The Training of Vince Anello: How He Became the First Man Under 200 Pounds to Deadlift 800

TAGS: meet preperation, mental attitude, competitive career, Bob Peoples, IPF world champion, Vince Anello, all-time powerlifting greats, Mike Szudarek, weight lifting, training partners, deadlift, powerlifting

When you think about the all-time powerlifting greats—especially in deadlift—one name that always comes to mind is Vince Anello. A five-time IPF world champion, York Barbell Hall of Fame inductee, an accomplished bodybuilder, owner of his own fitness company, and the first person in history to deadlift 800 pounds while weighing less than 200 pounds, his professional accomplishments are well documented. The personal stories behind them, however, aren’t as well known.

Anello started lifting weights when he was in grade school and by the time he was in junior high, he read religiously about his hero, Bob Peoples—the first man to deadlift 700 pounds weighing less than 200 pounds. When Anello first pulled 800 in 1975, Peoples was in the audience to witness the historic event.

“I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. The first man to do 700 pounds was sitting there watching the first man to ever do 800 pounds,” Anello recalled. “I was so excited afterward when I went to get my camera I got sidetracked and never had the opportunity to take a picture with him. To this day it still bothers me.”

Mr. America Flex

Two powerlifting champs "make their muscles like Mr. America," and look good enough to be competing the physique contents. On left is Tony Carpino. Tony made a world record in the bench press as a middleweight with a 409-pound lift on his fourth attempt. On right is Vince Anello, the man who deadlifted 811 pounds which was another new world record mark in the 220-pound division. (Reynolds)

Anello trained at various gyms throughout his long and successful career. And while many successful powerlifters become associated with prominent gyms, big teams, and large sponsors, Anello spent a good portion of his competitive career training in a friend’s basement.

“I made my best gains there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you train. The main thing is your mental attitude. You have to devote as much time to the mental side of training as you do the physical. For me, at least, it was a major part of my meet preparation.”

Anello has acknowledged that while it is possible to train alone at times, it is best to have good training partners when leading up to a meet.  His training partners, especially during the prime of his career, were absolutely essential to his success. He also mentioned that they were “completely nuts” back in those days.

Known as “The Wild Bunch" from Black's Health World in Cleveland (basically a “Westside Barbell" of the early 80's), Anello did some of his training along side other greats such as John Black, Danny Wohleber, John Florio, and the first person to ever squat 1000 pounds—Dave Waddington.

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He also wasn’t huge on planning. While he had an idea of his cycles and the type of training he needed to do to reach his particular goals for each meet, Anello said that a lot of it was done by instinct, or how he felt on a particular day. He has stated that he preferred workouts based on singles.

With his deadlift, Anello found success training with partials from the power rack in varying heights from one inch below the knee up to mid-knee. He also pulled from the floor to pins and did isometric holds. He pulled the bar to just below the knee and held for about six seconds against the pin.

He also used partial squats in his training, which he believes also helped with his deadlifts. He deadlifted once per week or every ten days depending on how he felt. And he found that the stronger he got, the more rest he often needed.

power extravaganza Hawaii

At the power extravaganza in Hawaii. Vince Anello, the 198-pound champion, does a heavy squat successfully and has power to spare.

“I had my biggest success with negatives. I would take the bar off the pins in the rack, do a slow negative, and then a regular deadlift on the way up,” Anello recalled. “I did partials with 50 pounds over my last single and did it from one inch below my knee. I would then add another 50 pounds and do a single from the middle of knee.”

That mental toughness is part of what helped him get through a tough situation at the world championships in Finland in 1978. Anello had hurt his back so bad during the squats that warming up for the deadlift with just 400 pounds was a challenge.

During the meet, one of Anello’s competitors got a bit over-confident and flashed a bicep shot to the crowd after a successful lift. But that’s when Anello got serious.

“I asked my coach what I needed to win and he said 815. I had barely made 700 with my opener. But I got myself in this hyper focused state-of-mind. I literally put myself into this trance. I was a little mad because this guy was showboating so I convinced myself that I had to pull the weight. And I did. I was able to do it because I put myself in that place mentally. Few will understand unless you’ve been in that type of situation and have practiced the ability of tuning everything else out.”

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Diet has also been a big part of Anello’s journey. Though he doesn’t recommend it from a health standpoint, Anello spent a lot of time on the Atkins Diet. He said that the low carb aspect of the diet was a positive for him in terms of making weight. But the high fat caused his cholesterol to once skyrocket over 400 points.

He had only even gotten his cholesterol checked because a close friend of his, who was in medical school at the time, suggested it to him. Just in his 20’s then, Anello knew he had to make a change, so he stopped doing Atkins, made different food choices, and adjusted his carb intake based on training.

He also was able to easily cut weight before meets and gain it back quickly. During his career, many of the meets had same-day weigh-ins, so this was no small feat. At one point, Anello’s strategy was to eat a bunch of candy bars the night before a big meet, but not have any fluids whatsoever. The lack of water allowed him to keep his weight down until weigh-ins. And then when he rehydrated afterward, “all that sugar went right to my muscles and I felt myself blow up.”

