Think back, actually think way back. Do you remember trying to pick up heavy trees, adults and rocks in the woods? Oh yeah, you would grab a tree that looked impossible to lift, and you would find your inner strength to get the tree off of the ground. After lifting the tree you felt like a freak that should be apart of Ripley's Believe it or not. If you were one of the kids that liked picking up trees and rocks, it shows that you have had the hardcore powerlifting mentality way before the gym and way before you knew what weight lifting was. This mentality of pushing yourself in the woods has stayed with you all of your life and is now being displayed in the gyms up until this day. Maybe you are still using this mentality on the deadlift, but it all started way back as a child, back when you were maxing out in the wilderness.
So then you take this attitude that you learned from the forest into the gym to see how much weight you can deadlift. Unlike the trees, the weights have numbers, so you know what you can lift and what you need to beat for the next time, and then the inevitable happens. One day you set a personal deadlift record and the gym owner comes up to you and says "No deadlifting"! What has just happened? Gyms across the Country say "No deadlifting"! Why? The deadlift is the lift that intimidates members, it's the lift that turns common men into monsters, it's the exercise that makes mankind crazier than a gorilla and it's the lift that smashes the floor so hard that the members feel like an earth quake has just erupted. Oh yeah, the chalk on the bar makes the casual members feel like they have entered a pig pen, giving the recreational crowd no other option but to go back on the couch and get fat again.
You on the other hand are working so hard that you cannot talk after sets are over and you are becoming super strong! What most men fear is the excitement for victory. Deadlifting teaches us that the weak will crumble and that the strong will survive. The deadlift is the lift that separates the strong from the weak and it's the lift that defines hardcore. Thus, even though deadlifting does wonders for us, it's also the least popular of all lifts, but it is also the lift that has the most respect. The deadlift has the most respect because nobody wants to deadlift because deadlifting will wear out your whole body, it's going to blisters your hands, cuts your shins open and drain out the occipital lobe of the brain, so the lifter cannot see anything! It's also the most nerve wrecking and the most thrilling of all lifts because it's the main event in powerlifting. It's like the 4 th quarter in sports, the deadlift is the final test to determine who is victorious in the powerlifting meet.
In addition the deadlift is the lift that can raise someone's confidence over night. Think about it, take the average guy off of the street and put him on the squat and what happens? His form is off, he is uncomfortable and he needs to build a base. Now put the average beginner on the bench and you will be lucky if he can even bench press one fifth of what you do. Now tell this person to deadlift and what happens? They pick up 315lbs out of now where and all of a sudden they want to train. They are now inspired to become stronger in powerlifting and overcome their fears to make it in real life!
When I was a teenager I deadlifted 405 and before that during my earlier days I was constantly picking up 135s and this gave me my first impression of training. These were the days when I finally knew I could become something. And not only was the deadlift the big starter for me, but it's the starter for others because it's the lift that we can use a lot of weight on before all the other exercises. It's also the exercise that teaches you the mentality to get strong. Deadlifting is also the exercise that teaches you how to eat like an animal and train like one. Instantly deadlifting will turn kids into powerhouses very fast.
Now that we are all naturally strong at the deadlift, let's discuss what it takes to become scary strong! Let the games begin!
Tips To Become Better At The Deadlift
1) Strengthen your grip- if you have a weak grip perform grip exercises for counts of 15-20 with power rack grips on barbells and dumbbells.
2) Farmers Walk- Take 2 100 or 150lbs dumbbells (depending on your strength level) and walk around with them! This is also a strongman event.
3) Clamp Work- Buy a pair of clamps and start squeezing them together! Not only will this make your forearms huge, but this will also make you an amazing arm wrestler. Many of us can lift a lot with straps, but we cannot do a lot without them. This means that we need to strengthen our grips.
4) Rack pulls- Rack Pulls are important for the intermediate deadlifter and the advanced deadlifter. These will work on the finish! So let's say you just deadlifted 475lbs and you missed 500 at the lockout. Well rack pulls will allow you to finish that 500lbs deadlift that you were always trying to hit.
In order to perform a rack pull, find where it is that you are weak. Some deadlifters are weak towards the lockout and others are weak at the half way point of the lift. So go into the power/squat rack with the adjustable safety bars and pins and put the pin where your weakness is, or 1 inch below your weak point. Start practicing your pull from the height where you struggle. Use a lower rep range and get ready to pull some massive weights. You should load the 45s and 100s up on the bar when it comes to deadlift rack lockouts.
