So I completed my Deadlifting cycle for a bit. That was a ton of fun. (Actually, if you add all the pounds moved, it was well over a ton, but that involves doing a lot of math, so I’ll just round down)

As I have written before, I use Pavel Tsastouline’s Power to the People protocol for Deadlifting. But I was able to have even more fun with this. Over the summer I had picked up Easy Strength by Pavel and Dan John. Easy Strength is an amazing book that details out how to understand and identify your goals for lifting and training, track progress, and set your programs to hit those goals.

I had read through it twice, and found a great protocol that I thought would fit my Goals (general fitness as opposed to sport specific) and it fit both my skills and equipment. The program worked out to be:

2-week Block Training (for a minimum plan of 10 weeks (5 sets))

Block 1: Single-arm Kettlebell Clean and Presses with Goblet Squats
Block 2: Power to the People Deadlifts

If you aren’t familiar with these these things, I’ll clarify.

Block Training is an old training method (very popular in the Former Soviet Union) where different exercise types are organized into Blocks, with a period of two weeks being the most common. You alternate the blocks over a period of several weeks before changing or moving to something new. Each block would differ from the others by either area worked (say, and Upper body block followed by a Lower body block) or it could differ by exercise type (in my case, a Pressing and Squats block followed by a deadlift block) You can run at a fairly high intensity as you recover from one type of work as you change to the other. Also, it lets you combine things in a way that keeps everything interesting.

Kettelbell Clean and Presses are surprisingly less common that I usually think. While kettelbells are very popular via Crossfit right now, most folks out there are just using them for swings (and typically the American Style over-the-head swing. – I follow RKC methods myself). I favor the C&P because when you are handling a large overhead weight on one hand only, then add the inherent eccentric balance of the Kettlebell, you turn an upper-body exercise into a whole-body lift. You need tight Glutes, core, and lats to achieve a good, straight lift, or you just wobble all over the place.

The Goblet Squat is one that Dan John promotes all the time as a way to dial in clean Squat form. Holding a weight out n front of your body, you pull yourself down into a low squat, with elbows resting on the inside of your kneecaps. It is very hard to get out of alignment with this exercise, and it really dials in great squatting form. The Kettlebell handle is a perfect alignment for the grip in a goblet squat, making it a perfect bookend for pressing sets.

With varying weights, this made my sets look like the following:

Block 1:
Single Arm Presses & Goblet Squats

Monday (16kg x 5, 20kg x 5, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets
Wednesday (32kg x 2, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets
Friday (20kg x 5, 24kg x 5) X 4 sets

Block 2:
Power to the People deadlifts

Monday: 185lbs/135lbs
Tuesday: 205lbs/185lbs
Wednesday: 225lbs/205lbs
Thursday: 215lbs/205lbs
Friday: 225lbs/205lbs
Saturday: 235lbs/225lbs

After a Kettelbell week I would see if I felt up to adding an extra set for each day. At the end of a lifting week I would dial back 20 pounds, then add 10 each day. If the set felt too hard, I dialed back a bit.

This progressed fantastically! By the last Kettelbell week, I could get in 5 solid sets, and I was on track to break through a deadlift of 300 pounds. A few days before my cycle completed, I racked up 285 pounds to the bar.

In proper form, I made two excellent pulls. On my third pull, elves snuck in and glued the weights to the floor.

I mean, the bar didn’t move at all.

I was at my body’s limit, so I cut it short. I was well past my Personal Record, I had finished 9 weeks of solid, intense training, made amazing gains, and had no injury. So when my body said stop, I listened.

I took the next two weeks to recover with walking and some light bodyweight. Then is is on to the next challengeā€¦

Well, at the end of last weekend I managed to work my way over to my mom’s house and steal a stack of Olympic weight plates that my brother left in the back porch. Combining those with my own, I now have 325 pounds of weights for my Olympic barbell, which meansā€¦


Power to the People was one of the first books from pavel that I picked up, but I never had space or equipment to do deadlifts. It was a great book to have in any case, since half of the book is Pavel’s standard discussion on tension, strength, and muscle irradiation. Real fundamental stuff. But now I went back to the book and re-read the whole section of starting deadlifts. The big upside, as mentioned int this book and just about every book on lifting, is that deadlifts are a very natural movement and a safe one at that. You don’t have a bar over your head and the motion isn’t awkward and tricky.

For pavel’s program you combine two sets of 5 pulls each per day, with a set of overhead presses. the book offers a barbel side press, but I’m option for a Kettlebell Military Press instead, as it is a lot safer than swinging a 6 foot bar around inside the room.

Here are this week’s numbers:

Monday: 185lbs/135lbs
Tuesday: 205lbs/185lbs
Wednesday: 225lbs/205lbs
Thursday: off
Friday: 225lbs/205lbs
Saturday: 235lbs/225lbs

These weights aren’t particularly heavy yet, but I am doing a slow progression to keep form and build up to some kind of a wave cycle later on. You can really feel the difference in this exercise vs a lot of the Kettlebell lifts, it is a whole body tension that is hard to do otherwise.

Of course, the massive “clank” as the weights hit the ground is a lot of fun too.