Over my training career I’ve made multiple pilgrimages to Westside Barbell. (You can read more about Westside HERE but as a basic introduction westside is one of the strongest gyms on the planet. It was founded by Louie Simmons, a man considered by many to be one of the top strength coaches in the world.)
Each visit to westside is an education in and of itself – both with the things I had come to learn as well as the things I didn’t even realise I needed to know!
I remember the first visit I took to Westside back when I was about 20 years old. One of my goals during the visit was to improve my deadlift which at the time was around 585 if I pulled sumo and in the low 600s pulling conventional.
I was training with the evening crew my 2nd or 3rd day there and pulled a PR sumo deadlift at 600 pounds! Louie had been watching and came over to me after I finished and told me it was “pretty good” (which I considered very high praise) but that “I had more in me and should go for 680”.
Naturally I thought this was a terrible idea and that there was no way I would hit it.
With this thought in mind I did the only thing I could do… I put 80 more pounds on and started pacing the deadlift platform trying to figure out which god I should pray to for the help I needed.
Maybe sensing my desperation Louie came over to me and told me to put my belt back on and he was going to tell me the secret to deadlifting.
“F#CK YES!!!” Was my only thought, this is what I had come to westside for! One of the world’s best coaches was about to give me, ME, his deadlift secrets.
The secret, which shocked me, was very simple:
“If it doesn’t come off the ground… pull harder”
With that Louie nodded, slapped my shoulder and stepped back to watch.
Obviously I was crushed, of course I knew I had to pull hard – what the hell did he think I had been doing this whole time?!
Mentally packing my bags and checking out of the hotel early in my head I figured what the hell. I’ll give this deadlift a shot, thank him for his time and leave – I’d clearly already heard all of his best ideas if this what was left for deadlift.
Sitting down into the start position, all of the above running through my head, I started to pull. As predicted: nothing happened. Just before I quit the pull something whispered in the back of my head: “What if he’s right? Maybe try pulling just a little bit harder…” So I did and to my complete shock the plates started breaking off the platform and up it came – my first 680 deadlift!
Obviously this advice worked for me and my deadlift, and I bet it would work for your deadlift too but I think it goes further than that.
We live in a very interesting world. At your finger tips, right now, you have access to the best coaches, programs, athletes, etc. A few clicks on google or youtube and you can hear 10 different perspectives on setting world records, getting abs or just about any other goal you want to achieve.
This is a great thing, or it least it can be – because it can also be a terrible thing.
When we’re faced with struggles or difficulties it’s easy, too easy, to find a new program, a new idea, a new approach that sounds like it could be better. And this isn’t to say that sometimes a new approach isn’t the right idea – it is to say that it’s not the best first idea.
Next time you’re faced with something that seems as insurmountable as a 680 deadlift did to me try this advice and see for yourself. I remember how insane it sounds but trust me, sometimes all you need is to just try a little harder!
Craig was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo. Craig grew up in martial arts and boxing before transitioning into strongman and ultimately competing at the world amateur championships. Craig’s transition into coaching came with mentorships from the greats including Louie Simmons and Bill Kazmaier and led him to be considered one of the top strength coaches in the world. Craig works with athletes internationally including: Olympic athletes, professional UFC fighters, some of the best boxers in the world and top ranked amateurs in a variety of sports.