I had not deadlifted in several weeks. At the CrossFit classes I’ve been to lately, the luck of the draw has had me doing squats, bench presses, kettlebell cleans, or doubleunders as the skill, and I’ve missed any deadlift sessions they’ve had.
Today my deadlift workout was uncharacteristically light and high-volume, with a lot of back-off sets. Back-off sets — lighter sets following the heavy one — are also uncharacteristic — usually I work up to one really heavy set of five, anywhere between 205 and 220 pounds, and stop.
Today, 185 pounds felt heavy enough, and adding volume by working my way back “down a ladder” in weight felt really good. I don’t believe this workout will make me stronger in a measurable way — but I do feel, physically and mentally, that it gave my nervous system the work it needed to stay engaged with the daily, unconscious skill of maintaining a straight back supported by strong hip muscles that are “awake.”
“Awake” is a nonscientific, vague, vernacular word that probably has no anatomical or physical accuracy. But I think anyone who’s ever exercised can relate to and understand the feeling of muscles waking up and of skills (nervous system) being refreshed through activity. Maybe that feeling of “awake muscles” is the feeling of putting the brakes on whatever imperceptible atrophy may have been happening.
Strength is a skill that is both practiced and trained. Nervous system (brain, spinal cord and all the rest) learn how to do things and how to recruit the muscles that are needed. This enables the muscles to do work and get bigger and stronger for better leverage.
I feel great after this deadlift workout even if it isn’t moving me directly towards a personal record lift. I set a personal record last August and might train for another one in 2018. If I do, the deadlift workouts will look a lot different than today’s.