By Paul Leonard
I am writing this article as a way to thank the legendary masters age powerlifter Bruce Greig. For those lifters who are unfamiliar with Bruce and his accomplishments, I will start by telling you that this former professional ice hockey enforcer turned powerlifter has officially deadlifted 800 lbs on 100 plus occasions in a meet, with an official best of over 880 lbs. These were Kazmaier approved style deadlifts- conventional stance only. Despite Bruce’s deadlifting prowess, his most remarkable characteristic is his willingness to help out a fellow lifter. My deadlift had stagnated at a slow 622 approximately 4 months before an upcoming APF Senior Nationals, but by using Bruce’s program I was able to pull 750 at the Seniors for the highest pull in my weight class-only 107 days on the program. I owe this lift to the teaching of Louie Simmons as well as Bruce Greig, who provided me with a peaking program that I want to share with my fellow strength athletes.
Monday: Max effort lower body/heavy deadlifts. Bruce would position a barbell with the plates on a 10” block and pull a max single from that position for two weeks, lowering the block 1 “ every two weeks, until a week before the meet the weights were on the floor. Every 3rd week, Bruce would pull a deadlift with the plates on the floor on a jump stretch deadlift platform working up to a single with 600 lb bar weight against blue bands that provided 250 lbs of band tension at the top. Bruce would begin this workout against the bands with 225 bar weight and the bands for 3 to 5 reps. He would add 90lbs to the bar weight and drop a rep, until he was at 600lbs for a single. Over the course of the deadlift cycle, Bruce would add 10 lbs to his top banded single-so he would end up pulling 660 bar weight for a single with 250lbs of band tension before the contest. Bruce said he would add these band singles in after pulling with the weights on the boards for a max, but if that is too much, you can consider the band week as a deload week. I have done it both ways with success.
For assistance work Bruce would do platform hack deadlifts or behind the back deadlifts with his feet on a 2” board. Bruce began this exercise with 365lbs and he added ten pounds per week to his working weight up until the meet. Bruce attributes his incredible hip speed to this exercise. If Bruce felt he needed a change of pace he would do an extra wide sumo deadlift with a front grip and 600lbs for a triple. As Louie Simmons has said, for some the opposite stance deadlift will boost their competition style pull. Bruce believes the sumo is no different from the conventional in that you need to initiate leg drive, your hips must go back from the bar, sit back into the lift and the bar will counter the feeling of falling back.
Friday: Speed deadlifts. Bruce implemented a 4 week cycle where he would do 8 doubles in his competition stance deadlift with very short rest periods between sets, lifting every rep with compensatory acceleration. Bruce would begin his sets with 545 lbs and add 22 lbs to his speed sets per week ending with 605 lbs on the bar during week 4, then waving the weights back to 545 for week 5 to begin the cycle over. For you non-percentage readers, Bruce was using between 60 and 66 percent of his maximum deadlift for these speed sets. Bruce does not change these weights over the course of the entire training year, instead his focus is on manhandling these pulls and completing all 8 sets within 6 to 8 minutes.
Speed day assistance work: Bruce alternated his assistance work on speed day with one week doing good mornings and the next week doing heavy weighted back raises for sets of 3 to 5 reps. Bruce would try to build these weights up progressively until the contest. Bruce described to me that he would begin the good mornings with 315 lbs and would add 50 lbs per set until he achieved 500 lbs for 12 reps. Bruce said his best before a meet was 705 for 5 reps!
Modifications: A way I have found effective to modify this routine is to substitute lightened band deadlifts in place of the max pull with the plates on a box. I had great success with this simple 3 week cycle: Week 1, the bar suspended in jump stretch bands 5’6” off the ground pull a max single deadlift with the bar suspended in the blue (heavy) jump stretch bands; week 2 match that pull with the bar suspended in the green (medium) jump stretch bands; week 3 deload by pulling against bands on the jump stretch platform. I used crisscrossed green bands. Repeat the cycle on week 4.
Bruce and I did not discuss ab work, but rest assured you need a strong gut to pull big so do not neglect heavy direct ab work such as weighted leg raises or decline sit-ups.
Tragically Bruce died in a car wreck in May of 2008, but his legacy and strength will live forever.
Paul Putting it to work