5) For the bottom half of the Deadlift-
Some deadlifters struggle getting the weight right off of the floor. If this is the case then set the pins to about knee level and lift off the floor to the pins. This will work the bottom phase of the deadlift. The weight you use on these probably won't be as heavy, but as you strengthen the bottom phase of the lift, the weights will increase with time.
6) Rep Ranges- Keep the reps low and keep practicing singles, while resting between sets.
7) Do Shrugs- A strong shrug is very important as well. I recommend barbell shrugs, since the traps definitely play a large role. Go for reps of 5 and train heavy. Remember to raise your shoulders and pause to make the most out of your efforts. This will really help you finish heavier weights when deadlifting.
Other Exercise Options
Another exercise to try is using bands during your dumbbell work. This means hook some bands to the dumbbell and you can either hook them from under a rack, to a dumbbell on the floor or under your foot. You can use mini chains to perform these exercises too. Keep switching things up though, especially as you get to more advanced levels.
Special Deadlift Assistance Exercises
Key stone deadlifts-
The key stone deadlift will develop the posterial chain, which means all of your back muscles. The lift is started by taking a weight out of a rack (the position you do your shrugs). Then push your butt and belly out as you bring the weight down just below your knees and back up to lockout position. Your knees should be slightly bent and you should feel this in your hamstrings and glutes, but not in your lower back.
Pick the bar up, wrap your arms around the bar and hug it close to you and perform a front squat. Then repeat this motion.
For video evidence check out:
And this site-
This is an exercise where you stand on your knees and, put a bar on your upper back, squat down and back on your knees then come up so you are standing on your knees again. Go for 6-10 reps when your strong you can use quite a bit of weight and you will automatically increase your squat and deadlift. See example below:
Put the bar between your legs, with your legs in a split like motion. Put one arm in front of the other and pull the weight up. Like the spider lift, the Jefferson lifts will work your quads. To see a picture check out:
O.K., those are fancy lifts that will train you for the highland games, USAWA games, strongman, powerlifting and sports. Let's take a look at some more common exercises that will increase your deadlift that the magazines normally don't teach which are even more effective.
Position the barbell on the back of shoulders and put your feet together. Now bend down until your torso is parallel to the floor. Then stand up and thrust your hips out hard! Like a pelvis thrust. You should feel it in your hams, lower back and abs. This lift will make you strong!
Power Good Mornings-
These are like regular good mornings, but use a very wide stance. Now lean, don't bend, go down forward slowly and then explode up. Heavy weights can be employed. This is not a quarter-squat. Remember, the bar must be in front of the knees after leaning forward.
Bent Leg Good Mornings-
If your erectors, hamstrings and glutes are weak then place the bar on your back in a squat position and bend over, and explode up.
The squat/ good morning-
Do the good morning where you bend forward until your back is about parallel with the floor then just transcend into the squat position and finish the movement. Repeat.
Good Mornings with Equipment-
You can do good mornings with a bench. This means bend down until your face touches a bench or a box. Only flexible lifters can do these. Also you can add bands and chains on these exercises. Sometimes you want to use equipment and other times you don't. This keeps your body guessing, when the body faces the unknown, it has no other choice but to make answers. Since you have a system that attacks your personal barriers, these answers will transform into progress.
The purpose of box squats is to teach a lifter to sit back instead of down. This means your butt should go back first and you will turn out your knees. After you sit back onto the box while performing a box squat, swing out your hips as if you were doing a good morning to the lockout position. By using techniques such as widening your standing and keep your knees out will highly increase your squat max.
Speed squats and box squats-
Perform 10 sets of 2 reps and squat fast. You should only rest 30-60 seconds between sets. These will make you faster and when you're faster you are more explosive. Normally when lifters train with soviet methods they will do a heavy squat/deadlift day then 72 hours later they will do their dynamic effort squatting day. Always remember to use the same force on all of your speed attempts that you use on your maxing out attempts, or the speed days will lose their effectiveness.
