How you can get the most out of your deadlifts: Conventional vs Sumo

There are a vast number of resistance training exercises in existence. However, there are few that compare to the might of the deadlift.

Consider the vast demands that the deadlift places on the body, a large transformation can be expected, providing training is consistent.

Although there is potential for positive changes, many lifters struggle with deadlift technique and also find it difficult to add more weight to the bar.

This article will break down the techniques of the conventional and sumo deadlift. It will also provide detail on how to get stronger with your deadlift and outline three valuable deadlift training programs.

Deadlift Muscles Worked

The deadlift works a vast number of muscles throughout the body. This section will highlight the primary muscles that are worked during the deadlift:

Hamstrings

The hamstrings contract to flex the knee and extend the hip. Therefore, considering the movements involved in the deadlift, the hamstrings are highly activated.

Glutes

Along with the hamstrings, the glutes powerfully contract to extend the hips. They also help to stabilize the knee.

Lats

The big wing-like muscles found in your back are known as the latissimus dorsi (or lats). During a deadlift, these muscles activate in order to keep the bar close to the body.

Traps

The traps and shoulders engage to keep the shoulders back and down in order to keep the spine neutrally aligned while also transferring force to the barbell.

Core

It is imperative that the core remains braced and strong throughout a deadlift to prevent the spine from rounding. Deadlifting regularly will develop the abs, obliques, and lower back muscles.

Forearms / Grip

Grip strength will also dramatically improve with regular deadlifting. The heavier the weight, the more challenging it is for the forearm muscles to maintain a tight grip on the bar.

The Importance Of Efficient Technique

As with all resistance exercises, it is imperative that you learn the proper technique.

Improving your technique will do two things:

  • Place the stress on the muscle rather than the joints and soft tissues
  • Allow you to lift heavier and build a significant amount of strength and size

Deadlifts are often associated with injuries to the spine. With poor form and heavy weight, an injury may occur, however, if the deadlift is performed correctly the risk is negated.

Despite this, many individuals avoid deadlifts and warn others of the “dangers” associated with them.

In reality, when it comes to building raw strength and size, few exercises compare with the deadlift. Becoming proficient with the deadlift will strengthen a vast array of muscles throughout the body and reduce injury risk.

This reduction is mostly attributed to improvements in grip, posterior-chain, and core strength.

Although proper form will reduce the risk of injury, it’s important to recognize that there is still risk nonetheless.

Ideally, you should feel the hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles working during this exercise, however, pain should not be felt in the back.

Assuming the correct stance and moving efficiently way will ensure that the load is distributed properly and that the correct muscles are engaged.

If you ever feel any sharp pain, stop immediately, and assess your technique. It is likely that it needs work.

If you want to add serious strength or size all while avoiding injury, you must be willing to spend time on your technique to master it.

Deadlift Technique Breakdown

Regardless of whether you pull conventional or sumo, knowing the basics of both techniques is critical for optimizing strength and performance.

The following sections will provide a detailed breakdown of the set-up and technique for both the conventional and sumo deadlift.

The Conventional Deadlift

So, let’s begin by looking at the conventional deadlift.

The Hip Hinge

Efficient hinging of the hips is paramount for good deadlifting technique. If we want to activate the muscles of the posterior chain properly, the primary movement must come from the hips.

Often individuals, specifically beginners, bend the knees excessively and squat down to the bar. This places unwanted strain on the knees and may move the spine out of a neutral position.

As highlighted, the deadlift should activate the posterior chain most heavily while the quads play a secondary role.

During a deadlift, the quads should contract to keep the tibia anchored and extend the knee to oppose the action of the hamstrings.

The hip hinge involves flexing the hips so that the torso tips forward before then extending through the hips to standing. This should be done without the use of any other joints (especially the knees).

When practicing the hip hinge, ensure that you are keeping the chest up and core engaged to maintain a flat back and prevent spinal flexion.

Correct Stance

Stance width has a direct impact on the amount of weight that can be lifted.

Due to differences in physical characteristics, the stance width that you assume tends to differ from individual to individual.

Typically, feet are placed directly underneath the hips, however, it may be worthwhile experimenting with your stance to find what works best for you.

One effective method of checking that your width is correct is to perform a standing vertical jump.

Note where the feet are positioned just prior to lift off – this is the stance you should use when deadlifting.

Foot Position

As with stance width, lifters use a variety of foot positions. Some point the toes out to a great degree while others keep the toes pointed forwards.

However, apart from in the sumo deadlift, the toes should and knees should be aligned which means keeping the toes pointed forwards. Doing this may improve the lockout phase of the deadlift.

