Deadlifting your Bench and Squat!....huh???????

By Wade Hanna

Okay, I know that sounds like a REALLY weird title not to mention an oxymoron, but bear with me and all will become clear oh brethren of the Anvil of Strength!  This month I want to mention a couple of motions that I have been using with great success.  Since you all know I LOVE to deadlift (only cuz’ that is what I am good at...hey, call me crazy, just not late for dinner) so I am constantly evaluating my training to see if I can get my other lifts to respond like my deadlift does.  The biggest distinction is that the DL has no eccentric portion...I think this is what makes the DL so great and so hated.  Ask anyone to _honestly_ tell you if they like the “start from scratch” methodology of the deadlift opposed to the “load and go” methodology of the squat/bench.  More often than not you will get the squat/bench preference (except for us twisted folks ;-P).  Partly it is easier because you can adjust your groove on the eccentric portion and you can tell if you are in trouble on the way down.  DL does not offer either of those options and you just start grunting...not much time to correct in the movement and not much evaluation beforehand either.

        Okay, let’s look at it this way... why doesn’t equipment help on the DL like it does on the SQ/BP?  I am going to say that partly it is because of the mechanics, and partly because you can’t effectively load up into the material on the DL.  You can sit down tight to start a DL, BUT it is nowhere near as intense as if you are sitting down with the weight on your shoulders.  Too many stabilizers and assistors not being utilized and flexed...so they don’t stretch the material in the necessary areas (butt, hips) to effectively utilize it.  Not the end all answer, but I think it plays a part in the entire scheme of it. 

        So what do you really need to DL so effectively.....STARTING STRENGTH!!  You have to be able to fire all those muscles instantaneously (or real close together if you want to get technical ;-P) to have a good pull.  Okay, so how does that relate to SQ/BP?  There was a thread on the strength digest (best one of all!...okay, shameless plug) about repping with the DL and not resetting each time.  That is a perfect example of how loading the muscles can heighten the concentric motion.  It is much more difficult to pull 405lbs 10 times if you stop and reset after each rep than if you just grunt out 10 consecutive reps. On the flip side, if you can pull that 405lbs for 10's by resetting each time then you can pull more weight if you do constant reps. There is a carryover from continuous reps to stopping and resetting and barring the mechanical aspect I think this is why, on the average, you tend to see higher squats than DL’s.   For the most part people put more emphasis on training the SQ/BP so they work starting strength to some extent, but moreso they are working explosive strength.  Since the muscles are already activated they are firing differently, so to speak, at the turnaround than if they were firing from a “relaxed” point.  Now for me, I can utilize more weight and for longer if I can load first (explosive) than I can if from a relaxed point (odd since my DL is better, but I think the mechanics are playing a part there).

Wade Doing What He Loves!
        Okay, since I have tried to lay some ground work and probably massacred some of Fred Hatfield's work (sorry Fred if I am using the wrong words for my descriptions), I will try to explain where I am going with all this.  Basically, what I’m getting at above is that you can move more weight if you load the muscles first....in essence pre-stretch them.  So if you can increase the strength you have from the relaxed point to full contraction then you will see a correlating increase in the pre-stretched strength as well.  Awful wordy above to say that, huh?  Well, I never claimed to be brief ;-P (sorry again Fred, or any of you who have the schooling to accurately use the terms I may have massacred).  Anyway, my brother and I have been using bottom-up benches for a while and have recently incorporated bottom-up squats into the mix too.  I love em’!  The BUBP’s did wonders for my bench and helped to, literally, shoot me past that pesky 400 barrier.  I haven’t had a chance to fully see the effects of the BUSQ because of some rehab considerations, but I am hooked and they are improving my squat already (how much I don’t know yet but, she is going up!). 

        All you need to do these is to set the pins in your power rack to a setting that is very close to the bottom position in the squat or right on the chest (it may not be perfect, but close as you can get it).  We utilize them on the Max Effort day and use the 3-5x1 @ ~90% type of scheme.  Load the weight up on the bar (resting in the bottom position) and squeeze yourself into position...very important that you mimic your “turnaround” position as closely as possible.  Then when you are set, get REAL tight and go.  The balance and groove issues are a problem at first, but you will find them quickly and I promise you will feel better coming out of the hole or off the chest in the full movement.  Your body finds the groove quicker and more forcefully than before, at least it did for me.  Practicing going into that full contraction of the necessary muscles has made it easier for me to really explode on my turnaround (this is much different than simply pausing too).  I used to be a little shaky at this point when I approached the 1RM because I would lose my groove momentarily and have to pull up on the push.  That, as you can guess, is like the kiss of death when you are near 1RM.  I couldn’t figure out what was causing it, until I tried the BUBP’s.  My turnaround went crazy and weights were blasting up like I expected them too (based on how I felt handling them).  I think, and basically it is just my hypothesis, that what I tried to describe above was what was happening.  I didn’t have the strength to fire everything together and maximally. 

        By training them specifically to do that I had this wonderful carryover and now my bench is back on track.  I am optimistic that it is going to increase my squat as well, but since this isn’t such a factor there I am thinking that it will more affect my force out of the hole...and thus giving me more momentum for that nasty mid range.  Which is usually why I miss a squat, I slow too much out of the hole and get leaned over to compensate with a stronger back...try that for years and see how your discs feel (I wish I had known some of this stuff 10 years ago....sheesh!).  Oh well, live and learn right?  If nothing else the BUBP and BUSQ will teach you to find your groove, once you load them up and start (granted you need to use some weight to feel it...similar, IMO, to how it is with Power Cleans) you will know where your groove is.  If you miss it then the weight gets very unwieldy fast!

        So there it is...how to deadlift your squat and bench! (Okay, so it IS a cheesy tie in to the title, but I was getting desperate!)  I really think that the starting strength aspect of lifting is immensely important for our trade (PL, even OL and Strongman).  It may not be the most important, but it is applicable to these endeavors and I have felt it benefited my brother and me quite well.  Some of you may not have this and/or get the necessary training in your current workouts, but if you have any of the things I mentioned above then maybe give the BUBP and BUSQ a try.  If nothing else they add some variety to your training and shock the muscles from what they are used to adapting to.  That’s how you grow right?  New stresses to coerce the muscle to adapt.  As always, feel free to e-mail and discuss this or correct me if I am way off base...that just means that I need to learn too!  In the meantime, stay strong and good liftin’!


Want to discuss this with other lifters?
Then click here:

Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1999 Wade Hanna.