Wax on, wax off

Some people have sheer brute strength enough to pick up a heavy weight no matter how they set up. I’m not one of them. To pull even one and a half times my body weight I’ve got to have perfect form. Unfortunately my record has been something like 1 out of 10 times getting it right, with no idea what I even did right when I suddenly pull 150, 160, 170 off the floor like it’s no more than a bag of dog food. In fact I’m often so surprised I almost tip over backwards.

Ben has patiently  and not so patiently told me everything I’m doing wrong, and praised me when I’ve gotten it right, to no avail. I didn’t get it. I understood theoretically why it was so much harder when the bar was inches out in front of me than when I drag it up my shins, but nothing got through to me to help me get it there.

My frustration worked against me. The more I tried and struggled with low weights, the more Ben yelled, the more I tried to think about each step I should be doing, the more flustered I got. Knowing I’m strong enough to be lifting more just made it worse.

But finally, finally, today it clicked. Actually, that makes it sound too easy. It didn’t just click. But Ben figured out an approach that worked for me. On a day off from training I went in early this morning just to practice. “We’ll start from the top and work down and you’ll get it.” he said. I didn’t know what that meant, but I was game.

It meant making me understand with my body what he’s been trying to drill into my head. You go down the same way you come up. What? Starting with a PVC pipe, I gripped it like a bar and standing straight, bent over, then sat back as if I were finding a chair with my arse. Then up, driving the knees back. 50 times. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but each time tried to find that imaginary chair.  Then a 32-lb bar (I refuse to call it a woman’s bar) with a low rack. 15 times, starting from the top, set it down, not getting lazy with my knees, but forcing my arse back for the chair. Then 20 pounds on the bar. Over and over and over, starting at the top, drag it down my legs to below my knees, sitting back when it gets below the knees.  Then with the bar on the floor. Wax on, wax off (or put the jacket on, take the jacket off if your only experience with Karate Kid is the new version). Over and over, set the bar down, pick it up.

Then. Do a deadlift. “Just like you’re setting the bar down,” Ben said. “Don’t reach for it — it will be there.”  50 pounds on the light bar. “Do it perfect and you can add weight.” And finally, for probably the first time ever, I executed a perfect deadlift setup.  I added weight, Ben adding and replacing plates as it got heavier and heavier, but I set up each time just like I was setting an imaginary bar down, and at the bottom, grabbing the bar and pulling. I didn’t count the weight. We finally added 20 more pounds and I set up, pulled to my knees and stopped. I held it there, pulling but it wasn’t just slow, it was stopped as effectively as if it were clamped into place. I dropped it, disappointed.

It was 182 pounds, 2 more than my max.  Ben, though, wasn’t disappointed. “That was a perfect deadlift!” he said. Heavy squats and dozens and dozens of increasingly more frustrated pulls 36 hours before had me tired, he explained. No matter to him that I hadn’t gotten that particular lift — I knew now how to do it.

So now it’s game on, deadlift. I know I’m strong, I know how to set up now, so let’s see what I can do now!

(Pulling 175 basically on accident three months ago)


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