You’re being lied to

Today’s post is about one of the most common cues I hear in the CF community in particular. While the idea behind the cue is good, it’s often used at random and on people it doesn’t apply to at all. Or even worse – on people who aren’t ready for it.

It’s one of the main reasons novices and intermediates get out of position in the beginning of the deadlift and it leads to rounded backs as well as tough lockouts.

Before I reveal the big secret, I’ll share a smaller secret.

A rounded back in the deadlift is often caused by the bar being too far forwards. To compensate and get it back in line (and/or because the upper back is too weak to stay straight with the bar way out in front) – the upper back rounds. This often happens when the hips get too high.

On to the big secret: a result of this cue is that the hips get way too high, the legs too straight and tension in the upper back is lost. But what is this cursed cue?

round back deadlift


“Rip it off the floor” or similar cues that promote as much speed and ferocity off the floor are BAD. BAD BAD BAD. While the intention to pull explosively and finish strong is good, what happens 99% of the time with inexperienced lifters is that they lose tightness and positioning. They trade the good position and the easy lockout for a bad position and hard lockout. They stiff-leg it off the floor and burn all the power in the lower back and hamstrings before the lockout.

Most people will deadlift much better if they focus on “squeezing” the bar off the floor and THEN pulling as aggressively as possible. That’ll help you maintain good positioning throughout.

Oh and one last point – pulling fast and heavy is a) mutually exclusive for most people and b) wildly overrated compared to perfect positioning and correctly applied tension.

Wendler 531 Cycle two week two wrap-up

Press: Got 8 reps at 80! Yay. One more than last time. Took everything I had. Made me hop around and scream like a gorilla. GORILLABUILDING! <3

Support was 8 sets of bench (3 with figure 8), 3 sets of light presses, 8 sets of batwings, 6 sets of BOR and 3 sets of WG pullups. Finished off with a few sets of crosswalk overhead carries.

Cardio: sunday morning hills. Ran 2-3k with wife and kid, then they dropped me off at the hill and I got in 10-12 sprints while they ran some more. Hit a max HR of 178 and burned 590 kcals. Good, good.


Squat: 8 reps @150 felt good. Yay. Paused squats took some manning up. Sheesh they kill me, but then I killed them. 5x4x117,5kg. I realized being really tight in the upper back is good (yea I know, duh!).

Went for a 4x20m (3 turns) walk with 100kg on the back, and finished up with light farmer’s walk, GHR, BSS and front bridges. Great session.

Deadlift: 8×172,5kg weren’t that hard, but immediately after setting the weight down, I felt something in my lower back. Stopped the workout after that.

Did 5x2x135 sumo from a deficit and 3 rounds of patterning as warmup. Wore my HR monitor and ended at 696kcal in 1hr05 from my doorstep.


Beyond 5/3/1 Joker sets revisited


Joker sets eh? This is a really cool addition to “Beyond“, which lets you go above the program on a good day. As mentioned elsewhere, my friend Jacob tells me the Norwegian powerlifters call it spinning.

This post details some guidelines for implementing the joker sets in your program. Since writing that post, I’ve played around a bit more with the joker sets. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • I prefer to do them on the 3+1 day. 1+ day is also an option, as long as you’re steering well clear of failure (at least for SQ/DL – less of an issue with the presses). The harder you go at it, the more rest you also need, and if you’re following the 6+1 week template suggested in beyond, it’s great to have a somewhat lighter week.
  • Don’t plan joker sets!!! This is important. Only do them when you KILL your topset for the day. No grinders on the jokers.
  • Do 1-3 sets max. I usually just add ~10% to my top set and do one joker set. Adding much less than that is silly and if you can add 10% twice, your training is based on a VERY low max.


What I’ve done is do conventional deadlifts as my regular 531-lift, though when doing joker sets, I switch to my stronger sumo stance. I feel the conventional deadlift is a better strength and mass builder though. Switching to sumo to get some heavier weights in works great for me. I obviously do some volume at lower percentages to work on sumo form as well.

This could be applied to shirted benches, wrapped squats or whatever really. Just remember to keep the goal, the goal. The 531 system is not about lifting heavy-ass-crazy-hardcore weights week in and week out. It’s about setting rep-records and being patient. It’s about knowing what you do works, and giving it time to work.