That said, there may be benefits to pointing the toes out slightly. Lifters with a greater toe angle tend to pull the bar a little more quickly from the floor.

Once again, it may be worthwhile experimenting with the foot position to determine what works best for you.

Grip Width

Once you have determined stance and foot position, it is time to grip the bar. Typically, you should use the narrowest grip possible as this gives you a biomechanical advantage.

A wide grip will increase the distance that the bar needs to be pulled which will make the lift more challenging.

However, while it’s important that the grip is narrow, it should still allow the arms and thighs to remain apart. An extremely narrow grip may cause the arms to interfere with the knees and force them inwards.

A useful guide is to set-up in the bottom position of the deadlift. If the arms are just about touching the thighs, then your grip is good.

Finally, make sure that the grip is on the knurling rather than the smooth portion of the barbell.

Grip Type

There are four commonly used types of grip:

  • Double Overhand
  • Inverted / Mixed
  • Hook Grip
  • Double Overhand with Straps

There are benefits and drawbacks associated with all four types of grip.

As the name suggests, for the double overhand grip simply grasp the bar with both hands ensuring that the palms are facing down towards the floor.

This grip tends to be the least effective for deadlifting as it makes it challenging to grip the bar – specifically when using heavy weight. Often the bar will slip or roll when using this grip.

That said, it is one of the most effective for improving forearm and grip strength.

The inverted or mixed grip involves using one overhand and one underhand grip. This grip is more popular as it enhances grip strength and prevents the bar rolling.

Unfortunately, there are three common errors made with this grip.

The first error is to sit the bar deep into the hands which causes the fingers to open. Ideally, the bar should be positioned at the base of the fingers.

Secondly, some individuals flex the elbow in a rowing action which can lead to a bicep tear. During the deadlift, the arms must be relaxed and straight throughout the movement.

The third and final error is to use the same side all the time. Studies have indicated that the bicep is highly activated in an underhand grip (1).

Therefore, by failing to alternate sides regularly, an imbalance may be created between the right and left bicep.

For the hook grip, instead of wrapping the thumb around the fingers (as in the double overhand grip), pin the thumb against the bar and wrap the fingers around the thumb.

Although initially uncomfortable, the hook grip is undoubtedly the best grip to use. It provides the greatest amount of grip strength and is perfectly symmetrical (unlike the inverted grip).

A combination of superior grip strength and symmetry will likely facilitate a better bar path thus improving deadlift performance.

The final grip involves the use of straps that prevent the bar from rolling or slipping out of your grasp. Straps work in the same way that the hook grip does and allows the arms to hang symmetrically.

Straps are most commonly used with the double overhand as it tends to provide the least grip out of the three.

Performing The Sumo Deadlift

While the sumo deadlift looks markedly different from the conventional deadlift, there are many similarities in terms of movements and benefits.

It is recommended that you utilize both deadlift variations and alternate between the two. If you are not performing both, you may not develop your strength to its maximal potential.

The following section will break down proper sumo deadlift technique.

Correct Stance

The main difference between the sumo and conventional deadlift is the width of your stance with the sumo deadlift requiring a much wider stance.

Ideally, assume a wide stance that places the shins in a position where they are perpendicular to the floor. This position should allow you to keep the knees out.

In terms of foot position, the wider your stance is, the greater the toe angle will be.

For a moderate stance, the feet will be twice as wide as shoulder width with the toes pointed out at approximately 45°. A wider stance will increase the toe angle to more than 45°.

Grip

One of the biggest benefits of the sumo set-up is that the knees do not interfere with the grip as they may do with the conventional deadlift.

Grasp the bar at approximately shoulder width as this will minimize the distance of the pull and increase the amount of weight that you can lift.

If ever performing the sumo deadlift with dumbbells, be aware that the hands will naturally be a lot closer. Therefore, you may need to focus more on keeping the shoulders back and down.

Set-Up

One of the best coaching points for the sumo deadlift is to drive the feet into the floor as if you are trying to pull the floor apart.

This will ensure that there is ample tension through the hips, posterior chain muscles, and quads prior to lifting the bar.

Deadlift Set-Up Options 

Now that you have a greater understanding of deadlift basics, let’s briefly consider five set-up options that will help you perform the deadlift most efficiently.

All of the following set-ups apply to both the conventional and the sumo deadlift.

Set-Up One – Pull Down To The Bar

Assume your deadlift stance, then bend over and reach down to grasp the bar – you should feel tension in the hamstrings at this point.

Once you have a firm grip of the bar, pull yourself down by dropping the hips and driving the chest up and then lift.

