When you push your body to the absolute limits as we do in strength sports, injuries are bound to happen. However, how you react to them will dictate how long you will last in the iron game, and continue to get stronger despite these setbacks. Aside from poor technique, the most common way a muscle is injured is because it is weak. There’s much variability when it comes to form on a lot of the big lifts, and for good reason. When you are a beginner, you should use absolute perfect form, and that means keeping your spine in a neutral position deadlifts, for starters. The more advanced/stronger you are, the more leeway you have on technique. This is where we see big deadlifters rounding their back yet pulling over 700lbs with no injuries.
I’ll use my favorite example with Orlando Green:
Now this is not how I would ever teach a beginner how to deadlift, but obviously, Orlando’s back is extremely strong. I know many lifters in Strongman that pull this way, using very little legs, mostly use their back and move huge amounts of weight with zero lower back issues.
Your lumbar spine is not as delicate as most people think, as long as the supporting muscles are strong enough to protect it. Many times when people have bulging discs, the doctor recommends a lot of abdominal work to protect the lower back. The reason the lumbar region is injured is because the abdominals are weak to begin with as they are not able to support the load you are moving.
Another one of my favorite anomalies of deadlifting is Konstantin Konstantinovs:
Konstantinovs is known for pulling big weights with a rounded back, but you can’t question a guy’s form when he pulls over 900lbs beltless. Now the trolls can critique his rounded back all day but the only time Konstantinovs has suffered a back injury is from back squatting, NEVER deadlifting. Just by looking at him, he has extremely thick erectors, so he’s able to use his strongest muscles to move the weight. Also, he doesn’t need a belt, because his abdominals, and especially his obliques are extremely strong, like any good deadlifter’s should be. The erectors and abdominals are what protects his lumbar spine, and allows him to get away with this kind of form.
Most deadlifters who pull with a rounded back do so for another good reason; it makes it easier to pull from the ground. The hips start closer to the bar making it a faster initial pull. However, as we have seen in the last two videos, the lockout will be more difficult. There is a trade-off with this technique, and this is why you see many strong(wo)man pull like this because they are allowed to hitch in competition making the lockout easier. For any of you that compete in strong(wo)man you have no choice but to have a very strong lower back, or it will be a matter of time before you get injured.
Check out Nick Hadge; a training partner of mine, and this year’s winner of Junior World’s Strongest Man pulling 815 with this technique:
As Nick sets up, he has a slight round to his back, you can see he is extremely fast off the floor. Once the weight gets to his knees his legs are almost locked out so he uses a slight hitch to lock the bar out. Now I have to add this in, HITCHING IS ALLOWED IN STRONG(WO)MAN. So I do not want to hear any complaints about this.
For anyone that has lifted an atlas stone properly, you can and should have a rounded back when you first lift the stone off the ground. Trying to arch the lower back will make you much weaker off the ground, and I guarantee you won’t be lifting any heavy stones that way. In fact, most injuries I see with the lower back on lifting a stone come from over-extending when loading to a high platform, as I’m sure some of you experienced stone lifters are nodding your heads.
I must stress that beginners should not use this technique to avoid injury. Everyone is different, so I’m not saying this is the ideal way for everyone to pull, but your lower back is not as weak as you think it is. A lot of people will say lifting with a rounded back is dangerous but, I would argue being weak is far more dangerous. If you haven’t checked out my previous article on how to strengthen your low back, you can here. Questions or comments drop them below or on the facebook page.
Rest-pause sets are one of my favorite techniques to first add some size with extremely high volume, and second, to greatly increase strength. This method started in the penitentiary where prisoners had to be creative with their training, and do more work in less time. There is also plenty of research to back this, as a study in the Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport in 2012 showed that a rest-pause set recruited more motor units, and caused more post-workout fatigue than a traditional workout.
How to perform a rest-pause set is very simple, but you have to stay honest with your rest period and be ready to give 100%! First begin with 75% of your 1rm, or a weight that allows you to get a max of 10 reps. You will perform each set for max reps but do not fail on a rep unless it’s your last set. There will be 3 “mini” sets with only a 20 sec rest period. For example I wanted to bring up my incline bench press so I started this protocol with 300lbs, and it went as follows:
Set 1: 300 x 10 reps, 20 sec rest
Set 2: 300 x 4 reps, 20 sec rest
Set 3: 300 x 1 rep
Now here’s the fun part. Rest as needed and drop the weight 20% and repeat for another rest-pause set. My next set was 250 for 12, 4, 3. And I can say after 2 rest pause sets I was absolutely spent on this exercise.
Now if you are really pressed for time your entire workout can consist of rest-pause sets. Here is an example of an upper body day:
1. Incline Bench as I described: 2 sets
2. Seated Dumbbell press: 2 sets
3. Incline Cable Fly: 2 sets
4. Dips: 2 sets
Continuing with how to use rest-pause sets for strength, you will make small jumps each week that will eventually change from a hypertrophy rep range to a strength one. For myself it took me 10 weeks to go from a 10 rep max to then setting multiple PRs in the last few weeks.
Week 1: 300 10, 4, 1/250 12, 4, 3
Week 2: 315 8, 3, 1/255 10, 4, 2
Week 3: 325 7, 2, 1/260 10, 4, 2
Week 4: Deload
Week 5: 350/4, 1, 1/300 6, 3, 2
Week 6: 360 5, 1, 1/300 10, 3, 2
Week 7: 370 4 (pr), 1, 1/310 8, 3, 1
Week 8: Deload
Week 9: 380 2 (pr), 1, 1/315 8, 4, 3
Week 10 405 x 1 (pr)
As you can see through these 10 weeks I started with a great way to build muscle, and very importantly build tendon and ligament strength through the higher reps. Once the weight got heavier (lower than 5 reps) I was more than prepared to handle it as well as get multiple rep and 1 rep max PRs.
Give this method a shot with a lift you have been struggling at. As I have stated in previous articles you cannot grind out heavy doubles and singles each week, and expect the weight to continue to go up. You need to step back sometimes and add some muscle to your frame to support the heavier weights.
I was lucky enough to start weight training at a fairly young age. Of course with starting young, I had no clue what I was doing, other than what I read out of bodybuilding magazines. With starting young I made so many mistakes, but with mistakes I was able to learn what worked, and what didn’t. However there were plenty of things I wish I would have done sooner, and had the patience to improve on. If I can give any help to the beginner and intermediate lifter these are some of things I wish I realized a lot sooner.
Track your progress
This is probably the easiest thing to do, and yet I still see many lifters doing random exercises, sets, reps, etc. You of course will remember a few of your big PRs, but every exercise you do should have a purpose. You can make huge progress just by increasing your weight just 5lbs or doing one more rep then you did the week before. Also one of the most important parts of tracking your progress is going back and seeing how far you have come. There have been plenty of times when I have been frustrated in my training, and progress has stalled. Nothing is more motivating then seeing how strong you have become from the previous year. Also you can go back and see what worked for you when you were making progress, and possibly why you have currently plateaued.
