Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: Explode Your Deadlift

Explode Your Deadlift in 30 Days

by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman
Published 2011
59 pages

If you don't know Andy Bolton, you should. He was the very first member of the 1000 club - having pulled 1000 pounds in a barbell deadlift in powerlifting competition. While he was recently bested by Benedikt Magnusson (who pulled 1015 pounds to Andy's 1008 pounds), both men are so far into the stratosphere to equally be considered masters of the deadlift.

Any Bolton has recently co-authored a book on the deadlift. It's a fairly tightly written book on exactly what you think - increasing your 1-rep maximum on the deadlift. Naturally it starts with a general introduction discussing historical numbers in the deadlift and other motivational basics.

Chapter 2 covers what to wear, both on your body and on your feet, when training or pulling in meets. The advice is pretty much what you would expect - bare feet or very thin shoes are best, and covering your shins with socks (but not baggy clothing) is a good way to avoid getting all torn up from the bar.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are probably the meat of the book for most purchasers. They cover the choice between conventional deadlifts and sumo deadlifts, and then the technique for each one of those in turn. It's hard to review the advice without just giving it away. Suffice it to say, it's good and it takes you through the lifts step-by-step. A good example is the initial pull. Every good deadlift technique explanation will tell you to gradually apply pressure to the bar. Yes, you pull hard and fast, but you don't jerk the bar off the floor so much as grip it and put more and more leg/hip drive into the floor until it breaks off the floor. Then you pull hard and fast. Jerking on the bar can hurt your elbows or tear muscles. Bolton's book explains his method for gradually upping the pressure, and how he gets tighter and tighter until he's ready to make his hard pull and finish the lift.

The advice is pretty straightforward. It is, thought, ultimately aimed at maximum pulls rather than pulling for maximum effect. What I mean is, the goal is to get the most weight off the floor in a deadlift in a competitive environment. This is Andy Bolton's specialty, and it's where the book shines. The advice is great for someone just looking to pull heavier but who uses the deadlift to get better at something else. It's just not centered on that kind of advice. The contrast is like that between Mark Rippetoe's advice on the bench press (how to bench so you can maximize your development of strength using the bench press) vs. say, Dave Tate's advice on the bench press (how to get the maximum weight locked out in a legal competitive powerlift). It's the difference between "here is how to sprint to get in shape" and "here is how to win a 100-meter dash." Andy Bolton's advice errs on the side of "pull heavy" instead of "get strong by pulling" although it's certainly going to do both of those if you follow it. Just go into it expecting direct comments on how to ensure the lift is judged fair or meets the rules of your federation where a book solely aimed at strength training would skip those subjects.

The book also includes advice on performing a valuable assistance exercise - the kettlebell swing. This is a great deadlift builder, according to the authors, and they go into great detail on how to do it. There isn't much here that is different from any other hip-dominant swing method (in other words, other good methods), but it is well-explained.

Finally the book rounds out with advice on customizing your deadlift suit (if you are a geared powerlifter) and with pictures of Andy Bolton's 900-pound plus deadlift. The pictures are interesting, although you could conceivably have just freeze-framed his videos to look at the same shots. You can get a specific idea of his form when pulling.

Content: 4 out of 5. Very solid information on deadlifting, including gear tips you might not find anywhere else.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Very readable, organized logically. A little tricky to read on a netbook due the the amount of whitespace, but it prints out nicely.

Overall: If you're a powerlifter or (especially) a geared powerlifter, especially a beginner or intermediate lifter, this book is probably ideal for you. The (non-sale) price tag is a bit steep if you aren't one of those. The book is still quite valuable but I'd suggest exhausting free resources first, then come to this one to tune your deadlift even further. If the price tag isn't a problem then grab it. You will learn a lot about deadlifting, and the cues in it will help you - and help you help others as well.

In the meantime check Andy Bolton's website - his newsletter is packed with tips on lifting in general and deadlifting in specific.

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