Using Bands And Chains
Here is a brief explanation of how they work. Bands and chains come in different sizes depending how you adjust the tension. If you hook them from the ground then at lockout the weight becomes heavier, as at the bottom phase of the lift the weight stays the same teaching you how to accelerate. If you hook the bands/chains to the top of the rack, they assist you coming out of the hole. "The starting phase of the lift", but the tension diminishes in the upward phase. These teaches you to force the weight down during the negative and how to recoil when you use a squat and deadlifting suit
More Exercises to Help Your Deadlift
The Reverse Hyper machine-
This machine works the muscles in your lower back. This is because the machine can hit your lower back, glutes in a way that other exercises cannot do. You need to order one of these or train at a gym that has them.
Reverse Hyper Extensions-
This works the mid to the lowest part of the back and is better than all other back exercises. This will rotate the sacrum. Also this lift opens the disks and allows spinal fluid to enter. Reverse Hyper Extensions can be performed on a ball, the floor and if you are fortunate enough they can be used on the reverse hyperextension machine. It's basically putting your feet into hooks, while you are on your stomach and you raise your legs up and down.
Get on the hyperextension machine on your stomach. Put your feet between the pads of the machine. Bring your back down and extend up. You can hold weight in your arms to make the exercise harder.
These lifts can also be good rehab exercises for recovery, just like reverse bench presses can be for benching. To work the opposite phase of the lift as well. To perform a reverse bench, get under a smith machine, put a box on the bar, and press yourself up and down for a series of reps.
Glute Ham Raise-
This is the best exercise for the hamstrings. You need a glute ham machine, which is a glute/ham bench. In the start position your back and legs should be straight and then raise the body to the upright position.
You can apply bands and chains on this lift to apply tension!
These lifts will also transform you into the best athlete. All these exercises make all of your muscles work together and that is why they work so much better for strength/athletics than isolation bodybuilding lifts.
Standing Sit Ups-
Go to the machine where you do tricep push downs. Now put the strap around the back of the neck with the two ends held against the chest and look away from the machine. Now keep bending as far as you can and push out the abs. As you get stronger at this exercise your squat and deadlift will rise.
This exercise works the abs and obliques, Lift the barbell from the lift then right side and don't bend to the side. This will stabilize the glutes and build the obliques. Also you can put your hand next to a safety rack for stability support, remember form is vital on this exercise.
Put your feet on a ball, and arch your back high so only your head is touching the floor. Put your hands off the floor and move your feet up and down. You will feel it in your lower back and abs.
High Rep exercises-
Obviously we can't make everyday maximum lifting days and sometimes we need rep days. Some exercises to perform. 1-legged squats on a box for reps (See if you can do 50), most of all do a few sets of 10. Do front squats, zercher squats, jump squats and then take a low pulley cable and put it through your legs while facing away from the machine and keep your legs straight. This will work your lower back. Use very high reps on these exercises. Finally after a hard workout do 3 sets of body weight squats for 75 reps, or 135 for 100 reps, this is more required for the iron man athlete than the 1 rep powerlifter, so this gives them an option as not everyone is striving for maximum weights.
All leg lifts can be good and there are so many types that I'm still waiting to discover some new ones. Well, start with lying leg lifts with your legs bent. Progress to straight leg lifts. The hardest type of leg raise involves lifting your feet up to the bar you are hanging upside down.
Trap Bar deadlift-
This is a diamond shaped bar. Stand between the handles and pull the bar up. If they are high at average one should be able to use 80lbs more than their regular conventional deadlift max.
Plyometrics for Deadlifting
A great way to build leg strength, power, and explosiveness is by doing plyometric jumps. To perform these keep your knees bent in a loaded position. Then explode into the air over the object. As soon as you land regroup and explode back into the air to the other side of the object. Here is a picture of me getting crazy air with explosiveness. You can also do these by jumping high onto a box, depending how high your vertical is. Work on these and you will find that squatting 3x your weight is no longer so hard and that you too can become a professional athlete.
An area of conditioning frequently ignored is flexibility. A proper warm-up followed by a stretch will help to prevent injuries and make you more flexible. Take a partner, have him put your leg in various holds and allow him to apply some pressure. When you are flexible you will become stronger.
Train the deadlift once every 2 weeks- when we squat we are releasing plenty of testosterone the way it is. Also if you deadlift every week, it's going to put a stress on the pecs according to Lou Simmons. The bottom line is if you train the deadlift too often the results will diminish and you will just overtrain. So, training the deadlift once every 2 weeks will work, unless your coach says other wise. There are exceptions to most rules.
