The simple answer is just that; because it seems impossible.
I’ve already completed 275 reps with 275lb in one day, and I want the accomplishment of hitting 300lb to be something much bigger. The more complete answer requires a dive into how I got here.
How I got here
Building strength in our baseball athletes is a major element of our training and deadlifting is the primary mechanism we use for developing overall strength. It’s called the big lift for a reason. Most people can lift more weight with a deadlift than any other method. What is a deadlift? It’s simply lifting a weight off the ground, from a “dead” position on the earth.
We track not only the weight an athlete lifts but also his tonnage (weight x reps). We don’t just want our athletes to lift a heavier weight, we want them to lift more weight, do more work. We’ve found that most athletes will drop reps just to increase the weight they can lift because that is the typical measure of strength. “What’s your one rep max or your three rep max?”
While that’s all well and good, in our experience athletes experience injury or become misdirected when focused on an absolute maximum. We’ve found that a focus on total weight or tonnage lifted is more effective for building lasting strength safely. It also provides a very specific, methodical approach to building strength which is easy to measure and track.
Back to the crazy lift
I was dealing with severe elbow tendonitis and a torn common tendon. Unable to do all the hanging, swinging and climbing that I love, I began exploring things I could do that wouldn’t aggravate my injuries. Deadlifting.
We had recently acquired a 75lb trap bar which when loaded with 55lb bumper plates totals 185lbs (which was roughly my body weight). We store the plates on the bar so the default 185lbs is always there ready to be lifted.
I made a plan to do two sets of Trap Bar Deadlifts for 50 reps with 185lb; a total of 100 reps. I would do it Monday-Friday and take the weekends off. So, it began.
As the end of the first week was approaching, Will Gilbert, an NCSU grad and Oakland Athletics’ pitcher, asked where I was going to go from here. I hadn’t really given it much thought. After a little back and forth, we realized that I was lifting nearly 10 tons each day. That was it. I was going to lift 10 tons a day, 5 days a week until…forever or something like that.
The 10 Ton Lift: 10 tons in 2 sets
I’ve done a variety of workouts and training programs in my life but I didn’t stick with any of them for more than a couple of months. Life always seemed to get in the way. I didn’t want to repeat that. I wanted something that didn’t take prioritization or willpower to be successful. Something like brushing your teeth but with a growth factor involved.
How did my plan stack up?
The idea of lifting something heavy every day was appealing. I viewed it more as hard work… manual labor. Do it every day and your body will adjust and accommodate the workload. That was the thinking. No real end goal in mind. More of a mindset of a lifestyle of doing hard work every day. I guess I’ve always respected the idea of putting in a hard day of manual labor. I admire the practical nature of it. This would be my manual labor. Anything else I chose to do would be for enjoyment.
I engage in natural movement everyday. I’ve been a follower of MovNat for years and have incorporated it into our training programs. I believe in order to be a great athlete, you need to move like a human was designed to move. Humans have tremendous movement skill capability and I’m constantly trying to improve the movement skills of our athletes as well as my own. This wouldn’t change with my new plan but I wouldn’t program anything specific except the deadlift - the 10 ton lift.
The next week I increased the weight to 200lb so that my 100 reps would give me the 10 tons. The 10 ton lift was born. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel any different than the 185lb from the week before. Still, I knew I couldn’t maintain an increase of 15lb per week for very long. I settled on 5-10lb per week increase. I also wanted to keep the workload at 10 tons, so with the increase in weight on the bar I would decrease the reps accordingly to equal 10 tons. These small increments seemed more sustainable long term and I felt would allow me to keep building the strength to accommodate the new weight and rep scheme without warming up with lighter weight first. I also needed to maintain my current movement abilities and even continue to increase them to keep me injury resistant. This was already a part of my lifestyle so no additional commitment was required.
Never more excited about a strategy to get stronger and more fit in my life, I was energized. One week went by, then two, three. No missed lifts. It was going great. Then in week 4 I was in bed at home and realized that I had only done one set that day. Damn!
I contemplated for a moment driving back to K-Zone for the other set. No need to panic, I had another lift tomorrow. I would do a 3rd set. I got after it right away the next day and completed my 3 sets fairly early in the day and still felt pretty good. I decided I was going to do my Friday sets as well and give myself a 3 day weekend. 5 sets and just over 26 tons in one day and I had my long weekend of recovery. This demonstrated the beauty and flexibility of this workout. Since each set only took about 5 minutes it was easy to make up for any missed lifts or combine days when necessary. Awesome stuff!
“5 sets and just over 26 tons in one day…”
I have a confession to make. I said I was going to implement a 5-10lb per week increase so I should have been looking at 215lb for week 5. Let me preface by saying in my defense, that the 5lb and 10b plates look very similar. I was lifting more than I thought because I put the wrong plates on the bar. I was also tired of using so many small plates and just wanted to put 25lb plates on the bar. That being said my next 10lb jump put me at 235lb for 88 reps in week 5. A little ahead of schedule. I promise I will slow down.
Playing the long game.
