Interview with John Hamson, Junior British Powerlifting Record Holder

John Hamson is a superb rising talent in the powerlifting community. Aged only 20, he is still a Junior yet boasts lifts than many seniors aspire to! Recently crowned the holder of 3 Junior British records in powerlifting, John still has 2 and a half years as a Junior to go to further this immense feat!

EK: John, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Firstly, congratulations on your recent performance in the South Yorkshire Open. Now, I know the readers are dying to know already so why don’t you put them out of their despair and tell us what your lifts were on the day and what records you set.

JH: Hello, no worries and thanks. My lifts were 330kg on the squat which was a British record, 230kg on the bench which was a British record and 292.5kg on the deadlift which took the total record which is now 852.5kg.

EK: Very Impressive to say the least. Ok, let’s rewind a few years. Tell us when it all began. When was it that you first became interested in lifting weights?

JH: It all began at the age of 12. My brother had a weight set with a bench in the garage and I started experimenting with various lifts, when I got to 14/15 I had out grown the equipment that was in the garage so we updated the equipment and bought a rack and a Olympic bar along with plates.

EK: Did you decide early on that you wanted to power lift or did you rather stumble across it along your  route of progression in the weight room?

JH: I stumbled across it when I started training my goals were to simply get stronger and bigger, I was always an active individual; did cross country running, played football, rugby, swimming, boxing and also did my own training so you could say my GPP was high!

EK: There are a lot of readers out there who are thinking about competing at a meet for the first time. Tell us about your first meet; how did you find out about entering and indeed preparing for it?

JH: My first meet was terrible I had not long turned 16 and I was keen to impress but my openers were too high I didn’t know the commands properly, but fortunately I didn’t bomb – I totalled 510kg. I researched the different federations and decide that the GBPF was the best for myself.

EK: What advice would you give to a new lifter entering his/her first meet in light of your experience?

JH: Do your research, know what the rules/commands are before you enter and train the way your gonna compete. Don’t be sloppy with your technique in the gym as it will fall apart when you get on the platform. I have been to many comps where people fail their first lift and then come back into the warm up room saying I did that for 5reps in the gym no one cares! Check your ego at your first comp get your first lifts on the board and get in the game. Your not in the comp until you pull your first deadlift.

EK: Are there any forums out there that you use or know off that you would recommend to both new and experienced lifters, looking to further their knowledge and experience in powerlifting?

JH: I use the GBPF forum and the sugden barbell forum, both have some good info on. I also log my training on both sites so check it out!

EK: A lot of powerlifters dabble in strongman competitions and visa versa. Is this something you have considered or have indeed done?

JH: Yeah I have competed in one strongman comp this year it was the midland U105 qualifier. The reason I did this was because it was held at the same gym were I train. I will be doing the same qualifier in 2012 as its something different from the norm but I will actually train for it this time.

EK: So, powerlifting or strongman, which one do you prefer?

JH: Easy question – Powerlifting

EK: OK, let’s talk training. How do you like to split up your training?

JH: I train 3-4 times a week, I squat three to four times a week, bench three times a week & deadlift twice a week & perform assistance movements when needed. Pretty much all my squatting is to a box – I use three different heights 15.5”, 13.5” and 12”. At the minute I am dabbling with heavy band tension.

EK: Maxing out too often is a major failing in many lifters training, yet we know that to be pushing those numbers up you need to test new water at some point. Where do you feel the balance lies?

JH: Good question! There’s nothing wrong with failing a lift, as long you know why you have failed it, whether it’s your teckers or simply your not strong enough yet. When I was prepping for the South Yorkshire’s I failed three lifts in my 12 week prep I think that’s pretty good going.

EK: What is your prefered way of periodizing your training to keep those numbers going up?

JH: The majority of my training is based on linear progression. I set my myself goals of what I want to lift in a comp and I work towards that, I take each week as it comes and evaluate how the week went then base my next training week on that. I have found that this works best for my self. If there are any technique issues they can be ironed out quickly and easily. Also this allows me to mix my exercise selection up, as what I have found, is that if I create a 12week prep with numbers for every week by the time I get to the last two – three weeks and I generally pick up a injury. Resultantly I have learned to back off abit and listen to body more. I like to have freedom in my programming! 

EK: On to nutrition. Powerlifters can be a little more lenient in their diets over say, bodybuilders.  What are your ‘staples’ of nutrition as it were and give us an idea of what your diet looks like on an average training day?

