I have always had a great back. From the first day I stepped into the gym, I knew I was genetically gifted in this department. Hell, I had a v-taper before I even touched a weight. As a result, I was able to get away with things that most people usually don’t skip out on.
Probably the greatest example is that I never really focused on the deadlift. I had seen lifters who were deadlifting 600lbs for reps who had smaller backs than me. Consequently, I would always think to myself “what’s the point of deadlifting”?
It wasn’t until years later that I would discover how wrong I was. You see, I got pretty damn strong on my pullups and barbell rows, but I eventually plateaued. From 2013-2014, my back remained relatively the same in size. I thought this was due to following a minimalist system, or that I needed more rowing variations. However the issue was something much greater than this.
That is, my deadlift strength sucked ass. A friend of mine was training deadlifts one day and asked me to join him. I thought that because I was strong on horizontal and vertical pulls that my deadlift would be amazing. Boy was I false! I could not do more than 465×5, and if you asked me to do a 1RM, 500lbs was a serious grinder. In other words, my deadlift was borderline intermediate, and compared to my bench press and squat, it was completely disproportionate in all respects. My ego was shot, and I realized at that moment how my deadlift needed to improve. This was not because I wanted a bigger back, but because I was disgusted with my lack of strength in the lift.
For the next several months, I ran a deadlift-specialty program. I dropped squats for the most part, and focused on using several pulling variations, everything from deficit deadlifts, snatch grip rack pulls, block pulls, stiff-legged deadlifts, etc.
With time, as I got stronger in these lifts, something very interested occurred. That is, my back was exploding in size. I could not believe this was happening. Here I was, thinking that I had reached my potential, but now I was seeing new back growth as if I was a brand new lifter again. I was amazed at these new-found gains.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed. People at the gym began commenting that my back looked much thicker and wider. The supporters of my youtube channel said the same thing. That’s when I finally understood how essential deadlifts were for gaining mass in the back.
For this reason, when designing Naturally Enhanced, I made sure to place a high emphasis on the deadlift in addition to its variations. It would be favored far more than the squat. I had witnessed the size gains right before my eyes. All that powerlifters had told me over the years about the deadlift being a terrific mass builder was now confirmed.
So what’s the message of this article? Don’t skip out on your deadlifts. I made that mistake for years and it cost me quality back gains. Of course, I’m not saying you need to become a powerlifter, but you should make an active effort towards improving the strength of your deadlifts. And if you’re scared about getting your ass too big, then you can always do rack pulls or block pulls. Either way, I recommend you incorporate some sort of pulling. It does not have to be the standard deadlift! Any variation (including Romanian) is fine.
As long as you make progress in the long term you should reap the benefits of heavy pulls, especially when combined with heavy rows and pullups.
Until next time,