Hard work.

And love – don’t forget the love!


Wendler 531 Cycle one week three wrap-up

Press: Got 5@82,5kg as planned. Not too hard. Backoff was 3x5x65, which was easy as well.

Support: Five singles at 112,5kg in the benchpress. Three triples with a purple band firgure-8 at the same weight. WG pullups with hold, forehead supported rows with hold.

Notes: Have implemented tons of holds and general tempo manipulation on back work, which is actually great as a bit of a change. Right now I’m just experimenting on pretty much everything, but after a cycle or two, I’ll mix it up a bit.

Squat: 5 reps @155kg as planned. Followed up with a quick single at 170kg. It wasn’t terribly good, but not exactly bad either.

5 sets of 3 reps at 122,5kg paused squats ranging from “decent” to “very good”. Yay.

Support was three sets of RDLs and three sets of BSSs – they’re always a pain. Finished up with sumo groin mob. Great day.

Benchpress: 8@107,5kg without pushing too hard. Decided not to stay with the 5 reps, since a) bench is set so low and b) upper body DOMS isn’t as bad as lower body DOMS (and you can’t really push yourself as far either). Three singles with a figure 8 band moving up to 127,5kg. Paused benches were 5 sets of 3 at 85kg. These were really good today, which is a good sign.

Did chins, DB rows and bat wings for the back. Gonna keep bat wings for some time and see where that takes me. Dan John sure loves them, so they gotta be good, eh?

Cardio: A 5k hill interval session with the lady and the kid. Good fun and a decent workout. Five really long hills pushing the kid.


Deadlift: 5@177,5kg – not hard and not easy, it just was. Worked up to a single at 220kg sumo deadlift, though I really shouldn’t have as I wasn’t having the best of days. Was a clean lift though and easy enough.

Support: This is where it got UGLY. Five sets of three block pulls with 3 second eccentric phase. Used a snatch grip this week as I was pulling from higher blocks. This murdered my back. Finished off with hack squats, abs and a 70-rep sets of leg extensions. Decent workout on an off-day. 🙂

Weekly round-up: this week was the last of the first three-week cycle. I’m moving straight on to another three-weeker, then deloading after six weeks total. The week was great in terms of training and life, and I’ve been adjusting my routine a bit throughout the first three weeks. I’ll keep tweaking here and there, but I feel I have a solid foundation with the main lifts+back off in place. Things are looking good. On a side note, I’ll be cleaning up the diet a bit after letting it slip for some time. Hoping to slowly crawl down towards the low 90ies and if all goes well, I could end up making a comeback in the sub-93 weightclass. Time will tell.

Wendler 531 Cycle one week two wrap-up

Another week in the books, here’s how it went down:

Press: Seven reps at 80kg wasn’t too bad (or good), but with massive DOMS from deadlifts (probably rack pulls, but who cares) the day before, I was ok with this. Real life forced me to train two days straight.

3 sets of 8 at 62,5kg as backoff. Good.

Bench was good and I also got to play around with a light band across the chest in a figure-8. Fun fun.

Back was fried, so the 6 sets of pendlay rows were shit. 5 sets of perfect WG pullups and some curls.

Standard thorough warmup with prehab, no mobility done.

Squat: Great session where I got to play with the joker sets a bit. Got the 8×145 in the program and went for a solid triple at 160. Felt great. Five sets of four reps of paused squat and RDLs, lunges and abs to end the session.

I’m really happy my squat is going well again, and my current programming seems pretty good. Yay. Only slight downside is that I’ve been getting massive three-day DOMS throughout this cycle. Oh well.

Bench: Easy 8×100 and decided to work up a bit 3x110kg and 3x120kg. Easy – technique was a bit off though. 5x4x77,5 paused bench was easy.

Support: A bit of pinkygrip bench with figure 8, strict paused pulldowns 5×10, strict BOR 5×10 and cheat T-bar rows 5×10, press 3×10 and tons of activation. Great fun.

Comment: program is obviously based on a low max which is fine. I need quality reps to improve technically..

