How I Finally Deadlifted 12 Plates

Here’s what you see:

Here’s what you don’t see:

Dedication I’ve been wanting this pull for 2 years (I want 600 even more but I’m patient). Most people will never understand wanting to lock out a particular lift so badly that you think about it week in and week out. America is full of estrogen-soaked men who prefer pedicures over pulling heavy stuff off the ground. This ain’t me. A 585 deadlift has haunted me at night on many occasions as I lay there picturing what it would feel like to be victorious.

Peaking There’s an art to peaking and it’s important for each lifter to learn what allows them to peak. For me, I don’t take extended time off of training, I just pull the reigns back 6 days prior. I thrive on frequency, so I pulled heavy 7 days before this lift, I pulled relatively heavy deficit deadlifts 4 days prior (up to 475), and I pulled dynamic effort (speed pulls) with 405 lbs 2 days prior. Psychologically I like to know that my hips are strong enough to lock the weight out so I wanted my hip thrust to be strong as an ox. Here I am hip thrusting 495 x 6.

As you can see, I made damn sure my hips were up for the task.

Special Grip Workouts I’m a big fan of “special workouts” which I learned from Louie Simmons. These are mini-sessions performed frequently to bring up weak links. My weak link is definitely my grip. I was talking to David Dellanave and Mike T. Nelson when I was in KC for The Fitness Summit and they urged me to start training my grip. A weak grip won’t allow you to pull with maximal force nor will it allow your legs to maximally activate and contribute to the pull. I have 2 Captains of Crush grippers from IronMind. One’s a trainer and the other is a #1. When I started several weeks ago I couldn’t close the #1 and I could only close the trainer 8 times. After 9 sessions spanning 3 weeks, I could perform 35 reps with the trainer and 8 reps with the #1. I also did one arm static hangs from a chin up bar. Without a doubt, grip work played the single biggest factor in my strength increase on the deadlift as it was my weak link.

Visualization I use this technique sparingly, but there is a surprising amount of evidence suggesting that “imagined contractions” transfer positively to performance. It appears that the nervous system will create adaptations even in the absence of real muscle contractions and lifting. I’ve found that visualization works very well when implemented the week before a maximal attempt. The more vivid, the better. Imagine the scenery, the loaded barbell, gripping a hold of it and pulling the slack out, getting the core tight, heaving with all your might to get the bar moving, fighting like a crazed-beast to lock it out, and the look and sound of everyone when you’re victorious. I did this every night before I went to sleep for the five nights prior to the lift.

Nap I was damn sure to do everything right on this day. I made time for a mid-day nap so I could feel well-rested and energized for the lift.

Oatmeal I don’t eat oatmeal all too often anymore, but I made sure to “carb-up” earlier in the day, not going overboard, but eating a bit more than usual.

Rise Against On the drive to the gym, I put Rise Against – The Good Left Undone on repeat the entire 25 minutes. Yes, I’m that guy. This song gets the blood pumpin’.

No Air Conditioning I didn’t turn the AC on while driving to the gym, and since it was around 110 degrees Fahrenheit on this day, it’s safe to say that every molecule of my body was sufficiently warmed upon arrival.

Xyience As soon as I got in my truck I pounded a Cherry-Lime Xyience – my favorite flavored energy drink.

Xyience Cherry-Lime: Tastiest Energy Drink Available

Atmosphere I was sure to train at my buddy Wynn’s gym in North Scottsdale for two main reasons. First, he has pulled 525 x 12 reps and having someone there who is stronger than you makes you strive extra hard. Second, he plays loud music and there’s sure to be sounds of iron clanking around from other strong lifters.

My buddy Wynn is a beast!

