Sunday, May 14, 2023

Deadlifts In The Grass - By Jim Duggan

     I was going to title this article “Deadlift Variations,” because it’s basically about different ways to provide variety to doing deadlifts.  However, the song “Grazing In The Grass” has been playing in my mind ( thank you Sirius XM) and I thought that it would be a nice title for a Deadlift article.  Incidentally, the version to which I am referring is the one performed by The Friends of Distinction, although the instrumental version by Hugh Masekela will work just as well.

     Over the years, I’ve written several articles pertaining to the Deadlift.  There are several reasons for this.  To begin with, the Deadlift was my favorite competitive lift.  There used to be an old saying, “The contest doesn’t start until the bar is on the floor.”  At most contests, the deadlift was always the portion of the meet with the most drama.  Many times, a contest would be won or lost depending on who was the better deadlifter.  Sometimes strategy would come into play, but, for the most part, the simple fact that the deadlift was a basic test overall body strength, the stronger lifter would win the meet by virtue of pulling more weight off the floor.

     Additionally, I’ve always found the deadlift to be fascinating.  This may sound strange, because it is certainly not a “glamorous” lift.  One need only look at the strained expression on someone doing a limit deadlift to realize that the deadlift is certainly not glamorous.  It’s not a very technical lift, although it is far more technical than most people realize.  I guess a better way of phrasing this would be to say that the deadlift does not require years of technique like a Clean and Jerk, for example.  

     There is no need for any special equipment, either.  You do not need a squat rack, power rack, or bench.  Spotters are not necessary.  All you need is a good bar, some weight, and a lot of desire.  A willingness to work hard would also be beneficial.  Because that’s what training the deadlift is all about:  Hard, heavy work.

     It is because of this hard, back-breaking work that you will feel as if you were run over by a truck after a heavy deadlift workout.  If you were to go to a typical commercial gym, you will find any number of pumpers and toners doing set after set of curls, pushdowns, or other baby exercises.  These yo-yos usually stand out, for all the wrong reasons.  But you can easily spot the person who lifts heavy.  It is the “look of power” which Dr. Ken so accurately described years ago in The Steel Tip.  A Lifter who has devoted a lot of time to heavy pulls from the floor will have a certain capacity for brutally hard work.  He/she relishes the beat up feeling following a heavy deadlift workout.  It’s hard to describe in words, but unmistakable in recognition. You will know it the day ( or days ) after.

     For a while, I was using my thick-handle trap bar for my deadlifting.  It is one of my favorite movements.  But as much as you may enjoy doing something, the body needs change in the form of variety.  Even if you are feeling good physically, mentally you may need to change things up to prevent from going stale.  For some reason, I’ve always found it easy to burn out on deadlifts if I don’t give myself proper recuperation between workouts.  Also, if I do too many sets, it will catch up with me in the form of overtraining.  Perhaps it is because of the lift itself.  The bar is on the floor, motionless.  Unlike the Squat, or Bench Press, there is absolutely no movement or momentum to stimulate movement of the weight.  I think for that reason, it is necessary to approach the bar with a positive mental attitude.  I always try to think of the great Soviet lifter David Rigert where he was quoted as saying “When you are alone with a great weight, you must be very, very brave.”  But this constant, relentless psychological battle can take toll.  You can only psych yourself up so many times in training, especially when you are doing the same movement repeatedly.  This is why I’ve tried to incorporate some form of variety in my deadlift workouts, while still dedicating myself to training hard and heavy.  

     In previous articles, I’ve talked about Dumbbell Deadlifts, and also doing Deadlifts off a block ( deficit Deadlifts), as well as partial Deadlifts.  Most of the time, I do them in the comfort of my living room/gym.  However, with the arrival of Spring, and the accompanying warm weather, I decided to take my workouts outside.  And instead of using a bar, trap bar, or dumbbells, I decided to use a piece of equipment that I’ve had for a long time: my Farmer’s Walk handles.  