Set-Up Two – Back Tight, Legs Compressed

This set-up is similar to the previous one. However, this time, as you hinge the hips your back should remain tight and spine in a neutral position.

While keeping the core and upper back muscles engaged, drop the hips into position. For the most optimal set-up, imagine the legs are like coiled springs.

Set-Up Three – Rocking The Hips

Set-up in the bottom position with the weight over the front of the foot. Keeping the core tight and chest up, simply rock back until the weight is over the midfoot before lifting the bar.https://youtu.be/GWyinL_e33U

Set-Up Four – Clean Pull Style

Reach down and grab the bar keeping the chest up and the back flat. From there, drop deeply into a squat so that your weight is behind the bar.

From this squat position begin to raise the hips up. As the hips rise, initiate the pull by driving the feet hard into the floor. 

Set-Up Five – Grip And Rip

The final set up is recommended for those who are proficient with the deadlift technique. This set-up involves hinging, gripping, and pulling in quick succession.

Additional Deadlift Technique Considerations

Deadlift Bar Path

Part of an efficient deadlift is ensuring that the bar follows an efficient path from the floor to the hips.

Not only will using an efficient bar path facilitate good form, it will also allow you to lift a greater amount of weight and maximize strength progress.

For the most efficient pull, it is important that the weight stays over the midfoot so that the shoulders are directly over the bar, not in front of the bar.

To ensure that the shoulders are positioned correctly, squeeze the lats and focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and down.

Setting up in this position will ensure that the bar follows the most linear path possible as it rises to the hips thus increasing the efficiency of the lift (2).

The Pull

Once you have assumed this stance and taken grip of the bar, it’s time to pull.

One of the most common mistakes made with the deadlift relates to the mindset and how the lifter views the pull.

Those who focus on simply picking up the bar have a tendency to round their back.

Rather than concentrating on lifting the barbell, imagine driving the feet through the floor or pushing the floor away. This will prevent the hips from rising too quickly.

While this cue is very simple, it is highly effective and tends to facilitate better technique.

Additionally, focus on keeping the chest up. This will cause extension of the thoracic spine, increase spinal stiffness and prevent any flexion from occurring.

To lift the bar, the knees should extend first. However, after the bar has risen a couple of inches, the remainder of the movement is all about a powerful hip extension.

As highlighted, this extension must occur without any spinal flexion. If flexion occurs, the load will move from the glutes and hamstrings onto the lower back and spinal erectors.

The pull concludes with the lockout. This is where you have driven the hips through and are standing upright with the bar at the hips.

One common mistake with the lockout is to hyperextend the spine. Rather than engaging the glutes to complete the lockout, the spine extends instead.

There is no benefit to be found in hyperextending the spine, in fact, it may be dangerous and lead to injury.

Focus on driving the hips forward and squeezing the glutes together at the top of the pull. This will ensure you lockout efficiently while preventing spinal hyperextension.

If your lockout needs work or adjusting, ensure that you start with a light weight first and gradually add load over time.

Control The Descent

The final step of the deadlift is often neglected. Once you have completed the pull and locked out, you need to safely return the bar to the floor.

Failing to control the descent properly can be just as risky as pulling with poor form. Therefore, it is important that the spine remains in a neutral position as you descend.

To safely descend, focus on reversing the movement. Keep the chest high and core tight as you begin to push the hips back and hinge the knees.

Often people drop the bar once they have completed the concentric part of the movement. Here are three reasons why you should control the descent rather than drop the bar:

1) Eccentric Strength
Eccentrics are the contractions that occur as a muscle lengthens. With every resistance exercise, there is an eccentric phase – in the deadlift, this occurs as you return the bar to the floor.

With practically all other resistance exercises, you will complete concentric and eccentric contractions to maximize progress. The deadlift should be not any different.

Completing the eccentric phase is extremely valuable for developing strength and muscle size. It has also been found to be valuable for rehabilitation (3).

2) Safety and Bad Habits
Safety is paramount in the gym, therefore, dropping a heavy barbell is not advisable. The bar could easily bounce or roll and cause damage to you or others.

Additionally, dropping the bar regularly during training may cause it to become a habit. If you are a competitive powerlifter, your lift will not count if you drop the bar.

3) Physical and Mental Readiness
Finally, by controlling the descent, you keep yourself mentally and physically ready for the consequent reps. Dropping the bar can certainly disturb your rhythm and performance.

Breathing

Breathing and bracing techniques play an important role in performance. In order to maintain a neutral spine, deep breaths should be taken from the diaphragm rather than the chest.

Doing this will increase the amount of intra-abdominal pressure which helps reinforce the spine and prevent flexion.

