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Safer High Volume Deadlifting

Gym Movement has allowed me to have some truly memorable strength training session. About a month ago deadlifts were testing really well, so I had a couple of the greatest workouts I had ever performed. One night I pulled the conventional deadlift 270 times with 225 pounds in 35 minutes. The next day I expected to feel a bit sore, and I did, but not in all the places I expected. In fact, there were two spots that I had never felt sore in before: the soles of my feet and my right elbow

I take the high volume approach whenever possible because it suits my physique goals. More work in less time means more muscle and less body fat. It just does. But of course, nothing throws a damper on things like even a tiny injury. But I wasn’t injured. I have not been injured lifting since I started with Gym Movement over a year ago now.

But that doesn’t mean my feet and elbow weren’t sore. Although I have always trained high volume, this was higher than I was used to, and the sheer amount of pressure that the soles of my feet had borne during the workout left them pretty tender the next day.

I have been experimenting in the weeks since, and while my volume has not dropped, I have been able to mitigate the brief issues I felt after those first two sessions.

Varying foot position during the deadlift

As you know if you have followed my strength training for long, I test all of my movements with a range of motion test before performing them. I only perform exercises that result in increased range of motion, and these exercises change constantly according to the tests.

The deadlift is part of a movement pattern I’ll just call the “hinge.” When I reach back with my hips for a heavy pull, a kettlebell swing, etc, that’s the movement pattern. My goal is a bigger deadlift, so that is what I test first. If it tests better than baseline ROM, that’s what I’m doing that day.

But the variations themselves can be tested. Saying “I am going to deadlift” today could mean that I pull conventional, sumo style, on one leg, in a staggered split stance, with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells. I go with whatever tests best. However, if I have more than one variation that tests better than baseline, and if I’m getting sore feet every time I deadlift tons and tons of pounds, then I will take the variations that test best and cycle them through the workout.

It can also be as simple as simply changing the position of my feet. If I pull a set Sumo, then I might pull the next set conventional style, assuming that both tested well for the day. This deviates a bit from my normal routine, which is simply to find the movement that tests best, no exceptions.

So, it’s a position very few people will find themselves in, but if high volume is a goal of yours, I would simply try moving your feet around a bit to give yourself some relief.

Mixed grip

The grip I use most frequently is to grab the bar with one hand supinated and the other pronated. This simply means that one hand faces forward, the other faces backwards. Where I started running into mild elbow trouble was that I did not vary that grip enough. My right hand was probably supinated 90% of the time, which is not in proportion. The anatomy of my left arm just did not get the same exposure to the supinated position. Most of the pain I have gone through during weight training is associated (by me) with a lack of balance.

So if you do a lot of mixed grip deadlifting and you are having some joint discomfort as the volume increases, I would suggest consciously changing your mixed grip to help each hand get proportionate time in each position.

I also rotate the double overhand grip in as often as it tests well. It taxes the grip more, although the poundage drops when my grip becomes the limiting factor. In this grip both hands are pronated. Here’s a picture of Adam Glass pulling double overhand on the Swager Strength Equipment axle. I’ve also got one, and they are fantastic!

double overhand deadlift

I’ll leave it there for now. If you are experiencing new discomforts because of your increased volume with deadlifts, give these suggestions a try and let me know how it goes!

Josh

Strength training for body and mind

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