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.

Photo by José Ignacio Pompé on Unsplash

It’s the weekend, and like clockwork my willpower drops and my ability to justify poorer habits peaks. I had a long stressful week at the office (not really), and I’ve earned some pizza… Plus some ice cream… Plus some poutine… Plus, since I’ve already eaten all that, whatever else I want until Monday rolls around again. You get the picture.

To help combat this endless cycle of binging and restricting from weekend to weekday, I’ve started to reframe some of my weekend activities and meals in an effort to appreciate healthier choices more.

Pizza is a favourite of mine. When I’m not careful, it starts appearing in my diet more frequently than it should. And Friday evenings, when energy can be zapped from the work week, a large pepperoni and cheese pizza from Danby’s Roadhouse is just so damn tempting.

So I’ve flipped it. There’s plenty of healthy meals I love. Maybe they don’t elicit quite the level of salivation as pizza, but they come pretty close.

Let’s take a steak dinner, for example. In order to enjoy the experience more, my wife and I would plan to visit our local butcher, Christoper, and pick up two delicious looking ribeyes. We might also pop over to the grocery store to grab some fresh greens, and if we want more of a treat, perhaps some sweet potato fries for the side. When we get home, we immediately turn on some fun music, start the barbecue, and pour ourselves a drink. Personally I don’t stray far from a typical lager, but my wife will try and make slightly better alcoholic choices, perhaps a glass of red, or even just some white wine cut with carbonated water (a spritzer of sorts). When we package our Friday evening like this, it’s actually something we start getting excited about in the day’s leading up to it. Perfect!

Default thinking: Take out pizza is delicious, easy, and satisfying.

Reframed thinking: Eating out is more expensive than cooking at home. And at home we can dance to our favourite tunes while we prepare our steaks and salad. Moreover, we get to enjoy quality nutrition that will benefit our body, and we won’t feel bloated and regretful following the meal.

Now I’m not saying this meal is the healthiest choice we could make. Far from it. If it were, at the very least alcohol would be excluded. No, the idea is to create an experience that we look forward to, and that includes reasonably healthy choices that we won’t regret. This particular steak, salad, and sweet potato fries combo serves this purpose. It’s not a perfect choice, but it’s reasonable. The same can’t be said for the pepperoni pizza option.