Master the basics
You can make plenty of progress with just using a regular barbell, and dumbbells. I’ve seen so many people go for all the specialty bars right off the bat, and have no idea why they are using them. If you are lucky enough to train at a gym that has specialty bars, then that’s great, but hold off on them until you have truly perfected the squat, bench, deadlift, etc ,and I promise most of you reading this have not. The only exception I use these bars for with beginners is if they have pain squatting with a regular bar, and I will also use neutral grip bars for presses if there is shoulder pain. If you feel your progress has stalled, it’s most likely due to your technique, lack of programming, and not working on your weak points which will come later. Next would be bands and chains. I know they look cool deadlifting with a ton of chains so you can post a video saying how much you lifted at lockout, but it really doesn’t mean anything. To this day I have yet to use bands and chains on any of my main movements. I’m not saying to never use bands, and chains, but if you only have a few years of experience then don’t bother with them. If you can’t explain why you are doing something then it has no room in your program. Save it for the advanced competitors, and geared lifters.
Hire a coach
Even the best competitors still have coaches. You have plenty of resources right here at LiftBigEatBig.com. As a beginner you need to choose a program and stick to it. One of the biggest mistakes I see is program jumping. You need to give a program a lot longer than 4 weeks to see if it works for you. Going back to number 2, to master the basics you need someone to show you how to perform the basic movements: Squat, bench, dead, overhead and all of their variations. If you work with a coach online then sending videos is paramount. I’ve worked with many competitors and I require them to send in videos weekly. How many times have you seen a lifter added plates to his squat each week only to squat higher and higher? If you are planning to compete, this is a recipe for disaster. If you are looking for a program to get started, check Bare Bones Beginner Strength Program here.
Focus on food not supplements
This one took me a very long time to learn when I was younger. Reading all of the muscle magazines you get brainwashed into thinking you need all these fancy supplements to gain any strength or size. I don’t want to even think about how much money I wasted on supplements that did absolutely nothing for me. Don’t get me wrong, supplements can help, BUT, they are only a very small piece of the puzzle. If you are looking to gain weight, and put muscle on then you need to take in more calories than you burn in a day, simple as that. For protein, stick to lean meats such as chicken, beef, salmon, and protein powder. Carbs: potatoes, rice, pasta, oatmeal, and lately I have been loving cream of wheat before training. Fats should come from sources like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, and lots and lots of nut butters! For our top supplements you should be taking check out this article here. Make sure you go to www.TrueNutrition.com and use code LBEB5 for a discount.
Surround yourself with stronger people
Your training environment is extremely important to reaching your goals. For years, I mainly trained by myself, with no one to push me. Nothing will motivate you more than seeing people stronger than you. Being competitive is a good thing! There have been quite a few times where my motivation was lacking during training, but if my training partner hit a certain weight then there was no way I was going to miss it. Also being one of the weaker ones in a gym is exactly where you want to be. It means you have the most room to grow out of everyone else. I have some of the strongest lifters around at my facility, but if I had the chance to train with Brian Shaw, Thor, Eddie Hall, etc, I would jump at the chance just to learn from someone better than me. You have to lose the ego here. Being the strongest at your local commercial gym with one squat rack and dumbbells to 75lbs means absolutely nothing. Get out of your comfort zone, and check your ego at the door if you want to get better.
I started competing when I was 26 and I only wish I would have started sooner. I hear from so many people that they want to compete, but they don’t feel ready. I know this has been said over and over, but you will never feel ready to compete. Just get out there and do it, and get some experience. Powerlifting is a great place to start since you are able to choose your own weights. I started competing for the sole purpose of being more motivated during my training. I needed another reason to push myself. I never thought I would be any good at powerlifting, and certainly not strongman. At every competition, I learned from my mistakes and got better every time. Without competition I wouldn’t nearly be as strong as I am now.
This took me way too long to learn. When I first started competing, I would never deload until the week before my competition. I would train for weeks without taking a break, and eventually my body started to break down. I remember at one time every joint in my body hurt that I could barely move in the morning. I’m honestly lucky I didn’t seriously hurt myself during this time. It wasn’t until I hired a coach to work with me on my programming that I started deloading every 4th week of my training. With the added rest, my body felt way better, joints hurt less, and I got a lot stronger. At this point in my training I look forward to the deload because I know I trained hard for 3 weeks, and I will only benefit from the rest.
Train your weak points
This is a big one for beginners to learn right away. It’s very easy to get sucked in to doing the things you’re good, at and avoiding the ones you suck at. When I first started competing I only pulled sumo, because that was by far my stronger stance. I pulled conventional when I had it in a strong(wo)man competition, and lucky for me it was always raised, which is another strength of mine. I was able to get away with training only my strengths on the deadlift for a few years, but my deadlift stalled for a long time. It took me 3 years to increase my deadlift from 700lbs to 800lbs and I didn’t do it by only deadlifting sumo. Conventional deadlifting from the floor, and from a deficit were huge weak points for me. For nearly a year I didn’t pull sumo at all, and only focused on improving my conventional . By bringing up this weak point for me my stronger pull when up without even training it.
You can’t do everything at once
We all want to be bigger, stronger, faster, leaner, etc, and one of those is the reason why we got into strength training. When you are a beginner, you should be getting stronger every week so enjoy it while it lasts. The more advanced you get, the less you can accomplish at once. I’ve now been training for 18 years, and at this point, I have to pick, and choose my goals. I’m currently cutting weight for a competition where I have to weight 231lb, and when I started I was 270. Unfortunately there is no way I can maintain my absolute strength while dropping nearly 40lbs. I can, however, get much faster, and a lot leaner. There should always be a priority to your training. For example strong(wo)man is my priority right now, which is a mix of strength and conditioning. I have 2 events that are a max log press, and a max deadlift. My training has to be heavy consisting of singles, and doubles. Conditioning is a lower priority for me, as it has always been a strong suit. You need to focus on the most important part of your training which goes back to training weak points. You can’t expect to be at your absolute strongest for powerlifting, and run a marathon at the same time…unless of course you’re Alex Viada. This especially holds true to crossfitters, and why training for crossfit is so difficult because you literally need everything. So again, the best approach is to train what you are weakest at. If you are a crosffitter and come from a strong powerlifting background, then it would be in your best interest to train your aerobic capacity.