Breath should be held throughout the concentric phase of the movement. You can exhale either when the bar reaches the hips or once the bar has returned to the floor.

That said, breath-holding combined with heavy lifting can increase feelings of lightheadness and dizziness. In extreme cases, loss of consciousness may occur.  

Conventional vs Sumo Deadlift

It was previously believed that the primary difference between the two exercises is in regards to hip extension and glute activation. However, research has found this not to be the case (4).

In actual fact, one study analyzed both exercises and found no significant differences in terms of hip extension demand (5). Glute and hamstring engagement has also been found to be similar (6).

However, sumo deadlifts appear to be more demanding on the quads while the conventional deadlift places more stress on the spinal erectors (7).

If you are unsure which method is best for you, perform both, and evaluate your performance. Determine which one felt most comfortable and allowed you to lift the greatest amount of weight.

Although this allows you to determine your primary deadlift method, you should still incorporate the other method into your training. Both exercises complement each other.

Outside of these muscles, the activation is very similar:

  • Forearm muscles contract to keep a tight grip on the bar
  • Triceps engaged to maintain straight arms
  • Traps and rear delts activate to keep the shoulders back and down
  • Lower back muscles contract to enhance stability and prevent spinal flexion
  • Spinal erectors activate to maintain a neutral spine alignment

There are a vast number of other minor muscles that are also worked during both the sumo and conventional deadlift.

Other Types Of Deadlift

Varying your training by performing a range of different exercises can have a positive impact on strength development.

There is a range of other deadlift variations that can be incorporated into your training to develop specific parts of your deadlift and eliminate weakness.

For example, performing the rack or block pull will enhance performance at the top end of the deadlift and the pause rep deadlift can enhance core strength and reinforce good technique.

In this section, we will run through five exercise variations that can greatly benefit your deadlift.

Touch and Go

As the name suggests, do not take a pause between reps. As soon as the bar touches the floor, immediately complete the next rep.

Because this variation allows you to utilize momentum, you are typically able to lift heavier than you normally would. 

Pause Rep

This variation places a greater demand on the back and core muscles.

For this variation, initiate the pull from the floor and pause when the bar reaches the mid-shin. Hold the pause for two to three seconds before completing the rest of the rep.

Due to the nature and challenge of this exercise, you should use a lighter load. It is recommended to use 50 – 60% of your max.

Rack and Block Pulls

As highlighted, the rack and block pulls develop concentric strength and the lockout. Therefore, set up with the bar on the rack or blocks rather than on the floor.

For the rack pull, adjust the pins so that the bar sits just under the knees. Perform the deadlift from this position and ensure to take a pause between reps.

Because the range of motion is significantly decreased with this variation, it is possible to lift heavier loads than normal.

Deficit Deadlift

While the rack pull decreases the range of motion, the deficit deadlift increases the range of motion.

To perform this variation, you will need to stand on a platform, weight plate, or block. Starting from a higher footing forces you to drop down further in order to reach the bar.

Considering that the range of motion is significantly increased, the amount of weight that you use should be reduced. As with the pause rep variation, 50-60% of your max will suffice.

Romanian Deadlift

Unlike the standard deadlift and aforementioned variations, the Romanian deadlift starts from standing rather than from the floor.

For this variation, focus on the hip hinge to place all the demand on the hamstrings. The legs should remain relatively straight throughout to maximize hamstring activation.

How To Increase Deadlift Weight Quickly

Whether you are a deadlifting novice or have hit a plateau with your strength, look to apply the following tips to rapidly improve your strength.

Deadlift More Frequently

Upping your training frequency is a great way to ensure that your strength starts increasing. Therefore, look to program your deadlift into more than one day of your training.

Deadlift Less Frequently

If you are deadlifting often already, it may be an idea to reduce the frequency and replace it with other exercises that will facilitate your deadlift performance.

Remember that the body needs rest to fully recover from the demands of resistance training and grow stronger. Therefore, ensure that you have programmed in adequate rest days.

Switch Your Deadlift Method

Varying the exercises you perform will change the training stimulus that the body is exposed to. By switching from a conventional to sumo deadlift or vice versa, the body will start to adapt once again.

Develop Your Technique

One of the best things that can be done to improve your deadlift, is to develop your technique. Closely analyze your technique and consider if there are any changes that need to be made.

Warm-Up Properly

Performing a thorough warm-up will ensure that the muscles are in prime condition for exercise. If you want to improve your performance, it is imperative that you spend time warming up before deadlifting.

Do remember that the deadlift is highly demanding on the neuromuscular system. Therefore, it is recommended to perform the deadlift immediately after warming up when you have the most energy.