JH: Average day, oats with milk and fruit smoothie, chicken & rice, then more chicken & rice, 2 pints of milk, lasagne, cereal with milk & couple of yoghurts.

Some days I will have a couple of shakes consisting of whey protein and oats.

To be honest I just try and eat as much as I can, I rarely eat fast food, sweets, chocolate etc.. I wouldn’t say my diet is great but it suits my needs.


EK: Being only 20, you are incredibly young and have an entire lifting career in front of you. Whats the big vision for John Hamson? What are you goals and ambitions?

JH: My short term goals are to win the British Juniors next year [2012] and to get selected for GBPF squads. The long term goal is to total 1000kg+.

EK: Goals that I’m sure you will achieve judging on your progress so far!

John, thank you once again for taking the time to speak with us. I feel a lot of readers out there will have benefited from hearing the words of someone who is truly climbing the ladder in the world of powerlifting. Best of luck in the future, hopefully we will see you on the world stage in the years to come!

5 Top Tips for Increasing your Deadlift – by Adam Bishop CSCS

As I hope we are all aware by now the Deadlift is the king of lifts. Anyone who argues it isn’t is probably a poor deadlifter. The Deadlift taxes the body in a way no other core lift does, putting stress on the grip, quads, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and pretty much every muscle in the upper back and trap region.

This article is aimed at intermediate to advanced lifters who find their deadlift numbers reluctant to increase and are sat scratching their heads on a plateau. I stress this as if you are a beginner and new to deadlifting the best way for you to gain pulling strength is to simply Deadlift regularly with proper form.

It doesn’t need to be said but I’ll say it anyway – muscle building aside, regular deadlifting with correct form will groove the motor pattern, potentiating the CNS, which is essential for the  mastery of any new lift.

So what do you do if you are an intermediate to advances lifter experiencing a slump in gains in the king of lifts? Well try implementing one or more of these 5 tips to get the extra pounds on the bar.

Tip 1 – Strengthen your Posterior Chain.

When I talk about the posterior chain I refer to the entire musculature that runs the length of posterior of the body, making up the posterior kinetic chain. Muscles in the posterior chain include the trapezius group, the erector spinae group, the glutes, the hamstrings and even the calves. I also include the upper back muscles as part of the kinetic chain as they play a key role in thoracic spine and scapulae stability, and the lats, due to their attachments along the length of the lumber spine, act as a stabiliser for the low back. I will speak further on them later.

It is strikingly obvious that strengthening these muscles will strengthen your Deadlift. Including assistance exercises such as the Glute Ham Raise (GHR) and Good Mornings will increase glute, hamstring, calve and, the Good Mornings especially, will strengthen the erector spinae.  These exercises will massively aid lifters in the early portion of the lift and by including reverse hyperextensions and 45degree back extensions in your programme lifters can strengthen their Erector Spinae and Glutes further, aiding in the lock out portion of the lift. By strengthening these muscles you are not only increasing the poundage lifted but more importantly decreasing the risk of injury. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Reverse Hyper

Good Mornings

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45 Degree Back Extension

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To progress your posterior chain even further, you can modify the GHR by simply raising the back of the GHR station. This can be done by placing 20kg plates under it. This serves to alter the force curve of the motion.  In effect, by raising the back of the GHR  your posterior chain is under tension for the duration of the movement, and this is especially noticed at full extension of the hip. On a regular GHR set up, when full hip extension is achieved your torso is perpendicular to the ground and so your bodyweight is going straight down through your femur, making the lock out at the hip relatively easier as there is no turning moment at this point. In contrast at  full hip extension on the modified GHR, your torso is not perpendicular to the ground…its forward of being perpendicular to the ground, meaning that your glute ham tie in is going to take a pounding as it is taking more of your bodyweight at full hip extension as there is still a significant turning moment about the hip! Throw in some added resistance or bands to the mix and your deadlift numbers will soar.

Modified Glute Ham Raise


Tip 2 – Pull from Different Heights

Deadlifting off of different height blocks or rack pulls from various heights allows for the lifter to focus on overloading a certain section of the lift, such as the lock out or the transition over the knee. Generally pulls from mid shin or just below the knee are best utilized for overloading the lock out as they allow for a greater weight to be lifted. Avoid Pulling from heights above the knee. While many elite deadlifters use them to work the grip, they can be over-used and can become an “ego” lift, moreover the actual carry over to a regular deadlift is minimal as soon as  you pull from too high above the knee.