I would say this is the most important lesson to learn as a beginner. The great thing about first starting weight training is everything you do will work. You can increase weights every week, and that is where there can be a problem. I have been training people for 16 years now, and I love working with someone new that has the determination and the work ethic to want to lift heavy and hard every week. However, your muscles adapt to heavier weight rather quickly, while your tendons and ligaments do not. It is very easy to get injured when you first start lifting as I’m sure many of you know. A lot of this risk goes back to having proper form, and having a coach to guide you. It is best to make small jumps in weight each week, and make sure your form is absolutely perfect. I know you have all seen a lot of top competitors using bad form to complete a lift, but you have to realize they have built their bodies up to tolerate that kind of weight and that kind of form. Personally I make sure my form is near perfect at all times, and if I’m in a competition I will take the risk of getting sloppy to complete a lift. Many beginners are in such a rush to get stronger, and I understand especially if you are at a gym with a lot of strong people. What I always tell people when they start is each week increase your weights 5-10lbs or get one more rep at the same weight. This may not sound like much week to week but if you can keep that pace up over a few years you will be the strongest person in the world. You need to have patience when starting out, and I hate to say this as it has been said so many times, but this is a marathon not a sprint. If you treat it like a sprint you will get hurt, plateau, and eventually give up. Slow down and enjoy the journey.
Learn from those that have more experience is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give. To this day I still have new members of my gym argue with me on nutrition and training, only to regret not listening later on. Follow these tips and you will not only continue to get stronger for years to come, you will also stay injury free which is just as important. What are some things you wish you would have learned sooner? Drop a comment below or on the LBEB facebook page.
I find programming for strength training something most people know they should do, but rarely take the step to do so. I have known many people who say they are going to follow (insert the latest training program here) and maybe follow it for a week or 2 before jumping on the next program. Program jumping is the biggest mistake I see when working with beginners. For any given program you need to give it at least 3 months to see any real progress. And again if you are a beginner just about any basic program will work for a given time. I must add, that the best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to hire a qualified coach to do your programming for you. I find when people do their own programming, they avoid their weaknesses, and only work on their strengths. Of course it is more fun to do the things you are good at, BUT you will reach a point where you will stop improving until you bring up your weak points. For now if you are interested in hiring a coach then look no further and check out the consultingpage for more information.
Most strength athletes make programming all too complicated when it really should stay as simple as possible. If you need a calculator every time you train trust me you are doing it wrong. I’m not saying using percentages aren’t a good way to go about training, but they are only estimations. You need to start with some kind of base so testing maxes is a great way to start your own programming to see where you stand. A common mistake made by beginners is testing their maxes nearly every week. As a beginner, you should be making progress every week, but grinding out ugly one rep maxes are a sure way to beat yourself up, and stall your progress completely. Reps build strength, and it’s also important for building strength to not go to failure on compound movements.
Your first exercise of the day should be your primary movement, or what the priority of your training is. For example if you are a strongman and you have a competition with a log press coming up, then the log press will be the main movement of the day. The rep range will vary based on what your competition will be as it could be a max, or for repetitions. Either way, strength should be a priority so beginning with heavier reps as in 3 or less is a great way to start. Following hitting a heavy 3, for example, you can then lower the weight, and do a high repetition set to work on hypertrophy, and conditioning. If you are a powerlifter, this can work the same way, and programming is even easier as you are training for the same movement each competition. Starting with the bench press, begin with heavy repetitions. I have always found that working on heavy doubles and triples is what builds strength for me, and most of my clients. I know some people like to begin with an explosive movement such as med ball throws before pressing which is fine. What you don’t want to do is wear yourself out with a 30 min dynamic warm up, get under the bar, and sell yourself short because you have already wasted so much energy. You should be fresh and warmed up for your main movement, so keep your warm up to a minimum.
You’re next exercise should be something similar to your main movement but working on a weak point. For example: for bringing up your deadlift, let’s say you are weak off of the floor, so your choices could be: deficit deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, or speed deadlifts. This is where you have to be honest with yourself and work on the weak point of your lift. Everyone likes to do what they are good at, but great lifters do the things they suck at. I’m sure many of you have seen plenty of lifts online of heavy deadlifts done from 18 inches, or more to work on lockout strength. I see absolutely no point in maxing out from that point in the lift when it is already a strong point for you. Using myself as an example, I rarely do raised deadlifts because my weak point is off the floor. If I can’t break the floor with 700lbs there is ZERO reason for me to do lockouts above my knees with 900 just so I can post a video doing so. The exception to this would be if you are training for a strong(wo)man competition with a raised deadlift, of course.
Following your main accessory movement should be should be some lighter bodybuilding movements. This is another part of programming where I see a lot of mistakes. Your body can only recover from so much. After two fairly heavy movements, you need to increase blood flow to the muscles for both hypertrophy work, and injury prevention. I don’t mean to pick on powerlifters and strongman competitors but this is where many of you get lazy. Again this comes down to weak points, so let’s say your triceps are weak in either sport, then the bulk of your accessory work should be focused on isolating the triceps. I have yet to meet a big bencher, or overhead press that didn’t have huge triceps. Let’s look at an example of what some accessory work can look like for the bench press to bring up the triceps:
Bench work up to a heavy 3
2 board close grip bench 3 x 5
Dips 3 x 8-10
Rolling tricep extensions 3 x 12
In this example there is a big focus on the triceps, so lockout strength is made a priority here. Some of you may wonder why there is no direct chest work here, but I generally like to program a second day of pressing which focuses even more on bodybuilding movements that is used more as a light recovery day. The second pressing day is perfect for more isolation work such as high rep flyes, and dumbbell presses.
To finish each training session I like to have a short bout of conditioning. Whether you like it or not your cardiovascular health is important in the long run of things, no matter how strong you are. Even when I am at my heaviest I never want to walk up a flight of stairs and be out of breath, or bend over to tie my shoe and break out in a sweat. As a powerlifter, your conditioning should be very simple. You don’t want to sacrifice recovery, so anything you do doesn’t need to be all-out leaving you on the ground, gasping for air. Conditioning is very important as a meet is generally a long day. I find when my cardio is up I’m still ready to deadlift after 10 hours of competing. Many times in strongman it comes down to the last event, and many competitors, especially heavyweights, are spent after the 4th event which is usually some kind of carry medley that drains you. The better your conditioning is the faster you will be able to recover in between events/lifts. Sled work I find is the best for powerlifters as there is no eccentric part of the motion, so very little soreness will come from it. I do recommend strongman events for powerlifters, but again keep them on the lighters side. Farmer’s walks are great for helping with your deadlift, and nothing will increase your grip better. Ending your squat sessions with yoke, or sandbag carries will literally work every muscle in your body.
