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Strengthening The Core to Help a Beginning Deadlifter

As a fairly recent convert to the joys of deadlifting I’ve struggled with getting my lift beyond my body weight (currently around 225 lbs. at 6 ft.; I am 50 years old). I could lift 225, but it was hard and didn’t seem to get any easier. Two months ago, I bought a 16 kg kettlebell and started working out with that doing swings and snatches primarily. By the end of the month, I was able to deadlift 245 for 5 reps - a very nice increase for me.

For the past month, after reading several articles, including Coach Davies article ( on the importance of having a strong midsection, I’ve been finally paying attention to my long-neglected abs and back. I’ve done basically 3 exercises: evil wheel roll-outs from a kneeling position, windmills with my 1 pood KB, and overhead squats with the kettlebell and a dumbell. 3-5 times a week I’ve been doing 2 sets of 5 reps of each exercise. Sometimes I’ve done all three exercises one after the other, but usually, I’ve just done them over the course of an evening. As far as the amount that I was lifting, I backed off and was lifting in the 200-pound range, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

Now, at the end of a month of doing these core exercises, I've retested my deadlift and have made some terrific gains. On Thursday, I walked into the gym and found someone had left a bar with 275 pounds on it. I thought “What the heck. Let’s go for it!” So I reached down and concentrated very hard on tensing everything from my toes to my nose. It went up and I was able to lift it for 5 reps. I felt like I could have done more so the following Tuesday, I put 295 lbs on the bar. Again, concentrating hard, especially at keeping my midsection tight and pressurized. I lifted the weight for 3 reps and decided to stop while I was still doing well.

I think several things about these exercises contributed to my improvement in my deadlifting capabilities. First of all: I’m much stronger already in my midsection. The final pull to straighten up at the end of the lift is much easier. Secondly, all three of these exercises require a great deal of concentration. If I don’t concentrate on what I’m doing, I won’t make the rep. And finally, I’ve found that these midsection building exercises, especially the ab wheel and overhead squat exercises have really taught me what it feels like to have a tense and pressurized abdomen. I’m trying and usually succeeding to replicate that feeling when I deadlift now.

I’m extremely pleased at being able to add 50 pounds to my deadlift in a month. I’m glad to have found a program that is helping me to make gains productively and safely.

Mark Taintor

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