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No Bull When it Comes to deadlifting

The deadlift is whats up in the world of powerlifting. It seals the deal after a big squat and bench press and can make (or break) the total you set out to obtain. On top of this, the deadlift is a total body exercise that is extremely demanding on the central nervous system and, it just so happens that the forefathers of powerlifting decided to put it last in what was already a really long day. Because of these reasons, the deadlift has to be perfected and thoroughly strengthened by means of a well devised program and forceful execution. This article is for the full meet lifter who pulls with a conventional stance. It starts with preparation, and ends with an outline of a hardcore training program that brought my pull from 425 at 380lbs to 685 at 325lbs. 

Deadlift Conditioning

Conditioning is an often overlooked aspect of powerlifting. In specifically speaking about the deadlift, stamina and intensity are essential to completing the goals you have set for yourself. You will improve your conditioning by adding some good old fashioned heart rate training throughout your training cycle. I made tremendous improvements in meet energy levels, training recovery time, and overall physical appearance by doing thirty minutes of power walking three times a week. These three days fell on the days where I would not touch a weight and was completely out of the gym. Also, from time to time, shortening the rest periods between sets and, raising the overall reps in a set made a big difference. This improves blood circulation, which improves the overall nutrient circulation that occurs in your body. It???s important to remember that you are not a marathon runner, but you still athlete.

Deadlift Technique

Like the squat and bench press, the deadlift has to be perfected in terms of technique. However, the deadlift is arguably the least technical of the three powerlifts. Simply stated, people expend too much energy thinking, and not enough pulling. You hear high hips, flat back, feet angle, stretch reflex, and so on and so forth. My deadlift really took off when I dedicated a day to pulling, and just pulled. The method I advocate is running up to the bar, taking a deep breath, gripping the bar, dipping down, and ripping it up to lock out. It may not be picture perfect, but it gets me the three white lights. I only know how my deadlift looks when I see a video, or a fellow lifter comments on it. No one can teach you how to deadlift, they can only teach you the basics which are: Assuming a stance about shoulder width, arching the back, taking a deep breath, squatting down, gripping the bar, drive through your heels, and use every muscle possible to get to lockout.

Muscles Used Deadlifting

For the conventional puller, he or she needs an extremely strong back, hamstrings, and glutes. On top of this, he or she also needs to be extremely fast off the floor and know when to activate the glutes. Some exercises I like to use to train these regions are good mornings, stiff legged deadlifts, dumbbell swings or pull throughs, barbell rows, and leg curls. They should be worked with higher rep and higher volume and then lower rep with lower volume. Again, these are very basic exercises that can be varied many different ways.

Deadlift Attempt Picking

Pick your attempts like you make your increments in training. Some people will be higher and some people will be lower. However, when speaking in terms of the deadlift, I suggest a really light opener for a few reasons. First off, you never know how your body is going to react so late in the day, so opening light will surely let you stay in the meet. Secondly, if your attempt flies up like it is an empty bar, its going to raise your confidence for the remainder of the event. Last, but not least, opening lighter than expected can really get inside the head of your competition. 

Deadlift Training

The deadlift has to be trained heavy and fast. I like to put it in the beginning of the week so I have recovery time for my squat workout, which usually falls three days later. Every third week is the actual deadlift, while weeks one and two are special exercises dedicated to strengthening the muscles used. It is planned so it will not interfere with your squat and bench dedications. If you are going to do a push-pull meet, or pull only, then you definitely can raise the intensity of the workouts. It is a 12 week cycle to be done 13 weeks away from a meet. The first three are a conditioning phase that will get you ready for the training to come.

1. Conventional Pulls: 3x5 Do these heavy with a form you believe your comfortable with. Do not bounce the weight off the floor after every rep.

2. Conventional Pulls: 3x5 Add on 10-20lbs from last week to make it a personal record.

3. Close Stance Good Mornings: 3 sets of 3-5 reps

By now, you should have a form that you are comfortable with. Remember to ask yourself if you are generating enough speed and strength from the floor before you pick. This will be the stance you have for the remainder of the training cycle, and it will be altered very little.

4. Pin Suspended Good Mornings: Work up to a 1-3 Rep Max

5. Close Stance Good Mornings: Work up to a 3-5 Rep Max, then one all out set of 20

6. Conventional Pulls: 6 singles, starting at 75 percent of your one rep max. Work up to 85 percent. Use excellent form, and work on generating speed. This is where the slight fine tuning comes in. When you are done with this, do a 3x3 with a heavy weight.

7. Pin Suspended Good Mornings: Work up to a 1 Rep Max

8. Low Box Squats with a Close Stance: Work up to a 1 Rep Max

9. Conventional Pulls: 8 singles starting with 75 percent of your one rep max. Work up to 90 percent. Follow up with a 3x3.

10. Close Stance Good Mornings: Work up to a 3 Rep Max

11: Take dead lift opener. 

12. High Volume Assistance Work

13. Rest - Saturday or Sunday is meet day. Work up to 50lbs under your opening weight in the warm up room.

Assistance work: After each workout, do 1 exercise for the posterior chain with an emphasis on the lower back, 1 exercise for the lats (particularly barbell and one arm dumbbell rows), 1 weighted exercise for the abbs, and one exercise for the biceps. I like to work in sets of 3-5 with anywhere between 6-15 reps. Weeks 11-12, wind down the assistance work a little. And, remember, take assistance work seriously. It will develop strength and hypertrophy if concentrated upon. Another thing that can not be over looked is the importance of a proper warm up and a good stretching session after the workout.

Also, lets take a minute to discuss the almighty good morning. For them to work, you can not do them with half effort. For pin suspended good mornings, make sure the bar starts at the belly button or slightly below. For the close stance good mornings, you can not be afraid to go heavy. My personal best is 500lbs for 5 reps with a slightly round back. You don???t have to round, but you must get your back flat. (Note, if possible, use a cambered or buffalo bar when doing closes stance good mornings, and suspend the bar on chains instead of pins.)

Again, this plan is very general. I am available for personal workout programs through Please, send me any feed back and comments or questions.

Pull big, live big,

Mike Pelosi 

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