Some Thoughts About Deadlifts & Squats

*Note* I wrote this piece before I had seen “The King”, a documentary about 8 times Mr, Olympia Ronnie Coleman. Some found this film uncomfortable to watch. The film portrays a larger-than-life guy, who had indeed been the king of his game for so long, reduced to pulling himself around on crutches, speaking candidly about pain, recovery and the seemingly unending onslaught of surgical procedures required to deal with the aftermath of a life spent pumping some heavy iron. Apparently, it is a side of the game many find a little too real and depressing to see. Not the same message I got or how I felt after watching it, in fact, quite the opposite. I suggest that any interested reader watch the film, as it visually fits in well with the topic that I discuss here.

Both of these exercises exert massive stress on the spine, individual vertebrae and intervertebral discs, as well as the core muscles, postural muscles and main drivers.

Dedication and willpower are good and beautiful tools, if used correctly and within their measured tolerances, but potentially devastating, if pushed too far.

The body is a machine. But it’s a soft one. A smart lifter proceeds with caution and one eye on the clock.

  • If your sessions are brutal, high-intensity, kick-a*s types of events, a maximum of once-per-week should be about right.
  • Less intense, lighter, perhaps higher volume training schemes could be run more often. But, then you have to experiment to discover if these types of sessions are worth your while and whether or not you’re making enough progress to warrant this technique.

Yeah, INTENSITY, that “I don’t care if it kills me” attitude, it works, it surely does.

Here is an example of some of the good outcomes of training with a “fuck it, I’ll do this if it kills me” mindset:

And here is an example of some of its downside:

All photos from my collection.

Sure, the point here may appear a little dramatic, perhaps overly so. Outcomes will vary. Of course, it won’t be the same story for everyone.

Who really is dumb enough to think that scare tactics work. In the long game, they change no one’s behaviour or achieve much of worth. They rightly piss some people off and the rest just ignore them and get on with whatever they were doing before you flipped them the bird. For what it’s worth, I’m just waving around a magic reality wand. Sometimes, by grabbing the sharp edge of it, by taking a good thing to the extreme, the sharp edge will catch you.

If you want to get anywhere important, it is absolutely crucial for you to train intensely. Hard, big exercises like deads and squats are phenomenal for this. It is also necessary for you to spend the required time to recover from the resulting inevitable stress & damage that your tough training sessions bring about.

If you’ve managed to read this far, find something of interest here and can tolerate a guy who once thought he was superman, climbing onto his pulpit to confess that he’s discovered otherwise, stick with me for a bit longer.

Bad luck? Perhaps. Fate? Who knows? But most likely my level of luck would have measurably improved and Fate might have worn a kinder smile by allowing myself to be a little less driven, a little less reckless, proceeding a little more cautiously and spending my recovery time a little more wisely. What was pain, then? At the time it was just a signal to throw open a door that you walked through…not letting it hit you on the ass on the way through it.

My interpretation of pain, my relationship to its signals and frames of reference, while still ambivalent, is significantly different these days.

Taking a step back for distance and perspective, this constant, familiar, repeating and never-ending message it sends echoing back to me from my once-upon-a-time younger, dumber, more fearless but impatient and incautious self, has lost its power, its value to prevent the harm that it once may have represented.

If I had the chance to do it over again? A ridiculous speculation, because no one gets that chance.

I’d unquestionably take more time off to adapt, recover and recuperate.

The harder and more intensely that you train, the less frequently you need to, or in fact, should train.

Ignoring this rule of thumb, or assuming it doesn’t apply to you, usually has its consequences. This is not a directive to quit-so-you-won’t-get-hurt or install doubts about attempting difficult tasks with balls-to-walls determination…that would just be pathetic, the folly of losers. It is simply a cautionary tale designed to supply some old-fashion, backwoods-home-truth adhesive for application as you see fit.

This answer didn’t start off meaning to point in that direction, but there you go: a well-packed, curated lesson delivered directly to the door of its recipient at low cost.

Should that recipient ever feel the need or desire to open it up & press that learn-it button.

When you train, think like an engineer.

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