We covered a lot with powerlifting as to why conditioning is important but in strongman the rules are a little different. Generally at any given strong(wo)man competition you will have at least one conditioning medley that will leave you on the ground gasping for air, so you will not need to end your sessions with light conditioning. Structuring a strongman program is much more complicated then powerlifting as you need to be ready for heavy static events, as well as being able to move quickly with heavy weights. Let’s use the example of a pressing day again using the log. In my recent competition I had a 280lbs log for reps, cleaned once. In training I began with a lighter weight of 250 and would do multiple sets at the weight for 2-3 reps. On the last set I would do max reps, so I could increase my conditioning for the event while getting comfortable with the weight before the max rep set. Each week, using simple progressive overload I would increase the weight based on how many reps I got on the max set of my previous week. By the final week of training, before the competition, I had worked up 300lbs for 4 sets of 3 with the last set maxing out at, I believe, 5. In between sets I would also keep my rest, at the most, 90 seconds, so by the time the competition came around the weight was extremely easy.
The only day I have an exception for starting with an event is when I squat. I prefer squatting first in the training day, then following it with the yoke for example. Also like I stated earlier there is always some kind of conditioning medley in the competition and I would generally put it following the yoke. I’ll use the example of my last training program when I had a yoke followed by a max sandbag carry. I would begin with a front squat, as I believe front squatting is much more applicable to strongman then back squatting is. I would then follow front squatting with the yoke. Usually just 2 working sets on the yoke, one heavier than contest weight, and one under contest weight for speed. My competition weight was 800lbs for 60ft, so training would be 850-900lbs for 60ft followed by 650lbs for a speed run. I would then use the same set up on the sandbag going around contest weight followed by a lighter sandbag for a longer distance. As you can see this is a pretty brutal training session so I wouldn’t go crazy on the accessory work. I would generally end with some glute ham raises supersetted with some ab work and call it a day.
Again strongman can be very complicated to train for so to make something clear I am writing this assuming you have what you need to train for the events. I like to train the events spaced out throughout the week, BUT I also have all the equipment I need to do so right in my gym. Training strongman events is very taxing, and will beat you up very fast if you do not train smart, and are able to recover. Training all of the events in one day is not a good idea! There are generally 5 events in a strong(wo)man competition. I know after a competition I’m beat for a good week or 2, so imagine training all 5 events all in a row each week. Even cycling a speed event with a heavy one in a given training session could last over 3 hours. If you are someone that trains at a commercial gym during the week, and travels to a strongman gym on the weekends then keep it to 3 events, and rotate them each week to keep making progress. Also in case you haven’t yet check out my article on how to train for strong(wo)man without the implements.
A couple things you have to keep in mind with what I have written. This is only sharing some of the basic things you can do when setting up a program. You should also always deload! I deload on the 4th week of each cycle, and then start a new program with some adjustments and new exercises. You should deload somewhere around the 4th to 6th week no matter who you are. To read more about deloading you can read more here. There have been books written about how to progress each week, so there is a lot more than can be said after what I have given you here to start with. Any questions or comments please drop a line on the facebook page or below in the comments.
The head position in the deadlift has been a big debate in the strength world for the last couple of years. Recently, I have been hearing more and more coaches teaching to “pack the neck” and look down to tuck the chin. I don’t know where this came from but I am telling you: it is completely wrong. One of the most common mistakes I see in the deadlift is the hips shooting up too soon. Once the hips come up, the knees lockout, and the lower back has to finish the pull rather than engaging your glutes. Now the packing of the neck is supposed to fix a weak lockout, from what I’ve heard. However I cannot see any logical reason why it would. You want the bar to move in a straight path up your body, so look up to keep your chest up and your hips rising at the same time. Typically when I see beginners tuck their chin while setting up for the deadlift it results in their hips rising up too soon, causing a weak lockout – which is the opposite of what this “pack the neck” method is supposed to accomplish.
I’ve tested this theory out many times myself when deadlifting. Immediately I had a problem keeping my hips down, and even came off my heels to a degree. This is my 750lb deadlift:
I’m always open to trying new techniques but from the setup of this lift you can see the mistakes I made. The first one is having my head down and looking at the floor. Once I took the slack out of the bar and dropped my hips in positon, I was in a good starting position. However, having my head down caused my hips to shoot up first, losing leg drive to get the bar moving. Once my hips were too high the lockout becomes extremely difficult. Most experienced lifters know where their strength and weak points are on every main lift. For me, the deadlift it is always hardest off the floor while the lockout is the easiest part, which is why I excel at raised deadlifts in strongman. In this case, the lockout was the hardest part of the lift because of my hips being too high. I also came off my heels which I never do on a deadlift, but once I got on my toes I was barely able to finish this lift. Now let’s take a look at my current best pull in a meet:
I understand this is a sumo pull BUT the rules still apply to having your head up. I first take the slack out of the bar and lower my hips in position. My head is now up, and as I initiate the pull, my hips rise along with my chest making the lockout much easier.
When it comes to a sumo deadlift I always recommend the head being up. I’m not necessarily saying you should look straight up but it should be at an upward angle. Like most lifts, this is going to vary, so play around with it. I also want to use the example of Kim Walford who I think is one of the best deadlifters of all time. Here she is pulling an amazing 530lbs in the 72kg class (158.4).
Kim is a perfect example for this as she has her hips slightly higher than most, but her head is still up the entire time. As the bar gets to knee level you see her raise her head even more, and her eyes go to the ceiling until she completes the lift. Around knee level can be a huge sticking point for some people on the deadlift. Kim raises her head to continue pulling the bar straight up. If her head was down like mine was in the first video, she would also risk falling forward getting off her heels.
Next, let’s take a look at an extreme technique like Orlando “Maximus” Green’s. Pay attention to his pull as he starts with his eyes looking down and how it raises up through the lift.
Although I would never teach form like his, at 865lbs it obviously works for him. When he grabs the bar his chin is still lifted so he still does not have a “packed neck”. In Orlando’s case since he starts with his hips so high, initially he cannot have his head up. Once the bar breaks the floor his head pops up, especially through the lockout, just like Kim’s did.
There are of course exceptions to every rule, so before anyone argues with me I am saying MOST of the time you should have your head up on the set up of the deadlift. The only exception there is to looking down and tucking your chin is if you have a neck injury. If having your head up causes any pain, then of course don’t do it. I will stress for anyone else you should be at least raising your head throughout the pull as you lock it out. There is one absolute with keeping your head up during a deadlift and that is when you are pulling sumo. Your head should ALWAYS be up. Here’s one of my favorite sumo deadlifters to watch, Dan Green pulling 881lbs. Also make note of how is set up is exactly the same on all of his sets, so by the time he gets to his max pull, his form stays perfect.
Based on my personal experience with this method along with studying the form of the strongest deadlifters in the nation I just haven’t seen a strong deadlifter pull with their head down and chin tucked. Whenever I’ve seen this taught, it’s by someone who has never lifted any significant weight. Anyone that has actually maxed out on a lift knows that weight will change your form. Sure, I can pull 405 all day with a packed neck, double chin b.s., but work up to a true max and you will run into problems. Also please don’t cite Mark Rippetoe for the packed neck crowd. I’ve never seen Mark lift any serious weight nor have I seen him train any truly strong lifter. Now that I’ve pissed off all the “functional” trainers out there that probably squat on bosu balls do your deadlift a favor and keep your head up!