     I originally purchased these handles about 25 years ago from Drew Israel.  Each one weighs 70kgs ( 154 Lbs.).  These are definitely not implements to be trifled with in any way.  Because I keep them in my shed, and because I didn’t feel like hauling them to my deck and back, I decided to do my Farmer’s Deadlifts in the grass.  Due to their heavy weight, they are a perfect workout all by themselves.  The low position required to pull them from the ground with no weight makes for a great range of motion.  

    I also have a supply of 25 Lb plates for the purpose of increasing the poundage.  Yes, the range of motion is decreased slightly, but not by much.  And the added weight makes for a challenging movement.  One thing that I didn’t account for was the ground being soft on the days after it rains.  April showers bring May flowers, but they also cause your weights to sink into the ground.  Perhaps larger plates would prevent this from happening, but the increased diameter would decrease the range of motion even further.  Yes, this is a quandary experienced only by those of us who are dedicated to our beloved Deadlifts.

     In all seriousness, using the Farmer’s Walk handles is an interesting variation.  It’s kind of a cross between dumbbell Deadlifts and trap bar Deadlifts.  Can I stand on a block and create a deficit?  Perhaps.  But right now, I’m content to use these implements as a means of doing Deadlifts without a bar or conventional dumbbells.  

     Incidentally, if you are doing any sort of Deadlift, I recommend that you not use a belt.  I’ve discussed this before, and I firmly believe in the value of training without any sort of lifting aids.  This is something that I first learned while training at Bruno’s many years ago, and I have never wavered in this opinion. 

     While I’m on the subject of lifting aids, I can’t rightfully discuss their use without mentioning something that never ceases to amuse me.  I’m referring to the numerous videos that are posted by people claiming to be “raw” lifters.  Now, I have nothing whatsoever against raw lifting.  I even competed in a few raw contests in the past.  But what passes for “raw” today leaves a lot to be desired.  I’m talking about people wearing wrist wraps, knee wraps, elbow wraps and lifting straps.  If you are bench pressing with wrist wraps and elbow wraps, then you are NOT lifting “raw.” Likewise, if you are deadlifting with lifting straps then you are NOT a raw lifter.  From the looks of these “figure eight” straps, it appears as if you don’t even have to wrap your hands around the bar to pull it off the ground.  But what always leaves me feeling puzzled are the people who use an axle ( or thick bar), strap their hands to the bar and deadlift it off the ground.  Somehow they feel it is a grip feat worthy of recognition.  What a joke.  What’s the sense of using an axle if you’re just going to use artificial means of attaching your hands to the bar?  I fail to see how that is impressive.

     Now that I’ve finished ranting, I would like to say that I will continue to train outside, and that includes incorporating my Farmer’s Deadlifts into my routine.  Naturally, there are many movements which can be done outside, and since we are only in the month of May, I’ve only scratched the surface insofar as outdoor training is concerned.

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Saturday, May 6, 2023

Peary Rader: The Iron Man - By RJ Hicks MS, CSCS

Peary Rader was an early bodybuilder, weight lifter and strength training writer who left a huge impact on the Iron game. As a young, undersized boy he built himself up with heavy, high repetition back squats. In just a few years of training his weight shot up 80 pounds as he focuses on lifting heavier and heavier weights in high rep back squat, eventually earning local success in competition as a lifter. This sparked Rader’s lifelong passion for weight lifting and bodybuilding, which he shared with others through his writings, publication and promotion for natural training methods.

Rader’s interest in weight training began in his teenage years when started training with homemade weights made from scrap metal. Frustrated with his size, he became fascinated by the idea of building his own strength and sculpting his physique through weight training. He would supplement limited sets of; the deadlift, clean and jerk, military press, barbell row, bench press, barbell curl and sit-up to his 20 rep squats. It was not long after his success in weight lifting and bodybuilding that Peary Rader took up writing for various bodybuilding publications. His articles were well-received by his few readers and he soon established himself as an expert in the field of weight training and bodybuilding. Rader used this platform influence other like-mind fitness enthusiast, leaving many everlasting contributions to the field. Going down in history as one of the greatest figures in the Iron Game.

