Marcel's notes

Deadlifting 201kg: some recent learnings

This Monday I celebrated a milestone on my strength training journey. Two years ago, I started strength training more rigorously with my coach Michal. One of the core movements we have been focusing on was a deadlift. We started by focusing on a good technique with a 16kg kettlebell. Over one and a half years of no particular focus, we had progressively moved the weight up to about 130kg. It was in mid-November 2022 when we decided to make the deadlift the key focus, with a goal to hit the 200kg mark. This Monday, four and a half months later, was the day when I did it.

So I'd like to briefly reflect on some things I have observed and learned in these past few months:

  • When Michal suggested in November that our goal would be 200kg, I thought: "God, this is crazy! I will never be able to lift such a heavy weight. That's unbelievably heavy." However, as weeks passed, I could lift a few kilograms more than the previous week. It didn't feel like much of a progress in those particular days, though.
  • I've noticed that my subjective assessment of how I feel on a particular day is often off from how I perform. For example, that 200kg personal record was done when I subjectively felt low on energy. Michal didn't even want to attempt the personal record that day, but after I lifted some smaller weights for the warmup, I noticed that constellations were on my side, and we went for it.
  • There were sessions—much more than I'd like to admit—when I didn't feel like going to the gym. But every time I finished the session, I was glad I went.
  • Lifting higher weights, I noticed that I needed to concentrate much more on the act of the lift: no talking to anybody while resting, no immersion in distracting thoughts. Just focusing on the lift, a few quick nose out-breaths when stepping on the lifting mat, a determined thought to lift this thing, and GO.
  • We have also started experimenting with louder pump-up music during the lift itself, just for a few seconds, to bring my mind more into a totally determined state. It felt it helped quite a bit. We used this tactic only for the highest weights, though.
  • Deloads, although not explicitly planned, worked great for me. I took two deloads: one during Xmas and one in March. Particularly in March, I felt my motivation for the deadlift was dropping, and my body needed a bit longer recovery. After the deloads, I felt well recovered, and my determination was back.
  • I realized that such a project-based approach with a clear focus suits me really well. We are now moving to another strength project, so I'm curious how transferrable these learnings are.

Before/After videos

The first video below is from April 2021 as I started to learn the basic deadlift technique. I'm holding a 16kg kettlebell there. The video below is from this week, lifting 201kg.

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