I’ve said this many times before; if you want to know how to lose weight rapidly or gain weight, talk to an experienced strength athlete or bodybuilder. I always have to laugh when a skinny teenager comes to me and explains that regardless of how much they eat, they just can’t seem to gain weight. The first thing I ask: “What was everything you ate today?” Normally the answer I receive is a bowl of kid’s cereal for breakfast, maybe a sandwich for lunch, and then one “huge” meal for dinner. First and foremost; if you’re struggling to gain weight, 3 meals per day is not enough to gain weight, and one big meal is definitely not enough. I’ve also stressed this many times; please, just stop with the “intermittent fasting” B.S.- it does not work! Nor have I ever met anyone big and lean that has done it. If you are having trouble gaining weight-and by weight-I mean pure muscle, then you have to increase your meal frequency. Another fun fact that many of you may disagree with me on: it is much easier to drop body fat than it is to put solid muscle on. I have gone through this process many times, and when done the right way, I can get very lean very fast. However, when I want to get hyooooge and eat everything in sight, my body fat will creep up along with the new muscle mass I’ve added. So please keep in mind, putting on solid muscle is a slow process. If the scale goes up 1 to 2lbs a week, that’s a good thing! However, any more than that and you are most likely adding body fat as well.
Most people can put down a lot of food in one sitting but if you want to gain some serious weight then you have to eat a lot, a lot of times per day. You may think gaining weight will be fun (it’s a lot better than dropping weight) but when you’re eating at least 5 huge meals per day you will have to start force feeding yourself. I look at it the same as training. We push ourselves past the pain threshold to move more weight, to get bigger and stronger; we have to do the same thing with our nutrition. Whatever your portion size is for that meal, you have to sit there until you finish everything. Countless times I have stared at a bowl of ground bison and jasmine rice, almost puking trying to get it all down. If you haven’t experienced this at some point in attempting to put on weight, I can tell you that you have never really tried to get big.
Thus the first point is increasing the number of meals per day. If you are on target to gain weight slowly as I discussed above, then you are on the right track. When weight gain slows down, it’s time to add in an additional meal. The easiest way to do this is have your meals already prepared. For those of you finding it difficult to food prep; there are a number of good websites you can buy your meals from – so there’s no excuse!
You cannot get huge on just eating protein and carbs! You are much more likely to be lacking in calories if you are avoiding fats. It’s very easy to add fats to your diet, and most of them are delicious anyway.
On the topic of fats; a very easy way to add calories is to take shots of olive oil or coconut oil throughout the day. With a gram of fat being 9 calories you can easily add at least 500 calories per day, not to mention the health benefits of adding olive oil to your diet.
When losing weight, it is common knowledge that you should avoid drinking your calories. So, when trying to gain weight, you DO want to drink your calories. It is much easier to put down more calories through liquid than solids. If any of you are familiar with Derek Poundstone, he was well known for liquefying chicken breasts (yes, you read that right) because it was easier for him to chug them down than it was to chew them. Now I’m not saying to start making delicious chicken breast shakes, and to be clear I have never done that, but it’s an option to get creative with your calorie consumption. Another easy way to add calories to you diet is to have a shake with every meal, or a shake in between each meal. 2 scoops of LBEB’s protein powder (use code LBEB5), and a tablespoon of peanut butter 3 times a day can add nearly 1000 calories to your day.
When gaining muscle, or losing fat, you need to be consistent! This is one of the biggest mistakes I see when working with new clients. Sticking to the plan for 3 days may pack on another pound, but under eating for the next 3 days will just put you back right where you were. Whatever your goal, consistency is essential in attaining it. It’s ok to have a bad day here and there because that’s bound to happen. Two steps forward and one step back is still progress in the long run. However, if you end up having just as many bad days as good days, you will just be spinning your wheels
Furthermore, when it comes to gaining or losing weight, the amount of calories you take in a day are the most important followed by macros. With that being said, you will reach a point in your muscle building journey that you will not be able to continue just eating “clean” foods. I know that sounds like a contradiction to some things I’ve written previously, but this step comes only after you’ve hit that weight gaining plateau and cannot force any more clean food down. To be clear, I’m not saying to eat fast food everyday but feel free to put down a double bacon cheeseburger and a large pizza all by yourself a few times a week. That being said, I don’t agree with the “dirty bulk” strategy of eating-unless you are ok putting on half of your weight as bodyfat-but you will have to consume one or two cheat meals a week.
When I put on the most weight in my life I was eating at least two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a day. Let’s be honest; I don’t think there is anything easier and more delicious than a PB&J and a big glass of milk. And please, if you get skim then you aren’t trying to get too big! Get some whole milk, or if you can get raw milk, and add it to your shakes for not only quality calories but for the best tasting shakes ever.
My last tip isn’t nutrition related but it’s one of the most important in regards to gaining weight. If you aren’t increasing your intensity each week, then don’t expect to get any bigger. By intensity I mean weight added to the bar or doing more reps with the same weight. You have to give your body a reason to grow, so your priority in training should be to get stronger at all times. I have seen people gain over 20lbs without even focusing on their diet because they have packed on muscle just through adding weight to the bar each week. Of course, the added effect of more muscle will stimulate your metabolism to increase hunger but that’s what we’re going for after all.
Most folks who have competed as a strength athlete or a bodybuilder know a thing or two about nutrition. Like most of you out there, I have tried just about every diet there is to see what works best for me. Bodybuilding, I must say is more simple, as strength is not an issue, only looking good onstage (just to point out I am not saying bodybuilding is easier before anyone has a hissy fit). As strength athletes we have to diet down, losing sometimes as much as 30lbs while maintaining strength, or hopefully still getting stronger as the competition approaches. Likewise, strength athletes and bodybuilders know how to put some serious weight on quickly. A few times out of the year when I switch back and forth between strongman and powerlifting I will make weight for a contest at 231 and then a few months later come in for a powerlifting meet at 260lbs. Here are some very basic rules you can go by to either get leaner, maintain, and everyone’s favorite: get HYOOOOGE!
