There might not be a more powerful or more primal exercise than the deadlift.
Aside from the squat and the bench press, guys probably ask you how much you can pull on a raw deadlift more than any other lift.
In my opinion, a well-balanced athlete should always have the essential strength to pull heavy and pull quickly. This means having a complete deadlift program that allows for anyone with any physique to benefit from the strength and power developed through deadlift workouts.
Understandably, the deadlift is one of the most simple exercises to perform – yet in order to master it, you must understand the complex nuances of movement cues and positioning.
Deadlifting is not as simple as lifting a heavy bar off the ground.
Deadlifting is about movement efficiency. The athletes who have a powerful posterior chain and understand the importance of bar position will always be able to deadlift heavier than the biggest guys who have poor form.
Think about the biggest deadlifts you have seen in the gym. Lots of times it’s not by the big guys. There’s always that one guy that’s deadlifting 2x his bodyweight and is making it look easy.
A complete deadlifting program with an even better understanding of mechanics and position.
If you are trying to break plateaus and boost your deadlift than its time you take it seriously and start learning about proper deadlift workout principles.
Fundamentals of Deadlifting
The first step to any good deadlifter (even before a deadlift workout) is to understand the mechanics involved in a deadlift.
Form = Function
The form in a deadlift is rather simple. Your goal should always be to put the point of emphasis on training the biggest muscles in the body.
You want your hamstrings, glutes and lats to do most of the work – these will help you to handle the weight without running into injury.
Poor form in the deadlift means a high onset of injury and a nightmare for overload and progressions.
When it comes to deadlifting heavy, form will always equal function.
Movement Cues Are Essential
Far too many people get overexcited about lifting heavy that they forget about the most important movement cues in a deadlift.
Here are a couple movement cues that can help boost your deadlift:
1. Hip Extension
At the end of the day, lifting heavy is about getting the bar from the ground to your hip – that’s it. This is why I always try to tell people not to stand up, but rather to think about getting their hips into extension. This will help to turn on the glutes and save your back from excessive pulling.
2. Neutral Neck
Maintaining a neutral neck is essential. Far too many people look up as the deadlift which can help you lift heavy for a one-rep max, but over the course of many months of training, this is a sure-fire way to injure yourself.
3. Hand Position
Your goal in a deadlift is to lift through the shortest possible range of motion. When you have your hands as close to your body as possible (just outside the hips) you will save yourself inches everytime you lift.
A closer hand-grip also makes it easier to lock in a good hook grip – which could help you to lift heavier without the need for straps.
Here is a good video explanation on a hook-grip.
4. Bar Position
The bar should start over your midfoot – not on your shin. This is because you want to keep the bar weight as close to your body as possible – but you also want to ensure you are engaging the hamstring right from the start.
To do this you should keep the bar over your mid-foot and dorsiflex your shin into the bar. This will allow you to press through your feet evenly and pull faster.
Simple Principles to Increase Deadlift
The last step before you get into our simple deadlift program is to ensure you have a basic understanding of principles of training – this way you can make your own changes or progressions as you see fit.
This training principle states that if you want to get better at the deadlift you need to deadlift more often.
There is no sense is squatting 3x a week when you are trying to improve your deadlift. Keep your program specific to your actual goals.
The deadlift is an exercise that will work best when you place a consistent amount of overload on the muscle. With that said I do not think this exercise would be best trained at a high volume.
Since this is an exercise that is generally trained in a lower-rep scheme with higher weight there is no need to train with a high volume. Keep your training frequency to 2-3x per week at a maximum.
Deadlifting is an exercise that requires some big muscles to work together. Big muscles take much longer time to recover than smaller muscles. They require more fuel (calories) to recover and might even need soft tissue treatment in order to ensure you are limiting injury.
For this reason, I would recommend that you use at least 36 hours between deadlifting sessions as total recovery.
Sample Deadlift Program (3 Week Cycle)
Now that you have an understanding of the basic principles surrounding deadlift training here is a sample deadlift program.
|WEEK 1 – WORKOUT 1|
|WEEK 1 – WORKOUT 2|
|WEEK 2 – WORKOUT 1|
|WEEK 2 – WORKOUT 2|
|Low-Bar Back Squat||5||5||3110||3m|
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 1|
|Seated Good Morning||8||3||2111||3m|
|WEEK 3 – WORKOUT 2|
|RDL with Shrug||6||3||3110||4m|
Bottom Line: Mentality and Persistence Will Always Prevail
There is one last piece of advice I want to leave you with – deadlifting is a game of persistence.
Progress will come slowly. The lifting will challenge everything about you. Your entire physiology must be perfect – your movement cues perfect and your form on point.
This will take time.
Do not get frustrated and start lifting for ego – this is an easy way to get injured.
The guys you see deadlifting heavy have been doing this for years and have perfected their crafts. Take your time to make sure your training is sound, your recovery on point, your hormone levels balanced and your dietary intake is perfect.
Be persistent, challenge yourself and remember to allow your body enough time for rest. The strength game is all about time – there is no need to constantly overload the muscle and pray your body will recover in time for the next session.