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Lifting Big, Staying Small

December 2, 2011 04:35 PM

MelissaKlundby article
In November of 2009 I watched 94 pounder, Jessica Okimra, from Hawaii, deadlift three times her bodyweight at the World Association of Bench Pressers and Deadlifters (WABDL) Championship in Reno Nevada. Watching her and the other lifters that day inspired me to pursue the competition deadlift as an outward expression of strength. Since 2010 I have competed in several WABDL deadlift events, and several American Powerlifting Association (APA) full power events.
Why do I compete? There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t. I am a girl. I am a mother of two small children. I am closer to forty than twenty. My gym, it’s my garage, and right now in November it is freezing in there, literally. I am an insulin dependent, Type 1 diabetic. However, every day I strive to accomplish more. I am small but I can do many things.
My recent training "cycle" toward my own goal of accomplishing a three times bodyweight pull culminated at the 2011 WABDL World Championships. At this meet I was able to record a 352.3 pound pull at a bodyweight of 127 lbs.
How I got there was through a background of principles my husband and training partner and I compiled from Pavel’s Beyond Bodybuilding, Power to the People Professional and Marty Gallagher’s excellent book, Purposeful Primitive. We also implemented some invaluable training advice I received some from World Record holder and power lifting hall of famer, Jody Woods.
Based upon my goal of staying small but lifting big, all of my deadlift training is low volume; specifically I almost never pull anything over a single. This includes my warm up pulls. I began all of my deadlift sessions with a single 225 lbs pull, my second pull is typically 275 lbs and my third is within 20 lbs of my working weight for the session. My goal during a Deadlift meet is to jump at least 25 lbs between my 1st and 2nd pull, so I find that it is important to train that way from the beginning.
I begin a training cycle with a number that is 20% of my personal best. Entering into this cycle my highest lift was 330 lbs raw. I therefore started approximately 3 months prior to my meet with a first week training weight of 265 lbs. I dead lifted two times a week with a minimum of two days rest between each session. During each session I got to my working weight quickly and did 6 total pulls at that weight, varying stance at each pulls. So for example I would pull first with a narrow conventional stance. My second pull would be a wider conventional stance and so on. I always included a super wide sumo pull, and a pull in the "frog style" of Hideaki Inaba. Included varied stances allows for the development of a large range of muscles used in the deadlift and keeps your central nervous system progressing.
The second portion of my training included rack pulls. Rack pulls are a great exercise for numerous reasons; I perform these as part of my deadlift training to primarily:
a) Train my central nervous system to withstand intense weight loads.
b) Develop a stronger back.
c) Assure that my grip will never be the point of power leakage affecting my deadlifts. If I can hold 500 lbs in my grip for 5 to 10 seconds I will never have to worry about holding any of my deadlift attempts.
To perform a rack pull you set your safety bars in a squat wrack to the desired pin height, load on a lot of weight; take a conventional stance as close to the bar as you can handle, grip the bar, keep your shoulders down, arms straight, back flat, inhale, tense and push the floor away from you! Hold the bar for 5 to 10 seconds and then put it down on the pins under control, regain your wits and repeat.
I incorporated rack pulls as my second deadlift session biweekly, moving up in weight and down in pins each session. This translated to a training schedule that looked like:
Week 1, deadlift Wednesday and Saturday
Week 2, deadlift Wednesday and rack pull Saturday
Week 3, deadlift Wednesday and Saturday
Week 4, deadlift Wednesday and rack pull Saturday, etc………
Four to five weeks out from a meet, I hit a new raw max, stop my conventional deadlifts and the rack pulls, incorporated deadlifts to the knees and practiced 1 to 2 pulls a session with my deadlift suit on. This was my first meet lifting suited but I still lift with no wraps and no belt and my raw lift in training is within10 lbs of my best suited lift.
So why lift big? Because when I strive to gain what I should not be able to hold, I feel free… When I am able to apply single-minded concentration, and make gains that should be physically impossible, I find that to be strong despite all of my limitations, despite all of the excuses I could use to justify my failures, allows me to consistently move toward a meaning that is more than my excuses.

Melissa Klundby, RKC, and her husband Tom Klundby, RKC, live and train in Plumas County, California. They offer private kettlebell lessons and both enjoy deadlifting. Melissa holds the 132 lb World Record for the Deadlift in both the Open and Submaster Class in the APA and several California State records in the squat. She was the Women’s Overall World Champion at the 2011 APA Worlds event and the 2011 World Champion for the 132 lb weight class, Open and Submaster in the WABDL and was the overall best female lifter in the Submaster class. Melissa and Tom can be reached at