In addition to pulling off blocks be sure to perform deficit deadlifts. The Deficit Deadlift is a conventional Deadlift performed while standing on a small block or a couple of plates. Its’ purpose is the increase the range of motion (ROM) making the lift much harder from the pick up, through the transition and all the way up to the lock out. By doing this the body is overloaded and forced to adapt to this new, tougher height, increasing strength and making standard Deadlifts feel much easier.

The increased ROM puts the body in a poor position to pull from thus increasing strength. Running deficit deadlifts instead of standard deadlifts for a few weeks will make the weight feel more manageable when the return to standard deadlifts is made.

Tip 3 – Change your Stance and Grip

There are 2 different stances used for the Deadlift; Conventional (narrow stance, grip just outside knees) and Sumo (wide stance, narrow grip). The number of times I see guys in the gym pulling between these two styles is unbelievable.

Both stances attempt to shorten the distance the bar has to travel thus allowing for a greater weight to be lifted and increasing the efficiency of the lift.

For the conventional Deadlift the feet should be inside shoulder-width with the grip taken very slightly outside the knees. This allows for the hips to be slightly higher and the range of motion decreased.

The sumo stance with put more emphasise on developing your hips whilst the conventional deadlift, whilst still developing the hips greatly, places more stress on the low back.

By placing your hands outside your knees while in a wider than shoulder width stance, the body is forced  into a poor pulling position and the distance the bar has to travel increases.

Of course your stance should be comfortable to you so find a foot placement and grip width that feels comfortable but don’t be scared to try new things and experiment with different stances and grips.

Tip 4 – Increase Upper Back Strength

The deadlift, as with any anatomical movement, is all about the transfer of forces using kinetic chains. In the case of the deadlift, force generated in the legs travels up and along the back and is transfered across the scapulae, down the arms and eventually to the bar. If there is a weak link in that chain then the force dissipates, and it is prevented from being applied to the bar.

In many cases this weakness occurs in the upper back of lifters. Here, the force travels up all the way as far as the upper back, but the musculature there is not sufficiently developed to continue the transfer of that force to the scapulae. As a result, the force and energy is lost at this area and the lift is unsuccessful.

Commonly the thoracic spine is horribly rounded at this point and aside from failing the lift, the inability to maintain correct posture give rise to increase injury risk.

The best way to strengthen these muscles is to focus on barbell and dumbbell rows in addition to variations of chin ups. Bent over and T-bar rows with various grips are all you need with the barbell. Again various grip pull/chin ups, working up to sets with additional resistance are the way to go in that department. With dumbbells,  high rep, heavy weight dumbbell rows (a.k.a. Kroc Rows) are a tried, tested and proven method to strengthen the upper back amongst strongmen and powerlifters and are a favourite of mine.

Note these exercises are also fantastic at strengthening the grip (another important aspect of the Deadlift) if you perform them without the use of lifting straps.

Tip 5 – Train Smart to Ensure Progression

Far too many lifters attempt to go into the gym and pull a 1 rep max every week expecting gains! These guys are living in the dream world. Avoid over-reaching syndrome and ensure progress. Simple linear progression involving 3 weeks progression followed by 1 week deload is a great way to keep the weights going up and avoid any neural distress as a result of maxing out week in week out.

Below is a simple outline of this process:

Week 1: Work up to 4×3 @ 85% 3RM

Week 2: Work up to 3×3 @ 90% 3RM

Week 3: Work up to 2×3 @ 95% 3RM

Week 4: DELOAD – 5×3 @ 70% 3RM

Week 5: Work up to 4×3 @ 90% 3RM

Week 6: Work up to 3×3 @ 95% 3RM

Week 7: Work up to 2×3 @100% 3RM

Week 8: DELOAD – 5×3 @70% 3RM

Week 9: Attempt new 1RM

The deload weeks are important in order to avoid any over-reaching and allows the body to recover from the ever increasing load being place on it.

Wrap up

If you find you Deadlift gains stagnating, implement one or more of the simple techniques listed above into you own training program and get ready to see your Deadlift regain its crown as KING OF LIFTS.

About the Author

Adam Bishop BSc holds a sports science degree from Loughborough University and is currently working as a strength and conditioning coach with Harlequins RFC.

Formerly a professional rugby player with Saracens, Adam is now a competitive Strongman in the under 105kg class and currently holds the title of UKs Strongest Man u105.

Shotgun Movements – by Jamie Bolton

It’s 2012. The apocalyptic events predicted by religion and popular media are running riot. The 12 Horsemen, Solar storms, magnetic pole reversals, you name it. It’s happening.What’s worse, a crazed gunman has roamed into the Elite Kinetics Performance Facility and is now holding a shotgun to my temple.

