Although we have never had a Benny or an Andy or for that fact a Lamar Grant type of deadlifter, we do have many very good deadlifters, both men and women: 18 men who deadlift over 800 pounds and six women who lift over 500 pounds. That’s a lot of back up. I am always explaining how our top athletes train to produce 13 all-time world records so far and within 4 weight classes, but how does a lifter train who is young and just getting their feet in the game?
Well one such lifter is Jean Fry, a female lifter at 123 pounds body weight. She has a 415-pound squat, a 255-pound bench, and a 375-pound deadlift. Westside has had several lifters who had or have a push/pull combination record. They all train using the same methods during a weekly plan: the dynamic, the max effort, and the repetition methods. When I say there’s only one way to train, I am referring to these scientifically proven methods, not someone’s opinion.
Now let’s look at how Jean trains the deadlift. On Friday Jean does speed strength squats first. She does 10 to 6 sets of box squats depending on the type of resistance used. After squatting, speed strength deadlifts are done. Jean will use about 100 pounds of band tension at the top of the pull. She uses either sumo or conventional style for the hips while standing on a 2-inch box for leg drive. When Jean uses the conventional style, she will usually stand on a 4-inch box. Speed strength pulls are also done in a power rack with just bar weight or some amount of band tension and always conventional style. Jean sometimes works out without gear; at other times she will wear Predator briefs. When she has a very taxing squat day on Friday, meaning high volume, or if doing a 2-week strength speed phase, she will reduce or completely eliminate any type of barbell exercises on Monday’s max effort workout.
Monday is a hypertrophy workout for the back, legs, and abs plus flexibility or mobility, 3 days, or 72 hours, after the speed strength workout, which will allow her to achieve full recovery of the particular muscles used for squatting and deadlifting. Most of the research on the 72-hour recovery time was done on track and field athletes and weight lifters. Max effort day normally consists of a maximal effort on a special squat or a deadlift for a max single on that day. Reps of 2’s and 3’s will build endurance with a heavy weight. Think about it. You will always conserve yourself for the final rep. It also distorts the distribution of volume concerning the already high volume on speed strength day. Jean will do good mornings for 5 reps and reverse pyramids with one or two 10-rep sets. Jean uses several special bar exercises, a different one each week. Closer to a meet, she will eliminate the ones that do less for her strength and pick three or four exercises that work best for her strength.
Let’s look at some of Jean’s special bar exercises that are most productive in a list of her more commonly used max-effort workouts.
Workout 1: Safety Squat Bar
Jean will work up to a max with the Safety Squat bar on a low, 12-inch box while using an ultra-wide stance. Some workouts are done without gear, while others are done wearing Predator briefs. After hitting a P.R. in this lift, a different version will be used for another max effort workout such as a close stance with or without gear. Safety Squat good mornings are used in some workouts. These are done either with a bend in the back or with an arched back. Some workouts are close stance; others are wide stance. The different styles will ensure that Jean uses all muscle groups.
Workout 2: Rack Pulls
These are performed with the plates 2 ½ to 6 ½ inches off the floor. She will work up to a max single using one pin height per workout. Some workouts are done with just bar weight, while others are done with a variety of weights and band tension. Remember, use only one pin height per workout with or without band tension added and use a conventional stance only.
Workout 3: Box Deadlifts
Jean will pull standing on a 2-inch box for a max single. For other workout she will stand on a 4-inch box. She uses only bar weight with no bands 90% of the time. The box pulls are done with a close stance or sumo style. The sumo pulls are done either with feet out to the plates or with a normal sumo stance. Again some workouts are done with gear, while others are done without gear.
Workout 4: Front Squats
Jean does front squats with a front squat harness to save her wrists and shoulders. Jean wants to get the most out of the exercise and not let the exercise get the most out of her. All front squats are done on a 12- or 10-inch box with a long relaxation time (2 seconds). They are done with a very close stance for some workouts and very wide for others. Of course when she wears briefs, the weights are heavier, which puts more stress on the muscles above and below the briefs.
Workout 5: Ultra-wide Sumo Pulls
Jean will place her feet as close to the plates on the Texas deadlift bar without setting the plates down on her feet and then works up to a max single. She is ultra-flexible, so will sometimes pull ultra-wide on 2-inch mats.
Workout 6: 14-inch Cambered Bar
One of Jean’s favorite bars is the 14-inch cambered bar for box squatting or good mornings while using chains. The end result is more stability.
There are many more varieties of workouts. This is just an example of a few of Jean’s max effort lifts.
Just like everyone at Westside Jean relies heavily on special exercises for the back, legs, and abs. This is done normally for 3-8 sets depending on how she feels that particular workout day. For the back, reverse hyperextensions are done 4 times a week. They are done heavy on Monday (max effort day) and on Friday (speed squatting day), 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps on average. On the two bench days, she will do 2 sets for restoration. Belt squatting and walking in the belt squat machine develop her glutes, hips, and legs. An old lifting exercise from the former Soviet Union is to use this machine with the belt around the waist for lower body resistance while doing deadlifts and high pulls with kettlebells. Jean then does a lot of lat work on the lat machine, low-pulley work, or bent-over rows with a barbell or dumbbell. The inverse curl and hip machine are very beneficial to her success. She also does a lot of sit-ups and hanging leg raises, side bends, and kettlebell arm presses.
Now you know how a 123-pound female athlete trains at Westside--just like the guys. Amy Weisberger and Laura Phelps, who has totaled 10 times her own body weight, also train the same. It’s the Westside system for all.
Watch for Jean’s progress in the future.