 

Pacing and Being Psyched to the Max I was already pretty warm when I arrived, but I did some walking knee hugs and bodyweight squats, followed by a specific warm-up of 135 x 5, 225 x 2, 315 x 1, and 405 x 1. Then I paced back and forth (this is what I do to psyche myself up) for I few minutes until I was ready for my next set – 10 plates. 495 felt like cupcakes and went up like it was nothing. I had a strong suspicion I’d get 585 based on this set. I paced back and forth some more, getting my mind focused on the task at hand. I only psyche myself up like this around ten times per year. Any more than that and it doesn’t work well for me. Combined with the oatmeal, the nap, the energy drink, the loud music, my body temperature, and extreme mental focus, I felt like King Kong hopped up on PCP.

Form Degredation As you can see in the lift, my form was less than stellar. My back is not even close to being arched, and even though I am a habitual rounder, I usually don’t round nearly that much. Yet I was determined to get the lift, and this called for a little bit more rounding than usual. In training I’m way stricter with form, but I allow considerable form degredation on maximal attempts around four times per year if that. I have some serious “slow strength,” and my ability to produce force at low velocities is incredible. I wish I could explode like other lifters but I have to play to my strengths, and in my case this equates to a slow grinder.

Conclusion

At any rate, I’m damn proud of my 12-plate pull! I’m not genetically gifted in the strength department, this PR is due to 15 years of heavy pulling week in and week out. Now my mindset has switched to 600 lbs. I’m patient and I know it will come in time, but I need a couple of months to chill on maximal deadlifting. I’ve never in my entire life had one repetition take so much out of me. For the next few days I was wiped out! I hope you gleaned a thing or two from my max deadlifting strategy. Your max deadlifting strategy will differ from mine, but the point is to put some serious thought and dedication into your planning so that you can peak and hit a PR. If you prepare like I did, success is inevitable!!!

60 thoughts on “How I Finally Deadlifted 12 Plates

  1. Ted

    Hi Bret, Congratulations on finally making this happen! Good job.
    I am aware of the fact you know what you are doing, but I still think you should, even on a true max attempt, have stricter form.

    What is your max high bar ATG back squat at this point?

    God bless,
    Ted

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Ted, it’s only around 315. Not my strongest lift…never been a good squatter. I can low bar ATG squat around 345 and low bar sumo squat 365. I once did 405 but it was definitely a squat morning!

      With strict deadlift form (ultra strict) I can do around 445 I believe.

      Reply
  2. Craig

    Congratulations! I saw the video you posted earlier and it’s great to hear the story of how you did it. I’m with you on feeling drained after grinding out a max attempt deadlift. After my last meet it took a good ten days before it felt like I could strain again. There comes a point where, to start hitting the big numbers, one has to lose the fear of getting hurt and to sellout 100% to the test. It’s a great feeling when you hook up on a big dead and you just know there’s no way you’re putting it back down until you’ve beaten gravity.

    Reply
  3. Damon

    Awesome pull Bret! Just curious- did you gain any weight leading up to the lift? I always gain extra edge with 5-10lbs of added “mass” before attempting an all out max lift….

    Reply
  4. Derrick Blanton

    Nice pull, BC.

    That noted stickler Tony Gentilcore wants to jam an ice pick in his eye socket, but I got no problem with it. Max pull is max pull..

    (See how I captured TG’s colorful style of prose…:)

    Body weight on the day of the pull? I’m guessing about 235-ish.. And how was the biceps tendon?

    Great job..

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Yeah Tony would kick my ass if he was around haha. There are occasionally folks like him who can pull beautifully with maximal loads, but I’m so much stronger in flexion it’s insane. 140 lbs stronger when rounding compared to when strict.

      I weighed 225 the day of, and the biceps tendon is stronger than ever as far as I’m concerned (I was told that they heal back stronger over time due to the surgical methods).

      Thanks broseph!

      Reply
      1. Derrick Blanton

        You’re welcome, BC!

        I believe the key variable to a Gentilcore style pull is arm length to leg length ratio. Would be interested to see what, if any, difference that ratio is between the two of you.

