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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wolves and Cossacks culled the weak ones.

My max deadlift was 230 lbs.

Knowing a number makes me want to do MORE.

Update 10/17/7
Bench Press: 125

I don't particularly like the benchpress, but I love knowing that my arms still work about the same. When this happened, I was afraid they wouldn't.

43 Comments:

Blogger susan said...

Well I'm sure impressed.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous SwissArmyD said...

great! now you can sweep me offa my feet... er, as long as you don't make me dead first...

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

That's a very good number! You should be quite proud of yourself.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I'm pleased and surprised, but I don't think you get to be proud of anything inborn. I'll be proud if I make that number go up.

11:36 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

Dude, you're a brute! I think of myself as reasonably strong for someone who works out in a desultory and interrupted fashion, and doing sets of 12 deadlifts at 110 is as much as I do. (No idea what my max is, but obviously nowhere near yours.)

I am envious, and inspired. You're not much bigger than I am, I don't think... I could do that if I worked at it.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I'm actually more surprised and pleased that earlier on, when she gave weights me around 170ish to lift, I vaguely estimated that I could lift more, and that I would top out at about 225.

I was scared that I would decide I could lift 225, do that and stop, so I told her not to tell me what I'm lifting. We put weights on, and I don't know the starting weight or keep track and I pick it up when she tells me. I didn't know what I was lifting last night, but it came out to 230 lbs anyway. I like that my rough guess was close to accurate. Perhaps I am on track to self-knowledge.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

LB - I am a brute, that is true. No china shops for me.

But I presume you've read Krista and are familiar with her belief that most women don't train themselves anywhere near the limits of their strength.

Also, this was a one-time lift. If I could lift it twice, it wasn't heavy enough. I don't have any idea what the highest weight I could lift twelve times, but I'm sure it is significantly lower than 230.

I'm sure you don't need another use for your time, but can I tell you how much I love being trained? And being trained by a woman who believes in really fucking strong women? And who LOVES technique? Maybe get a similar coach to come in for a few sessions? One who knows that you could lift some really heavy shit and is willing to show you how?

I'm sure you could do it. Then we could terrorize heirloom tea sets together!

11:47 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

I've actually worked with trainers off and on (when I don't have a lifting buddy, it helps me get into the gym) but haven't had a lot of luck convincing them that my goals are more about increased strength than 'toning'. I give the speech about wanting to push myself and get stronger, and still find myself doing an awful lot of medium weight high rep lifting.

I really need to find the time and energy to just work out a decent program for myself, but this has been a bad year at work for doing much of anything. But you are an inspiration -- I'm hoping to change jobs, and if I can get some more time for working out may set my sights on challenging your level of brute-dom.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lizardbreath, why? Why do you want increased strength? I don't get that fascination. What does it do for you? If you can't get yourself to the gym on your own, you obviously don't enjoy the process, so what's the draw here? What will you do with the extra strength that you're not doing now?

Working out should be fun, find a sport you like, and play it. You'll get stronger much faster that way. You'll actually go and get the workout.

Same with you Megan, what's the point in this? I've just never understood the point in just wanting to get stronger by itself. It doesn't really make you better at anything, except lifting heavy objects.

Justin

12:30 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

If you can't get yourself to the gym on your own, you obviously don't enjoy the process, so what's the draw here?

Pure raw ego. And it's often surprisingly convenient being stronger.

For someone who didn't grow up athletic, I think you're underestimating the barriers to entry with sports. I've got a lot of skills to pick up, that I don't have now because I didn't develop them as a teen, before I can have fun playing anything at even the weekend athlete level, and I don't have the time or people interested in providing me with intensive instruction to pick them up.

Lifting weights, the skills are minimal -- all I have to do is get myself to the gym.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

You could start climbing. Planet Granite has a beginner's class that meets once a week for 4 weeks Wednesday nights at 7pm, a new class starts every week. (I think I remember you live in the bay area, but I get a lot of you confused)

Non-competitive, so no one cares if you suck, you're not dragging a team down with you.

I have a friend who found a beginners' volleyball league, that started with lessons in Foster City.

Other non-competitve athletic activities, like hiking, biking, skiing, surfing, kite boarding, swimming.

I just hate working out, just to workout. But I love basketball, and climbing, and hiking, and mountaineering. Soooo much fun, and so much more rewarding than just sitting somewhere lifting weights.

