Tips and Routines for Monstrous Pulling Power
When it comes to developing functional strength and awesome pulling power (the type of power required to do real work), the deadlift stands above all others for measuring that strength. But rarely do you see lifters and bodybuilders performing the type of routines that build the deadlift. Why? Many powerlifters find the deadlift the hardest of the three lifts, so they focus instead on their benches and squats. And bodybuilders don't think that the lift has much to offer them, so they stay away from the routines that work their lower backs and hips and focus more on the "showy" muscles of the back: the lats.
Another problem that many trainees who are not physically built to deadlift have is that when they start training it hard, they find that their deadlift actually starts to regress. And why train it when it's going to go down, not up. Right?
Well, it's time to change all of the above things. In this article, we'll unlock all of the keys to building that big deadlift. Then, I'll outline a routine that incorporates these tips. Use it as planned and there's no reason that you can't have a bigger, stronger and more powerful back. One that's even stronger than it looks.
Tips For a Monster Deadlift
There's a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to boosting this lift, and most of it revolves around the fact that trainees in America still use a bodybuilding-style routine, one that revolves around multiple sets and reps and the repetitions are often performed in the same speed cadence (i.e.- 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down). Unfortunately, this type of training does little to promote speed strength (explosive power) or maximal strength. Don't worry, though, all of these problems (and more) can be corrected with the appropriate routine. Let's look at these tips for designing our routine.
Make It Dynamic
When you hear someone talk about dynamic work, they're referring to speed—or explosive—training. You build speed strength through numerous sets of low reps with a fairly light work load—50 to 60% of the trainees one rep max seems to work the best. If you use a weight lighter than this, the load isn't heavy enough. If your load starts to hover around 70%, then the weight doesn't move fast enough to increase power output significantly (unless you are strictly incorporating singles).
Dynamic work is very important for the deadlift, probably more so than any other lift. Why? It's very easy to overtrain the movement pattern on the deadlift when you constantly use heavy weights.
The best exercises to use for building speed strength on the deadlift are, of course, the deadlift and the full squat performed with a wide stance to stress the glutes, hips, and hamstring muscles to the fullest.
The best set and rep range for speed training seems to be between 8 to 12 sets of 2 to 3 reps. Each set should only take a second and a half to two seconds to perform. No longer than it takes you to max out on a heavy deadlift.
Train Heavy Or Go Home
If you want to make gains of any kind in strength training, then you absolutely have to train heavy. If you're not willing to abide by the "train heavy" principle then you might as well pack it up and head for the house, because you'll never be strong.
When I say heavy, I mean heavy. Heavy sets of five reps should be about as light as you go on your core exercise for your heavy day. Sets of 3s, doubles, and, yes, singles should also be common place.
The reason most lifters don't get the results they expect out of ultra-heavy training, however, is that they perform the same exercise for the same amount of sets and reps all the time. If, at every workout, you perform 3 sets of 3 reps on regular deadlifts then you will never see great results, no matter how recovered you are or how much protein you are eating every day. The trick to not hitting a plateau with your heavy training is to change up the sets and reps when using the same exercise or to change up exercises when using the same sets and reps. Which brings us to our next tip...
Variety Is The Spice Of Training
In the countries of the former Soviet Empire, primarily Russia and the Ukraine (the two countries that absolutely dominate world competition in powerlifting), they threw out old-style progressive resistance training a long time ago. Why? Because no matter how good they ate or how much "assistance" they received through pharmaceuticals they could only add so much weight to the bar for so long. Their "secret", of course, was variety (and lots of it). Sometimes they would change exercises, although it was usually just a variation of a classical lift, and a lot of times they would simply change the loading parameters of their exercises (i.e.- their sets and repetitions).
Remember this: the more advanced you are, the more variety you need. While a beginner can get away with using the same routine for a couple of months and obtain good results, the intermediate needs more variety, and the advanced athlete needs even a greater level of change. As a rule of thumb, make at least some type of change to your routine once every three weeks.
