Deadlift Companion

This weeks blog is another companion blog; coupling with yesterdays Podcast which Nick and myself did on the Deadlift. This is our third companion blog coming after the Squat, and the Press; you boys who want to know the secret to a great Bench will have to wait a couple more weeks.



Why Deadlift?

So why was the Deadlift podcast before the Bench Press podcast? Because while the Bench is a great exercise the Deadlift works more muscle than anything other than the Squat; and it might even be a better strength developer than the Squat. It’s great for enhancing the performance of many sports, and it’s really cool to do. And, as Nick pointed out the Deadlift can even be performed in a poor gym; if your gym doesn’t have a power rack then you can’t Squat – but you can Deadlift.


Deadlift Continuum

Before you get excited and start to Deadlift you have to ask if you’re able to, AND be safe in doing so; unfortunately for many of you that answer will be NO! If you can’t maintain a lumbar arch while pulling from the floor then you shouldn’t Deadlift just yet. So that you have the right image in your mind think of Donald Duck, he has the right posture for Deadlifting, whereas the poor old Pink Panther doesn’t!


What a Great Arch!


The Panther needs some muscle but needs to do some Rack Pulls first


If you’re more like the Pink Panther than Donald Duck then you need to Rack Pull, which is a partial Deadlift performed in a power rack. Partial Deadlifts can also be done by positioning a loaded barbell on blocks if a rack isn’t available.


When performing the Rack Pull start at a height where you can keep a lumbar arch (Donald Duck) and then gradually lower the staring position over time. At this stage let me say that for many people the Rack Pull will be enough; it will develop excellent levels of muscle mass and strength, and for many who are stiff and / or old it really does the same as a Deadlift without the unnecessary risk. Although I think Deadlifts are a cool lift they’re not for everyone.


If you train at a really well equipped gym they might have a Gerard Trap Bar, which is  a hexagonal bar which you stand in the middle of; because of this the lifter doesn’t have to manoeuvre the bar around their knees. I find this especially helpful to the ladies who train at Darkside, women tend to have longer femurs (thigh bones) than men thus have a greater issue going around the knees; they tell me that having scabby knees isn’t a good look for a lady!


Once you have mastered a low Rack Pull, or the Trap Bar Deadlift then you’re ready for the Deadlift, whether it be conventional (feet close-ish together) or Nick favourite, the Sumo Deadlift.


Coaching the Deadlift

As always we start with the set position; this means being in the best possible position to begin the lift; with the Deadlift that means having a huge belly full of air and a nice arch in your lower back.

From here push the floor away and as soon as you feel the bar break from the floor pull your head back. As you lock out bring your hips through (erect body) and have the head upright, or even slightly forwards with your chin on your chest. Lower the bar under control back to the platform / floor; especially if competing.


Variations of the Deadlift

There are many variations of the Deadlift including but not limited to;

  • Good Mornings; including many different bars and variations
  • Deadlifts from a Deficit – several variations
  • Rack Pulls or Pulls from Blocks
  • Use of Accommodating Resistance (Bands and Chains)
  • Romanian Deadlifts
  • Conventional or Sumo; if you usually pull conventional then Sumo Deadlifts are great to do as a general strength builder once in a while

And combinations of the above

Remember when using a variation, your choice of movement should be either something to make your strength even better, or to improve a weakness, don’t worry too much about those things your average at.

Bob Peoples, Deadlift World Record holder in the 50s shows his physical advantages


What to Aim For

It is unlikely that you’re built for the Deadlift quite like Bob Peoples (above), look at how long his arms are, AND look how he accentuates this natural gift by stretching the depression or the shoulder girdle in order to minimise the distance he has to lift the bar.

Off the top of my head (checking on wikipedia is cheating;) ) I seem to recall that Peoples Deadlifted around 340-350kg at around 90kg bodyweight, and this was (probably) pre-steroids. Good for old Bob you say; but what can I expect? Well Dear Reader I would say that a man is no longer a beginner when he passes 120-140kg, intermediate is 140-180kg, 180-220kg is varying degrees of good; 220-260kg is very good, and over 260kg is elite. For the ladies take around 50-60% of these numbers. Strangely enough bodyweight doesn’t have as much of an effect on Deadlift performance as with the Squat or Bench Press. This is a lift the lighter trainees can often excel at.

You want more information? Then listen to the damn Podcast; if you have any questions after that then please leave a comment on the show notes.

Happy Pulling, and Be Mighty:)