One of Peary Rader’s most significant contribution to the Iron Game was his publication, Iron Man magazine. The magazine originated in 1936 at his own dining room table. As a small newsletter and quickly grew to become one of the most influential publications in the field of strength training for 50 years. Through Iron Man, Rader was able to reach a large audience of weightlifters, bodybuilders and weight training enthusiast, providing them with training tips, workout routines, nutrition and spiritual advice. It was an educational tool to people interested in weight training.

It was one of the first magazines to promote twice a week training, women training with weights, Arthur Jones training ideas and at the time his new nautilus machines. Similar to Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health magazine, Rader didn’t just cover weight training. He promoted overall health, character and spiritual health in his editorial section. Dr. Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert and Bradley Steiner were just some of the great past writers for Peary Rader’s publication. The magazine was known for its innovative approaches to training and its emphasis on natural bodybuilding methods. A true godsend at that time to counter the rampant drug training found in the Muscle and Fitness magazines.

Another important contribution that Rader made to the iron game was his emphasis on proper form and technique in weight training. Rader believed that proper form and technique were necessary for achieving optimal results and avoiding injury. He stressed the importance of starting with lighter weights and master proper mechanics before progressing to heavier weight. Rader encouraged trainees to focus on maintaining proper form throughout each exercise from start to finish. He believed you must earn the increase in weight through your performance rather than sacrificing form to continue to lift heavier loads.

Rader was a strong advocate for natural bodybuilding and weightlifting, which focused on achieving strength and physique goals through hard work and dedication, rather than through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. His philosophy of drug-free training was based on his belief that using performance-enhancing drugs was not only unethical, but dangerous to trainees. He knew that the use of drugs could lead to serious health problems and that the risks outweighed any potential benefit.

Instead, Rader promoted the importance of natural training methods, such as progressive overload, good form and a focus on nutrition and recovery. He believed natural training methods were not only heathier but also more sustainable in the long run, allowing athletes to achieve their goals without putting their health at risk. Rader advocated for a holistic approach to strength training, which not only weight training, but proper nutrition, and recovery.

Training Philosophy

One of the key principles of Peary Rader’s weight training philosophy was the importance of progressive overload. Rader believed that the body needed to be challenged progressively with heavier weights (not volume, exercise variations or training frequency) in order to continue making gains in muscular size and strength. He advocated a gradual increase in weight overtime, as opposed to sudden jumps, in order to minimize the risk of injury and ensure the body could adapt to the new stresses being placed upon it.

Rader also believed that nutrition was an important factor of any effective weight training program. He stressed the importance of consuming a balanced diet that provided the body with nutrients it needed to recover from workouts. Rader recommended trainees consume a sufficient amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, while minimizing their intake of processed foods and refined sugars. He pushed natural foods for protein such as milk, eggs and animal proteins. There were no large advertisements, no hidden agendas or selling garbage products like most of the muscle magazines today.

In addition to nutrition, Rader also believed rest and recovery were necessary components of a successful weight training program. He encouraged trainees to get plenty of sleep, take rest days as needed, and allow their bodies time to recover between workouts. Rader was the first to promote twice a week strength training during a time that three whole body workouts was the norm. Long before Arthur Jones or High Intensity Training practitioners established it as general doctrine. He already figured out overtraining and lack of rest would lead to injury, burnout, and stalled progress in the gym for natural trainees.

A basic template of the training he promoted twice a week:

Squats or Deadlifts 1x20 Military press or behind the neck press 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Barbell curl or chin ups 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bench press or dips 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bent over barbell rows 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Sit ups or leg raises 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 rep

Peary Rader was without a doubt one of the best and truly ahead of his time. He was the most honest guy ever, disciplined in his craft and extremely admired by the people who knew of him. His training philosophy never veered centering around poundage progression full body workouts with basic exercises, twice a week with plenty of rest and recovery between workouts. Though Peary Rader is gone, his legacy lives on in the pages of his original Iron Man magazine, which has some of the greatest training advice ever recorded.
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