Thursday is Deadlift Day

Today’s Workout requires a little more explanation so I’m going to make this an article. As you know if you’ve been following along with “I am a Modern Savage,” we are currently in the midst of an Olympic Lift training cycle. Two to three days a week we focus on the main Olympic lifts; the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch. The rest of the time we focus on Squat Variations, Deadlifts, Overhead presses, and Body-weight and Gymnastics. I know it sounds like the typical CrossFit routine but we have substantially more heavy lifting involved in our week and much less Metabolic-Conditioning or “Met-Cons.” Eventually we will head more in that direction but for now our focus is strength and maximum weight not moderate to light weight for high reps or time.

Since Thursday is Deadlift day we will be focusing on the basic Deadlift but I’ve also thrown in the Wide-Grip Romanian Deadlift or RDL and the Rack Pull. These last two moves translate well over to Olympic Lifts; the RDL mimics the first and second pull of the Snatch and the Rack Pull helps ingrain power through the rear posterior chain for a better second pull while all but eliminating the ability of the upper body to assist the pull. We will not be deadlifting at our max today but just heavy enough to stress the rear posterior chain. We had an intense day of circuits yesterday and a heavy squat and clean day tomorrow so I don’t want to totally annihilate my body on Deadlifts. The weights listed are a moderate amount for me but feel free to raise or lower them depending on your ability.

Squat Rack and bar setup fro rack Pulls
Squat Rack and bar setup for Rack Pulls
Measurement of height for Rack Pulls
Measurement of height for Rack Pulls

The Warmup
Our usual warm-ups entail a run through the standard Catalyst Athletics circuit. We skipped that today instead choosing to focus on 30 minutes of Mobility movements pulled from Kelly Starrett’s new book and centered around the “Pigeon Pose” to help loosen up the glutes, hips, hamstrings and to reset the femur in the socket. I also do a few Spider-man lunges just for good measure and because I’m always seeking better mobility in my knees and ankle.



The Workout

135lb x 8reps ( straight set no rest)
185lb x 8 reps
225lb x 8 reps
255lb x 4-4-4 reps

The first three weights are pretty simple; Deadlift the bar for 8 straight reps unbroken, rest for 2 minutes then move up to the next weight. On the fourth set we’re going to go for 4 reps at a time for 3 sets or 12 reps total. We’re also going to shrug our shoulders at the top of each rep before lowering the bar. Be sure to lower the bar all the way touching the floor before beginning the next rep and don’t bounce the weights. If you arms bend at the bottom you’re bouncing.


Rack Pulls

275lb x 1-1-1-1-1 (5 total reps, with a reset between each)
295lb x 1-1-1-1
305lb x 1-1-1-1

A Rack Pull is nothing more than a Deadlift which starts higher off the ground. I’ve included some pictures to illustrate approximately how high the bar should be set on the squat rack. You can also lift from blocks if you’re lucky enough to have them or most commercial gyms have purpose built rack pull hooks as part of the walk in squat rack. If you have to improvise just be sure that the bar is beginning just below or at the level of your knees. What we’re doing is first off isolating the back to a support role because we’re starting off at the point when most people will be reaching maximum back extension on a Deadlift. Second we’re forcing the glutes and hamstrings to act almost entirely on their own in order to forcefully extend and straighten the body to raise the bar out of the rack. It’s a very small range of motion so don’t get real “froggy” with it. There is a similar lift called a Clean or Snatch Pull but it is done with much more speed and the bar will have more momentum at the top and it’s common to rise up on the forefeet at maximum extension. We will be doing 1 rep at a time with a quick reset then an immediate following rep, hence 1-1-1. If lifting at or near your max though feel free to rest a couple of minutes between reps.

Romanian Deadlifts (wide-grip or Snatch width)
165lb x 8-8 ( 2 sets of 8 reps)
135lb x 8-8

The Romanian Deadlift is one of those old school lifts that refuses to go away and for good reason; it absolutely shreds your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Widen the grip and it becomes a trap building grip strengthening monster. The key to this lift is to keep your legs as straight as possible, pivot from the hips similar to a good morning and make sure your back stays locked and never drops below parallel at the bottom. You can lower the weight as far as you can if you allow a little bend at the knees but normally you would stop when the bar reaches just below the knee, keeping the muscle under constant tension. While you won’t be able to lift nearly as much weight as a normal Deadlift the way it isolates your hamstrings will make up for it. I like to shrug my shoulders at the top to work my traps and middle back even harder. The Romanian Deadlift is a great way to strengthen the lower back and rear posterior chain and to also refine your form and technique for the first pull of the Snatch.
I finished my workout with:


Core Strengthening:
Standing Good Morning 45lb (empty bar) x 10-10-10
KB Standing Side Crunch 40lb x 10-10-10 (10 reps per side each set)
Kneeling Cat Vomit 10-10-10

If you’re unfamiliar with the Cat Vomit it’s simple. Get on all fours and suck your belly to your spine and hold for a count of 3 seconds.

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