        My theory is that the longer arms allow the lifter to greater verticalize the torso off the floor, reducing shear stress on the upper back. To put it another way, longer arms to shorter leg ratio makes it more of a “rack pull” than a “snatch grip DL”, or pull from a deficit. This is also why sumo pullers will usually cave at the thoracic spine less than conventional DL’ers.

        You appear to have very long legs, and average arm length, and TG appears to have very long arms, and average leg length. Both of you are pulling within the parameters of your individual anthropometry.

        Discus..

        Reply
          1. Bret Post author

            I saw the part 2 video yesterday and didn’t fully agree. It’s okay for powerlifters to round in a meet (most all of them do it, and they do it in training as well), but if you’re just a strong dude who doesn’t compete in powerlifting then you have no business allowing yourself to round from time to time while testing your 1RM? Seems a bit absurd to me.

            I think it’s also important to learn about your body over time…you learn if you’re the type who can get away with a bit of rounding or if you’re the type whose back gets trashed from the slightest deviation from neutral.

  5. nathan

    Nice. Just nice. Also good of you to mention this was a 15 year slog of determination.

    So many times people just try for elite levels of this or that performance and try to get it with short cuts and secret programs. Mostly it’s work & rest & repeat for years.

    Great job.

    Reply
  6. Joaquin

    Hey Brett,

    I asked you this on your youtube vid but I figured I’d ask you here. What’s the name of the gym? I used to watch Wynn workout when I worked at the SRC at ASU way back, the dude is a beast. Great work on the PR. I’m willing to come up all the way from Ahwatukee to break some PRs.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Joaquin, I’m not sure what he calls the gym. It doesn’t have a sign yet. It’s on Gelding and 84th street or something like that, near the Scottsdale Airpark. Find him on Facebook and shoot him a message – His last name is Darring. Wynn Darring. Cheers!

      Reply
  7. Jeff H

    Great job on the PR Bret! And I love your blog on the event for it paints the picture that no reality TV show could ever hope for… and that is REAL, HARD, PHYSICAL and MENTAL strength! Rock on Brotha!

    Reply
  8. 6233114

    Magnificent post. Stellar effort at your PR DL.

    I have been trying for a PR DL myself, and this has me inspired to not only beat my PR, but to SMASH IT!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  9. Julissa

    Hi Bret! Congratulations!! Regarding your grip, would you ever consider using weight lifting straps?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Julissa, I don’t see any problem with using straps. As a “manly lifter” I don’t like to use them because many use them as a crutch, I believe one’s grip should be strong, and I would expect to be called out by everyone if my dl vid showed me using straps. However, for a top set I don’t think it’s a big deal, and one study showed that bodybuilders were able to perform more reps with all their back exercises (pulldowns, rows, shrugs, etc.) when using straps.

      Reply
  10. Anthony

    Very nice! It’s also very encouraging. I’m on the same mission myself. I was talking to my buddy Tiawan and he sent me a link to this page. My personal best so far is 545 (a couple years ago), but I’m making another run at the big weight. I haven’t got into the low reps yet. Peaking for me typically means going for 5rm until I hit a wall, then 3rm, then 2rm, then finally 1rm. For example, my last workout I pulled 5×485. Today I tried for 5×495 but only got four. That means switching to 3 and going ten pounds per week until I only get two, etc etc.

    The crazy part of the whole thing is listening to your routine is almost like hearing me explain my own. The pacing, the music, the peaking. I may talk to someone in the gym for most of my warm-up sets, but once the big weights are at hand, I just pace back and forth and refuse to talk to anyone.

    All said, great work, and don’t worry if you lose form a bit. I have read article after article discussing the benefits of allowing your back to round *slightly* during a big pull. Also, in case you haven’t already, consider thick bar training for your grip work. Thick handle farmer’s walk will make your hands and forearms scream for mommy.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Best of luck Anthony! I just busted out my fat gripz and am going to start using them. Pacing is crucial for me…glad to hear I’m not alone ;)

      Reply
  11. Donald DeSanto

    Congrats on the pull Bret! I know how exciting it can be, as I remember my 485 PR on the deadlift. It would be really interesting if you did a blog post/article on how exactly you train, because I think a lot of us would be interested in how you do daily training with high(er) frequency deadlifts. Again, congrats!

