This is my torn biceps. Pretty isn't it? Don't fret, this picture was from 10 years ago. It came back to me as a really good reminder during last Wednesday's training session.
First, I'll share the biceps story as I find it amusing. For those that don't know, I ruptured two of my lumbar discs 20 years ago. Hence why I gave up full meet powerlifting. Truth be told, I was always a much better squatter and deadlifter than bench presser. However, it's all I had left.
As a result of my back injury, it was in my best interest to quit conventional deadlifting. Instead I would use a trap bar because you are able to keep the spine in a more neutral position. Anwyay, I was heading into the gym with my buddy Rhodes one Saturday morning and was complaining about how my shoulder was bothering me. I also stated I was going to do some conventional deadlifts (after not doing them for 10 years mind you). I nonchalantly commented that maybe I could hurt something else so I'd forget about my shoulder pain.
I started deadlifting that fateful day. I was taking 45 lb plate jumps. I was shocked how easily the weight was moving. 495 lbs flew, which is no great deal, but remember, it had been 10 years since my last deadlift. After, 585 lbs came up with ease, what next then...seven plates...why not?!? Well, with 675 loaded on the bar, I jerked the bar, and as I got to the top, I heard a very loud "RIIIIIPPPP" while simultaneously feeling a very distinguished tear like pulling raw steak apart in my biceps. That said, I made sure to lock it out and ask Rhodes if the rep was finished. He confirmed completion at which time I dropped the bar. To no surprise, the biceps was completely torn.
So what happened? I have horrible flexibility is what happened. I can barely supinate my hands which is necessary for the all important over under grip often used in deadlifting. This wasn't even a problem until the weight got heavy. You see, with light weight you can overcome bad form. Hey, I pretty much got what I deserved considering I jinxed myself and lifted like a donkey.
Since then, I have learned a great tip to keep from tearing biceps while deadlifting: flex your triceps while you lift. This way you won't jerk the bar with your biceps at the top of the lift. A big no-no as I demonstrated on that disastrous day.
Back to what spawned today's blog, Wednesday's deadlift session. No, I was not stupid enough to try and deadlift conventionally again a decade later. I was on my dead-squat bar (which is a dope version of a trap bar), when I finished with my second to last set of 495 for reps, I felt a terrible pull in my pec. As I was massaging it out, all I could think of was tearing by biceps and how that had set my training back. I didn't want to tear anything else off my body.
The easy solution would have been just to pack it in instead of taking the last set with 540. Yeah, that wasn't about to happen. However, I felt strongly that I would injure myself if I didn't figure out what I did wrong on the last set. Trying to figure things out, I stood in front of the mirror and went through the motions with no weight in my hands. I quickly saw I was letting my shoulders hang forward. The handles are out wide on this trap bar and with my shoulders forward, it pulled terribly on my pecs.
I cued myself with, "Protect your armpits." I just needed to pretend someone was trying to tickle me so I would clamp my arms against my armpits. This got my shoulders back and my lats tight. I practiced it a few times in front of the mirror and felt strongly it was the remedy I needed. Now satisfied, I grabbed the 540 and lifted it without incident.
I might not be smart enough to pass on a weight, but I have gotten smart enough to listen to my body. One should always be mindful of form while lifting but especially as the weight increases. Like this whole blog post preaches, you can get away with crap form with lighter weights, but once the weights get heavy, it's a recipe for disaster.