Dealing with Setbacks and Stalls in Strength
Shortly after hitting my last PR lbs for the deadlift at the end of January, I took a week off to deload and repair. After that week of rest, I went back to pull the same PR again, thinking it’d be no issue. Holy cow, was I wrong.
I couldn’t break it off the floor, whereas the last time I pulled it, it was no issue. I committed to pulling it, and after a good three or four attempts, it finally got off the ground. My back felt nice and rounded, and the residual pain I had for days was a nice reminder of the fact.
I realized I couldn’t just bump up my deadlift 10 lbs every week by simply doing 1×5 at the heaviest weight – at least not anymore. At the weight of 180-ish lbs, being around 18% body-fat, I had already plateaued in newbie gains for the deadlift. Excellent.
Setbacks – Take Time Off and Work Back Up
Having dealt with numerous injuries before, it’s almost like clock-work to me regarding what needs to be done to recover and come back.
Whenever I hurt myself, I always rest. I try to keep active as possible during this period, so I continued with basically everything else in my program, minus the deadlifts. I did a lot of walking to keep the blood flowing, and also performed dead-hangs to decompress the spine. I’ve written about spinal decompression before and I definitely felt an improvement with my back pain after incorporating dead-hangs into my routine. My boss pushed my to use reverse-hyperextensions at work (which I never did end up using – probably a stupid decision on my part) but dead-hangs seemed to have helped enough.
After two weeks of no deadlifting, I did one week of RDLs and deadlifts using 135 lbs. It was painless and easy, so I decided to hop back on regular heavy deadlifts again.
Stalls in Strength – Change Your Program
It was obvious I plateaued with my newbie gains, as early as it seems, so it was prudent to switch-up my program.
The more advanced you become as a lifter, the more advanced your program must become to accommodate your strength-gains. Things like sets, reps, percentages, and frequency come more and more into play as your achieve your “lifting seniority”.
I experienced some difficulty finding a program that seemed right for me. I knew my newbie-gains have been long-gone. Weekly progressions were out of the question for me, but I felt that programs like 5/3/1 or the Conjugate Method were way too advanced and slow for my current status.
Luckily, I stumbled upon “Karl’s Method” of 5/3/1, and felt it would be perfect for me. To summarize, 5/3/1 allows for 10-pound increases in your deadlift and squat 1-rep-max every four weeks. Karl’s method is perfect for an intermediate lifter, as it cuts out the 2nd week and 4th week of 5/3/1, effectively increasing your max by 10 lbs every two weeks.
So, I embarked on this program for my deadlifts – on my second week of the program, I hit 245 lbs for reps. On the 6th week (which was this week), I hit my old PR again for reps, without any issue.
Prior to hurting my back, pulling my old PR made me feel like this…
However, after a few weeks on Karl’s Method, pulling the same PR off the ground makes me feel like this…
It seems that changing your routine will kick-start your progress and allow you to blast through plateaus. You can only progress at a certain rate for so long, and then you will need to switch to a different program that either stimulates adaptation at the same rate, or allows you to make slower gains more steadily.
Anyway, I wanted to pull more. I knew I could pull more. But, I want these gains to last as long as possible. I hope these gains keep coming, because my deadlift is going to skyrocket at this rate now.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s Ronnie Coleman in his prime deadlifting 800 lbs. Here’s to greatness!