When British powerlifter Tom Martin tore his bicep at the World Powerlifting Congress’ European Championships, we figured he was done with deadlifting for a while. He had other plans.
The -110kg athlete experienced a complete tear, saying in a discussion on reddit that, “it’s completely detached, there’s no middle ground on that.”
But powerlifters gonna powerlift. Less than two weeks after the injury and a day before heading in for his reattachment surgery, Martin decided to hold a mock meet. He put up a squat of 350 kilograms (771.6 pounds), a bench of 200 kilograms (441 pounds) and a deadlift of 370 kilograms (815.7 pounds). That’s a total of 920kg (2028lb).
Note that he’s been pulling hook grip since the injury.
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So, the day before my bicep reattachment surgery, 13 days after the tear, I put up a mock total in the gym to competition standards which meant quickly learning how to hook grip. I finished with 920kg / 2028lb and a goal of getting back on the platform after surgery and beating this total before the end of this year. Here are all the attempts including a 350kg squat, 200kg bench press and a 370kg deadlift. If you have to ask why I feel the need to do this then I really couldn't adequately explain to you how much of a mental battle it is for me to stay positive and hopeful through this, and how much it means to be able to still do this. Today was a big win for me and makes me a lot happier about the situation.
To put that into context, during the meet that initially tore the bicep Martin squatted 405 kilograms (893 pounds), benched 220 kilograms (485 pounds), and deadlifted 380 kilograms (837.8 pounds). (The bicep tear happened when he attempted a 411-kilogram, or 906-pound, deadlift.)
We thought it was crazy enough when he was posting deadlifts of 250kg (551lb) on the weekend.
We thought that was crazy. But he went ahead and slapped an extra 120kg on the bar.
If you’re like us, your first thought it probably, “Why?” Shouldn’t he be resting up and working on lunges and leg lifts? Martin explained,
If you have to ask why I feel the need to do this then I really couldn’t adequately explain to you how much of a mental battle it is for me to stay positive and hopeful through this, and how much it means to be able to still do this. Today was a big win for me and makes me a lot happier about the situation.
He went on to say in the comments that he won’t be able to lift like this for a long time after his surgery, so “anything I can do to maintain everything I’ve already built and put me in the best position after I’ve recovered is worthwhile to me.” Recovery from a bicep tear takes at least twelve weeks.
So should everyone just pull hook grip to avoid bicep tears? Firstly, it appears there’s a chance that Martin’s bicep tore because he was taking antibiotics, which can increase the risk of ligament tears — not necessarily because his form was off.
(Check out our full article about how to avoid a bicep tear!)
But in regard to the hook grip question, bicep tears happen when the bicep is put under more load than it can handle, so you really want to minimize the amount of load put on the muscle. Hook grip helps with this, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it. It just means that you need to take extra care to make sure you’re not curling or pulling with the bicep as you lift, not even a little. The arms should be holding the weight, not really lifting it.
Good form is also critically important to avoiding a tear. Bad hip mobility can cause a lifter to pitch forward and overload the bicep, as can a weak core, a rounded back, or any number of form problems.
Martin probably won’t be deadlifting for a while now that he’s had his surgery, but we’ve learned that this guy plays by his own rules. In any case, we wish him a speedy recovery.
Featured image via @tommartinpl on Instagram.