If you’re reading this article, you want to learn how to hit a new PR in the deadlift. Congrats on having a clear goal! So, how can this be done? The good news is: improving your max deadlift is really simple, basic stuff – eat good, train regularly, and let your body recover and grow. The bad news: you’ll need to lift hard and heavy, no excuses! Take the following tips and run to the gym, and we promise you’ll come back a new man.
Most lifters which fail to up their deadlift numbers are guilty either of undertraining or overtraining. If you’re only deadlifting once every few weeks, you shouldn’t expect to see significant progress. Of course that training other lifts will help improve your deadlift, but the best way to do this is still by performing more deadlifts, period.
On the other hand, if you’re deadlifting a few times a week, remind yourself that less is more and the most sustainable gains are the slow ones. You can’t get the results you want if you don’t allow your body to fully recover from each training session. In the long run, pushing yourself too hard and too desperately will only lead to overtraining and increased risk of injury. So you need to take a step back and try a different approach. Luckily, we have the perfect step-by-step strategy for maximizing your deadlifting power.
The rules for a big deadlift
Since deadlifts are very taxing and stress the same muscles used during other heavy back movements, you will train the deadlift only once per week and you’ll do it few days after your heavy squats. If you want to make it in this game, you need to take great care of your back while at the same time providing it with enough stimuli for hypertrophy, and training with the optimal frequency is crucial for this. Also, you’ll take every fourth week off from deadlifting to ensure proper recovery. On every off-week, you’ll shift your focus to the lower back musculature and train it with 10-20-rep sets of good mornings, weighted back raises and pull-throughs. After sixteen weeks, you should experience 20-50-pound increase in 1RM.
The approach is fairly simple: train hard and heavy, then go home to rest and grow. No fancy techniques, special sets and magic tricks. That’s the truly great thing about compounds: it’s all about good old hard work. The only things you need to focus on above everything else is a smartly planned weight progression, proper form and recovery. It probably goes without saying that you will also need to make sure to warm up thoroughly before doing the workouts.
By now, it’s probably worth outlining some of the most important form tips for deadlifting, because perfecting your form is the fastest way to increase your deadlift max. By improving your body mechanics, you’ll be able to increase the efficiency of the pull and deadlift heavier weights, thus making greater muscle gains. Therefore, when deadlifting, don’t forget to:
- Create tension through your entire body before even reaching for the bar
- Squeeze the glutes as hard as possible before the lift
- Grip the bar hard (if necessary, do some grip work before beginning this program)
- Keep the bar close to your body on the way up
- Drive the hips forward as the bar gets past your knees
- As the bar comes to your mid-thighs, lock your hips and knees
- Keep your lower back neutral all throughout the lift
- Return the weight to the floor by moving your hips back and bending your legs
In order to make the best use of this program, you need to start with an accurate 1RM. This is easier said than done, as most lifters tend to overestimate or underestimate their max, thus making progress extremely difficult. Therefore, make sure to find your true 1RM before beginning this program, and avoid recalculating it afterward.
The 16 week Deadlift Program
Here’s how your week-to-week weight progression should look like:
WEEK 1: 5 sets x 5 reps with 70% 1RM
WEEK 2: 5 sets x 3 reps with 75% 1RM
WEEK 3: 5 sets x 1 rep with 80% 1RM
WEEK 4: Lower back work in the 10-20 rep range
WEEK 5: 5 sets x 5 reps with 75% 1RM
WEEK 6: 5 sets x 3 reps with 80% 1RM
WEEK 7: 5 sets x 1 rep with 85% 1RM
WEEK 8: Lower back work in the 10-20 rep range
WEEK 9: 4 sets x 5 reps with 80% 1RM
WEEK 10: 4 sets x 3 reps with 85% 1RM
WEEK 11: 4 sets x 1 rep with 90% 1RM
WEEK 12: Lower back work in the 10-20 rep range
WEEK 13: 3 sets x 5 reps with 85% 1RM
WEEK 14: 3 sets x 3 reps with 90% 1RM
WEEK 15: 3 sets x 1 rep with 95% 1RM
WEEK 16: Total off-week, no deadlifting or back work at all
WEEK 17: Time to retest your max and get surprised!