    Reply
  12. Mike Montali

    Brett, congrats on a huge achievement. I recently wrenched my low back pulling at ~80%. It was late and I was tired from a hard day at work. I must have rounded my back. It’s a week later and I’m still in pain from the lift (shooting, sharp pain). I think it’s going to be a long time before I pull again because I’m so scared of causing serious damage to my spine. I’m actually not squatting or pressing due to hip and shoulder pain. I wonder if I am someone who is prone to chronic injury and therefore should stay away from max effort big lifts.

    Reply
  13. Robert

    Hey, you got that. Period. Congrats. There’s a difference between getting a weight and owning a weight. You got it. When you own it, it’ll “look” better. Doesn’t mean this pull is any less legit. Enjoy the accomplishment!

    Reply
  14. Clement

    Congratulations on your PR. I can feel 600lbs coming very soon!

    With regards to grip training, how do you feel about kroc rows and high-rep shrugs? I personally have the best results with heavy DB bulgarian split squats – the effort of holding heavy dumbbells in your hand and squatting one leg after the other is massively underrated!

    Did you feel the hip thrusts were enough to strengthen your lower back? I’d say that and my grip would be my weak points, so im considering good mornings or RDLs, but hip thrusts seem to leave me fresher for the following sessions.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Clement, I think the transfer of Kroc rows and high rep shrugs to dl’s are extremely overrated. Good for grip endurance, and lat/trap/rhomboid development but these aren’t the limiting factors in a big pull IMO.

      Hip thrusts don’t strengthen the low back much. Best low back exercises are deadlifts, good mornings, and this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_bMeu-ciT0

      Reply
  15. Luke

    Good job! How did you train leading up to this? Im kind of curious as to how you set up your high frequency training.

    Reply
  16. moss

    hi, pardon my ignorance, but in the hip thrust video, you’re not using a bench; what’s the name of the equipment your shoulders are lying on?

    PS great DL!

    Reply
  17. Gary

    Congratulations on the lift. A weight that I myself am haunted to lock out as well. I’m a big advocate of a lot of your training techniques and styles to my own clients, in particular the hip thrust. Keep up the awesome work you’re the man!

    Reply
  18. Kat

    Bret,

    That is awesome, congratulations!

    I’ve been training for about a year (with no particular goal other than increasing strength), but started adding in box squats and RDLs about 6 weeks ago since I’m so quad dominant. I’ve ended up giving myself bilateral (longhead) bicep tendonitis. Any tips on avoiding this in the future? I’ve actually only worked up to about 10 pounds more than I was shrugging, but know that the mechanism is different.

    I love your blog. As a future trainer, I’m learning lots!
    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Derrick Blanton

      Hey Kat, a couple of suggestions that may be useful for your situation:

      On the RDL’s, keep the arms locked straight, and terminate the set if the shoulders roll forwards due to upper back fatigue. This is the point where bad things are going to start happening in your anterior shoulder capsule, the point where you start hanging from soft tissue.

      If your biceps are even slightly flexed on the RDL’s, they are put in the potentially disastrous position of trying to hold and support loads that are designed to challenge the far more powerful hips and thighs.

      So turn the arm into a rigid beam by actively locking out your elbows (to neutral, not hyperextended). Consider using a double overhand grip, straps if necessary.

      Secondly, actively lock the shoulder back in the socket. Ideally, the load hangs off the body through rigid beams (locked long arms) supported by a tightly compressed powerful upper back. The load should NOT be hanging passively from your tendons!

      I had a dreadful case of bicipital tendinosis that took almost a year to resolve, and still gets a little pesky to this day. It affects every upper body movement, and as you are finding out some lower body moves as well! So good luck, and nip it in the bud!

