A little while back I was getting a lift in on a Saturday afternoon at Cressey Performance. Eric Cressey is a master of the deadlift and I had been trying to think of how to program for myself in order to get my deadlift numbers up. I remembered reading one of his articles when he was training at South Side Gym in Connecticut about how his deadlift really shot up during his time there. When I looked at the program he was doing, it included good mornings, an exercise that I hadn’t done in some time. “Ah-ha!” I thought to myself…”Good mornings must be the answer to increasing my deadlift!” I knew I had to get Eric’s thoughts, so while I was foam rolling, I asked him,
“Do you think good mornings helped your deadlift when you were training at South Side?”
And he replied,
“I think everything I did helped my deadlift.”
The master had spoken.
I thought about Eric’s response a lot and realized that it held a lot of meaning. What I was failing to do at the time was to keep things simple. I was trying to come up with the perfect program. I was looking for the perfect exercises, the perfect amount of sets and reps, and the perfect amount of rest so that I could get stronger. In reality, there really is no “perfect” program. So, I took a step back and rethought my plan of attack.
The road to getting stronger really isn’t that complicated. When I thought about it, it boiled down to this: train hard, lift heavy shit, eat (a lot), rest, and repeat. That’s it. Not very sexy, but it’s true. Matter of fact, whatever your fitness goals may be, this list still holds true (obviously with some minor tweaks in the training and nutrition categories).
If you want to get stronger, gain muscle, or lose fat, you need to train hard. You need to lift some appreciable weight. Your nutrition has to be on point. You have to give yourself ample time to recover and commit to methods of recovery. After you do all that stuff, do it again. And keep doing it.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled by this simplicity…this may tempt you to deviate from some of these things, but trust me, they work.
I’m a big believer in the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule. This states that “80% of your results come from 20% of your work.” In other words, less is more. When it comes to your training, stick to the core lifts and fundamental movements. Think squats, deadlifts, some type of pressing, pulling, with some single-leg work and core work sprinkled in there as well. Do these until your technique is really, really ridiculously good.
Once your technique is impeccable, start getting strong at these lifts. Try to add a little weight to the bar every time you train. When your technique is rock-solid and you’ve built up a sturdy foundation of strength, then you can start playing around a bit more and doing variations of these movements.
Whether he meant to or not, this is what I felt Eric implied in his response to my question. If I wanted to get strong at deadlifts, first and foremost, I had to deadlift. After repeatedly pulling heavy shit off of the ground, I had to select appropriate assistance exercises, whether that meant including good mornings or not; it really didn’t matter. Do this for 4-8 weeks, switch up some of the assistance exercises, and do that for another 4-8 weeks. And remember the 80/20 Rule…stick to the core lifts, select a few appropriate assistance exercises, and get after it. For example, here’s what a recent deadlift day looked like for me:
A1) Conventional Deadlift 3 x 5
A2) Prone Windshield Wiper Mobilizations 3 x 8/leg
B1) 1-leg DB Contralateral Deadlift 3 x 8/leg
B2) Barbell Forward Lunges 3 x 8/leg
C1) TRX Alternating Jackknifes 3 x 8/leg
C2) Wall Lat Stretch 2 x 20 sec/side
Core lift? Check.
Hip-dominant movement? Check.
Knee-dominant movement? Check.
Single-leg work? Check.
Core work? Check.
Mad swole afterwards? Of course.
Don’t over-think things. Keep it simple. Never lose sight of the fundamentals, for these are the things that are going to get you the results that you want.