Justin

12:52 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

I'm a NYer. I do really like climbing the times I've tried it, and it comes pretty naturally (as opposed to ball sports, which don't), but I don't have a convenient location for it that I know of.

12:55 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

But also, all those genuinely fun things take more time than just lifting. If I go to the gym on a semi-regular basis, I can fit that into my workweek in a way that I can't fit in hiking. But keeping reasonably gym-fit means that the two weekends a year I get a chance to go skiing or something, I don't die.

I don't have the time to stay fit doing fun stuff, but if I keep myself strong enough, I can do more fun stuff when it comes up than if I didn't work out.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Then you should be getting all the exercise you need running from rapists and muggers.

I'm not sure there's much fun stuff to do in NY. That's the problem with cities, all the outdoors stuff is kind of far away.

But, I'm the exact opposite, I spend more than 20 hours a week either at the climbing gym, playing basketball, or outside climbing/hiking/mountaineering/camping. Then on the rare occasion where I need strength for something I've already built it up from all the fun stuff I've been doing non-stop.


Justin

1:10 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I'm picturing getting your regular workout from muggers and rapists. You'd run into them on the street and be all 'What's the plan for today?! Oh. Sprints again.'

I suppose for variety they might throw in stairs or hurdles, but really, it would mostly be the same workout.

Justin, I'm finding that lifting things has been more interesting than I thought. There's a ton of technique and form, and I LOVE technique and form. As long as it stays this interesting, I'll do it for its own sake. When something else comes along that is funner, I'll lift weights to get the strength that supports the sport.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Also, this was a one-time lift. If I could lift it twice, it wasn't heavy enough. I don't have any idea what the highest weight I could lift twelve times, but I'm sure it is significantly lower than 230.

Probably in the 150 - 160 range.


I've actually worked with trainers off and on ... but haven't had a lot of luck convincing them that my goals are more about increased strength than 'toning'.

I'm not going to criticize all trainers, Megan seems to have found a good one, but their quality does vary widely. Any number of organizations certify personal trainers. Some are quite reputable, requiring a high degree of demonstrated competency to earn certification, while others basically give out (worthless) certifications to anyone.


Working out should be fun, find a sport you like, and play it. You'll get stronger much faster that way. You'll actually go and get the workout.
Same with you Megan, what's the point in this? I've just never understood the point in just wanting to get stronger by itself.


Weight lifting can be looked upon as a sport in and of itself, even if you don't participate in organized powerlifting tournaments. There's nothing unusual about weight lifting in that respect. Many people run, for example, even though they do not enter organized road races and are not training for any other sports.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

I didn't say weight lifting isn't a sport. I said, "Find a sport you like."

Some people get a big kick out of lifting weights, but if you have trouble working up the enthusiasm to go to the gym to just sit and lift weights, then it's probably not the sport for you.

Exercise needs to be fun for people to want to do it. Having to force yourself to go every day means you'll soon quit. You're better off doing something that may not be as much exercise, that you're more likely to stick with.

Justin

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

You're better off doing something that may not be as much exercise, that you're more likely to stick with.

As has been shown by 95% of American males over age 35, whose idea of athletic activity begins and ends with the weekly round of cartball.
Which, considering the beers they suck down afterwards, probably counts as a calorie-gaining exercise.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

I'm thinking more along the lines of the yearly spike in gym memberships around the new year, and then the sudden drop in attendance about 2 months later.

If it's hard to make yourself go, you won't be going for very long. I don't actually know what cartball is? But, if you're actually interested in exercise, I still say you're better off finding an activity you really enjoy doing, than picking something you don't enjoy just because you think you get a better workout.

Justin

1:35 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Justin, people can be genuinely interested in exercise lots of different ways. LB found one that is mostly working, and she wants it to work even better. I'm sure she will kick ass at it, if she decides to.

She's brilliant, she's tried things, she's self-aware. We should trust her assessment of her situation, EVEN IF YOU HAVE HAD DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

LB, I wonder if the magic phrase isn't 'powerlifting'. I feel goofy describing myself that way, and won't for a while. But maybe that is the keyword to make people believe you are serious about strength. Or for sorting out trainers.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Too bad for you, LB. There are no good gyms anywhere in the state of New York.

I went to the gym I found because I pass it all the time and Krista liked it. The funny thing to me about this picture is not that I know the guy throwing the kettleball. The funny thing to me is that I know exactly what tree he is standing in front of. I could take you to it.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Marcus said...