The world may be ending, but worse yet is the EK team held hostage....

“Tell me the secrets. Give me the answers. What movements should I be doing?”

To top it off, it appears he’s got a limited brainspan and can only remember five, yes five, movements in total.

“I want to build a lean, muscular physique, but I won’t use more than five movements.”

I’m usually loathe to pick favourites as everything has its time and its place in a program. Well maybe except bosu-ball dumbbell presses amongst other retarded movements, but you get the picture.

These have no place in any program

But this guy does have a shotgun to my head, so I’m inclined to do what he asks!In the all encompassing field that is strength training, I try to pick movements that are just that. With these 5 movements I am trying to address all the key qualities this guy needs to be developing in order to meet his goals:
1. Strength
2. Power
3. Hypertrophy
4. Conditioning

Finally, we need to address all the key movement patterns and structures in the body, otherwise we are going to end up with some seriously unbalanced development over time. I don’t want our armed friend here to come back and complain!

So this is what I’d prescribe:

1. Complexes

A complex is a series of exercises performed with a barbell back to back without letting go of the bar. I’m slightly cheating here as it is technically more than one exercise, but since it’s continuous, I’m counting them as one! There are many ways of setting these up, but my favorite is the JB Complex.

You can set these up in as many ways you can imagine really. I wrote more here recently on the beauty of complexes if you want to see a bigger list of their benefits.

2. Trap Bar Deadlifts

Possibly the uncrowned king of the lower body exercises.  It gives the benefits of both the squat and conventional deadlift without the drawbacks of both. The squat is a great lower body movement, but since the bar is placed across the upper back, upper body involvement is well, limited. In contrast, the conventional deadlift gets far more upper body involvement, but the weight distribution often leads to temptation for form to weaken and lower backs to round.

From a cost-benefit perspective, we get the best of both worlds using the trap bar deadlift. We get the desirable upper body involvement of the deadlift, but the weight distribution of the squat with the movement firmly through the heels.

3. Power Clean & Press

The Power Clean & Press is a great movement for developing total body explosiveness. It’s impossible to do one slowly. To top it off, it engages and taxes almost every muscle in the body. As a result, this movement will help add slabs of muscle all over your frame. And the increases you’ll see in power and neuro-muscular coordination will make you a faster athlete too. What more could you want?

4. Pull Ups

A full, properly-executed set of pull ups is one of the best movements you’ll see in slapping on precious width and thickness to the back of a body.

The Latissimus Dorsi attach all the way along the spine. In other words, its one HUGE core muscle. And is key in pulling strength, overall trunk stability in pressing, posture and general longevity. Not that the Pull up solely relies on the Lats, the rest of the upper back comes in to play too. Real bang for your buck. Forget the lat pulldowns.

It’s also a 2-for-1 exercise in as much as varying the grip width, and  whether using a pronated or supinated grip, changes the emphasis on varying parts of the back. But thats an article for another day.

Form is crucial, each rep from a dead hang please. No pathetic half reps allowed.

5. Farmers Walks

Great overall body strength & conditioning movement. To reiterate what Ben Coker said here, they’re a great way to build the back, traps, legs, core and grip.

When you include farmers walks in a program, everything else can’t seem to help but go the right way. They’re an awesome, primal movement pattern that needs to be hit. Leave them out at your peril!Programming

Our crazed gunman then returns and demands:

“How do I put all of this together?”

Like this:
A. Complexes 3×8
B. Trap Deads 3-5rm max
C. Power Clean & Press 5×5
D. Pull ups 3x max reps
E. Farmers Walks 4x50m

Complexes are a great way to warm up the entire body for the rest of the session. 3 sets of 8 does nicely here.  With Trap Bar Deadlifts, we want to work up over as many sets as needed to a strong 3-5 rep max. Everytime we get 5 reps, we add weight the next session.

Similarly with the power clean and press, we aim for 5×5, adding weight from set to set until we can’t get 5 reps, plus these should feel light after the heavy deadlift. With Pull ups, we want to cause as much fatigue as possible to maximally stimulate the upper back, so we go to positive failure on each set. Finally, we hit 4 lengths of 50m with the farmers walk to fry what’s left of our shotgun pal.

Try the above for a great total body workout if you are short on time or just want to get back to basics. Perform twice per week and hit some basic conditioning like hill sprints 2 or 3 times per week on top and suddenly you’ve got a pretty decent program.

