by 1st Phorm Athlete Nick Weite May 08, 2012 4 min read
As a powerlifter I take a lot of pride in being proficient in all three lifts (squat, bench & deadlift). However, if I had to pick only one lift I like the most and really feel is my best lift it would have to be the pull. The biggest question I usually get from people is how to improve their deadlift because it’s an easy lift to plateau on. Included in this blog is a list of tips I think will give you some ideas to think about implementing in order to add some serious weight to the bar.
Technique – To me this is the biggest key to increasing your deadlift. In a previous blog I talked exclusively on the proper way to deadlift – (Click here to read that blog). This is one lift where being off even one inch can be the difference between the weights flying up from the ground or the weight feeling like it has magnets stuck to the bottom. Sometimes you have to put your ego aside and spend several months working on perfecting your form in order to lift the heavier weights later on. Feel free to go back and read my previous blog on technique for some help.
Set Goals – In any program, especially one where strength is the main focus, one should have a set goal you’re trying to accomplish by the end. Don’t try to hit a max single deadlift every time you do the exercise as it really taxes your body. I suggest trying a max lift no more than every five to six weeks. Your routine should be either adding smaller weight increments every week with the same rep scheme or lowering your reps with heavier weight added. At the end of your program see if your goals are met and then adjust accordingly.
Warm up Properly – This is the biggest mistake I see the most people doing. When you’re warming up for a single max attempt or just your work sets, don’t waste energy working up to either. Use the warm up for exactly that, not to waste your strength. I see several people start light and do ten or more reps for several sets to warm up. I see this as energy wasted as this lift is so taxing you want to warm up only to where your body is firing correctly, then jump to your work sets. My work sets start at over 500 pounds so I will start with 135 and do five reps, I then add a plate to each side and stick to two or three reps until I reach my work sets. If you are “over” warming up on this lift you are shorting yourself on your work sets.
Think Speed – After you have your technique down, now is the time to work on speed. After gripping the bar and getting yourself into position, you should try to pull as fast as you can off the floor. This starts in your warm up, especially with lighter weights. Really over exaggerate the speed on your warm up sets as it will transfer over and teach your body to pull fast on the heavier weights as well. Now of course it won’t feel like you are pulling as fast with the heavier weights but trust me, it’s helping.
Assistance Exercises – There are several muscles that work in unison in order to pull big and I am a big believer that if you have one weak link, it will show up in your lift. You might have the world’s strongest back, but if the rest of your core or hamstrings aren’t up to par, you won’t be able to show how strong that back is. There are several assistance exercises I feel are extremely influential to building a stronger deadlift. These include reverse hypers, good mornings, glute ham raises and heavy ab work. Besides the ab work, you probably won’t see anyone doing these exercises in any commercial gym. Heck, they might not even have these pieces of equipment in order to do them. If you throw them in your workouts though, you will build a great posterior chain in order to pull big.
Variations of the Deadlift – I usually deadlift once a week and then throw a variation of the lift in at the end of my week. These include deficit deadlifts, sumo deadlifts and rack pulls. If you are having trouble with speed from the floor, try standing on 3 to 5 inches of a rubber mat while deadlifting. This will increase your distance needed to pull and will really work the bottom of the lift. The opposite of this is the rack pull. If you find yourself having trouble locking the weight at the top, stand inside of a power rack with pins right below your knees and use this as your starting position. This really places the focus on the top end of the lift. Make sure to look out for an upcoming video blog on how to properly execute and use these variations to help your weak points.
Nutrition & Supplementation – In order to build your strength in any lift you need to be sure you’re properly supplying your body with what it needs. If you’re taxing your body but not putting anything back in it, no matter how hard you workout you’re not going to get stronger. Make sure you’re getting enough quality nutrition and to supplement your diet with a high quality protein in order to make strength gains.