Jesus, you're strong. Designed to pull the plow on the Russian steppes!

I don't even do deadlifts, because I'm afraid my back will snap or something. They seem unnatural.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Marcus said...

yeah, I agree with Justin for once.

I lift weights for mostly cosmetic reasons. Chicks dig visible muscle. And I do think it improves health -- there's a sense in which it might be even more important for women as they age than for men, since it keeps bones strong.

But finding sports you enjoy is best. The most effective exercise to get fit is interval stuff, where you alternate bursts of activity that push you hard with more mild exertion. Sports do that naturally and without you even noticing it. Most workouts don't do it at all.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Are you guys missing the part where I obviously enjoy it, because it has lots of technique and form and I love me some technique and form?

Also, I do dig visible muscle... ON ME.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

LB said:

"someone who works out in a desultory and interrupted fashion"

and

"this has been a bad year at work for doing much of anything"

Justin said:

"If you can't get yourself to the gym on your own, you obviously don't enjoy the process, so what's the draw here? ...
Working out should be fun, find a sport you like, and play it. You'll get stronger much faster that way. You'll actually go and get the workout."

To my mind, they were talking to each other in a respectful and constructive way. LB was talking about how she wants to get stronger, but isn't able to consistently go to the gym, and Justin suggested, based on his own experience, that it's easier to go when the activity is something that draws you in on its own. LB then responded and explained further.

You then said:

"Justin, people can be genuinely interested in exercise lots of different ways. LB found one that is mostly working, and she wants it to work even better. I'm sure she will kick ass at it, if she decides to."

Now, I don't know LB, so perhaps you have some direct knowledge of the situation that I do not. But as an outsider, it seems that Justin was actually responding more to what LB said than your remarks were. That is, you're saying her workouts are mainly working, and I read LB as saying that she was dissatisfied by her frequency of working out. That's why Justin said "If it's hard to make yourself go, you won't be going for very long."

So I'm confused. Justin might be right or wrong, his comments may or may not be useful to LB, but he did seem to be replying to what she said.

2:41 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

I'm impressed by your strength as well, and amused by how much you enjoy it. Then again, you like hard work for its own sake so you probably wont get bored easily by the fact that lifting is repetitive. More power to you, and I wish I was more like that in the gym.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Marcus said...

I was talking about the LB / Justin discussion, not about you Megan. Not only do you actively enjoy weightlifting, which means you should do it, but you play Ultimate, which as you know is a near-ideal workout. (Just be sure you don't hurt yourself in the quest for a one-rep max...).

Just out of curiousity: do you like a guy to be more muscular than you, less, or it doesn't matter?

2:44 PM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

Justin was perfectly reasonable and inoffensive, but kind of off the mark; desultory and interrupted is actually pretty good for me in terms of physical activity (most forms of exercise I just don't get around to doing at all). And at the level I do it at, lifting does most of what I want, which is keeping me able to do physical stuff like skiing and sailing that I don't do often enough to keep myself strong with. And I do enjoy it enough to want to do it more than I do, and to get stronger.

But everything he said was a reasonable reaction to what I'd said in the thread; under different circumstances, it might have been helpful to hear. Everything's good.

2:50 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Doesn't matter. I can't remember an instance where had an opinion about that.

2:51 PM  
Blogger shanusmagnus said...

Hi Megan -

The chances of you listening to this are small, but I have to tell you that you're mad as a hatter for deadlifting. My pedigree, in brief, is that in high school I was an Olympic-style weightlifter of some small ability in my little pond. I could clean and jerk just under 300 pounds, which is reasonable in the 198 pound class.

Anyway, I've been in the iron sport most of my life, and unless you're a competetive powerlifter there's no reason to be doing powerlifts. (If you're a competitive powerlifter as a thirty-something year old woman, there's no reason to be a competitive powerlifter, or at least, no sensible reason that I can see unless you're world class and don't mind sacrificing your body for a bit of glory.)

The sheer forces on the knees and spine, the intracolumnar compression, and a host of other traumas induced by these lifts mean you're flirting with disaster. Doubtless a number of people will chime in saying that they've been squatting and deadlifting for a thousand years with no ill effects, to which I say a friend of my grandmother's has been smoking for fifty years, too.

