In which I learn a magic trick and increase my rack pull by 60 pounds

Deadlifting with traditional grip

I’m trying some interesting new things on the DarkSide program. Last week I discovered rack pulls, which I loved right away because they let me lift more than I can on a deadlift (the difference is you’re picking up the barbell from above the knee instead of from the floor). I was excited to pick up 175 pounds, 20 more than my deadlift.

I tried them again this week, this time determined to do more than 175. My deadlift (and rack pull) have been my comparatively weakest point among lifts, and women only a few pounds heavier than me can pull way more weight than me. While it’s not a competition, I also go by the CrossFit strength standards table, and if my deadlift were as strong as my squat I should be closer to 200 pounds on it.

I got stuck again at 175 on the rack pull this time. 185 was just not happening, not matter how mightily I pulled. Then the magic moment.

“Reverse your grip,” Ben said. I’d watched others in the gym for months lift their weight with one overhand and one underhand, all the while Ben instructing me to use both overhand. All right, I’d give it a try. I positioned myself, gripped the bar and gave a mighty pull, digging in with my heels and leaning back against the weight. And I almost fell over backwards! The weight, I am not kidding, flew off the rack. My mouth dropped wide open and I may have danced around a little bit, grinning maniacally. “It’s amazing what you can do when you can grip the bar isn’t it” Ben asked dryly.

“I want to try 200!” I said, thinking I was being daring. “Do 205” he said. It flew off too. “Add 20. No, 30,” he said next. 235 pounds! I stood over the weight pondering how much heavier it was than me — way more than twice my weight. “Don’t think about it,” Ben said, “just do it. and don’t fall over this time.”

235 pounds. I grabbed it with my magic new grip, heaved, and up it came, slowly but surely.

I love my new magic trick. I’ll heed Ben’s instructions to pull overhand as long as I can (it will help my pull-ups, he explained), but can’t wait to bust it out on a deadlift to see how much I can really lift.


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