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The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic
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StrikeBack Offline
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The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic

As promised in a recent post, this thread will be a place where I post tips on deadlift - the setup, the lift itself, programming and related assistant exercises. Also, feel free to ask any questions about the deadlift.

Note: this isn't about whether the deadlift is a good exercise or not, although I might mention some of that in the context of novice training, or people who play other sports.

Background info

I'm a competing powerlifter who's been in the sports for 4.5 years, and been lifting in general for about 6 years. I also coach at my club, mostly working with intermediate to advanced lifters. As I compete myself, due to time limitation, I usually don't write their programs (except for a few) but offer technique coaching and tips instead. Currently I happen to be fixing a lot of people's deadlifts, which inspires me to write some of those down.

The deadlift is special to me. When I first started lifting, I heard from a coach I trusted that newbies shouldn't be deadlifting, but should build general strength from a variety of exercises. While I did a kind of linear progression on other lifts, I didn't get to deadlift until much later (9 months into lifting), and my first pull was 120kg at 80kg bodyweight. On the same day, I saw a big ripped guy (on drugs, as he kept telling us all what he used) barely pull 180kg (4 plates) with straps, and thought that if I ever pulled that much in my life, I'd be a happy man. That Christmas, I saw a video of a 63kg pretty girl pulling 140kg (3 plates), so I loaded the bar up with 140kg, gave it a good go and barely got the lift. I started adding the deadlift to my training, but only about once a month as a demonstration of strength. Around 6 months later, I pulled 185kg, more than big ripped gym bro, and started powerlifting soon after.

I made some decent progress at first in powerlifting, and about a year later, at the end of a lifting cycle, I was pulling 185kg for 3x5. Unfortunately, my technique was horrible (didn't see it at the time) and the coach I had couldn't care less, so I ended up pushing myself way too far in that last set that I should've skipped... Long story short, I injured the right side of my back and hips, and the injury was so weird (nerve related) that many sport doctors couldn't fix it completely. For the next 2.5 years, I could not train normally. One day I'd feel very strong and squat & deadlift well, the next I might fail to lift 2 or 3 plates. At my worst, I even fell over with an empty bar.

To make matters worse, I'm built rather poorly for the deadlift. I have a weak low back, long-ish femurs and short arms (this will feature heavily in my technique tips). I looked horrible doing conventional deadlift and barely managed to look not so retarded in sumo. However, I had a few advantages. I was a very good dancer before I started powerlifting, thus I have good hips and I'm well above average when it comes to learning movements.

Instead of quitting the sports, I spent the down time reading as much as I could about the deadlift, both conventional and sumo techniques, and all related training. I bought books and DVDs from the best deadlifters I know: Ed Coan, Brad Gillingham, Mike Tuscherer, Andy Bolton etc. I watched video after video of the top technicians like Beylaev, Pozdeev, Tuscherer etc. I observed, in person, the best deadlifters in training and competition, asked them questions and tried to see the good things they do naturally that they themselves can't explain. I spent my time training the deadlift without a normal program or progression, because nobody would write one for an injured guy, but as a sport skill akin to a punch in boxing, or a kick in football. I lost count of how many sets of doubles and triples I did between 140-150kg, because that's all I could lift while maintaining a half decent form. While that might seem good to some, at a powerlifting club, that's pretty weak.

Through my learning, I've amassed a huge amount of tips and principles to a solid deadlift, some rather unconventional in the Anglosphere world as they originate from other parts of the world. I got lots of looks and jokes when I first applied some of those tips in training. Months went by, and slowly, the little practice sessions started to bear fruits. Every 3 months or so (i.e a powerlifting cycle), my deadlift would go up by 5-10kg, not much to get noticed at first, but the small, consistent gains added up quickly. Today I have a 3xBW conventional deadlift and 3.3xBW sumo deadlift at ~160lb (close to 73kg) bodyweight, my techniques look a world of difference to past ones and my leverage suddenly looks fine.

If you come here expecting to see a "definitive deadlift setup" summary article or a tip that will magically add a big poundage to your deadlift next week, I'm afraid you're in the wrong place. Firstly, I've never learned, nor known any powerlifter who does learn, how to deadlift from a single video or article. Like a fundamental sport movement, it takes lots of learning and practice to master. Secondly, nobody has the brain power to think about all of those little things at the same time while performing a set.

Each of these tips typically will take between 3-6 weeks to practice and become part of your setup or lift. Most people I've mentioned them to (I'm always about sharing knowledge) don't have the patience to learn them, as they want results NOW, but 3-6 weeks later, they're still at the exact same place they were, while the ones who do practice have already made some small progress. As I mentioned above, if you make a modest 5-10kg (10-20lb) gain every 3 months, a couple of years later (do the maths), you might just be the strongest guy at your gym, drug-free.

Consider this the intro post... I'll write more tomorrow and later this week when I have time. Meanwhile, if you have any burning question, ask away.

StrikeBack's Wife School
04-13-2015 09:36 AM
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The "Do You Even Deadlift" Clinic - StrikeBack - 04-13-2015 09:36 AM

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