How Eric Added 75lbs to His Deadlift PR in 6 Weeks—Despite The Limitations of a Shoulder Injury

by Corey Howard on July 31, 2013

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Life happens. Injuries happen. We don’t live our lives, packaged in bubble wrap.

Last year Eric told me his shoulder pain was worse. It was interfering with his sleep and daily life. He has been a client of mine for over three years and accomplished many things he never thought were possible. Originally we thought the shoulder pain was just some light inflammation and things would gradually improve. We were wrong. After a visit to the local orthopedic doctor he was advised no more pressing or overhead movements. Physical therapy and an MRI were scheduled.

So now what do we do?

Everyone has the same fear: they don’t want to take a step backwards, or start over again. Rather than dwelling on the frustration of the shoulder issue, Eric and I took a look at what he could do—deadlift. At 175lbs, his previous best pull was 275lbs for 5 reps… we set a goal of 345lbs for a double (roughly 2x his bodyweight).

We had many things to consider when planning his program. First, it had been roughly eight months since Eric had deadlifted heavy. He was used to a steady diet of kettlebell swings. Second, was his shoulder limitation. Generally, when a client has shoulder issues and they can’t press, they can still pull. Thankfully, this was the case for Eric. Third, we needed some heavy pulling, assistance work, and explosive work. Essentially, we had to prepare his body for a heavy load, while still allowing his shoulder to heal. By relying heavily on my own powerlifting background, I was able to write up a 6-week program that put us on track for our lofty goal.

Day 1 (Max Effort)

A1) Barbell Deadlift 5×5

A2) Heavy Chin-ups 5×5

B1) Moderate Barbell Squat

B2) Heavy Abs

 

Day 2 (Speed work or Dynamic Effort)

A1) Power Swings

A2) Farmer Walk

B1) Single leg opposite arm KB deadlift

B2) DB Row

C1) Single Side KB squat

C2) Sloshpipe walk with it in the rack position.

 

I designed the program like this for a reason. On day one he’d be taking his time and resting before each set so four total movements were enough. Plus, pairing heavy deads and 10-12 rep squats on the same day is taxing. The deadlift progession was set up for six weeks, starting at 225 and working up to 305 on week 5, with week 6 being a deload week, and testing on day 1 of week 7. Pull-ups were set up the same way; we started with bodyweight and finished with two 20lb chains added to his body. Eric seems to respond well to 10-12 rep squats so we paired that with hanging ab work to build lower body size, strength and stability. Day two was all about speed and bringing up weak points. We started with 10 rep power swings with a 24k, and finished with a 32k at the end of week 6. This allowed him to build speed through his pull. The farmer walks, single leg deads, rows, and single side, loaded squats allowed us to build strength in the upper back, legs and stabilizers.

So what happened? Eric pulled 345 for a double! A 70lb increase over his last PR! It needs to be stated that every single movement we did was first tested to see if it elicited pain. We trained within his capabilities, used a sensible approach, and stayed the course. What did we learn from this? First, swings absolutely rock! For a 175lb guy that hadn’t pulled heavy in over 8 months to start this program with a comfortable 225 and keep chewing through 20lb jumps each week tells me the explosive hip hinge movement will increase strength, without question! Second, we need to stop focusing on limitations and turn our sights toward what’s possible. Someone told me once, “First do what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and pretty soon you’re doing the impossible.”

 ***

Corey Howard, RKC: As the owner and founder of Results PT, Corey started the company in 2004 out of his house, with the goal of creating an energizing atmosphere that’s geared toward the client’s success.  Since 2004 his vision has grown along with the list of clients, and in 2008 he opened Sioux Falls’s first private personal training studio.  Corey has trained and helped many people lose a lot of weight, including a few people that have lost over 100lbs.  He also has experience training fitness figure competitors and pageant girls.  His clients have been featured in local and national magazine articles, appeared on television, and competed nationally.  He originally became a certified personal trainer while living in Minneapolis in 2002 and over the years has created a successful strategy and program that reaps success.  He also has experience in competitive powerlifting and loves total body kettlebell workouts that promote athleticism.  He can be reached at www.resultsptonline.com or www.coreyhoward.com

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  • Josh

    Saw this article and thinking of running this program because I’m wanting to bring up my Deadlift and have some shoulder pain so want to rest it. I had a few questions.

    1. For the Deadlifts, were these straight sets or did he work up to a heavy 5 each week?
    2. For the power swings, how many sets of 10 did he do?

    Thanks!

    Josh

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