A few moons ago, we conversed on the Deadlift. Today, we’re going to arm you with some additional ammo that will aid you on your quest of solving the riddle of Steel. Slight spoiler: Your quest is never ending. There is no one way to get better at the Deadlift. There are only many paths that lay along your quest. It is up to you to traverse the path.
To give you different perspectives, I holla’d at two of my bros. My dudes Tyree Reeves, and Chris Dietz who I interviewed a few articles ago.
Be on the lookout for Tyree’s upcoming interview. He’s an amazing athlete with some incredible athletic adventurers and experiences. As an upcoming Powerlifter, YouTube show co-host, a Rugby Player, boxer, and all around good bro. I’m highly excited as to what he’ll accomplish in the future.
-Tyree “Gorilla Ree” Reeves
“When I started Deadlifting for power, my form was ok but my standards weren’t good enough. I realized when I started training for Powerlifting competitions that I needed to do more than just Deadlift only in orderto get my numbers up. I broke my workouts into two different components, resistance machine and barbell work. With machines, I would work my hamstrings, my quadriceps, my hips, glutes and calves. I need all of those different muscles to generate power for my deadlifts.
Now on the barbell work, I broke that up into two parts; Speed and technique, and power. On my barbell days when I work speed and technique, for the technique portion I focus mainly on form. Making sure my knees don’t lock out before the barbell passes, making sure I’m sitting back and locked in on my heels. And the most important thing for me, pushing my hips in at the top phase. I would also do rack pulls to help with my lock outs which really helped on my power days. On those days I use fairly light weight where my technique turns into the speed.
On POWER days, it is all about using my technique with controlled speed to pull 70-80% of my 1RM ( One Rep Max) for reps of 4-5. I’ve been working legs twice a week – Tuesdays and Fridays for three months in prep for my powerlifting competition. It has worked wonders for me as I can Deadlift 600lbs.
You can follow Tyree on Instagram at @gorillaree
Tyree is also the co host of a brand new Youtube channel Maximal PR. You can check him out at:
I want to tell you I sailed across the icy waters and traveled through the arctic frostbitten tundra, fighting giant frost trolls, and hordes of ogres and monsters to get to my dude, Chris for this Deadlift wisdom you’re about to read.
However, I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
Not counting Assistance Deadlifts, do you ever Deadlift twice a week? If so, how do you manage recovery, fatigue and intensity? Are your other lifts dialed down during that training block?
I pretty much always do deads twice a week. Depending on what block I’m in (Hypertrophy, Strength or Peak) the way I program them varies. During hypertrophy blocks I’ll do a high volume day where it’s my main lift and then a lower volume day where it’s a secondary lift. In this block the intensity is the same on each day, but I manage volume by doing less work sets on the second day. During a strength or peak block, I do one day where deads are the primary lift with a higher intensity and a second day where it again is the secondary lift, but in this block the weight, the sets and the reps are all limited. This helps manage fatigue and recovery while still keeping my movement pattern grooved. I don’t usually dial back my other lifts, unless I’m specifically trying to focus on improving my deadlift.
How often do you do the assistance deads? What is the intensity like? (Reader note: when we mean intensity, we don’t mean your spirits. We mean how heavy/percentage of your One-rep max – 1RM for sets and reps)
I guess it depends on what you consider deadlift assistance? I do some sort of back work almost every training session. Bent Rows, db rows (dumbbell), facepulls, shrugs, lat pulls, something like that. A strong back has direct carryover to a bigger pull (AMEN CHRIS!!!). That stuff aside, I most of my assistance work on the day where the DL is the main lift. I use my competition stance as the main lift ( I pull sumo in competition) then I do things like conventional deads, deficit deads, stiff-leg deads, or RDL’s (Romanian Deadlifts. Don’t worry, I’ll add a video to that in this same article) as a secondary lift before narrowing it down further to get to some low back or hamstring work. Intensity will be highest on the main lift and then slightly less on the secondary. And then as we move further away in specificity from the main lift, it becomes more hypertrophy/pump work.
As of late, though the ultimate answer is a lifetime of showing up to the bar and depositing time and work into the bank of GAINS – what has contributed to your strength in the Deadlift?