Remember, I was playing the long game. If I just put my head down and plugged away imagine where I will be in a year. 52 weeks (let’s call it 50 for a nice round number), 5lb increase each week. That’s a 250lb jump in one year. If we add that to my 200lb week 2 weight we have 450lb for 45 reps (a set of 23 and one of 22). I liked the idea of how strong I would have to be to do that. Is that possible? Or reasonable to expect?
I wondered how long I could maintain this strategy. Could I do it for a year? Longer? Will I need to decrease the number of lift days and increase the number of rest days as the weight gets heavier? Still lift 10 tons a day but not 50 tons a week.
On one hand if I successfully completed the previous weeks lifts and I only increased the weight 5lb I should be able to do it. Right? Forever, right? If I’m lifting 235lb successfully, 5lb is only a 2% increase. Doesn’t even seem like I would notice it. As the weight gets heavier the percent increase is even smaller. Not so fast.
Let’s approach it from a different angle. The world record deadlift is 1,015lb by Benedikt Magnússon (he weighed nearly 400lb) That’s for one rep. I would need to do that 10 times in one set. That’s not going to happen. So the strategy will fail me at some point. I just don’t know where.
However, I don’t need to concern myself with figuring out where I will fail. It will happen when it happens. I’ll deal with it then.
As 2019 came to a close I was at 250lb (an easy number to remember at the end of 2020 for comparison. For Christmas, one of our athletes, Evans Banks, suggested that we do a “12 tons of Christmas” lift. Loved the idea, so on Christmas Eve, a group of us (we even invited friends and family interested) did a 12 ton lift. They got to pick their weight and take as many sets as needed to complete the reps needed. Here's the happy group.
12 Tons of Christmas
To ring in the new year, I did 20 sets of a new method we were piloting - the minute method. 20 sets in 20 minutes or 1 ton a minute. I did 8 reps of 250lb (touch and go) every minute for 20 straight minutes. 20 tons for 2020.
A new strength measure was born out of this experiment if you will. We added a new event to our Superior Baseball Athlete (SBA) Olympics. The 19 rep touch and go deadlift. Here I am performing my lift with 365lb. I did not include this in my workout tracking. I did my 10 tons before this lift that day.
I remained methodical in the new year: 250, 255, 260, 265. Still going strong. I could feel the weight getting heavier but at no point did I feel like I couldn’t or wouldn’t complete the lift. I knew I would be happy with the results if I could just stick to the process. My main thought each day was just lift my 10 tons and not worry about anything else.
At this point, I wanted to know how much total weight I had lifted. It was fortuitous, as I was about to reach the 1,000,000lb mark next week. I did some extra work that Monday to reach the milestone: 146 reps at 275lb. or 20 tons. That’s a milestone that I’m glad I didn’t miss. As you can see below, I was pretty excited about reaching that total. It really helped put things in perspective for me.
I was feeling much stronger, more dense. My clothes were fitting differently, body weight was up, fat was down, energy was up. Everything was great. I had thought, as did my pros, that I wasn’t going to make it this far. 275lb for 73 reps. Since I reached the 1,000,000lb mark I thought it was a good idea to issue myself a challenge. On Wednesday, I decided to also do Thursdays and Fridays lifts. That’s 219 reps. I was pretty fatigued from that. However, I got to thinking. 275 reps of 275lb sounds pretty cool. So, I did another round of 56 reps to give me 275. That made nearly 68 tons in 3 days. Thankfully I had four rest days ahead of me.
That lift took place on January 29th. I was closing in on 300lb and it looked like I was going to make it. Still not sure where the breaking point is going to be. I know I will find it eventually.
The Birth of the Big Lift
With 300lb expected to be reached near the end of February and having done 275 reps with 275lb, I wanted something more profound to celebrate 300. It took nearly 6 hours to complete the 275 reps because I hadn’t planned to do that ahead of time.
I wanted this goal to be something really hard. I wanted anybody who looked at the numbers to say “Holy Cow” or some equivalent. 300 reps with 300 lb sounds impressive, and it is, but if you have all day to do it the awe is diminished. I believe many people could do it. However, if the 45 tons must be completed in 45 minutes, well that’s an entirely different story. I wanted it to be something so crazy that nobody in their right mind would even consider attempting it. I think this is it.
I was finding that setting a well defined goal with a specific date altered my training and not necessarily in a positive way. Prior to setting the goal, my training was very methodical as previously mentioned: 10 tons a day, every day for 5 consecutive days, rest on the weekends and start all over again. Most days were done with the original 2 set method where each rep is an individual rep - pick it up and put it back down. This is more challenging than doing touch and go reps. If you ask any of our athletes, they all prefer the minute method over the 2 set method.
With a specific goal, I found myself wanting and trying to optimize my training toward that goal. This meant more big lifts, more rest days and a certain type of lift that best matched the end goal - the minute method. I even considered, and tried, some supplementation: creatine. I quickly abandoned the creatine (after just 2 days) because I decided with a diet containing 200-350g of protein daily I didn’t need it. I ate mostly meat during the 15 weeks of lifting and that last 6 weeks or so was mostly beef.