Find a kinesthiologist and ask her opinion, preferably one with a good understanding of geometry and physics. There are other lifts you can do if you like lifting so much.

Like I said, you'll probably ignore this. Let's hope you escape what's happened to me and the other competitive lifters I know; living in chronic pain fucking sucks.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I am extraordinarily receptive to warnings not to ruin my body doing sports, since I rue the legacy of tkd. Questions:

1. If I told you that my trainer was exceptionally picky about form, and I am equally picky, would you then think that there is a way to deadlift without hurting yourself?

2. What are better options than deadlifting?

3. What would be warning signs that deadlifting was going wrong for me?

3:48 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

3. Your spine will suddenly collapse.

Anytime you're pushing your limit like that you're just waiting for something to suddenly, and horrifically fail.

If you LOVE technique, then go start climbing, it's all about technique.

I was watching a lesson at the gym the other night, total beginners, the teacher was trying to show them how to start a 5.10c, the students were having a real bitch of a time with it, just completely awkward form.

A few of us were watching, I didn't think the teacher was showing them very good technique, I know him, he can climb 5.10c, but it's close to his level, so I was wondering if what he was showing was the easiest way.

They moved on, and 2 other guys, more intermediate, went and gave it a try. They could do it, but they made it hard. Lots of throwing, and hanging with locked off arms.

Finally they got out of the way, so I could give it a try, 5.10c is well below my ability. I could do it all with my feet, straight arms, lots of twisting and body position, and all pushing with my legs, no pulling.

Such a fun sport, strength certainly doesn't hurt, but you can accomplish soooo much with the right technique, and balance.

Justin

4:15 PM  
Blogger shanusmagnus said...

1: It's good that your trainer is a stickler for form. Even with perfect form, however, certain movements are biomechanically unsound. The deadlift is particularly heinous in this regard, especially for women.

2: The deadlift is a brilliant strength builder because it recruits almost every muscle in the body, either to move or support. Squats are good for the same reason. The problem with these lifts are twofold: 1) as above, they put the body in positions in which it is inherently dangerous to apply force, which is especially bad since 2) they engage such a large percentage of muscle that they allow large weights to be moved.

Generally speaking, better alternatives are compound movements that require simultaneous strength and balance without overloading the spine or the knees. Good deadlift replacements are step ups, which are extremely demanding at very low weights, lunges, with dumbells to provide additional load as neccessary, and assorted specialty machines that have come out in the last decade or so. These offer recruitment of many of the same muscle groups along arcs of motion that are more natural. (Note that machines like leg presses are *not* as a rule very good; the old 45 degree sled-style are terrible, for example.)

Also, the theraball (or exercise ball, I guess is the general term) is a *fantastic* aid for this sort of work; wall squats holding dumbells is another good exercise that will mangle your quads and glutes without herniating your discs.

3: While deadlifts are always bad, some signs that they are particularly bad for you are if you have long legs or a short torso, which requires more extreme forward-leaning and a proportionately anterior pressure on the discs. (Women's bodies tend toward these dimensions, which is why the power lifts are especially bad for women, and why women lifters are hurt disproportionately more than men.) This can cause herniation in the acute case, which you will certainly notice, but even without acute injury the compression effects will be cumulative and will cause your discs to lose elasticity, become brittle, and make you susceptible to injury later.

Signs that you're in danger *right now* would be tingling or numbness in the legs, radiating leg pain, or a general fatigue/dull ache in the low back.

You're a smart woman and these are pretty obvious; what's not obvious is the cumulative damage that accrues from even the most cleanly-performed powerlifts or (worse) olympic lifts. You like lifting for the reasons lifting is wonderful: it's exhilerating, and it's quantifiable: you can tell, very clearly, where you stand, and so progress is measurable exactly. The feeling of being strong is also wonderful. But it's important to remember (and to tell your trainer, as they are often blinded by this) that YOU ARE NOT TRAINING TO BE A POWERLIFTER. You're training to be strong and healthy, and you can be strong without throwing around a lot of tonnage. There's a reason most pro football trainers don't do these lifts regularly: they're dangerous and they take a toll.

