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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