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These days, Anello doesn’t lift very heavy. He does a lot of cardiovascular work and similar exercises with his clients. But every now and then he gets an opportunity to show off the strength he still has.

He described a situation a few years ago where he encountered a young lifter in a gym he was visiting out of state. Anello was quietly doing some low rep sets in a corner when the young man, who was surrounded by a several female friends, decided to offer some unsolicited advice.

The man, who managed to deadlift 405 one time, told Anello, “you need to lower the weight and pick a number that you can deadlift for ten reps."

Anello told him, “everyone has their own way of training. Please just leave me alone.”

But the man kept bothering him. So Anello went over and lifted the guy’s 405 for ten reps, which resulted in a lot of confused faces and a “who the hell are you?” to which Anello replied, “just some old man.”

It’s been a great career. Anello has broken world records. He was a guest at the White House to meet President Ford (who told him “don’t squeeze too hard,” when shaking his hand). He’s even been scheduled to appear as a guest commentator on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, an appearance he wasn’t able to actually make due to a bit too much wine consumption at the hotel beforehand, celebrating a victory.

Anello also co-wrote a book with Dave Yarnell titled Vince Anello, My Life On And Off The Platform. It summarizes his powerlifting and bodybuilding careers, his methods of training both the mind and body and the thoughts and comments of his friends, fans and training partners, as well as his life outside of strength sports.

Through it all, Anello continues to uphold his values of health, strength, and mental toughness. And those are traits he continues to pass onto his clients every day.

Vince Anello's Best Lifts

Squat in training: 750 pounds for a triple
Squat in competition: 750 pounds
Bench press in training: 500 pounds without a shirt
Bench press in competition: 485 pounds
Deadlift in training: 880 pounds
Deadlift in competition: 821 pounds

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Vince Anello’s 14-Week Deadlift Routine

The following is based on a goal of 650 pounds. The deadlift will be performed once a week, and will start week one with a single of 510 pounds and increase 20 pounds every other week. The unique part of the program is the alternate weeks that are structured to bring the results.

Week 1:
Deadlift – 255x10, 305x5, 405x2, 455x1, 510x1
Partial Deadlift (from knee) – 455x5, 510x3, 560x2

Week 2:
Deadlift – 255x10, 305x5, 355x3, 405x2, 455x1x5. The final group of five singles is performed with only one minute of rest between sets

Week 3:
Deadlift – 275x10, 325x5, 375x3, 425x2, 475x1, 530x1
Partials Deadlift (from knee) – 475x5, 530x3, 580x2

Week 4:
275x10, 324x5, 375x3, 425x2, 475x1x5. Again, one minute timed rest between these five singles.

Week 5:
295x10, 345x5, 395x3, 445x2, 495x1, 550x1
Partial Deadlift (from knee) – 495x5

Week 6:
295x10, 345x5, 395x3, 445x2, 495x1x5. One minute rest between singles

Week 7:
315x10, 365x5, 415x3, 465x2, 570x1
Partial Deadlift (from knee) – 515x5, 570x3, 620x2

Week 8:
315x10, 365x5, 415x3, 465x2, 515x1x5. One minute rest between singles.

Week 9:
335x10, 385x5, 435x3, 485x2, 535x1, 590x1
Partials Deadlift (from knee) – 535x5, 590x3, 640x2

Week 10:
335x10, 385x5, 435x3, 485x2, 535x1x5. One minute rest between singles.

Week 11:
335x10, 405x5, 455x3, 505x2, 555x1, 610x1, 660x1
Deadlift Partials (from knee) – 555x1, 610x1, 660x1

Week 12:
Perform Squat and Deadlift on the same day, dropping the partial squats
Deadlift – 335x10, 405x5, 455x3, 505x2, 555x1x5, One minute rest between singles.

Week 13:
355x10, 405x5, 455x1, 515x1, 555x1, 590x1

Week 14: Meet day
Warmup – 355x10, 405x5, 515x1, 555x1
Opener – 590
Second Attempt – 630
Third Attempt – 650

Partials are discontinued on the 12th week. Combine the deadlift day with the heavy squat day in the 12th and 13th weeks.

The key assistance exercises for the deadlift are the lat pull down and bent over row. Lat work should be done after the deadlift workout and on one additional day per week. The lats are an important muscle group in the deadlift. Anello recommends the principle of one set to failure for each exercise (two second contraction, hold at peak contraction for two seconds, four-second negative each rep).

He also recommends one set to failure of shrugs for the finish of the deadlift. This should be performed along with your lat work and you should be able to get between 8-12 reps before another strict repetition cannot be done. When 12 reps can be performed, raise the weight 10 pounds.

*The one-minute rest between deadlift singles are the most critical aspect of this program.

Images courtesy of Vince Anello


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