I don’t care what anyone says, number one is calories matter. If you are taking in more calories in a day then you are burning you will gain weight. If you burn more calories in a day then you consume you will lose weight. If you are curious about where you are then use a calorie counter to track everything. I know it’s a pain to do but at least in the beginning it will keep you on track for hitting your goals. One thing I have noticed over the years doing nutrition is athletes always over estimate how many calories they take in, and the average person ALWAYS under estimates how much they take in. Sorry, your favorite sports athlete is not eating over 9000 calories a day. At my most I was reaching 6000 calories a day and I was nearly sick at every meal. If you want to put some serious weight, on you should be nearly puking after every meal from being so full. As far as calories go, a general rule to follow is if you want to lose weight then multiply your body weight by 10-13. For example if you weight 200lbs, start by multiplying by 13 for a calorie intake of 2,600 per day. Always start on the lower end, it is best to drop weight slowly as not to sacrifice muscle. To maintain, simply multiply your body weight by 14-16, begin by multiplying by 15 and adjust from there. To gain, start by multiplying by 16 and progressively increase when you start to plateau, again this should be a slow process as not to gain too much body fat.
As a strength athlete, protein is your most important macro nutrient. Most nutrition text books will tell you to get .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, but any meathead that has put on a substantial amount of muscle knows otherwise. Aim for at least 1 gram per pound and if you are trying to gain muscle, then make sure you have even more up to the 1.5 gram per pound range. If you are cutting, make sure to still keep your protein intake high at 1 gram per pound as well. Protein should be the last macro to lower as to not lose muscle. I don’t generally count my macros but I do aim for 40-60 grams of protein at each meal. This is a simple rule for any guy to follow to make sure you are getting enough protein. For women shoot for 20-40 grams of protein each meal. Your protein sources should come from quality meat such as chicken, bison, salmon, whole eggs, etc. A good protein powder is an absolute must, and LBEB has the perfect blend for you with True Nutrition you can pick up here.
Carbohydrates are next in line of importance. Carbohydrates are you body’s preferred source of energy! I don’t care what the “keto” guy tells you about how you can burn more fat and be just as strong on no carbs because it is flat out not true. Carbs should be surrounding your workout before, during, and after training. Slow digesting carbs should be your meal within an hour or two before your training. My preferred meal is a lean protein source such as chicken or bison, with jasmine rice, or a sweet potato. If you are in a rush, simply take the LBEB protein, oat starch, and for a great pre workout check out the coffee blend from Kimera (use code LBEB for a discount). One of the biggest mistakes I see is people not eating enough before they train. It’s always better to have real food, but this is where supplements are helpful. For intra workout carbs I have written a previous article here. A simple guide to follow is to have 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight on your heavy days. This would normally be your squat, deadlift, and for strong(wo)man event days. Light to moderate days which would mainly be upper body/accessory days will be from 1 gram to 1.5 grams per pound. I like to carb cycle even when bulking, as to gain less body fat so I will drop my carbs to .5 grams per pound and if I’m cutting I will have no carbs at all.
Fats are an absolute necessity in any diet. Too many times, I have heard people avoiding all fats, even healthy ones, in fear of gaining body fat. The essential fats that cannot be made from carbs and protein are essential for survival, and play a huge role with hormones. Testosterone levels can potentially drop if fat is dropped too low for too long. If you goal is weight loss or gaining muscle, you need all the testosterone you can get. If you are looking to gain weight, then fats are the easiest calories to add to your diet. The old trick of taking a swig on olive oil a few times a day absolutely works. When consuming fats just make sure they are coming from quality sources such as: Olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, red palm oil, avocados, nuts, etc. On a side note, for cooking purposes, I find that coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, red palm oil, and avocado oil are the safest to cook in. Do not cook with olive oil at high temperatures as it can break down and be harmful. Fats should be kept at a minimum of 10% of your bodyweight, so if you weight 200lbs then have at least 20 grams of fat per day. On my heaviest of training days, I have the most amount of carbs so my fat is kept to a minimum. On off training days when I have very little to no carbs, I raise the fats a little to feel fuller. Carb cycling on training day’s vs non training days I find is what works best for me and most of my clients.
Now that we have all of the basics down here is an example of you can put it all together: For a 200lb athlete looking to gain weight, they would start by multiplying their bodyweight by 16 giving them 3,200 calories per day. Since they are looking to gain weight I would set their protein at 210 gram per day, protein has 4 calories per gram so we are looking at 840 calories coming from protein. Next is carbs, which we are going to adjust based on the training days, but for keeping things simple we’ll stick to a heavy training session. Carbs will be at 2.5 grams (for gaining) per bodyweight yielding 500 grams of carbs. Carbs also have 4 calories per gram, so 2000 calories come from carbs. For the remainder of the calories we will fill in as fat. We want to have at least 20 grams of fat per day which is the absolute minimum. Fats have 9 calories per gram so we have a remainder of 360 calories which gives some easy math of 40 grams of fat.
Now that you have all the tools you can add in the foods to reach your goals. Keep one thing in mind that I am absolutely not a “if it fits your macros” guy. The quality of your foods are extremely important for getting the proper nutrients so make sure you are getting plenty of vegetables especially while cutting to feel fuller, and on your non training days for the same reason. The health benefits are obvious for eating plenty of greens. Let us know what you think in the comments below or comment on the facebook page. Also if you haven’t yet make sure to check out Brandon’s cooking videos for some great ideas!
We live in a world where everyone wants results yesterday, so here are a few ways you can dramatically increase performance right away
Remember that strength is a skill, and it is something that needs to be practiced. I have seen my lifters who have a ton of brute strength put up some big numbers, but they are sloppy with their form. Brute strength will only take you so far if you don’t work on your form. This starts with your warm ups. Don’t be sloppy just because you are only squatting the bar. Treat your warm ups like they are a max lift. Each rep should be executed perfectly for working up to heavier weights.
When preparing for a max heavy set (or PR), do not start at the base of a pyramid set to warm up. If you are pyramiding to warm up, you’ll burn up all of your energy because you are doing too many reps at lower weights. When working up to a heavy set of 3, you should not be so tired that your form is breaking down or you are getting close to muscle failure until you are close to you max weight. For a more thorough explanation, check out my article on the subject here.
Beginners need to focus more on compound movements. You will get plenty strong from just the basics. If you are just starting out, don’t worry about specialty bars, bands, chains, etc. Choose a program, stick to it, and add a little bit of weight to the bar each week. The more advanced you get the more weak point training you will need to do. This is where different bars, training methods, etc will keep you progressing.
Visualize how easy the set will be. The mind is a powerful thing, and negative thoughts creep into our head way too often. This is especially true before an event, lift, or competition. Constantly visualize your success. Do not become your own worst enemy or you will fail.
Work on your weak points. Most of our weak points can be fixed by focusing on the main movements. This may not get you stronger immediately, but it is the best way to bring up your main lifts quickly and help shore up the weaknesses with other lifts.
Train with people stronger than you. Nothing will motivate you to get stronger than having your ego put in check by someone who lifts your PR as a warm up.
When deadlifting, wear flat sole shoes or go barefoot. I’ve seen many lifters come to my gym wearing squat shoes and wanting to attempt some big deadlifts. This makes no sense and here is why. The raised heel will pitch you forward and put your shoulders in front of the bar which is improper form for a standard deadlift. There are exceptions to this of course. I to wear squat shoes when I do a snatch grip deadlift with a narrow stance and for more quad involved lifts.