Wrap Up 

The reality is obviously that we don’t have to limit ourselves like this. But sometimes adding exercises doesn’t necessarily mean added results.As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.”

It’s always a useful exercise to go through your training and work out what exercises are really adding value to your program, and what is just there for the sake of it. Getting back to the basic, shotgun movements can be a great way to keep your training simpler and more effective. Sometimes less is more.

Trap Bar Deadlifts: The Best of Two Kings – by Ben Coker

Often around the gym you will hear guys sneering at someone who is performing a trap bar deadlift.

‘Its not a real deadlift’, ‘Its just an easy deadlift’ or ‘be a man and use a straight bar’ are common comments thrown around gyms born simply out of ignorance.

Here’s my viewpoint on trap bar deadlifts…I love them. I think its a fantastic exercise. They are a staple in my training and should be viewed as much a mass and strength builder as squats and regular deadlifts.

There seems to be plenty of mass and strength here...

Now before people start losing the plot here, I want to make a few things clear. I DO love squats and regular deadlifts. They are great mass and strength builders and should be stables in any serious strength/hypertrophy programme. Also the specifics of squatting and deadlifting are important for many athletes such as powerlifters, Olympic lifters and strongmen and so they need to be practiced most definitely by such athletes.

The point I am highlighting is that most athletes don’t. The trap bar deadlift offers them the benefits of both the squat and the regular deadlift in one exercise but without any of the negative aspects of the two conventional lifts.

The trap bar deadlift puts the lower body in the same basic position as in a squat. When performing trap bar deadlifts you step inside the bar as opposed to having the bar in front of your shins (in a regular deadlift) or on your back (if you were squatting).

This puts the load more in line with you centre of gravity. This reduces the strain or sheer force on the lower back when compared to a regular deadlift. This is an important point for people who want protect their low back as much as possible especially those coming back from injury or with chronic low back issues, or simply athletes whose spines take a beating as it is in their sport without adding even more in training.

If we were squatting the bar would be up on the shoulders yet in trap bar deadlifts despite being in the squat position the load is not resting on your spine but actually disrupted across the shoulder girdle. As a result there is less compressive force through the spine and thus less stress on body/CNS when compared to if we were performing regular squats.

Trap bar deadlifts also allow you to completely control the entire eccentric phase of the lift as a result of the line of pull being more in line with your centre of gravity. The eccentric phase is a crucial component of a rep in terms of producing hypertrophy and the trap bar deadlift allows you to maximise its benefits.

In a regular deadlift due to the positioning of the knees and the path of the bar a complete controlled eccentric is not possible. The bar either travels horizontally away from you and your centre of gravity to get around the knees putting your body in a suboptimal position which can obviously result in injury or the weight is simply dropped back to the floor.

As mentioned earlier this is not a message to say stop deadlifting and squatting. Hell no! Indeed the extra strain they put on you (if used sensibly) works wonders on hormone responses to training and muscular development. Its also key for athletes that needs to perform regular deadlifts and squats in competition to use them in training! But even here the trap bar deadlifts can be used to increase frequency of leg training and to spare the low back. If you are an athlete or weekend warrior looking to build mass and strength and save you low back wherever possible the trap bar deadlift is for you.

Wrap up

The trap bar deadlift offers the  benefits of squat leg development and the benefits of deadlifting upper back, trapezius and forearm development. Not only this, they also reduces stress on the body (recovery is quicker and there is less stress on immune system) and the potential for injury is reduced.

Any athlete (or regular trainer) looking to spare their low back in training to allow optimal performance in competition should seriously consider trap bar deadlifts as their leg exercise of choice.

5 reasons for the success of my hypertrophy phase – by Ben Coker

Well the beloved bulking phase has passed for me and I am now 2 weeks into a mild trim. Looking back on the months since Christmas in which I put on 11kg, I reflected on the things that contributed to my success. My previous articles on the mistakes of bulking 1 and 2 went a long way in keeping me on the road to success but this article explains 5 more personal reasons.

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1) I set quantifiable, challenging but realistic goals.

For me I had two post-its on my wall; one saying 150kg for 10reps = 170kg and the other 114.3 kg / 18stone, both surrounded by inspiring quotes I hold close.

The first refers to benching 150kg for 10 reps which should equate to a 1rm of 170kg + by the end of my bulk. The second refers to the body wight I wanted to achieve by the end of my bulk.

