As part of my work as a coach, I’m constantly reading — about technique, programming, psychology, diet, and everything else that goes into making a successful strength and physique athlete. I’m lucky that I have the Internet and sites like BarBend at my disposal, because obviously they make my job much easier. But the huge availability of information — especially from social media — can make training seem far more complicated than it really is.
Here’s a great example. Recently, Jordan Peters posted a video on his Instagram account about how overrated deadlifts are. He said, essentially, that the recovery costs of heavy pulling from the floor simply don’t pay off in terms of hypertrophy. There are better movements for that, like the partial Romanian deadlift.
And then, just this past week, Jesse Burdick (@jesseburdick) wrote about how partial deadlifts are one of the most overrated movements a lifter can perform. In fact, they’re good for little more than exercising the ego.
In case you don’t know, both Peters and Burdick are highly knowledgeable coaches, very invested in the bodybuilding and powerlifting communities respectively, and have worked with several hugely successful athletes. How can they then have such differing views on a fundamental movement like the deadlift?
It all comes down to context.
Peters is a super heavyweight bodybuilder and is enormously strong. He’s capable of moving huge amounts of weight in the deadlift — but for his specific goal, building a bigger back, he doesn’t need to. He’s more or less maxed out the size of his contractile fibers and can focus more on other methods of stimulating growth via sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. For him, the risks of tearing a hamstring with heavy deadlifts far outweigh any benefit they can bring. And that’s probably true for most very strong bodybuilders.
Burdick is writing specifically towards an audience pursuing strength. He’s seen way too many guys and girls fall victim to their egos by strapping up, setting the pins in a rack at their knees, and essentially shrugging weights far exceeding what they could ever deadlift. From Jesse’s perspective, this is simply going to encourage bad movement patterns and unrealistic expectations.
I agree with both of them, because it all boils down to finding what works for you. If you’re an advanced bodybuilder trying to build a bigger back, full range of motion deadlifts probably aren’t going to be what works. If you’re a beginning powerlifter trying to build a bigger deadlift, you’d be wrong to train like an advanced bodybuilder, and full range of motion deadlifts will almost certainly be what works for you.
Unfortunately, if you’re just starting out, it’s difficult to remember that at the core of it, training for bodybuilding and powerlifting is very similar. It’s only once you’ve reached an advanced level that nuances like these become very important. But because of the overload of information we’re subjected to on a daily basis, it becomes so easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees and become bogged down by details like these.
What’s your best bet when dealing with the information overload? Follow these three rules.
1. Find a coach, and trust them.
This is your single best bet for fast-tracking your progress, because it’s far easier to learn from someone who knows the ropes than to try to figure everything out on your own. The trick here, of course, is not finding a coach, but rather finding one you trust. Believe me, it’s not easy. Even as an advanced lifter, I worked with someone for a long time who kept steering me wrong because he spoke a good game.
Dave Tate has some good rules for evaluating coaches, but I think the simplest solution here is to trust your gut. If the coach you’re working with doesn’t feel right — for whatever reason — then chances are, they aren’t the right person for you.
And remember, trust goes both ways.
If your coach doesn’t trust you enough to be honest with you, no matter what the circumstances, then you should probably run (fast) in the opposite direction.
2. Keep an open mind.
Equally important to trusting your coach is the ability to keep an open mind. There is no right way of building tremendous strength, nor of building a phenomenal physique. There are only strategies that work, and strategies that don’t work.
It gets more complicated, though, because what works right now might not be the same thing as what works three years from now. If you become so set in your ways that you’re unable to recognize and respond with an open mind when a previously successful strategy stops working, then you’re doomed to failure.
This is easier said than done, of course. My strategy of all-out strength training worked damned well for a very long time, and I became emotionally attached to it. When I finally found the strength to overcome those emotions and act with my head instead of my heart, I realized that I have reached the stage where I can make far more progress with the same type of higher-volume body-part bro-split that I thought so scornfully of earlier in my career!
Of course, that bro-split would never have worked for me as a beginner — I simply didn’t have the strength necessary to use it effectively.
3. Hard work trumps everything.
At the end of the day, nothing beats hard work.
No amount of genetics, drugs, special training regimen, or anything else can make up for a lack of consistent training, eating, and dedication to recovery. If you can’t wrap your head around that, you might want to reevaluate why you got into training in the first place.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Feature image from @phdeadlift Instagram page.