Warm up your rotator cuffs before you do any pressing. My favorite for this is to do A LOT of band work. If you are a strength athlete, then you are more than likely pressing twice a week, and you need to keep your shoulders healthy.
Warm up your glutes and stretch your hip flexors before you deadlift or squat. I prefer simple single leg glute bridges, and if you have a hip circle, you can also you use it for sidewalks. Bands work just as well. Simply step into the band, cross it to make an X, and walk side to side to warm up the outside of your glutes. Most of us have tight hip flexors from sitting most of the day. This makes getting into the proper set up for a deadlift and getting deep in a squat can be a problem. To fix this, elevate your back foot on a bench and kneel down. As you kneel, you need to stay erect and push your hips forward to feel a greater stretch.
Perform either glute ham raises, or hamstring curls before squats. Activating your hamstrings will not only help your squat go up, but for those of you that have knee problems, like myself, it will alleviate sore knees and increase blood flow to the joint.
Improve your grip strength. With a stronger grip you will have tighter and cleaner lifts. Not to mention there are zero draw backs to having improved grip strength. Occasionally, lift with axles or fat grip dumbbells. Most of my accessory work is done on fat bars, or I add Fat Gripz to dumbbells. Also, you should squeeze the bar as hard as possible on every single lift. Keeping a tight grip on all of the main lifts is one of the most important parts of the set up. Getting tight starts with your hands will help your body contract and in turn improve your form.
Unless you are doing compounds lift or training for an event, don’t train to complete failure when training for strength. Training to failure will only drain your recovery from week to week. There are exceptions to this rule. Accessory work done for hypertrophy/weak point training is fine as are isolation movements.
Be hydrated BEFORE you start training. Make sure your urine is almost clear BEFORE you start training. With it being the end of summer and still extremely hot, this should be an obvious one, but we all get busy and forget to drink enough water. The problem is people come to the gym to train and then start drinking water. At that point, it’s too late. As you start lifting, you will feel weaker if you are anywhere near dehydrated.
Record your previous lifts and use it for motivation to be better. I’m still surprised when someone tells me they don’t record each of their workouts. Nothing motivates me more than seeing my progress over the long haul. Each week I look back to what I did and either try to increase the weight or do one more rep than before.
Make sure you deload every 4-6 weeks. I find beginners need to deload less as they are not placing the same load and volume as a more advanced lifter is. This allows new lifters to to recover faster while still adding weight to the bar. Personally, I know I have to deload on the 4th week of my training block. When I try to push it any further, that’s when bad things tend to happen. I use to be very stubborn about this, but since sticking to planned deloads, my strength has gone up every time I go to reload.
Record your lifts so you can assess your form. Better yet, hire a qualified coach to do this for you. In person coaching is the best choice. You can work remotely with a trainer. I have every client I work with online send me videos of their lifts for me to critique each week.
If you compete or are lifting more than , you should be wearing a belt. I’m not going to get into being a true “raw” lifter or “pure” argument. If that is how you lift, that is your choice. However, if you compete, you will be at a disadvantage, and lifting with a belt is safer. Learning how to properly use a belt will increase your lifts dramatically. You can get the best belt on the market right here.
On top of using a belt, wrist wraps are another must. When I first started competing, a belt and wrist wraps were all I had, and I did just fine. Again, wrist wraps can prevent small injuries from “casting” the wrist properly. I also can’t tell you how many times I have gotten a strong(wo)man competitor in wrist wraps and they could immediately do more reps on a circus dumbbell.
Proper pre-workout nutrition is king. You need to have the right kind of fuel in you to train hard. A good combination of carbs and protein will do the trick. I like to have slow digesting carbs from oatmeal, sweet potatoes, or rice about 90 minutes before I start. I usually pair this with some kind of lean meat such as chicken or bison. I try to keep the fats low as they will slow down digestion and make you feel fuller as you begin training.
Apply these simple tips right away to your training and your weights will go up significantly. If you feel there is anything not listed, please feel free to comment here or on the LBEB Facebook page .
Article written by Matt Mills
Here at LBEB, we are all about the deadlift, and with good reason: If you want to get bigger, you have to deadlift. Want to compete in Strongman, Powerlifting, or Crossfit? Well you better be deadlifting, and deadlifting a lot for that matter. When it comes to novice and even intermediate lifters, I see a lot of common mistakes, which leads to a lot of missed deadlifts. I’m not going to go into great detail as far as stance and hip position, because I feel that differs from lifter to lifter. However I have a couple quick tips to improve your deadlift right away, along with a brutal deadlift variation to make sure your technique is spot on. Just in case you haven’t checked out Alanna’s articles on training the deadlift, make sure you read both Part 1 and Part 2.
First, get your lats as tight as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a bar get away from someone on a lift they should have locked out. Not only do the lats keep the bar in tight to your shins, they also stabilize the spine. The closer the bar is to you, the easier it will be, so keep it in tight! Tightening the lats will also keep the chest up throughout the initial pull. Now, contracting the lats does not mean retract the shoulder blades, this is another common mistake on the set up, which seems to be especially prevalent in the Crossfit community.
Once you retract your shoulder blades, you are also making your arms shorter, and making the pull longer. At heavier weights, the shoulder blades will detract right away, taking you out of you form and making you resemble a scared cat, that is if you even get the bar moving. If you are unable to find your lats, try this drill with a partner: put your hands together and bend down into the position you would deadlift in. The hands will be inside the knees as they would in a sumo deadlift. Have your partner get behind you (I know bear with me here) and push against your hands. When you push back you will feel your lats contract. This is the exact tightness you are looking for on your set up. This alone will make the initial pull off the ground much easier.
Another big mistake is not getting tight on the bar and taking the slack out. The arms should stay long and locked out in the set up. Having the arms slightly bent and jerking the weight off the floor is simply losing strength, and slowing down progress. What I generally see when this happens is the hips shoot right up, and the chest caves in. When the hips shoot up first, the knees lock out too soon, and your lockout is far more difficult than it has to be. We generally see the lifter get very shaky because the glutes are unable to fire, and the erectors have to pick up the slack to lock it out. I can easily say that having the hips rise first is the most common mistake in the deadlift, and it’s something that I struggled with for some time on my conventional deadlift. When reaching down for the bar, focus on keeping the arms straight, and as you grip the bar, squeeze as hard as possible. When you set the hips down, use the weight of the bar to pull yourself into position, this will take the slack out of the bar.
Another great cue that helped me a lot is to think about pushing your feet through the floor, and not just pulling the bar up. Focusing on feet through the floor will again keep the hips and chest in line coming off the floor, as well as locking the hips and knees out together. The knees should be slightly bent by the time the bar comes to your patella. Having the knees in this bent position will ensure the glutes fire properly, and the lockout will be much smoother.
