September 2020 update: here’s a shot repping out a few deadlifts @ 405 lbs.

For the past year or so I’ve been working towards achieving a 400 lb one-rep max deadlift. This would represent a fairly significant lift for me, coming in at roughly 2.5 times my body weight. Thus far, however, the lift has eluded me.

In November 2018 I thought I was coming close, pulling 385 lbs off the floor. This PR (personal record) was set shortly before my wife and I departed on our two-week honeymoon. Although not a terribly long break, I disappointingly found my deadlift lost some steam when I returned. Disheartening? Sure. Part and parcel of the game? Definitely.

Patience

The process to improve strength is slow and arduous. Many factors can slow progress, or even set you back all together. If you’re like me, these moments will test your resolve to maintain your program or routine. Changes can be so slow that it can prove difficult to remain motivated, but ultimately it’s the consistent work that compounds over time that provides meaningful results. Easy to understand. Difficult to accept.

Grinding

In recent months I’ve been improving my five rep max, recently hitting 375 lbs on that lift alone (though to be fair, the five reps were ugly, and I used straps for assistance). I haven’t attempted a single rep max deadlift in many months, though I suspect I’m now approaching the 400 lb mark. That said, given the inherent risk in heavy deadlifts, I’m not rushing towards this target. Rather, I’m taking my time progressing, and will attempt a PR once I feel I confident I can safely execute it. Regardless, progress is being made.

A Note on Tracking

Tracking has helped me recognize and appreciate the often small, incremental improvements I make. A couple of months ago I started using Gravitus (no affiliation), an incredibly intuitive app that helps me quickly record my reps and sets. When I start an exercise, Gravitus will automatically show the previous weight, sets, and reps performed previously (and the date on which they were performed). This has proved indispensable in ensuring I continue to properly challenge myself week to week, something that can be difficult to do when you primarily work out at home, alone.

Enjoying the Process

Coming to peace with the fact that muscle growth is slow, and only gets slower the further you improve, has helped reduce my obsession with constantly achieving new heights. I certainly wish to set new records often, but I understand that PR’s will be harder and harder to obtain the more experience I accumulate. And at some point, I will inevitably peak. Does that mean I stop resistance training when I can no longer improve? Hell no. If anything, weight training becomes even more critical – helping slow muscle atrophy.

And so I do my best to avoid being singularly focused on PR’s. Instead, I’ve come to love the challenge, love the process, and love the weekly grind. I’m energized knowing that I’m putting in the work day-after-day that other folks can’t, or simply aren’t willing to.

If it were easy, we’d see many more individuals deadlifting 400 lbs, but we don’t. And honestly, I don’t want it to be easy. The harder the challenge, the more satisfying the reward. Bring it on.