These notes were glaring at me every time I sat in my room, there was no escape. I had held myself accountable. Looking back those notes where instrumental in me smashing both targets.

I feel that simply entering a bulk phase with the notion of ‘I want to be bigger and or stronger’ will undoubtedly lead to poor or sub optimal results. Have a fixed finish point and make it visible to you everyday as a reminder to yourself; are you doing everything you can to reach your best?

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2) I built my calories up slowly but ultimately if I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t have then I was stunting my growth.

A recent article about leaving something in the toolbox applies here. When starting a bulk dont go over crazy on the food. Trust me simply by giving your body as little as 500kcal extra a day from its maintenance or dieted levels it has been on between bulking phases is enough to make the body  put on muscle at impressive rates.

BUT here’s the twist. This rate of growth slows as you put on weight so you have to keep increasing your calories over the hypertrophy period to get that surplus of calories above your RMR!

And boy did they the calories have to go up!  Two thirds of the way through my bulk I plateaued. I wasn’t eating enough, but surely 6000kcal a day was enough?

‘Obviously not you idiot’ I told myself.

I went and revised my list on the mistakes of bulking and all boxes were checked barring the fact I wasn’t eating when I felt I shouldn’t!

So up went the calories to 7000kcal and even 8000kcal on some days. What happened? From being stuck at around 110-112kg bodyweight I flew up to 114kg then continue up until 116kg.

So build up those calories conservatively but keep building them up! Don’t fear fat gain as long as your building muscle as fast as humanly possible. There will be another time for you to ‘unveil’ your sculpture later…

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3) I walked everywhere

This one is so important especially when you get REAL heavy but also if you put on a decent level of mass in a relatively short period of time. Last weeks article also touched on it.

By walking everywhere everyday you body doesn’t notice the effects of the extra mass gradually being put on. You feel lighter on your feet, and your cardio-respiratory systems are much better adapt to cope with the larger mass.

Honesty call, I love being big but even to me an out of breath mass monster don’t look (or feel) too good! Everyone should be able to walk briskly for at least an hour whilst still holding a conversation. And I’m glad to say that despite impressive gains in muscle mass I don’t feel ‘burdened’ with the extra weight.

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4) Adapt to setbacks: I got outside the bodybuilding world and fell in love with a sled

At one point my knee was playing up a bit and so I sought different ways to hit my legs. Pulling a sled caused no pain in my knee and so there was the answer.

If I’m stuck with this I thought then I may as well load the thing up to the max and put a lot of work through my legs. 4 weeks of puke inducing sled training and my legs grew by an inch.

A slap in the face reminder that different is good sometimes, even for a bodybuilder. Any bodybuilder would settle for an inch on their legs but for me the benefits went further. Since quitting rugby some time ago I had not run for years. Despite my strength I was now slower and struggled to sprint under my new weight.

The sled training got me right back on track; my legs were not only bigger now but their power had also been increased. I was now functional again despite being kilos heavier and I loved it! I also enjoyed the sensation of high intensity cardio believe it or not. It made me feel healthier and that’s priceless when piling on size.

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5) Deadlift, Deadlift, Deadlift.

I have had issues with my low back for a while and have spent a long time rehabbing and tentatively dabbling in deadlifting again in the process of recovery. But by this bulk phase I was ready to hit them in ernest. I knew deadlifts were the missing link to gorilla muscle, and gorilla muscle was what I wanted.

Gorilla muscle: built by deadlifts.

So I deadlifted and deadlifted a lot. Not always super heavy but I made a point to work hard on form and intensity. Some days I did heavy singles, some days sets of 5 and some days I even did super volume on them like 10×10 or sets of 30reps at 1.5 x bodyweight.

The results of fanatical deadlifting?. My low back and core is now a whole lot stronger and my discs far more protected. A movement that had crippled me even to think of, I now loved. My legs ballooned. My back got super thick. Oh and finally all my other lifts sored up and as a result all their relevant muscle groups grew in a crazy fashion.

The deadlift is the king at building the whole body as the whole body is used. This hypertrophy phases owes a lot of its success to the fact that in it I could for the first time deadlift pain free.  I took full advantage and the scales and measurements went through the roof as a result.

GVT for Legs, Back and Shoulders – by Ben Coker

Are your back, leg and shoulder workouts leaving you lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy? Are any of these body parts lagging behind? Or do you simply like a gruelling challenge of manliness? Enter German Volume Training.

