First, a couple of asides.
Aside One: For the record, I don't consider the Zercher Squat to be a substitute for the deadlift. This misconception has been repeated in a number of places, and it's wholly incorrect. Were someone to press me on how I got my deadlift to the level it is without a year of direct training, I would posit that the poundage I'm able to move results from the fact that I train for overall, full-body strength. My body is completely inured to moving heavy poundages, so the direction of the movement is really inconsequential. Additionally, I've been training non-stop for 17 years. As such, I know the movement and can do it in my sleep. I find it to be counter-productive in the course of my regular training for these reasons, and because I find that my style of training, when applied to the deadlift, impedes training on other lifts on subsequent days due to the stress it puts on my body. I've stated in a past blog that about ten years ago I embarked upon what amounts in retrospect to a program of suicidally insane deadlifting volumes, and since then have found that my upper and midback will protest for months like the hobos masquerading as Occupy protesters if I push it as hard as I would like. Thus, I eschew the deadlift and focus on other shit.
If I had to pick a single greatest contributing factor behind my deadlift, it would be hate. I quite literally hate the shit that the bar is defying my efforts to lift it. In preparation to do battle with my insouciant opponent, I shrug a lot, as I've found that just handing those huge poundages for a portion of the same movement allows me to generate enough spite and contempt for lighter weights that I can will them aloft. Additionally, I love shrugging, and because I enjoy it immensely, I shrug a lot. I go stupidly heavy, pull from just above the knees, and have a hell of a lot of fun moving the weights and bending the everloving fuck out of every bar I use for them. This enjoyment translates into massive efforts on what amount to a medley of high rack pulls, shrugs, and static holds, which in turn means my upper back, traps, and erectors find themselves inured to ultra-high volume and massive weights. That volume is compounded, then, by my inclusion of Zercher Lifts in all their myriad forms, making my upper back an unstoppable juggernaut of thick muscle and brutal, unyielding strength. Can I pull as much as Ed Coan? Hell no, but I'm built more like a T-Rex than a chimp, and am thus not terribly well suited, from a bio-mechanical standpoint, to pulling. Additionally, I've got hands so small they make carnies jealous, so it's a testament to the work I put in that I pull as much as I do.
For those of you who are skeptical about the efficacy of such an approach. allow me to explain the concept of training transfer. There are three types of training transfer: positive, negative, and neutral. It's actually fairly rare for the there to be anything other than positive transfer, and neutral or negative transfers are generally restricted to competitive walking and throwing events, respectively.(Bondarchuk 14-15) I side with the generalist theory of training transfer, which posits that “It is possible to lay down a full value foundation for future movements, ensure all-round harmonious development of the body, increase the general level of the body’s functional capabilities, create a rich fund of differently formed movement skills and abilities, and form beginning basic sports mastery.” I train constantly for full-body strength, attempt to hit every possible angle, and develop strength across sports and exercises, which makes it possible for me to compete at a high level in strength sports even when I don't train the lifts I have to use in the meets. Nearly anything you do in the gym, I think, can positively impact your other lifts provided the lift is properly applied.
With that out of the way, onto meet week. The meet occurred on a Saturday, with weigh-ins occurring on Friday from 9AM to noon. As such, I decided that I would likely benefit from sticking to my Apex Predator Diet routine Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Thus, I ate low-to-medium carb on Friday during the day, consuming a pound of 93% lean ground beef seasoned for tacos on low carb tortillas and protein shakes until my evening cheat meal, which consisted of chicken fingers to start, followed by meat lover’s pizza and about half a bag of Sun Chips. Saturday I ate my typical Apex Predator Diet meals- protein shakes with a late meal of beef ribs. Sunday consisted of Hooter’s wings for lunch, protein shakes, and more ribs.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I trained as heavy as possible, focusing mainly on bottom position squats, bottom position Zerchers, and light military presses to keep my range of motion. My last day of lifting was Tuesday, on which I did a light morning workout of arms and a variety of not-terribly heavy movements in the evening. I realize that conventional wisdom dictates that one shouldn’t train the week leading up to the meet, but I think I’ve established that conventional wisdom can go fuck itself at this point. I wanted to remain loose, ready, and keep my groove “greased”. I’m of the opinion that due to the fact that I’m so conditioned to high volume, if I took an excessive amount of time off from lifting I would lose my edge. As such, I stayed in the gym as long as possible.
Amusingly, I blew shit at zerchers when I first tried them in 2005.
That night, I started rotating hot baths and saunas, and hit the hay after getting to 190. The following morning, I awoke at 630, donned a makeshift sauna suit made of outdoor trash bags and duct tape, and and followed the suggestions I made in this blog series exactly. It fucking worked- I weighed in at 181.6 (just barely made it), after cutting for 6 hours. Incidentally, I wore the makeshift sauna suit on the drive to the weighin, which saved my ass- I got stuck in traffic and sweated off the last ounce or so. For the remainder of the day I ate as much as I could without forcefeeding myself, rehydrated compulsively, and relaxed.
The day of the meet, I felt fucking amazing. Upon waking, I weighed 199, and after eating a turkey hoagie and a soft pretzel on the way to the gym I weighed 202. By the time the meet was over, I weighed 211.
A word to the wise- if you hyperhydrate like that, you'll look fat. I had my bodyfat checked the day before I left for Philly and was at 7%. Clearly, holding 30 lbs of waterweight over your weigh-in weight's not going to have you looking ripped, but it'll have you strong.
In regards to the meet itself, the greatest challenge was staying interested. I warmed up sparingly, quickly, and violently, just as I lift regularly. I used triples for the first three warm-ups on squats (135, 225, 315) but switched to singles for 405 and 495. My total warmup time took perhaps 5 minutes, and I was annoyed as shit and bored out of my mind by the time the rest of the lifters finished their elaborate, lengthy, and wholly unnecessary warm-ups. Nevertheless, I kicked the fuck out of all my lifts and have since lamented not going heavier on my fourth attempt. The bench was a disaster, but I simply acted like FEMA during the whole thing and close gripped my attempts to baby my shoulder, as the squat and deadlift are my bread-and-butter anyway. For the deadlift, I did 4 reps in warm-ups- 225, 315, 405, and 495. They all felt easy, and I was again forced to battle boredom until I got to lift.
Looking back, I have no regrets save that I should have gone heavier on my fourth attempts in the squat (I should have gone 635) and the deadlift (665). Were I to offer any advice to anyone planning on entering a meet, it’d be cut weight hard and rehydrate harder, and for fuck’s sake bring a book to your meet.
Highly recommended, by the way. Tore through this fucker in a couple of hours, and it was one of the best assassin novels I've ever read.
Nothing about that performance was genetics, unless I'm just genetically predisposed to winning. This was about busting my fucking ass for years, doing my homework, and being a fucking competitor. Awesome is forged, not in-born. Unless, of course, your name is Jada Stevens.
This, by the way, is a shortened version of the installment I threw in the book. The one in the book fleshes out training transfer and gives a couple of extra tips on dropping water.