12 Weeks To Resurrecting A Stale Deadlift
Vince Gironda once said, "are you on a training program or are you working out," and the great powerlifting coach Louie Simmons wrote, "no attitude is "working out" and a killer attitude is "training"- a big difference." In other words, have a specific plan of attack when you hit the gym. If you work out in a haphazard manner, you will receive haphazard results. With this in mind, I want you to faithfully adhere to the below training program for resurrecting your stagnant deadlift. Do it and I guarantee that you will receive great results. Thirty to fifty pounds on the deadlift would not be uncommon—and those of you who are built for deadlifting will probably get a lot more out of it.
This is a 12-week program that involves two phases. Perform phase 1 for six of the twelve weeks, though not consecutively, and the same for phase 2. In other words, perform phase 1 during weeks 1-3 and weeks 7-9 and perform phase 2 during weeks 4-6 and weeks 10-12.
Here it is.
Phase 1 (weeks 1-3 and weeks 7-9)
This phase is comprised of two workouts to be performed in a single week. One is a "light" day where the emphasis is on speed and hypertrophy and the second workout is a "heavy" day that focuses on absolute strength and maximum power. You perform the first workout, wait three days and then perform the heavy session. So you would train on, say, Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday, or so forth.
-Speed Deadlifts- 6 to 8 sets of 2 reps. Select a weight that's approximately 50% of your one rep maximum. Perform the reps as fast and explosively as possible. After the first rep, let the weight pause on the floor for a couple of seconds before performing the next repetition. Rest no more than one minute between sets.
-Seated Good Mornings- 3 sets of 12 reps. Sit down on a flat bench with a barbell across your upper back. Bend forward until your forehead touches the bench.
-Close Grip Chins- 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
-Hyperextensions supersetted with Reverse Crunches- 3 sets of 20 reps. Supersetting these two exercise should create quite a burning sensation in your lower back and abdominals. Supersetting exercises helps to raise your work capacity, creating a more capable and "in-shape" lifter.
-Wide Stance Squats, Rack Pulls, Sumo Deadlifts, Deadlifts Off Blocks, or Good Mornings- 5 to 6 sets of 1 repetition. Work up over 4 to 5 progressively heavier singles until you reach 1 to 2 sets of maximum single attempts. In other words, the last set or two should be an all out max at a weight that you have never tried before. Rotate exercises at each workout.
-Barbell Shrugs- 3 sets of 8 reps.
-Box Squats- 2 sets of 8 reps. Utilizing a box that is set below parallel, squat down and sit on the box. Relax your hip muscles for a brief moment before trying to explode back to lockout. This exercise is very good for building explosive power at the start of your deadlift.
-Hanging Leg Raises- 3 sets of 20 reps. Take very little rest in between each set and concentrate on getting a good "burn" in your abs.
Phase 2 (weeks 4-6 and weeks 10-12)
For this phase, we're going to decrease the frequency of training and increase the volume at each session, performing just one workout-per-week for the deadlift. This is a trick I stole from the Bulgarians, who used to train at a very high-intensity for three weeks, followed by three weeks of less-intense workouts.
Here's the workout for phase two:
-Deadlifts- 3 sets of 7, 5, or 3 reps. Perform these in conventional style. On weeks 4 and 10 perform sets of 7, weeks 5 and 11 perform sets of 5 and weeks 6 and 12 utilize sets of triples.
-Box Squats- 8 sets of 3 reps. These are to be performed in an explosive manner, with 50% of your one-rep maximum in the conventional squat
-Stiff-Legged Deadlifts supersetted with Pause Squats- 3 sets of 6 reps. These two exercises will put the ache in your hamstrings, hips, and lower back. Use a heavy weight on all three supersets that allows you to barely get 6 repetitions. On the pause squats, make sure that you squat "ass to the floor" by utilizing a narrow stance to really stress the lower back at the bottom and pause for a count of 2.
-Bulgarian Squats- 2 sets of 5 reps (each leg). As a finisher, it's hard to beat this exercise. Put a heavy pair of dumbbells in each hand. With your back foot elevated on a box or bench, squat down until the dumbbells touch the floor.
-Reverse Crunches- 3 sets of 20 reps. Once you're through with these, the workout's over and it's time to head to the house.
Summing It Up
There you have it: a fantastic routine for the next twelve weeks that's sure to knock that stale deadlift from its grave. Give it a try and you should be pleasantly surprised at the results it will bring.