German volume training offers a demanding workout in the simplest format. One exercise, 10 sets of 10 reps. This type of training provides a shock to the system to help break hypertrophy plateaus (through the sheer volume of mechanical stress and your body’s huge hormonal response) and offers a testing but refreshingly simple break from training monotony.
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Sure people might already know this BUT how many actually practice it?
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Here are some GVT training sessions for back, legs and shoulders that I use. They test your metal and officially declare you insane but they certainly let you know what your really made of. This type of training session should not be performed frequently as they can drain your body and CNS like nothing else, leaving you over trained. Used wisely though these sessions will inject impressive ‘boosts’ in your hypertrophy.

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In order of sanity:


10×10 Wide Grip Upright Row

This will provide you with the sensation of a thousand knives piercing your your shoulder girdle! But quite simply this volume will leave your shoulders and upper back looking like the Himalayas and will do wonders to your V taper.

Keep the rest low, 1min max and push through the burn. Don’t be a wimp as to be honest these are tame compared to the rest. (A note of caution, if you suffer from shoulder impingement this may not be a suitable choice due to the orientation of the shoulder joint in this movement).
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10×10 Wide Grip Pull Ups (no swinging or kips)

If you can do 10×10 wide pull ups its an impressive feat. Heavy boys don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse! Become a master of body weight pull ups and get lats that block out the sun. Be warned after set 3-4 life becomes hell. Dig deep and drag your ass up. After all, how badly do you want a Dorian Yates looking back??

Rest on these should be no more than 3 minutes but if rest on the last few sets is longer its no big deal in the grand scheme. Just don’t abuse the rest and take like 10 minutes between sets!
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10×10 Back Squat

Performed with 2 minutes rest and done arse to grass 10×10 squats will have your legs like jelly, your vision blurry and your stomach uneasy! Again about midway through set 4 the world looks and feels a little bit different! On the good side they will make your legs resemble those of a tyrannosaur! Or Branch Warren…

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10×10 Barbell Deadlift  

When I tried these I said aloud to myself ‘You’ve officially lost the plot, this is your craziest idea yet’ and I still agree. These are by far the hardest GVT session I can think off and extremely taxing on the entire body. After set 3 it feels like its job done, time to do some rows… not today! Only 3 times that extra to go! I can’t really do justice to the endeavour, it’s simply gruelling on the highest level.

Be sure to know good form in the later sets and I advise a spotter for motivation and to monitor your form in case it breaks down!

I used this workout before a went a way on a week and a half holiday and boy I needed every day as rest and continued grazing! My entire body was in seizure…and it felt amazing! This will put serious mass and crazy thickness on your legs, back, shoulders and forearms given ample nutrition and recovery.

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Wrap up
If you are lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy, you have lagging lags, back and or shoulders or you simply want a gruelling challenge of manliness give these GVT ball busters a go. Remember don’t use these every session as it can be too demanding for your body (barring maybe the upright rows) and you will lack the part specific benefits of other movements. I like to throw one in every few weeks to keep me mentally stimulated and physically growing.
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A final not on what weight to use for your 10 sets.  It up to you. If your a softy your gonna use a comfortable weight and rest lots. If your more like me then you’ll go as heavy as you can go and rest as little as you can physically manage.

You won’t necessarily be able to judge correctly the weight on your first attempt. That’s fine, just adjust accordingly next time. That’s if there is a next time…

Catching up with Josh Hill – UK Powerlifter

Josh Hill is an up and coming powerlifter in the UK, boasting a total of 1000kg (2200lb) in competition, as well as being 2010’s Best Overall Lifter in the British Bench Press Championships. To top it off, he graduates as a Doctor this year and a very knowledgeable lifter too.

EK: Hi Josh, thanks for joining us and taking time out of your busy schedule. To start off, can you give our readers a bit of background on yourself.

Josh: I’m 24 years old, a competitive powerlifter, and I qualify as a doctor this summer.

My first sport was gymnastics, which I began at a very young age, and by my early teens I competed to a national level. Gymnastics conditioning training was my first glimpse of strength work. I remember when I was as young as 10 years old I was sneaking into the weights gym before training!

I come from a rugby background, having growing up in Bath, with my father (Richard Hill) being an ex-international Rugby Union player, and thus inevitably aspired to follow in his footsteps. He was the first one to take me to the gym, and I began to follow a proper strength training programme when I was twelve.

Over the coming years I continued to read about training, improving my knowledge and understanding, adapting my programmes as I went along. From time to time I would visit the rugby clubs my dad was coaching to get advice from the strength and conditioning staff.