Another negative aspect of having a defined goal was added stress. I now had something I had to accomplish in a specific time frame. There was pressure. I had to consider rest, recovery, nutrition, etc. and its potential impact on my ability to complete the lift. I also had no idea if it was even possible. I don’t like to commit to things that I’m not confident I can do. This was stress I didn’t want.
Every other challenge I’ve embarked on to this point was one I knew I could do or was done as an afterthought to just see if I could: no pressure, in the moment call. This Big Lift was a whole other thing. I had no idea if I could do it when I came up with it. It truly seemed impossible.
As I’m writing this, I feel like I’m talking in the past tense about the Big Lift as if it’s already done and I completed it successfully. I haven’t. These are just the thoughts I had when I came up with the challenge.
At the time of the decision to do it, the most consecutive lifts I had done were 20 minutes and those were with much less weight. Had I committed myself to an impossible lift? I really had no idea. I needed a plan, some sort of test run or build up to know. I approached it like someone training for a marathon would with increasing volume/distance each week. Problem was I only had 4 weeks to train.
I scheduled a 25 minute lift for the next week with 285lb. That would be a decent test but still a long way from the finish line: 20 minutes and 15lb shy. If I couldn’t do that then 45 minutes with 300lb was out of the question. I successfully completed that lift but was wiped out and wondering how I was going to go for another 20 minutes. It didn’t seem possible.
Next test was 300lb for 20 minutes - Game weight but shorter duration. Before that I needed to “graduate” to 300lb. I wasn’t comfortable making a 15lb jump in one week. I compromised and did 2 days at 295lb before loading up 300lb for a 10 ton lift. With that done, it was time to give 20 minutes a go. Thursday arrived with 30 tons already in the books for the week and I was nervous. I’ve noticed that as the weight has increased each week so has my anxiety about whether or not I will be able to complete the lift.
A few sets into the lift and I was already battling my inner demons. As I approached the 10 minute mark, I regained control and committed to finish the 20 minutes. Everything was good until the 20th set. As soon as it began, I felt fatigue in my quads. This was very concerning. I knew it wasn’t going to stop me from finishing the set today but how was I going to continue for another 25 minutes if I was experiencing noticeable muscle fatigue already?
Serious doubt was now sinking its teeth in and growing like a tick on an unaware host. I had a few days of rest/recovery for this doubt to continue to fester. Next week was the real test with a 30 minute lift scheduled for mid-week.
300lb for 30 minutes
I had a “light” week planned in total volume and number of lift days but a big test was inching closer. Monday was a scheduled off day; the fourth day in a row until Zach Vennaro, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher and self-proclaimed best intern in the history of K-Zone, helped me realize that I hadn’t missed a single Monday lift in 14 weeks. I couldn’t allow that streak to end, so I did my normal 10 ton lift. It wasn’t as easy as I had hoped; my tick of doubt got bigger. Tuesday rolled in like any other and I did my scheduled 10 ton lift. It went very similar to Monday. Doubting Tick filled up some more.
In addition to the less than stellar lifts I was having I was struggling getting a good night’s sleep. I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I couldn’t get comfortable.
Wednesday the lift was weighing heavily (haha) on my mind. I was inefficient with my normal morning work because I was anxious about the lift. When should I do it? In the morning before the athletes arrive, once they arrive or after they are done? I had to get it done soon, I couldn’t deal with the not knowing. After the last two days of lifts I wasn’t even wanting to do it.
Often, I prefer to take an ancestral perspective or plan of attack. This was no different. I was about 16 hours fasted before the lift. I was like a lion who’s hunger drove them to hunt for their next meal. After the lift/hunt I would feast. I had done this several times during the past 14 weeks and preferred it.
I strapped on my heart rate monitor, loaded up the bar, setup my interval timer and stepped inside the trap bar. 10 sets, 15 sets, 19 sets no issues to report. I was closing in on some new territory. Set 21 marked a record length for 300lb. Set 26 marked a record for consecutive sets. I knew I had 30.
Here’s my heart rate readings from the lift. Not a lot of recovery at the end - stays elevated.
After I completed the 30 sets, I felt the tick of doubt release it’s hold on me. I may not complete the 45 sets next week but at least now I feel like it’s possible. Just two more routine 10 ton lifts Monday and Tuesday before the Big Lift on Friday, February 28th.
Now you know where the idea of 300 reps with 300lb in 45 minutes was born. I did not set out to do it back in November. If I had been able to come up with such a crazy goal then I believe I would have failed. It would have been too abstract and too long of a timeframe. I just wanted to lift something heavy everyday. I knew that if I did that I would be very happy with the outcome in a year. Turns out I’m already very happy with the results. I am able to draw strength from what I’ve accomplished.
“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Even if I can’t complete the 300 reps of 300lb in 45 minutes, I have become stronger, more fit, more resilient, confident and driven from the process. I can only imagine what I will be in a year or more.RSS Feed