The bar should roughly travel in a straight line right up your body, and the previous cues I went over will help this greatly. To make sure the bar moves in a straight line, you want to think about falling back with the bar. Don’t worry at heavier weights this will not happen. The shoulders should be set in line with the bar, and even a little behind it if you are able to. You do not want the shoulders in front of the bar. This will again lead to the bar traveling away, and the hips shooting up leading to a very ugly lockout if you are able to get there in the first place. You will be trying to fall back with the bar but all this will really do is ensure the bar path will be straight along your body. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Now, before we move on to my favorite way on how to enforce all of these cues, lets review:
1. Get the lats tight and keep the bar in close.
2. Take the slack out of the bar before you pull, the arms remain locked off the floor throughout the lift.
3. Think about pushing your feet through the floor.
4. The hips and chest rise at the same time.
5. The knees should be slightly bent at the halfway point.
6. Squeeze your glutes through the lockout.
7. To ensure the bar travels in a straight line up your body, get the shoulder in line with the bar or behind it if possible, and think about falling back.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s move on to the paused deadlift. Aside from a bad set up and form, deadlifts are missed mostly for 3 reasons. One is they can’t break the floor, two is a weak lockout, and three is a weak grip. I will save being weak off the floor and grip strength for another time, but the paused deadlift will dramatically increase your lockout strength. The technique is very simple; you will set up as normal following all of the steps I just outlined, except now you will pause anywhere from mid shin to right below your patella for 3 seconds. Where you pause is going to be where you are weakest, but I generally have people pause right below the knees. With this exercise you want to have impeccable form! You do not want to pause with a heavy ass weight in this position with the knees locked and back rounded. If you have never tried these then start with 55%-60% of your one rep max. In the first few weeks, work on perfecting your technique and SLOWLY adding weight to the bar each week. Make sure you are in the proper position at the pause, and do not let out your air, just like with the paused squats. Have someone count and once they say 3 drives the hips, and squeeze the glutes hard to lock the bar out as fast as possible. A 2 second pause is fine too, but I feel most people turn it into one second so make it 3 to be sure.
For programming purposes, I like to add these in as accessory work for deadlifting. For example, you may be going for a heavy double on the deadlift, and then add in the paused deadlift directly after. Who doesn’t want to do two different kinds of deadlifts in the same workout?! Keep the sets on the lower side with only 3 working sets. Generally in my training, I may take 10 sets to work up to my goal weight so going any more than 3 sets on paused deadlifts is overkill. If you’re looking for a new deadlift program then make sure you pick up Matt Falk’s new LBEB Deadlift program HERE. If you have any questions drop a comment below or on the LBEB Facebook page.
Pre, intra, and post workout nutrition has always been something that I take very seriously when I train. When I was younger I would simply have a delicious PB&J sandwich, hit the gym, then down a protein shake right after. However, if you are a serious strength athlete you want every advantage there is to improve performance and recovery. Also when I was a beginner, I would only train for the most an hour to an hour and a half, so the total volume of work I would do was much lower then what I do now. When training the big 3 for powerlifting and just about any strong(wo)man event, it takes a huge toll on your body. The more advanced and the stronger you get, the more important recovery from nutrition will be. As a beginner through high school, and college (even though I thought I was super advanced) I never took a deload, and I didn’t even know what one was. However I trained strictly on a bodybuilding program that I literally got out of muscle magazines, so the higher rep training never beat me up enough to really need time off.
Fast forward to when I began competing in powerlifting. Now my training would last up to 2 hours, and I wasn’t taking very long to rest either. I still swear by doing a program based on compound lifts as a powerlifter, accessory work like a bodybuilder, and finishers like a strongman. Training this way added tons of volume to my overall workload, so my body needed much more attention to recovery. I was reading everything I could online, and came across a nutrition program called “The anabolic diet”. To give a short synopsis you basically cut all carbs, while having scheduled “re-feed” days once a week, or even once every other week to carb back up. I won’t get into too much detail here because that can be a separate article, but it was a disaster for me. My bodyweight didn’t increase, as I wanted to stay in the 242 weight class for powerlifting, but neither did my lifts. I decided after the meet I was going back to eating carbs, and especially having then around the time I train. My weight did go up a little but my strength finally increased from my previous meet. I decided low carb was definitely not the way to go for me, especially since I was relatively lean already. Keep in mind I’m writing this strictly for gaining strength, so if you are interested in fat loss then a lower carb approach may be better for you.
For the competitor that has to make a weight class or just someone that looking to lift heavy while dropping some body fat, keeping the carbs lower while not training is best. For example a lifter that trains in the late afternoon may have 4 meals prior to training. The 3 meals before should consist of quality protein, vegetables, and good fats. Breakfast might be 4 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, handful of spinach, chopped peppers, and coffee with protein powder added. Meal 2 can be 10 oz of Chicken breast, and asparagus cooked in coconut oil. Meal 3 can be something similar, I generally like ground bison, with broccoli. About one hour prior to training is when I like to have my next meal. Again for someone interested in fat loss you still should be having carbs right before you train, and during. I generally like to have a shake right before I train so it can be quickly digested. Also the carbs will cause a big insulin spike from not having any throughout the day. Insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone essential to building muscle.
Keep in mind what I’m outlining is for serious strength athletes. I know for myself some of my training sessions last as long as 3 hours while prepping for strongman. Just putting all of the weights away at the end is considered cardio when doing a medley.
Females 150lbs and under: 80 g carbs, 30g protein, 5g bcaas, 3g creatine (Start drinking 15 minutes prior to training and finish by the end)
Men 200 and under 150-200g carbs, 60-80g protein, 10g bcaas, 5g creatine
Men 201 and over 250-300g carbs, 100-120, 10g bcaas, 5g creatine
I will admit that I am a huge supplement whore, which is how I’m able to make recommendations based on my own experiences. I know a common drink for lifters is a cheap sugary drink mixed with some whey protein BUT we want to optimize everything we can. The quality of the calories you put in your body matter greatly for your performance and your recovery. I know personally when I use a cheap sugary drink I don’t feel as good, I get bloated, and just don’t feel as strong. These are signs your body is not digesting things properly, and using the nutrients properly. Here at LBEB we use True Nutrition so what I recommend is a high quality carbohydrate drink called Karboload. Mix Karboload with the highest quality protein on the market PeptoPro and you have the best intra workout drink for performance, and recovery. (Use code LBEB5 to get a discount on these)
If intra nutrition isn’t something you have focused on in the past I guarantee you will see a huge difference. If you aren’t recovering as well as you should this could be the one thing holding you back. If anyone has any other tips for intra workout nutrition drop a comment below or on the LBEB facebook page.