How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
— Elizabeth Barret Browning.
Who amoung you who really cares, can’t relate a good set of deadlifts to all of that?
…It’s a long history but I eventually worked myself up to 325# for 5 reps, back almost a year and a half ago. Here’s a video of 305# for 4. Somewhere along the way, I got an injury—a cervical herniation—that put me down like nothing else, ever. Here’s the this and that of all of that:
- This is One Big Ass Pain in the Neck!
- Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS): Can Your Mind Really Heal Your Back, Neck, Shoulder, Butt, and Leg Pain?
I must mention both Dr. Kurt Harris and Dr. Doug McGuff. Early on, they both tuned me into Dr. John Sarno. Essentially, if the pain is so intense, chronic and constant, 24×7, for weeks and months…to the point you begin plotting suicide—and how not to make a display or show of it for family members—then perhaps it’s time to look at the mind. Additionally, Kurt (a radiologist) graciously looked at my MRI imaging and confirmed the physical side of things.
Interesting thing is, it worked—and totally without fucking woo bullshit. It’s physiological. For whatever reason you should not care about, your mind decides to fuck with you by restricting oxygen at a cellular/muscular level to isolated places, and it causes oxygen deprivation and excruciating pain, which can persist for years—while a broken femur heals from pain in two weeks (hint hint). The solution? Tell your brain to fuck off. Seriously. Explicitly. In the mirror. You don’t need to “work out your problems.” Tell yourself to fuck off. Mean it. Done. It does take some weeks of such self therapy, so’s that you know you really mean it: in the mirror. Face to same face.
More direct: laugh at the pain and the pain becomes a laughing stock.
All that was a while back. I laid off heavy workouts for a good while, gained fat, bla bla bla. About this time last year I went back to the gym and dived into DLs once again. On the first day I pulled 255 for reps with no problem. I did that a few times in a few weeks. Then, we took a trip to the cabin and in getting ready to turn our vacation home into a vacation rental, I worked for a solid day with my arms above my head cleaning ceilings, light fixtures, etc….and the very next day the same pain was back with a vengeance.
What was the real cause???
It was just as powerful and debilitating as before. I had no idea what was in store and at the time, I was slated for both The 21 Convention in Orlando and AHS at UCLA. I contemplated canceling both. I continued to nurse my woulds, gain fat, and wax miserable. Then, I took note of something. The pain went away, and it did so without me doing much in the way of Sarno-esque, “Fuck you, Richard,” affirmations in the mirror. It was about 2-3 weeks. Gone. I suspect it had something to do with no longer having any fear or trepidation in the matter and I kinda just dismissed the pain much of the time in spite of the intensity.
So, I ended up doing my deals: The 21 Conv and AHS. I didn’t look good at all, but made the best of it and was well received.
Since then, I have been very gun-shy about the whole thing in terms of heavy lifting. I essentially didn’t work out for months. A few months back, I got kettlebells. I really didn’t treat them as formal workouts. Rather, it was 5 minutes here, 5 there, maybe a couple of times per day, or none at all some days. I really like that informality and it will continue. However, whatever it was I did—probably with the 45 pounder—the whole deal came back. But and but: way, way less than before. It was only annoying, and it didn’t really affect sleep and such. Zero suicidal thoughts. It went away in a couple of weeks or so, and it’s been a couple of weeks since I haven’t had a single symptom.
…And so, yesterday was: how-do-I-love-thee-let-me-count-the-ways day. It wasn’t planned. Beatrice and I just decided to head to the swim club around 4:30 and I said to myself: I’m going to fucking do dead lifts.
135# x 10. Kittens could do that, and so did the kitten in me. OK, let’s load 25 per side, for 185# total. Whoa. That’s easy. I took it to 5 reps, rested a bit, did another 5. There’s no wind in the gym, so caution sticks around. After a good rest, I thought that 205# would be doable. So I loaded it up and did 5 more reps; pretty damn easy. I put a cherry on top with 400# on the leg press. Two sets for 10 reps each. Piece of cake. Then I went in the pool, the 13ft side for 40 minutes, legs crossed, treading water, arms only (very easy for me: all my life).
Here’s the thing: all reps were done double overhand grip. This, I owe to Clifton Harski. I had a great steak and salad lunch with him in Los Gatos after AHS last fall…talked about my troubles, my injury, and he immediately nodded his head. He’d seen this before. His advice was something that would likely have not dawned on me ever, because I’m simply not deep into the details of physical training. He said: do only double overhand on deadlifts, and lock your arms “outwards.”
When you think of it, the evolutionary logic makes sense. We’re a system. We evolved in such a way that muscle groups are in concert. Or: our arms can do things our legs can’t; our feet can do things our hands can’t…and all which ways around the mulberry bush.
It seemed like a sensible thing to me, since my forearms and hands, and arms, ultimately, are the endpoint on the bar: to not let the far more massive muscles of my glutes, back and legs injure my far more tender assets—but also far more brainy assets.
It’s a simple concept:
The weakest link in your system is your limit.
In deadlift, that’s your grip. Yea, a reverse grip gets the job done, but it’s interesting to see where all competitors in this deal lift comp failed. Many got into the 400s, some into the 500s, but every single one failed eventually on grip, not on what their butt, back and legs could do.
And so, with an abundance of caution I go forth. I still want to pull a 500# deadlift in my lifetime. I’m 51, and I want to be able to pull 500# when I’m 60, and I’m willing to take it slow and easy. But, when, and if, I do, it will be double overhand.
The way I look at it, my ability to grip is the weakest link, and as such, is what just might keep the rest of my body safe to progress for as long as it takes for my grip to strengthen over time. Moreover, I think that realization has a lot of application in the entire workout and lifting industry.
Don’t shortcut the weak link.