Aside from consistency? Identifying my weak areas and hitting them harder is probably the next thing after that. In sumo (sumo deadlift stance), with my comp pull, I noticed that if I could get it off the floor, I could almost certainly lock it out…IF…I could get it off the floor. To address that, I do a lot of deficit work where I’m in a disadvantageous position at the spot. I’ve seen the most carryover for doing these. Deficit sumo and conventional. Deficit stiff-leg, deficit with a snatch grip…all the deficit work.
Ways to strengthen your hams (hamstrings to the reader or, as we say, HOCKS)
I lift in my garage so I don’t have a lot of access to machines, so for me it’s been stiff leg deads, and RDL’s – both regular and singular body work. But Good Mornings, Nordic Curls, leg curl machine…all those will help your deadlift.
Romanian Deadlifts, and Stiff Leg Deadlifts.
As usual Alan Thrall from Untamed Strength presents us with the clearest simplest precise video known to man on the topic.
These are what you would call assistance lifts or accessory lift. Not only are they great in addressing the weak points of your deadlift but even if you have no desire to compete, you can perform these exercises to get stronger and better your physique. If your goal is to add some extra grams to those yams (BARS) then you’d do well to utilize these variations. Note I’m a big fan of doing dumbbell RDL’s for the extra range of motion you get while doing them. Barbell wise, I love doing them with a clean grip because 1) I’m functionally insane and 2) they’re a great assistance lift for the Olympic lifts. How many reps? It depends on the program, but I’m just going to be general here and say 5-10.
Snatch Grip Deadlifts
I’m a big fan of Snatch Grip Deads, and the variants. It’s great for your upper back and also provides some nice quad assistance work. You can also do snatch grip stiff leg deadlifts, and snatch grip rdl’s.
Can you not deadlift that often and still be strong in the deadlift?
I’ve gone months without deadlifting “regularly” before only to jump in and still pull some heavy weight.
Why is that?
It’s because I do a lot of cleans. I’m still heavy pulling from the floor, so the carryover is still there for me.
Does this mean you should only pick one or the other?
No, I prefer to do both. This was just a necessity thing from not having a solid platform, recovery and warm up time. Admittedly, I’m a bit picky especially now since I have access to top notch equipment at Balance Gym. However there was a point where I would rather do cleans…with steel plates on the floor, than deadlift on an awful platform. However, in life, we work with what we have.
How much time do I need Bill? What if I’m short on time?
You’re in luck. Remember the deadlift works a cornucopia of muscles. It’s pretty much a party for almost your whole anatomy. There have been times where I would just deadlift, do some extra core work and go home. Again for weight loss, or aesthetic concerns, it’s not just about sweating, or getting a pump. If that’s how you judge your workouts, then you’re for a rude awakening. Weight loss wise, it’s still about the number one constant – calories in vs calories out. If you said that then congrats you’ve been paying attention.
Enough of that.
While we’re at it, let’s go over some do’s and don’ts.
Do : Use things, like wristwraps, chalk (if you have slippery hands. Note: Chalk isn’t for your grip. It’s for drying your hands. I don’t use chalk anymore as my hands don’t get slippery. A sturdy lifting belt if you’re going for a max pr like I alluded to in part one.
Don’t: Use lifting gloves. Yup, here I go being an elitist. Before I knew better, I wore gloves. I ultimately did because I thought that’s what you do. Long story short I stopped. I’ll get into what all prompted me to stop as they’re funny anecdotes. Plus unless you’re a woman, you look like an idiot wearing gloves. What, are you afraid the bar will bite your hands you cur? There are women, who are amazingly strong who don’t. If you’re a coach or trainer who works with kids (like me) you better not let those young men wear those courage forsaken things.
Man Bill, go to hell, I aint listening to you, young!
Then…be a lowly cur.
Fellas, do you think a woman is going to say, “Sir, while your muscles are jacked and basking in the sun, and you resemble an Ebony skinned Thor Odinson,(or Saxon or Olive skinned for all my non melinated brothers and sisters out there) your hands are a bit too rough. I can not entertain your charismatic and charming advances.” Exactly. Plus you can just file your hands. Plus gloves rob your grip. You’re robbing yourself of your true strength and a strong. Not to mention, again, you look like a cur.
