Grinders Versus Non-grinders In Strength Training
You ever heard the expression, in lifting circles, “It was a real grinder?” This usually refers to a deadlift and it is when someone tries a very heavy lift, presumably a 1RM or thereabouts, and he really struggles with the load and completes the lift very slowly with a lot of hitches and adjustment, etc. So a grinder means a painstakingly difficult and slow lift that does not go from the floor to the waist in one easy shot. You will probably see a lot of fits, jiggles, and other manner of evidence that the lifter is at his absolute force output.
So why are some lifters grinders and some not? Have you been confused by this? Maybe you’ve read that it is about RFD or something and that a grinder is a slow lifter while his non-grinder counterparts are faster lifters.
Nah. That’s, shall we say, hokum, if I may use Sheldonian. It does have to do with how you train, but not as much to do with speed training as you may have read.
Even Failed Lifts Can be Grinders
The confusion stems from how we use the word. We use the term grinder to refer to a hard, slow lift that was ultimately successful. If we have a hard slow lift that is not successful, we call it a fail. Well, the fail may have been a grinder as well, no? So what is the difference between a grinder that succeeds and a grinder that fails? You could imagine a great many complicated things but perhaps the main thing is your ability to sustain force output. Think about your maximal force in two ways. There is the most force you can muster, and there is how long you can keep it up! So, when you see a lifter who is a true grinder what you are seeing is a lifter who can sustain maximum force for a very long time. I’ve seen deadlifts that last seven seconds or more! That is a very long time to put out a maximum or near-maximum force.
Therefore, the next time you say, “Man, that was a good PR lift, but it was slow,” give yourself a flogging. You’ve just criticized someone for putting everything on the table and getting a new PR. Now, obviously, if every single time you pull the bar, it’s a grind, you have a problem. I don’t have to tell you the obvious, do I? I know that I do not. I am referring to maximum or very near-maximum lifts.
If you fail at a grinder, you may be able to blame it on a lot of things, such as loss of focus or some such thing, but what happened is you were not able to sustain the very high force output for a long enough period of time, and through the various joint angles, to get the bar up.
Who can lift more between a grinder and another guy? The grinder! Why? He can sustain force output for longer! No, no, a “fast” lifter has nothing to do with maximum lifting. No matter how “fast” you are in terms of RFD, the longer you can keep pulling at your utmost, the more weight you will ultimately be able to lift. Sure there are sticking points and all that but this doesn’t change the fact that a slow lift is about sustained force output over a longer period. You want to learn to do this, then you simply have to do it. That means you have to train yourself to keep pulling that bar even when it seems glued in place and that you have to train your body to be able to tolerate this.
There is No Such Thing as Non-Grinder In Strength Training
There are those very successful lifters that never seem to be grinders. But they are. You see, there is no such thing as a non-grinder. There are simply those who can lock out a grinder and those who can’t. Show me a mega-strong deadlifter who never does a grinder and I’ll show you Samson if he learns to lock out a grinder. I’m kidding. The difference may not be all that significant, and I may be insulting some people here, I know, who would like to feel that they are a fast versus a slow lifter. I’m sorry, but you’ve been sold a bill of goods. If you never lock out a very slow difficult lift, it only really proves that you can’t lock out a very slow difficult lift. That’s OKAY! You don’t need to be able to do that to be successful. However, you really should try to do it, because that effort and struggle against a seemingly unmovable bar can really pay off down the line.