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My First One Rep Max Test on the Deadlift

heavy deadliftI had been playing around with a deadlift program I found on the Internet that purported to be the one Ed Coan had created for Mark Philippi. I was doing a lot more volume than I had ever done, in preparation for my first Tactical Strength Challenge in Grand Junction, Colorado. The TSC has three events: max deadlift, consecutive dead-hang pullups, and kettlebell snatches with a 24 kg bell in 5 minutes.

I knew how I would do on the snatches and pullups, but I had never pulled a max deadlift before. I though the TSC would be a great one rep max test for me and I’d finally know where I was standing. That’s not how it turned out. I didn’t know where to open, and I had no idea what I was truly capable of, so I wound up using my three attempts for a final, fairly easy pull (with horrible form) of 385.I knew I could have done more, but to be honest, the deadlift max kind of scared me.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was training at a local Crossfit Gym where I taught kettlebell classes in exchange for training space. I don’t do Crossfit, for the record.

The head trainer had become a good friend of mine and I knew I was getting much stronger from the Russian kettlebell work and barbell time I was putting in. So one day on a lark I asked him to help me figure out my one rep deadlift max. I worked up to 385 pretty quickly and this time I knew I had a lot more in me.

He kept putting plates on. They were big fat bumper plates marked in kilos, so I was no longer sure what was on the bar. “How much is that?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter,” he kept saying. Then I would get into position and pull it. This went on for about 20 minutes until I knew I had hit my limit.

I had deadlifted 435 pounds. Safely, without ever feeling in danger, or using a belt. I couldn’t believe it. Strangely enough, if I had known how much weight was on the bar I’m not sure I would have hit it.

Anyway, deadlifting heavy is my favorite thing to do. It’s been another 18 months since then and my current max is 540. The deadlift gives me confidence and makes me feel strong. I’m glad I figured out what my actual max was, because if I hadn’t, I might have piddled around for much longer without making the progress I did.

Maybe that’s the key: having someone trick you into lifting heavier.


Strength training for body and mind

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