Bands, blocks and chains can help- these will help your deadlift, much like they will help your bench. Also powercleans will help.
After a power clean try a front squat!
In order for all of these exercises to work, the lifter has to analyze their weak points and create a program to hit them. Remember to work the bigger muscle groups first and the smaller ones later. I believe that most of the exercises that I have explained should be performed on the days that you are squatting. Obviously shrugs will be your shoulders day. And lastly get in the power rack and work on holds and other exercises on your back day. You will constantly follow through if you have the self-discipline, patience and determination to get better.
The muscles used in the deadlift are the latissimus dorsi, trapezius erector spine, glutes, hamstrings, quads and the psoa hip flexors. The forearms and trunk stabilization also plays a role. Make all of these muscles stronger. Try to work them together and your deadlift will improve as well as following all the tips I provided to you throughout this article.
The mind is important in deadlifting. By using all these techniques to improve weaknesses and having a mind that never sets performance limits than you will be able to accomplish feats of strengths that your mentors never could.
Technique is vital when you deadlift and it is probably the first thing that you should learn. Once you master a base with technique then the bigger numbers will follow. When you deadlift look at the ceiling, pull shoulders behind the bar, keep your chest forward, sit back hard (as if an imaginary stool was behind you) and pull the bar towards you as you come up! Keep the weight close to your shins and in fact the weight should split your shin open and then you know that you are deadlifting right! Also, don't move your arms when you are deadlifting, the arms should just be used only as cable connectors to hold the weight.
Oh yeah, keep the right hand straight and the left hand should be reverse and if conventional style deadlifting doesn't work then go sumo. Sumo deadlifting means that you keep your feet out very wide and hands in close. The lifter needs to experiment with their technique and make adjustments accordingly. Next the details are important so get a journal and a coach to help you out. Lastly, keep that controlled rage mindset (the ultimate mixture of intensity and focus) when you attack the weight. The mindset with a concentrated attitude will work more then lifting without any passion at all.
The DON'TS In Deadlift Form
1. Don't round your back.
2. Do not jerk in the movement
3. Do not tip forward, or move your feet forward.
4. Don't turn your head. Having a sprained neck that can't move is no fun.
5. Don't move your knees inwards or outwards at you lift the weight.
The Other NOs Of Deadlifting
1) Don't wear gloves
2) Don't wear running shoes.
3) Stay away from mirrors.
When you deadlift try to wear flat bottom shoes, to maintain form. If you wear running sneakers you are going to start slipping and get way out of groove. So lift with tennis and basketball shoes. Don't wear gloves, the weight will start to slip, chalk is a much better choice.
Avoid distractions like looking at yourself in the mirror. If you look at yourself in the mirror you have lost your technique, just close your eyes and lift. When you get distracted you automatically lose your groove.
Genetics of a Great Deadlifter
Generally speaking, great benchers make weak deadlifters and vice versa. This is because benchers often have shorter arms as the bar distance travel is much shorter. I think that deadlifters on the other hand need longer arms so they don't have to travel the bar as far. Short legs can also be very beneficial for deadlifting to decrease travel distance. However, at 6'6 Gary Heisey deadlifted 925, therefore the mind is more important than genetics. Regardless, the deadlift is the ultimate battlefield that can teach anyone to become super strong.
It All Started With the Deadlift
Herman Goer, a German deadlifted 727lbs in 1920. In the 1800s Louis Cyr, was one of the specialist of brute strength. In the early 1900s, Matie Sandwina picked up her 160lbs husband with 1 arm and put him over her head.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s they performed feats of strength with the use of a pony. The earliest bodybuilders/strength athletes were discovered well before Christ. They discovered them in Greece and the era of strength turned strength into what bodybuilding, powerlifting and strength sports into what they are today.
Now, imagine living in a period of time before Christ. There is no way that anyone can foresee football and other athletic events that exist as of now. All we can wonder now is what will happen in the future of weight training? Where it will lead and we cannot comprehend it. Who knows what the future will hold, but we can do our best now and the future will carry on our legacy. I believe the deadlift motion of lifting is where it all began... And when the World ends we will always think of the DEADLIFT as the creator of athletic and strength excellence!