I have always been fascinated by Herculean deadlifts; but for over a decade I had been confused about where to put them on my body split matrix. Should it be on Quad dominate leg day? Hamstring dominate leg day? Back day? I get out of breath trying them, does that make it cardio?
Before I began deadlifting I was engrossed in muscle isolation training program, that I overly complicated over the years. I thought of myself as a sculptor; going through periods of building and chiseling. I trained 5 to 7 days per week, often 90 minutes to 2 hours, sometimes twice per day. My workout target(s) would be: biceps, triceps, shoulders, forearms, back, chest, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, traps, and abs. Some days I would blast 1 of these targets per day, some days 2 (alternating between separating & super-setting). Each received 30 to 90 minutes of attention. Well, except for abs. Abs got 5 to 10 minutes per week.
I did this for years. Specifically I practiced many different versions of bodybuilding style workout programs for 17.5 years. During that time I had built up to doing strict Romanian Deadlifts with 225lbs to 315lbs, "all day bro!" I was using straps and taking the bar from a rack at mid-quad height. Why straps? "Because bro, you got to focus on what you're focusing on. Why should I punish my hammies because my forearms are tired and burning from forearm day? Get with the program bro!" Now load circa 200lbs on the bar, and I couldn't pick it up from the floor with good form. I knew, I wanted to get better. But I knew it would take a big learning curve to "figure it out" on my own. It was very humbling.
I was at the Contemplation Stage of readiness to change. I just needed a good coach to help get me to the next level. Luckily around this time I met Cisco Marentez. Cisco was a big help getting me started with deadlifts. In fact he helped broaden my program design pallet (from bodybuilding to powerlifting). I was a terrible student; but he was a patient coach. It wasn't worth ethic, it was just that I had practiced my workouts very differently than this modality, for a long time. I was trying to wrap my brain around the concepts and get a feel for the brain behind the brawn. Furthermore, it was extremely hard for me to go from training 5 to 7 days per week to 3. "You only have 3 workouts written down, should I just repeat these twice per week?" The program was only training squats, bench, and deadlifts (with limited accessory lifts). "Bro, when am I suppose to do my bicep curls?" "I don't want to lose my 'golden ratio', when should I squeeze in my calf raises?"
After a short transitional period of questioning everything, and sneaking in a few extra exercises - I followed the program as coached. It was a lot of hard work; and a lot of practice. In the beginning I would practice 4 to 8 weeks of movement (powerlifting style) training. Followed by 4 to 6 weeks of my comfort zone of muscle isolation (bodybuilding style) training. But then a funny thing happened. My strength started going up and I felt more comfortable with the movements. I lost a little size but I was moving better (less stiff) and feeling more athletic. Because of this my bodybuilding style workouts went down to 4 weeks, then 2 weeks, then 1 week. Until there came a point where I would miss my movement workouts and didn't want to switch.
With this newly ignited quest for strength I build my deadlift from under 200lbs to a personal best of 600lbs on the platform at a Texas W.A.B.D.L. meet. It also got me to hire a bench specific coach, Tiny Meeker (previous blog).
In summary, I want to be clear. This is not an anti-bodybuilding rant. Far from it. I loved bodybuilding style training. I did it for almost 2 decades. It was fun. I met a lot of good friends, and had many great experiences. It taught me discipline and the rigors of routine. It got me to travel, and compete in 4 bodybuilding competitions. I understand that there are multiple styles/ways of training. In my opinion, if you cannot dedicate at least 5 days per week to your routine, then muscle isolation (bodybuilding style training) probably isn't 'the best' option for you. But if you do it because it's fun, or you are interested in competing - Godspeed! If you don't fit into either of those 2 categories I encourage you to try another program. The simpler the better. If you are serious about trying something new, hire a coach to hep you!