“Deathlifts” Revisited

mutant strength.
Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com

Ouch. OK, I admit it. 250 pound deadlifts, at least for now, are my extreme limit and maybe even over my limit. I’m sitting at my desk with an ice pack shoved up against my lower right back. It’s not as bad as some of the times I’ve tweaked it in the past, but it’s more than just “normally” sore from working out.

Fortunately this is the only Workout B this week, my heaviest week in my third five-week round of mutant strength training, so I won’t be facing deadlifts again until Monday.

I think I got a descent amount of sleep. Sometimes, I’m so groggy it’s tough to tell. At least I stayed in bed all night. Woke up a few times that I remember and finally got up about 10 until 4. Had my usual coffee and water, plus half an avocado to put something on my stomach.

I got to the gym just at 5 when the lights were popping on. Then I faced the squat rack again, hoping to improve by getting lower with heavier weights. Here’s what happened.

Rest times between sets were typical, increasing to about 2 1/2 minutes by the time I was halfway through my deadlift routine.

Barbell Back Squats in Squat Rack

6x 135lbs/61.235kg
3x 185lbs/83.9146kg
3x 205lbs/92.9864kg
3x 230lbs/104.326kg
3x 230lbs/104.326kg

Barbell Close Grip Bench Press

6x 125lbs/56.699kg
6x 135lbs/61.235kg
3x 155lbs/70.3068kg
4x 155lbs/70.3068kg (Bonus Rep)

Photo credit: westcoasttribe.com

Barbell Bent Leg Deadlift

3x 185lbs/83.9146kg
3x 205lbs/92.9864kg
5x 225lbs/102.058kg (Bonus Reps)
3x 250lbs/113.398kg
3x 250lbs/113.398kg

Overhead Barbell Press in Squat Rack

3x 65lbs/29.4835kg
3x 75lbs/34.0194kg
1x 85lbs/38.5554kg
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg
3x 80lbs/36.2874kg

Standing Barbell Curl

4x 75lbs/34.0194kg
4x 85lbs/38.5554kg
3x 95lbs/43.0913kg
3x 95lbs/43.0913kg

Again, I decided to start with an extra set of squats using relatively light weight, just to get my body warmed up and because lower weight lets me sit deeper into the squat. The lift out didn’t feel really heavy until I hit my working weight.

I focused on “getting down” and was more or less effective, but I still didn’t quite reach the point of having my thighs parallel to the floor. By the end of squats, I was already breathing heavy.

By comparison, the close grip press felt pretty reasonable. The lift out on the first rep of the first set felt heavy for some reason, but once I started lifting, it was all quite doable. I did my warm up sets at 6 reps each and even managed an extra rep during my last working set.

And then there were the “deathlifts”.

Photo credit: Rebootedbody.com

In mentally preparing myself for deadlifts, I pictured myself lifting 250 pounds, upping it to 255, and then finally to 260, finishing in glorious victory. Real life turned out to produce different results.

Even though I could have done more, I kept my first two warm up sets at 3 reps each, just to keep from wearing myself down too early. But on that third warm up, I really felt I had command of the 225 pound barbell and did a full 5 reps. I hope that wasn’t a mistake. After all, I’d started dripping sweat by the time I was done with the warm up set at 205 pounds.

I added the necessary plates to bring the barbell up to 250 pounds. I’ve only managed this heavy a deadlift once before, at the beginning of week 5 of the previous round, and it was a bonus set after my regular working sets of 245 pounds were finished. That was on a Monday. When I faced deadlifts again at the end of the week in that round, I was too tired to go for the bonus and “only” did my required 2 working sets at 245 pounds for 3 reps each.

So I was feeling a little intimidated facing 250 pounds again and knowing I expected myself to pull it up and do 2 sets at 3 reps per set.

Steeling myself as best I could, I squatted down, grasped the bar, and pulled. Oh!

I don’t know when I first felt the tweak…was it when I was lifting the barbell off the floor, or during one of the reps of the set? It didn’t feel too bad right then. Maybe just some soreness, I rationalized.

Bam! Down went the barbell after the first working set.

Yes, my lower right back was tender. I considered just stopping there. I’d already completed 4 sets so I could probably have called it good, but I didn’t want to crap out on my second and final working set. I knew I could do it. Just 3 more reps.

I rested nearly 3 minutes before making my attempt. Then I grasped the barbell and pulled it up off the floor. It pulled back with a vengeance and I grunted a “C’mon” and forced myself to stand up with the weight.

Then came the reps…one, two, and three…the third rep was especially hard and I struggled to stand fully erect.

back pain
Photo credit: stomachview.info

I made it but there was definitely a cost.

I slammed the weight onto the floor and then slowly deloaded the bar, walking and bending gingerly due to my tweaked back. Finally got the barbell down to 135 pounds, re-racked the bar, and finished deloading it.

The squat rack was free, so I decided to do my overhead presses there. It would save me a lot of bending over. Good thing, because I could feel the tweak even when lifting the loaded barbell out of the rack, and these are really modest weights.

Even the warm up sets seemed difficult, but I could manage the required 3 reps each. I think I misread my workout log and set the working weight at 85 pounds. Big mistake. It was supposed to be 80 and I only managed a single, very difficult rep. I knocked the weight back down to 80 and did 3 reps for 2 sets, and they still were really challenging.

I checked back in my log and found that my working weight for these presses in week 5 of the previous round was 80 pounds, and in the second workout B of that week, I only managed 1 rep in the second working set. I did do another 3 reps at 75 pounds back then, so I think I am improving, if only slightly. I have to admit, this isn’t my strongest area.

I had been resting so much that there was very little time left on the clock. I’d be lucky if I got my curls finished by 6.

I decided not to go crazy and just did 4 reps for the warm up sets and 3 each for the working sets. That first working set was hard but I knew I could do it. The second working set was something else. I lifted the barbell and started the curl. Nothing. I stalled.

I was determined not to be defeated when I had come so close to finishing (reasonably) well, and pulled again. They were 3 very difficult forced reps and I was cheating all the way, but I did it. The heaviest I’ve ever curled a barbell.

I looked up at the clock and it was 6 and 30 some odd seconds. That was it. I was done.

Photo credit: wordswithlisbeth.com

At first, my back wasn’t all that bad. I could get in and out of my car without much discomfort. It didn’t really kick in until after my shower, when I found it was difficult to put on my socks and then my pants.

Now I have to be a little careful getting up from my chair. The ice is helping, but we’ll see if 2 days is enough recovery time before I hit the gym again. I don’t have to do deadlifts, but the squats are always there.

I was going to expand this blog post and discuss another topic, but I’ve gotten kind of “wordy” so think I’ll stop here. Time to take care of my back, rest up, and face whatever Friday has waiting for me at the gym. Oh yeah, tomorrow’s supposed to be abs and cardio. We’ll see.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz used to say, “Who is the righteous person and who is the evil person? Many people think the righteous person is one who does not transgress, and the evil person is one who constantly transgresses. But even the very righteous also transgress and even the very wicked perform good deeds.

“The essential difference between the two is that the righteous person tries to overcome his desire to do wrong, while the evil person does not.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin


4 thoughts on ““Deathlifts” Revisited

  1. How often are you DL?
    How often SQ?
    I have found that back squats are where my lumbar gets hurt more than DL. Oh, and life.


    1. DL once or twice a week depending on where I am in the cycle and always squat three days a week. I can feel the “tug” in my lower back when I squat which defines the limit of how deep I can go down, but I’ve never tweaked my back squating…only doing DLs.


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