Getting ready for the April Tactical Strength Challenge

Nothing "book-worthy" today. The wife and I are spending a good deal of time researching new homes to see if we can snag one in the next few months. Needless to say, it is keeping us busy all hours of the day that aren't devoted to work.

However, there is one thing that has been looming on the horizon for some time now, and that is the Portland Tactical Strength Challenge, being hosted at a nearby gym called Industrial Strength. The owners of the gym are Strong First certified kettlebell instructors. Tony and Mira are both super studs when it comes to strength, and I'm excited that they are hosting another one this Sunday, April 13.

Industrial Strength was just a few months old when they hosted their first TSC in October, 2013. Back then, I wasn't doing pull ups without pain yet, and my deadlift wasn't at a level where I was confident to attempt it in a competition. Fast forward to the present, and I CAN do pull ups without pain, and my deadlift is something I feel confident in, technically speaking. Lots of practice time has helped. The third event is the kettlebell snatch, but I am not ready to start snatching just quite yet. My left shoulder has been an issue for a few years now, and it's taken a LONG time to get it to where it is today. It probably wouldn't be wise to attempt my first snatches in years in a competition.

About two weeks ago I started reading the 2012 book Deadlift Dynamite, which was co-authored by Andy Bolton and Pavel. In the book, they used the Sumo-style deadlift as an introductory exercise to the conventional deadlift, which looks very similar to a kettlebell swing, except instead of projecting the weight forwards, it is projected upwards. I'd never personally done a Sumo deadlift before, and I thought it was high time I tried...

Last Saturday I played around with the form for a while. I started out light, at just 95lbs. After messing with foot width and turnout for a few reps, I settled on something that felt comfortable for me. Doing sets of 3, I slowly built up weight and did dynamic RKC/SFG style hip flexor stretches in between. I went from 135x3 to 185x3. From 185 to 225x3, which still felt easy. From 225 I bumped it up to 255, and again, that felt pretty easy for 3 (At this point, 255 was my most recent 3RM for the conventional style deadlift, and I should note that it did NOT feel easy when I did it last Monday). From 255, I bumped it up to 265, only intending to do 1. I ended up popping off 3. And it STILL FELT EASY. Say what!? Apparently my body likes the Sumo deadlift...

After giving myself ample recovery, I bumped it up 20lbs more--285. This would be the heaviest I had ever attempted. I know it's probably not wise to test like this a week before competition, but the previous lifts never felt strenuous. I felt obligated to give this a shot, as it was really my first time deadlifting Sumo-style. Managed to pop off 1 solid rep with 285, feeling there was more to give. I stopped after that set.

My conclusion? That I feel confident in my form in both the conventional AND Sumo-style deadlift, and that my body likes the Sumo-style better. I felt more stable coming down with the weight, and no matter how much I try to pull my hips in to a deeper hinge in the conventional style, my lower back felt markedly less fatigued after the Sumo deads. I'll take Ed Coan's word for it that Sumo's are just as valid as conventional, even if Mr. Andy Bolton was the first dude to break the 1000 pound barrier.

Hopefully this weekend at the TSC, in my little corner of the world, a 160lb guy will break the 300lb barrier for the first time. Still have a ways to go to get to my goal of 2x body weight for a 5RM (400lb theoretical 1RM). But in under a year I've gone from 185lb 5RM to 250 for a 5RM. Even if I were to gain 5lbs a month, by this time next year, I would be at 310x5. That's ALMOST there!

Will update with results of my deadlift and pull up after this Sunday! Good luck to any of you out there who are competing in a TSC this week/weekend. Happy training.