Diet and Nutrition

The Forgotten Lift – The Deadlift

One of the greatest feats of strength that I have ever witnessed was at the 2006 World Powerlifting Congress World Championships / WPO Semi-Finals in Lake George, New York, when Andy Bolton became the first man ever to deadlift 1000lbs.

Why was this a monumental moment in powerlifting?

In comparison to the bench press and the squat the advancements in equipment have affected the lift very little and so many consider it the only lift that gives a true reflection on who the strongest man alive is.

Unfortunately, because the equipment does not give the massive carry over that a bench shirt or a squat suit can give many lifters have been discouraged over the years and the deadlift has become absent in many training programs.

Why should I train the deadlift?

Despite the deadlift being the very last lift of the day it could be considered the most important lift as often a big pull could make the difference between who walks away with the gold and who goes home empty handed. And although many lifters claim to have seen great results by not training their deadlift the truth is every lifter I have spoke to who has pulled 800, 900, 1000 lbs trains the deadlift on a regular basis.

How frequent do I need to deadlift?

As I said before every big time puller I have spoken to trains the deadlift on a regular basis and if we look back at the other great pullers of all time you will find that many of them pulled two, three, even four times a week. This doesn’t mean that you need to go into the gym and max out in the deadlift this many times a week, but it does mean that you should be taking the time to practice your set-up and movement execution as well as train your weak areas. You can do this through a variety of variations here are some that you can incorporate into your workouts:

  • Reverse Band Pulls
  • Deficit Pulls
  • Rack Pulls.
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts
  • Snatch Grip Pulls
  • Deadlift against bands/chains

What about squatting?

Squatting is an essential part of the puzzle when it comes to increasing your deadlift. The exercises I have seen the most benefits from over the years are:

  • Box Squats
  • Front Squats
  • Zercher Squats

I like to cycle these three exercises from week to week and use them as my max effort movements.

So what should I be doing for my supplemental work?

Another thing you will notice that all the big pullers have in common is an absolutely huge mid/upper back.

Now granted a lot of this comes from years of heavy pulling but there are a numbers of movements you can incorporate into your workouts that will help pack on the mass:

  • Face Pulls
  • Kettle bell or Dumbbell Snatches
  • Chin Ups / Pull-ups
  • Barbell / Dumbbell Rows  

You’ll also want to incorporate some form of hamstring and glute work. My favorite two exercises are the glute ham raise and the reverse hyper but if you do not have access to either of those then pick two from the following list to use:

  • Nordic hamstring curls
  • Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swings
  • Banded Leg Curls
  • Glute Bridges

How do I put this all together and create a program?

I like to use the Westside template and have a dynamic effort day and a max effort day using the variations I mentioned early. Here is an example 12-week deadlift program for you to use:

12-week deadlift program

Week 1:

DE Day:

4” Deficit Pulls 8 sets of 1 rep w/ 50% of your 1 rep max

Barbell rows 2 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 2 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 8

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 8

Pulldown Abs 2 sets of 10

ME Day:

Front Squats work up to a 5 rep max

Snatch Grip Deadlifts 3 sets of 5 reps (heavy)

Pull-ups 2 sets of 6 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 6

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 6

Side Bends 2 sets of 10

Week 2:

DE Day:

4” Deficit Pulls 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 55%

Barbell rows 2 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 2 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 2 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Box Squats work up to a 5 rep max

SLDL 3 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 2 sets of 8 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 8 reps

Side Bends 2 sets of 10 reps

Week 3:

DE Day:

4” Deficit Pulls 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 60% 6 sets of 1 rep

Barbell rows 2 sets of 10 reps

KB Snatches 2 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 10 reps

Pulldown Abs 3 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Zercher Squats work up to a 5 rep max

Rack Pulls 3 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 2 sets of 10 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 10 reps

Side Bends 3 sets of 10 reps

Week 4:

DE Day: Deload day no pulling

Barbell rows 2 sets of 10 reps

KB Snatches 2 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 10 reps

Pulldown Abs 3 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Reverse band deadlift work up to a 5 rep max

Pull-ups 3 sets of 6 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 6 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 6 reps

Side Bends 3 sets of 10 reps

Week 5:

DE Day:

Pulls against mini bands 8 sets of 1 rep w/ 50% of your 1 rep max

Barbell rows 3 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 3 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 4 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Front Squats work up to a 3 rep max

Snatch Grip Deadlifts 4 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 3 sets of 8 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 8 reps

Side Bends 4 sets of 10 reps

Week 6:

DE Day:

Pulls against mini bands 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 55%

Barbell rows 3 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 3 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 4 sets of 8 reps

ME Day:

Box Squats work up to a 3 rep max

SLDL 4 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 3 sets of 10 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 10 reps

Side Bends 4 sets of 10 reps

Week 7:

DE Day:

Pulls against mini bands 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 60% 6 sets of 1 rep

Barbell rows 3 sets of 10 reps

KB Snatches 3 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 10 reps

Pulldown Abs 5 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Zercher Squats work up to a 3 rep max

Rack Pulls 4 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 4 sets of 6 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 4 sets of 6 reps

Reverse Hyper 4 sets of 6 reps

Side Bends 5 sets of 10 reps

Week 8:

DE Day: Deload day no pulling

Barbell rows 3 sets of 10 reps

KB Snatches 3 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise 3 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 3 sets of 10 reps

Pulldown Abs 5 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Reverse band deadlift work up to a 3 rep max

Pull-ups 4 sets of 8 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 4 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 4 sets of 8 reps

Side Bends 5 sets of 10 reps

Week 9:

DE Day:

Pulls against chains 8 sets of 1 rep w/ 50% of your 1 rep max

Barbell rows 4 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 4 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 4 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 4 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 6 sets of 8 reps

ME Day:

Front Squats work up to a 1 rep max

Snatch Grip Deadlifts 5 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 4 sets of 10 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 4 sets of 10 reps

Reverse Hyper 4 sets of 10 reps

Side Bends 6 sets of 10 reps

Week 10:

DE Day:

Pulls against chains 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 55%

Barbell rows 4 sets of 8 reps

KB Snatches 4 sets of 8 reps

Glute Ham Raise 4 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 4 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 6 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Box Squats work up to a 1 rep max

SLDL 5 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 2 sets of 6 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 6 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 6 reps

Side Bends 6 sets of 10 reps

Week 11:

DE Day:

Pulls against chains 6 sets of 1 rep w/ 60% 6 sets of 1 rep

Barbell rows 2 sets of 10 reps

KB Snatches 2 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 8 reps

Pulldown Abs 6 sets of 10 reps

ME Day:

Zercher Squats work up to a 1 rep max

Rack Pulls 5 sets of 5 reps

Pull-ups 2 sets of 8 reps (If needed use a band to assist)

Glute Ham Raise 2 sets of 8 reps

Reverse Hyper 2 sets of 8 reps

Side Bends 6 sets of 10 reps

Week 12:

DE Day: REST

ME Day:

Deadlift work up to a new 1 rep max

Now you may have noticed that I did not list any grip training in this article. The reason is that I do very little direct grip training using tools like the rolling thunder or captains of crush. If you struggle with your grip try using a double overhand grip, switch out the regular bar for a fat bar, or use an outstretched finger position to really tax your fingers.

Hopefully you have taken something away from this article and are ready to hit the gym to develop that monstrous deadlift!

Written by AJ Roberts

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – The Forgotten Lift – The Deadlift discussion thread.