Photo 30-08-13 15.45.15

Deadlift: Got the 8×167,5kg easily. Then switched to sumo and continued up to 3x190kg and 3x210kg. Fine. 🙂

Support: Rackpulls were easier than last week, and I decided to stick with fronts afterall. Three sets of ten. Finished up with some abs and sumo groin mob. Lovely.

Cardio: I haven’t been on my hill for ages, and what better cure than to do hill sprints on a sunday morning?  Cleared my mind and my lungs up. Great.

Thoughts on the deadlift

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve got a draft of my program to be up on the blog here. Henrik asked me to elaborate some thought on the deadlift day in particular and I figured it’d make a good post.

Here’s what the plan looks like now (the part that’s relevant for this post that is):

Day three, deadlift:

Deficit sumo DL: 5×2@70%

Conventional DL: 1×80%, 5+, 3+ or 1+ set.

Conventional DL from low blocks: 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with 65%, 70% and 75% over a three-week period.

First of all, if you want a big deadlift, you have to pull from the floor. It’s really that simple. Also, the deadlift will build a nice and strong posterior chain like pretty much nothing else. If you’re not deadlifting, you’re missing out.

Columbo pulling big

Columbo pulling big

My strongest deadlift is the sumo deadlift and since I compete in powerlifting, that’s my competition lift. I do however like the conventional deadlift for overall strengthbuilding. Here are my thoughts about the three main exercises I’ve chosen to build my deadlift:

The deficit sumo deadlift: This is by far the best way for me to train the competition lift. I’m weaker at the bottom, and getting up on a pair of plates lets me work even more on positioning, mobility and power off the floor. I’ve found that I grind myself to death if I don’t use the plates. This is for base training – as I get closer to a meet, I’ll reintroduce regular sumo deadlifts. Since this is my competition lift, I’ll be doing it first.

This is also a great way to get the hips warmed up.

The conventional deadlift: For building a strong back and strong hamstrings, I think the conventional deadlift is far superior to the sumo deadlift. That is why I’ve chosen the conventional deadlift as my main lift for 5/3/1. A nice bonus is that my 1RM in the conventional deadlift and the deficit sumo is about identical, so I don’t need to modify the spreadsheet. This is support work disguised as a main exercise. 🙂

The conventional deadlift off low blocks: Aka the rackpull is great for building a strong back and hamstrings. Especially in the conventional deadlift, my position off the floor isn’t too good, so by lifting the bar just 5-10cm, I’ll be able to target the muscles more effectively. I’ve also thought about doing just one set at 65/70/75% for as many reps as possible – not quite sure on that one just yet.

Romanian deadlifts: Will be done on squat-day for 5 sets of 5 reps.

That’s pretty much it really. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, don’t be shy.

Having a plan

I wasn’t gonna post up the video in this post, as it’s just too damn embarrassing. Then, talking about what happened just last night made me realize something. There’s a good lesson to be learned from my failures.


Having a fucking plan and sticking to it is not only preferable in lifting, but also in life. What I did on Saturday was this: I’d decided on an opener and once I’d weighed in, I decided on my second lift. I was gonna wing it on the third lift. I should’ve skipped the last lift, as I’d already gotten what I came for. Winging it is just silly.

Having a plan will allow you to prepare mentally  for a lift as well as concentrating on just lifting the damned weight. No need to gauge if it felt heavy and if so how heavy? Let me tell you a little secret – when you’re deadlifting around 2.5x bodyweight, everything feels heavy. Everything feels like shit. Different amounts of shit, but I’ve yet to do a maximal effort deadlift that didn’t suck.

Here’s the video I promised – it’s proof of what happens when you don’t have a plan. Lack of focus and willpower.

For my next meet, I’ll have all 9 lifts planned out several weeks ahead. Actually I have a good idea of what I’m shooting for already.

PS: If you’re good enough to have a shot at winning something – anything, you might have to adjust your lifts on the day based on the competition. Most people just need to plan out some big solid (PR) lifts and keep improving over time. That eventually will get you medals/fame/women/world domination. It’ll also get you a reputation as the white-light-guy. Who doesn’t want to be Mr All Whites?