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Thread: Why Do 1x5 Deadlifts Stop Being Effective Over Time?

  1. #1
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    Default Why Do 1x5 Deadlifts Stop Being Effective Over Time?

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    I'm grappling with a puzzle in programming for strength training. Despite delving into various resources, including the authoritative "blue book," and consuming countless articles and videos, I remain puzzled about a specific aspect of strength training progression, particularly concerning the deadlift.

    It appears that squats and deadlifts often reach a plateau due to excessive stress, while bench presses and overhead presses do so because of insufficient stress.This leads me to theorize that an optimal deadlift training regimen might follow a pattern of reducing frequency over time to allow for increased recovery: starting with 1 set of 5 reps three times a week, then reducing to twice a week, once a week, and eventually every 9 days, etc.

    Iím sure this has worked well for many.

    However, I'm aware this approach cannot be effective indefinitely. I understand that for progress, the body's homeostasis must be disrupted. If performing a single set of 5 reps at a challenging weight necessitates a recovery period of, say, a week, then why would it be necessary to alter this routine if it seems to effectively disrupt homeostasis?

    Whatís causing this theory to fail? Why canít I pull a really heavy set of 5, and wait a month, and do it again with a 5 LB jump? Why is there a need for halting deadlifts, and rack pulls?

    Is it possible that homeostasis is not being adequately disrupted, despite the inability to perform the same heavy set the following day indicating otherwise?

    I'm keen to understand the mechanics behind why this method cannot sustain progress perpetually, particularly regarding the deadlift's susceptibility to stalling from over-stress.

    It seems if I just add more days to recovery, the lift will forever increase, but I know this wonít work.

    Iím after the reason why.

  2. #2
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    Let's discuss it, shall we?

  3. #3
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    The capacity that the human body has to adapt to stressors in its environment is indeed great, but it is not unlimited, and it is certainly not free.

    In the rank novice, the body has not used a great deal of its adaptive capacity. Indeed, the conditions of modern living and human instinct mean the rank novice has probably not experienced any substantial physical stress in a good while. While we are used to viewing this condition negatively in strength training, there are some incentives for you body, and some costs which are avoided. The result is that the machinery which is required to adapt to a physical stress is ready to go. The difference between you completely untrained, and just beginning training, is miniscule, and the benefit is enormous, so you body freely throws resources at it. Calories which were stored as fat are turned towards building muscle and bone, sleep which was light and fitful becomes deep and productive. This is why a very small amount of stress is required at first. Hell, a rank novice will probably be able to produce a measurable increase in their squat after one set, maybe even one rep. Maybe not much, but something.

    In this phase, the recovery burden is in fact, completely eclipsed by the strength adaptation. Early novices are probably recovered sufficiently by the following morning, and immediately able to add ten or fifteen pounds the morning after that.

    But of course, this doesn't last forever. Eventually, the cost of a strength adaptation starts to rise. Your increased muscle mass is now consuming most of those calories that could be comfortably stored as fat, and soon the cost of repairs starts to rise to meet the cost of renovations. When you perform an all out set of five, your body begins to "wonder" to itself: is it really worth it?

    The nature of barbell training means that all lifts are submaximal doses of stress. What this means is that you will not *succumb* to the stress of a heavy lift (or, not usually). Think of it: if you can't get a deadlift off the floor, is that really a stress? Nothing happened. You just don't get it off the floor. Your body calls that a win. Out another way, your ability to perform the lifts will flag before the effort of performing them actually threatens your life, which is bad news because at later stages of training "threats to your life" are all your body really considers "stressful" in a single dose. An all-out set of deadlifts registers to your body as "a job well done": the costs of expecting it to get heavy next time are too great.

    This is also the point where the recovery burden can equal or exceed the strength adaptation. It is possible to do a workout that *fucks you up* for a week, and your body will still say "same weight next time, chief?" To get stronger, you have to inflict more stress than you can perform or recover from in a single workout.

    And so you have to get technological. You have to inflict a secondary stress that your body has to adapt to in conjunction with the all out stress, and this causes adaptations to resume. Your body says: "Alright, not ONLY do we have to pull something heavy off the ground one day, but two days later we will have to pull something lighter quicker. While we're in there patching up the damage from the deadlift, start adapting us to power cleans" and these adaptations to the power clean cause you to be strong enough to pull the next deadlift. And the cycle repeats.

    Now, because you are lengthening the recovery time frame, you can usually squeeze a little bit out of just spacing the workouts further apart. But do this too much, and you begin detraining. Just because your body is still recovering ten days later from a heavy deadlift, does not mean that your body remembers how to deadlift. The recovery burden is separate from the training effect. If your body is still patching up your erectors, but it thinks you are safely away from whatever horrible environment forced you to pick up heavy shit, it'll downgrade those adaptations. Not a lot, but a little. Enough to miss the next set of five. As you space out your stresses, you have to add shit in the in-between spaces, because at this stage of training your body is starting to get a little pissed that it is devoting so much to being strong.

    The specific questions are derived from experience. Inflicting a pulling stress three days a week will completely prevent detraining. Twice a week does a pretty good job. Once a week occasionally works, but these forums are littered with trainees who "couldn't power clean" and got stuck because they were only pulling from the floor once a week.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Castilloalbertod View Post
    Why canít I pull a really heavy set of 5, and wait a month, and do it again with a 5 LB jump?
    Isn't this exactly what some competition deadlifters do?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strategerie View Post
    Isn't this exactly what some competition deadlifters do?
    And it works if you take enough steroids.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strategerie View Post
    Isn't this exactly what some competition deadlifters do?
    They do other things for pulling volume. Eddie Hall talks about doing speed deadlifts on "off weeks" in the run up to the 500 kg pull.

  7. #7
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    I think one factor is that you can't separate deadlift stress from squat stress completely.

    We assume anyone who is deadlifting is also squatting. As your squat is becoming heavier and more stressful, maybe you can't just extend the deadlift SRA cycle indefinitely while simultaneously applying squat stress and recovering from that more than once over the same span of time. So we use lower-stress pulls like power cleans and rack pulls and haltings to keep the full combined SRA cycle within a 1-2 week time frame to allow squats and pulls to complement each other instead of interfering.

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