Deadlifts are one of the most primal movements one can do in the gym. The very act of bending down, and picking a weight situated at shin high up until standing erect is as a basic movement as you will find.
The deadlift is often considered the king of all weight training exercises. It will stimulate virtually every muscle group in the body, resulting in adaptations unparalleled.
Executed properly and you will find the results from this exercise unmatched. The truth of the matter is, however, that deadlifts are seldom performed properly, leaving results on the table for most trainees. But thats a story for another article.
The deadlift can be used to stimulate strength, muscle growth, strength endurance and fat loss.
Some of our favorite protocols are as follows
Deadlift workout for strength
6 sets of 3 reps, lifting speed of explosive up, 5 seconds down. Rest 4 minutes between sets. Strive to achieve 8 sets of three before increasing the weight by 5% for the next workout
Deadlift workout for muscle growth
5 Sets of 3 reps standing on a 15 cm box, lifting speed explosive up, with 3x 3 second pauses on the way down. Rest 3 minutes between sets. Start at maximum weight for the first set, and drop 2% every set. Strive to increase the average weight each session by 2%
Deadlift workout for Fat loss
Rack Deadlifts at slightly below knee level, 8 sets of 8 reps, explosive up, 4 seconds down. Rest 45 seconds between sets. Reduce the weight every set to ensure you get the required reps. Stop the workout if you must reduce by over 20% of the original weight.
How To Fix A Deadlift Plateau
Now what if you have been deadlifting, but can’t seem to get any stronger? I’ll let you in on a few trade secrets. The more complex the exercise, the more elements that go into creating a good performance. The deadlift is complex in the way that it requires a large amount of muscle groups to synergistically lift the weight. If one of these is lagging, it will prohibit optimal strength gains.
Now ask yourself, when the going gets hard, where does your deadlift stall?
Deadlift Stalls off the Floor
If you have trouble starting the lift from a dead stop from the ground, but it rockets up once past mid shin, you may have weak quadriceps. A good option for this is to neglect the deadlift for a while in favour of squatting options. Trap bar deadlifts can work well, too.
Deadlift Stalls around the Shin/knee
If the bar seems to stall at high shin/knee level, weak hamstrings may be the culprit. This is most common. The best exercises to help build these are 45 degree back extensions and good mornings. Want to know another secret? The weight you can use in the 45 degree back extension (held out in front on a bar), for 6 good, solid reps, with appropriate lifting speed, should represent one third of your maximum deadlift.
Deadlift Stalls Near Lockout
Finishing the deadlift, can sometimes feel like the most difficult part, but usually occurs from poor body position before reaching that point (rounded back). With good technique, locking the deadlift out can be troublesome if the trainee has weak glutes. The best exercises to rectify this are the cable pull through and reverse hyper extension.
All these exercises should be performed twice a week. I prefer to split the work on these assistance exercises into two phases, the first to promote growth in the region, the second to promote the recruitment of extra muscle fibres.
Example if deadlift stalls at lockout
45 degree back extension 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions
Good morning 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
Good morning 6 x 6 repetitions
Now what if your back rounds when deadlift?
At an extreme maximum attempt, your back invariably will. However, if it rounds on sets of 10-12 repetitions, you need to lighten the weight and concentrate on keeping tighter technique.
In the meantime, you can work on strengthening your spinal erectors by using paused flat back extensions. To perform these, come up, pause for 4-6 seconds, come down slow, then come up again. You can opt to hold a dumbbell or plate across the chest, or hold a barbell at arms length with your shoulder blades retracted. Perform these for 4-6 sets of 6-8 repetitions.
Training the deadlift, and its application to sport performance, will be covered extensively during our two day seminar for athletes and coaches “Training the explosive athlete” dates to be announced soon!