Do: Follow a program that focuses on some type of system.
Don’t: Max out every time you’re in the gym. This behavior is something I’d expect from ego possessed uninitiated adolescents. However it’s not limited to them. You want to follow some type of system, preferably a program. If not, then definitely some type of tracking system, even if it’s 5lbs more than before or an additional rep or set. There’s an adage that says, “you’re there to build strength not demonstrate it.” Like earlier, think of it as dollar cost averaging. You’re building upon your investment little by little consistently over time. You do it by constant sub maximal work. This doesn’t mean you never go to maximal ever. I myself am a big fan of daily training maxes. You’re not going to lift 100% of your 1RM every time. Your CNS wouldn’t allow it.
Do: Seek knowledge in the terms of solid coaches
Don’t: Assume you know everything.
Always, always, always try to learn. Even as I wrote this, I sought info from other lifting bros? Not only does it provide excellent input for you the reader, but there’s always something to learn.
Do: Deadlift regularly
Dont: Skip out regularly because it’s hard
Goes without saying.
On Straps: Bill I’ve seen people wear lifting straps. Should I?
If you want to. Does the program call for that? Yeah? Then ok. Are you already strong? Then yeah. If you’re not already strong and you’re a beginner, then no I suggest you not use them.
Young People (Kids) and Deadlifting
The same thing that I do for adults, I do for kids. I’m just extra vigilant on form as their bodies are still developing. I think you should account a little bit more for fatigue, so you probably wouldn’t push it as hard on the youth. The main thing with them is form. Notice I didn’t say…they shouldn’t. We’re not raising young curs, we’re raising young warriors here.
Can older people deadlift too?
Yes. I used to train an older (I don’t want to call her old) lady who was 70 plus, doing heavy kettlebell deadlifts. I’d also have her do copious amounts of Burpees in case you were going to cry to me or your trainer about why exercise is “so hard.” I can also remember the amazement on my dude Thomas’s face at LA Fitness, when I told him that he though wasn’t athletically inclined had just deadlifted over two hundred pounds. While 200 is a cakewalk for many of us, at 60 plus after years of not being in shape, you manage do that over a few months, that’s a big deal. What I want to let you know is that everyone can deadlift. Even you, you cur.
What’s worked best for me.
Everything. However I will say, do a lot of warm up and mobility work before you do heavy deads. In my personal experience, when you haven’t warmed up enough, performance is compromised. Me, my middle back gets tight, so I stretch a lot and foam roll. I may sometimes do things like hyper-extensions , or anything involving a hip hinge or extension to prepare. I’ll also do a few more warm up sets. I believe, the stronger you get the more warm up sets you’ll need.
Programming wise, I’ve had great results with daily maxes. While following The Mash Blueprint, by Mash Performance Elite, I pulled 550 for 1 rep. It’s an awesome program, and I use the same methods often to train clients. To reiterate though, everything works. What you read from me is ultimately years of heavy pulling.
Some old Deficit Deadlift vid
Bonus: Teaching the movement
If you’re without bumper plates, I suggest doing partial deadlifts, which will basically be akin to RDL’s as doing them without 135 lbs in steel plates is going to be awkward on the trainee. In a gym with steel plates only, deadlifts officially start with 135. You can also do kettlebell deadlifts to get folks primed for eventually using the barbell. However Barbell deads are a correctional exercise in themselves imo. If the person’s posture is far from great, then the kettebells may be more suitable until they’re ready. I’ll leave that up to you.
If you’re still a beginner, I highly suggest you find a coach as they will give you the push you need. I still remember that working out with Shad, how effortlessly I pulled 455 from the ground, in a matter of just weeks after lifting with him.
And just because I think it’s a great resource, I’m going to again suggest you pick up Tim Henrique’s “All about powerlifting.”
I’m going to end right here, as I can most likey add more info for another day, and I think the fellas did a great job.
Until the next time.
Bill Walker is a Certified Personal Trainer through NASM. The National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s also a Youth Strength Coach with DCPS, a Trainer with Black Girls Lift, A Trainer and fitness instructor at Balance Gym in Washington,DC and a strength scribe for this legendary webiste CITLR. If you would like to ask him a question or schedule a session, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org