Intermediate Deadlifting

If you are like a lot of meatheads, you probably got into lifting because it is awesome, fun, empowering, exhausting, and all the other reasons that make strength training rewarding. But chances are, you could use a helping hand to elevate your game to the next level. In this video, I go over the warmup and accessory split that I pair with the deadlift. I don’t comment too much on form, because the fact is, there are quite a few different deadlift styles, and you are probably already locked into one. I use a “hard” lifting style similar to Andy Bolton, but even among conventional lifters there are many different styles, from Ed Coan’s “squat deadlift” to Andy Bolton’s “goodmorning deadlift”. So tips and cues for my style probably wouldn’t work for you (hint: one more reason to hire a coach).

There are three parts to a successful, strong deadlift. These three parts are programming, warming up, and the lift itself. It didn’t make it into this video because of time constraints, but programming is an essential part of any powerlifting motion. When I speak of programming for the deadlift I am referring to training your body how to function in a maximally coordinated effort. The deadlift may seem like a very basic lift (and it is), but it is NOT a motion that “comes naturally”. Hell, it took you two years to learn how to walk, so expect to spend some time teaching your body how to lift north of 500 lbs. Three programming methods:

  1. Hip hinge practice. This is not a weightlift at all, but trains your body how to coordinate the posterior chain in your deadlift. See here for more info.
  2. No-weight motion. This is where you perform a deadlift with no weight on the bar to program your coordination. The problem with this is that when you are deadlifting for weight, you will add an explosive movement to your lift. If you try to explode with no weight, you will tear a tendon. That means you have to have a smooth tempo when performing these. The problem is that this actually works against your CNS training. For this reason, I only use light-weight deadlifts to feel out how all the little tiny muscles and tendons and bones are feeling before going heavy.
  3. CNS training. To really get strong, you need to program your body to lift explosively. This can be done with CAT or bands training, as well as banded hip thrusts and Russian kettlebell swings.

For warmups, the key is to elevate body temperature and get your important muscle groups activated (see here for a guide on warming up in general). I use the following three movements to warmup for Deadlift:

  1. Treadmill. Get the blood pumping! You don’t want to be winded, but you do want to break a sweat. Walk, then jog, then walk, auto-regulating until you feel warm. 15 minutes is usually good.
  2. Banded crab-walk. In the video, you can see how to criss-cross a regular band and perform these; alternatively, you can buy a specialty band designed to go around your legs.
  3. Russian kettlebell swings. These are different from American style, as you begin the motion by hiking the ball through your legs like a football, then using a hip hinge to thrust the weight upward. There is no effort from the upper back to get the kettlebell swinging.

For the lift itself, start out around 50% 1RM. If you are working up to heavy singles or triples, try not to do too many reps. Get your warmup in prior to the lift itself, and minimize warmup sets. Try to be as explosive as possible. Visualization works very well for me; I imagine that I am a god, raising the mountains by literally ripping them up out of the plain. Whatever works for you.

Give these tips a try; elevate your game; lift strong.