allows the individual or trainee to prepare and focus themselves for the next repetition rather than allowing the set to deteriorate into one continuous motion. It is intended to separate one repetition from another and eliminate the dangerous, and ineffective momentum during exercise that is so often witnessed in health clubs, irrespective of whether a trainer is present or not. 

6b...Concentric starting phase exercises; Machine Leg Curl 

We require the trainee to touch the weight stacks together during this PAUSE so that we can make sure it is a full range repetition. Tension is kept static for a brief moment, as we ask them to “pause but don’t relax”. On certain exercises such as a tricep pushdown, lat pulldown or pullover this may not be possible. Once again, this eliminates the ability to utilize momentum in order to “get” the next rep. This METHOD is more measurable (as long as factors like seat heights remain the same and body “english” is not assisting completion of the repetition). If there wasn't the requirement to touch the weights together, then as fatigue set in the gap between the weight plates would widen from rep one to rep ten. You “recorded” ten, but you really did six. You believe you got stronger, the weight gets increased and so begins the further collapse of your form and the first steps toward injury. 


...By the way, we didn’t want you to think we forgot to address the importance of general and specific warm-ups, breathing, body positioning and exercise choice. Our goal here was to write about A REP. We will get to those other, very important topics, in future Connective Issues. 

...Please note; The references to specific exercises made in this blog/newsletter are included for the purposes of describing how WE want clients to perform repetitions. Understand that we are not, by any means, advocating for these exercises, it's just easier to use common movements done throughout the history of weight training. We will review ALL exercise movements for a combination of safety and efficacy in future issues. Remember, this is not about posing on stage or demonstrating how much a person lifts, it’s quite simply about getting results that transfer to performance, while lowering the incidence and/or severity of injuries. That performance could range from walking the dog to doing the forty at the NFL combine. 


SIde dishes con’t 

...just a point of OPINION here regarding the few members of the massive workout population of today who appear to “know what they’re doing” based on how they look, how they train, which “exercises” they choose or possibly how much they lift... For the general population, who mistakenly attempt to copy that selective society’s lead in how we exercise, please understand that it’s one of the main reasons that most of us are not achieving even close to our genetic potential. Trust us, good genes make it easier but that is another reason one needs to get the absolute most out of every rep, set and workout which begins with good, “clean” and safe repetitions. 

...and we might as well point out here that this philosophy of performing quality repetitions is intended for EVERY ADULT and EVERY ATHLETE, no matter what age or level from fourteen years old and beyond, no matter what the goal. The only exception being a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter...much more on that in a later issue. 

...If the first set calls for between 10-14 reps, we want the trainee, at a minimum, to complete the tenth rep in order to adjust accordingly, either for a new set, the next set or future sets during another session. For a beginner or even an advanced, new client, we would want them to hang out near the top end of the repetition range for at least a month, as long as they have been consistent. An advanced trainee is still considered a beginner if a new routine or exercise is introduced as part of their workout, with the difference being that we want them living at the top of the rep range for less time (one week) than the beginner or advanced new client. 

...Let’s say that the goal of the set is to do 8 repetitions with 120lbs on a cable pulldown machine, using a parallel grip. Based on the overload principle (researched based), once the trainee completes the required repetitions, the resistance is increased by .5 to 2.5lbs. Any more than this small increase will certainly impact one’s form and eventually lead to nagging, persistent or permanent damage. Using the new weight, the trainee attempts to reach 8 repetitions, beginning the same process all over again. 

For the advanced or intermediate trainee, the next time they perform this exercise with the new weight, they might typically complete between 5-7 reps if they are using the same form. If they increase the speed (momentum) they might complete 10-12 reps. If they decrease the speed to say a “Quality Repetition” they might complete 2-4 reps. How do you think the typical male would react to that decrease? 


SIde dishes 

For the beginner trainee, they might complete or exceed 8 reps due to a natural learning curve or something as simple as the resistance being too light. 

The real issue is that when the trainee assumes they completed the required number of repetitions with a specific resistance and then increases that 

resistance, their form progressively breaks down with each successive workout. This leads to possible injury, modifications in range of motion, less protection against injury, avoidance of specific exercises (especially favorites), limiting or cancelling workout sessions or even memberships. In turn, this reduces effort (intensity) leading to less results and a host of other issues. 

To complicate this subject even further, we MUST also discuss exercise choices as it relates to both the physical and mechanical advantages and disadvantages of each individual, as well as, the exercises themselves. This particular topic is not easy to discuss, debate or learn. Furthermore, there are few who can break it down, explain it AND have someone walk away with a working knowledge of the reasons it is so important for designing INDIVIDUAL workout programs. 

...When we first began training clients, we tried counting out loud, a three-second “positive” and a five-second “negative” repetition speed. We quickly scrapped the idea which was met with some thunderous applause from all involved. Our original goal was to make the recording of the repetitions even more measurable and exact, leading to greater effect and efficiency, but we determined that the quality repetitions were difficult enough without the verbal bellowing! Actually, it was getting in the way of important instructions that needed to be conveyed, especially to the beginner. 

...For most of the workouts, the rest period between each exercise is kept as brief as possible and constant, unless we are in the early off-season of an athlete’s sport or the adult client and/or athlete are brand new. How each progresses is based on age, health, medical history, individual desire, ability to take instruction and/or deal with varying discomfort levels associated with progressively less rest in between exercises. More on this and the “dosage” of exercise, related to the beginner through advanced client, in a future issue. 



A college strength coach was trying to motivate his athletes and at the same time have a little fun. The coach got hold of a whiteboard and wrote the following on the top of the board so that entering athletes could “order” and be taken through, one on one, at some point during their routine for that day; 

“Welcome to our restaurant, please order before entering” 

“Specials of the day” 

Legs ala kill you...served in a fine lactic acid sauce 

Bicep soup 

Pork Shoulder (well done only) 

Deltoid Mussels; Steamed and Overloaded in a bowl 

15-20 Little Neck clams...progressively leading to Bigger Neck Clams (seasonal) 


Our Principle, Philosophy, Mantra or Credo? 

“DO NO HARM” Actions should not cause or create injury or injustice to people. Overall goal of the training program? 

Our end goal is to create usable muscular strength for any endeavor whether its winning a gold medal at the olympics or progressively strengthening your leg musculature to improve your quality of life. We have assisted with the training of both of those clients and almost every type of individual in between...that is, until the next client enters the facility. 

To date, all of the successful athletes that we have trained (strength training only) spent a total of 1.5 hours or less per week (not a typo) with us during the off-season and only 45 minutes per week in-season. 



“Everything related to the demonstration of strength is counterproductive to the development of strength.” 

“You cant teach anybody anything, you can only create a situation where they might learn” “Count up enough of those tomorrows and all you have is a bunch of empty yesterdays.” 


Questions and/or comments regarding the Vol.1/No. 1 APRIL ‘21 issue to What would you like us to write about in future issues? 


Exercise and/or training advice is not without its risks and this or any other exercise/training program may result in injury. Our advice is to consult with a physician before starting an exercise program. As with any of these types of programs, if at any point during your workout you begin to feel faint, dizzy or have physical discomfort, you should stop immediately and consult a medical professional. You should rely on your own review, inquiry and assessment as to the accuracy of any information made available

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