Try to steer clear of NSCA trainers; they have an old-world weightlifting methodology that makes no sense for non competitive weightlifters.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Count me as one who is most skeptical as to the alleged dangers of deadlifting. None of the many exercise safety-related things I've read over the years have tagged deadlifting as a particularly risky exercise. In one important respect they are safer than the other two powerlifting exercises (squats and bench presses) because you can simply drop the bar if you fail on a rep, without needing to rely on a spotter or a safety rack to save you from injury. In addition, the strong "posterior chain" muscles that result from deadlifting make one able to safely handle greater weights on other exercises. Many people who have successfully made double-bodyweight deadlifts (I'm so close ...) say that they subsequently find themselves able to manage significantly heavier weights even on seemingly unrelated exercises such as bench presses.

Of course, with any exercise it's important to use proper form at all times - yes, that means even when you're trying to eke out one more rep on your last set. Trying to cheat up more weight than you can safely handle is a recipe for trouble, though I'll note in this context that the deadlift is a remarkably cheat-proof exercise. It's also important to avoid overtraining, by giving muscle groups a chance to rest between workouts and by occasionally taking weeks off from all weight training.

4:42 PM  
Blogger redfoxtailshrub said...

I find that sporty people sometimes underestimate the possibility that one might not enjoy any sport enough to do it vigorously and regularly, with pleasure.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You know, I was thinking after Becks put up that post on exercise. I don't think I have ever exercised for fitness. I just wouldn't. If I don't like the sport, or conditioning, or training, I just don't do anything. When I'm between inspirations, I do nothing and turn to applesauce. I am super impressed with anyone who works out consistently, at something that isn't actively fun, for the sake of being fit.

So yeah, you're describing a foreign mindset to me. But are lots of foreign mindsets in exercise and movement.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

Cartball: Golf with all the "hard" stuff taken out. So instead of walking you ride on a little cart, instead of carrying your clubs you carry them in your little cart. Designed to change a very low amount of exercise into a non-existant amount of exercise.

"...most women don't train themselves anywhere near the limits of their strength." This is something that was really noticeable as a TKD coach. When you have a male and female beginer, of the same size, the male will often start off about twice to three times as good as the female, just because the female WILL NOT use their strength.

Then, after a month or 6 (depending on the person) the girl will suddenly get it. Sometimes over a period of a single lesson she will double or triple the force of her technique.

The instructors will then nod wisely at eachother and go on to something else.

You (Megan) have already been through this, so you already are about 3 times stronger than your peers. And I'm not kidding, there are a lot of women out there who would max out at a 70 pound weight (about 30 kg). This is obviously mental not physical, but there you are.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Shanusmagnus -

You say that deadlifts are "always bad." Can you give any cites for that viewpoint? I will note that exrx.net does not have any specific cautions or warnings for deadlifts and does not include them on its list of potentially dangerous exercises.

You're not a Matt Furey follower, are you?

8:56 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Hmmm. I hope that being a woman instructor got my white belts over that faster. We won't know, though.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Cartball: Golf with all the "hard" stuff taken out. So instead of walking you ride on a little cart, instead of carrying your clubs you carry them in your little cart. Designed to change a very low amount of exercise into a non-existant amount of exercise.

Actually a negative amount of exercise if you count the beers and snacks most players consume.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Noel said...

Great work Megan! I'm impressed!

LB, why not find an Internet workout buddy? (Maybe you could find someone on this very forum...) You agree on workouts for the week, then see who does best at them (best should be relative to your own previous attempts unless your buddy is very closely matched to you). It's the motivation to work out without the problem of real-life synchronisation.

shanusmagnus: Do you have any evidence to back this up? Otherwise it is just your anecdotes against ours. My opinion is that it doesn't particularly matter if you're not chasing world class weights. I don't see a 2xBW deadlift exceeding the strength of my bones and tendons so as to cause long term damage (after suitable amounts of training to get there of course). If it was a 3x or 4xBW deadlift I might be concerned. I agree with you that unilateral movements are great, and yes, they give the back a rest, but I don't think they replace the DL or squat, just complement them. Wall squats -- you're just training isometric strength. Useful, but not as much as concentric movements. The "(full ROM) squats will cause your knees to explode" argument -- I've read arguments for and against but can't recall any credible evidence against, whereas I vaguely recall some evidence for.

I'm not dismissing your arguments out of hand, but your stance is very different to mine (ain't the Internet wonderful like this) so I'd like to see more evidence.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous doctorpat said...

So Megan you have instructed beginners? Have you seen what I mean?

Oh yeah, and 5 sets of 3 snatches this morning with 70 pounds, EACH HAND. :)

10:11 PM  

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