      Reply
      1. Kat

        Derrick,

        Thanks for your reply! I’ve had a shoulder capsule issue in the past when I wasn’t lifting, so when this presented itself, I thought it was that or an anterior delt issue – until I caught myself rolling those tendons! I am (still) somewhat kyphotic, so I bet my failure is in getting that upper back engaged appropriately. (I do use double overhand grip.) I’m going to walk away from it for a while to try to let it heal up, but will keep that in mind when I return to it. After being away from lifting for 20+ years, getting back into it has reignited my passion for strength and I don’t want to do something that forces me to walk away from it permanently!

        Reply
  19. Will Arias

    Hi Bret, Great achievement, congrats! Is there any scientific explanation for such a low base of support while doing your hip thrust? You mentioned above preferring “that method”. Are there more advantages than disadvantages, perhaps less hamstrings envolpment, more continue tension, ability to control more loading, favorable vector resistance, is easier to get full hip extension in that way? Or simply personal preference? The lower the better according to tibia length? It would be very illustrative to hear what you have to say. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  20. tempest sharp

    My question is on your hip thrusts,,,,,,, your bench looks a little lower than i have seen some of the women use, in particular the GGS ladies… do you know how high it is….

    Reply
  21. Brad

    Great job Bret, 12 plates deadlift is awesome! I think most of us will never be able to do even pull 10 plates. I wish that I could even do 10 plates one day.

    To think of it, Andy Bolton deadlift 260kg (12 plates) the first time ever he did the deadlift (thats what he claims in his book). What a world of difference genetics can be!

    Love you stuff Bret. Am also curious as the guys above on the reasons for using a step box instead of a bench. I notice you don’t use a barbell pad as well for your hip thrusts, do you recommend others to do that as well?

    Reply
  22. allie

    bret!! this whole post is pure awesome! you must be oozing pride from every cell of your body- GREAT JOB!!! love the breakdown of everything leading up to the lift.
    my favorite line is this: I have some serious “slow strength,” and my ability to produce force at low velocities is incredible.

    excellent for you to identify that and rock the strengths that you have!

    Reply
    1. Po Yao Chuang

      my bad programming in powerlifting gave me compressed disks, herniated disks after switching to olympic lifting I dont feel any of those injuries anymore

      Reply
  23. Mike T Nelson

    Awesome work man and congrats! Max attempts are rarely purdy anyway and the first rep (at that weight) is always the worst; but you still made no question.

    Glad the grip work helped. I think many under value the positive transfer of some grip work.

    It becomes very obvious when you make the grip much harder by going to a 2 inch axle instead of a standard 1 inch bar.

    A weight that is 150 lbs LIGHTER on an axle is my max and just above that, it looks and feels like the bar is glued to the floor. Just by changing the diameter to a 1 inch bar, the weight flies up no problem. You can’t pick up what you can’t hold!

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

    Reply
    1. Derrick Blanton

      Anecdotally, Mike, I have felt my whole CNS shut down when I start losing my grip on something. Almost like a construction crew, “we’re losing the bar, everybody, stop..Stop!!”

      Grip intensity also links to rotator cuff firing, so squeezing the bar on ALL moves (presses, too) seems to automatically fire the RC and really helps stabilize the shoulder. I wonder if FAT Gripz and bars help shoulder health not just by diffusing the load over a greater area, but also by causing the grip to fire more intensely which brings the RC along for the ride.

      According to Poliquin, morning grip strength is a good gauge of CNS recovery, this might be one of the reasons that DL’s blow out the CNS more than SQ’s; and also I’ve read that doctors use grip strength as a measure of a patient’s “chi” or life force..

      Interesting..

      Reply
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  25. Melly Testa

    Bret, I am an artist and work with my hands. Ever since you wrote this article, I started to wonder if grip training might be a good idea for me. Can you discuss what effects you have experienced from training your hands?

    Reply

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