By the age of 18 I was able to bench press 180kg raw (unequipped), and deadlift 315kg with a bodyweight around 95kg. From then I began to improve on my strength year after year, winning several British titles in the teenage and junior categories, and so far have continued to be able to bench 10x my age (a little challenge I set myself – lets see how long it can go on!). Last year I won the senior British Bench Press Championships in my weight category, and best overall lifter, with a raw bench press of 233kg (unequipped), which was also the British record in the 110kg and 100kg weight classes.

EK: Those are some big weights being moved at such a young age. What made you make the switch from Rugby to Powerlifting?

Josh: My plans were altered somewhat when I sustained a significant injury to my shoulder whilst competing in a Judo match at the age of sixteen. The injury required surgical repair and a considerable amount of physiotherapy before I could return to contact sports, and by the time my shoulder was ready for this, I had started my medical degree at Bristol University.

Once at university I began training in the Empire Sports Club, a famous weightlifting gym and boxing club where Bristol Rugby Club were training at the time. After finishing lectures each day, I’d head straight to the gym where at the time a powerlifter, Craig Coombes, always trained. I always used to stand and watch in awe as Craig lifted. I had never before seen someone squat over 300kg or shoulder press 90kg dumbbells.

After a while Craig approached me and explained that I was naturally strong and considering I was training at the same time as him each day, whether I would like to join in and begin competing, an offer that I was eventually to take up.

EK: Moving on, can you give us your best competition lifts so far? And your best training maxes?

Josh: Sure thing. In competition, my best lifts are:
Squat (equipped) 400kg
Bench press (equipped) 270kg
Bench press (unequipped) 233kg
Deadlift 330kg

In training, my best lifts so far are:
Squat (equipped) 420kg
Squat (unequipped) 340kg
Bench press (equipped) 300kg
Bench press (unequipped) 240kg
Deadlift 350kg
Deadlift (wearing wrist straps) 390kg

Obviously the challenge is putting all of the lifts together on the same day!

EK: Those are some impressive lifts! What does your training philosophy look like in getting you this far? What have you learned along your journey to date?

Josh: From time to time I would train with the Bath Rugby S&C coach (Chris Gaviglio), an Australian shot-putter, and before he left to return to the southern hemisphere, he put me in touch with a renowned sports doctor turned sports scientist, Christian Cook. Since then, Christian has continued to help me progress in powerlifting, providing me support with training structure, new ideas, principles, and nutritional advice.

I guess, since having support from Christian, I have changed my training philosophy somewhat – I have come to realise the importance of ‘leaving something in the tank’. What I mean by that is, you shouldn’t be failing reps in normal training sessions on compound lifts; there shouldn’t be any assisted reps – it is important to get into a habit of succeeding, and in order to do this you must carefully select weights for training based on a realistic target at the end of the training block – make gradual and constant improvements.

If you have done an entire 6 weeks of training without failing even one heavy rep, when it comes to attempting that new PB in week 7, you will be confident you can lift it, and confidence counts for a lot in lifting. Similarly, if you have completed successfully every attempt in a training block leading up to a competition, why would you even contemplate failing that last and final attempt at a new PB?

Those thoughts of failure, and ‘what if’, will never come into your mind when you are under that heavy weight. As a young lifter, it is too easy to see the route to being strong as lifting as heavy as you can every time you enter the gym; I have made that mistake before, and I’m sure I am not alone.

EK: Those are some great words and ones that every trainee would do well to adhere too. All too often you see people killing themselves and ‘failing’ in the gym. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Moving on, what’s your favourite of the competition lifts?

Josh: Undoubtedly my favourite event is the unequipped bench press – it’s the one always asked about. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me how much I deadlift or squat!

EK: Too true! What’s the best advice you could pass on to aspiring powerlifters?

Josh: Just because you are a powerlifter and won’t be getting on stage, it does not give you the right to indulge in poor nutrition and be fat! Stay lean, and train as much as possible without equipment, remembering to keep the habit of successful reps in training.

EK: Great advice Josh. What does the future look like for you in powerlifting?

Josh: My goal as a powerlifter is to get invited to compete in professional powerlifting meets in the USA. To do that I need to prove myself in amateur competition – I have made a good start, but now I want to take my strength to the next level. I know that strength can continue to increase into your late 30s, and my intention is to make my body as strong as my genetics will allow. To reach my genetic potential, whatever that may be.

EK: We’re sure you will most definitely do just that with the mindset you’ve got. Thanks again Josh for taking the time to join us today, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from you soon.


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