The Importance Of Accessories

While the deadlift will undoubtedly develop strength, to accelerate strength and technique optimally, it is crucial that you perform accessory exercises. Accessory exercises will help develop key deadlifting muscles and eliminate weaknesses.

Some of the worthwhile accessory exercises include:

  • Farmer’s Walk – Core and Grip Strength
  • Kettlebell Swing – Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back and Explosiveness
  • Leg Press – Glutes, Quads, and Hamstrings
  • Plank – Core Strength and Posture
  • Rows – Lats and Upper Back Musculature

For more info on important deadlift accessory exercises, check out this Calgary Barbell video:
https://youtu.be/vO7rbSo9hB0

Understanding Deadlifts and Weight Loss

Considering the full-body nature of the deadlift, it is an excellent exercise for those who are looking to lose weight.

Ultimately, when it comes to weight loss, a calorie deficit is most important. This is where you expend more calories per day than you consume.

As a result of this energy deficit, the body begins to break down stored body fat to use for energy.

Considering the vast number of muscles that are worked in the deadlift, a large number of calories are expended. In fact, there are few resistance exercises that burn as many as the deadlift.

Therefore, performing deadlifts regularly can increase energy expenditure and contribute to a calorie deficit.

Furthermore, as mentioned, the deadlift can help you build muscle. By adding muscle, our metabolism will naturally increase.

This is significant as increasing our metabolism leads to a greater calorie burn thus facilitating weight loss further.

While the deadlift can help you expend many calories, if you aspire to lose weight it is crucial that your nutrition is in check.

Deadlift Training Aids

While using equipment is not essential for deadlifting, there are a number of training aids that can help improve your performance.

Lifting Belt

The most commonly used piece of training equipment is the lifting belt. The purpose of the lifting belt is to increase intra-abdominal pressure to stabilize the spine and facilitate good technique.

Studies have consistently indicated that belts can help to improve trunk stability (8).

Deadlift Shoes and Slippers

Having soft or spongy trainers is less than ideal when deadlifting due to the fact that they absorb a lot of the force you generate.

Deadlift shoes and slippers can be beneficial for transferring as much force into the floor as possible. While flat-soled shoes will suffice for most, if you are doing seriously heavy lifting deadlift footwear is recommended.

These shoes will also provide a large degree of stability. They are designed to conform to the shape of your foot and have a metatarsal strap to enhance midfoot stability.

Bands

Resistance bands can be used to accelerate strength progress by applying tension throughout the lift. To do this, wrap the band around the barbell and then anchor it to the floor.

As the barbell rises up towards the hips, the tension that the band applies increases. This makes the top portion of the lift and the lockout more challenging.

It is also possible to reverse the band so that more tension is applied at the start of the lift. For this, you will need to set up in a power rack.

Chains

In a similar way to bands, chains apply additional resistance to the lift. There is a range of chain sizes and lengths that can be draped over the barbell.

While the chains can be a useful training aid, they are not usually needed until a lifter can exceed 400 pounds.

Gym Chalk

A failing grip can hamper performance. Chalk absorbs moisture from your hands and increases friction thus enhancing your grip.

While the majority of these training aids are optional, chalk should really be used by all lifters.

The Three Deadlift Workout Programs

The deadlift is the ultimate exercise for building strength, size, posture, and athleticism. If you are serious about improving these components, you should consider running a deadlift program.

Following a well-structured, periodized program will allow you to make the most optimal progress possible.

In this section, we will run through three highly recommended deadlift training programs and unpack what it is that makes them so effective.

Simple Deadlift Workout Routine

We’ll begin with a basic workout routine that caters to beginners.

It is recommended to keep the rep range between one to six reps per set.

At this stage, you do not need a great amount of volume to improve, therefore, avoid exceeding a total of thirty reps.

In terms of load, you have two options. You can either use the same weight throughout or gradually add weight in a pyramid fashion.

If you want to be more specific and have tested your deadlift strength, use fifty to sixty percent of your one-rep max.

You can find an example of a basic pyramid workout in the table below.

Set TypeVolume (Sets x Reps)Weight (lbs)
Warm-Up2 x 5125
Warm-Up2 x 3175
Working2 x 2200
Working2 x 2225
Working2 x 2250
Working2 x 1260
Working2 x 1275

Ed Coan Deadlift Program

One of the greatest powerlifters of all time, Ed Coan, developed his own ten-week deadlift program that has been designed to help lifters overcome plateaus and maximize their strength.

This training plan should not be used by beginners as the volume and intensity are simply too great.

The workouts in the program incorporate high volume speed work, heavy lifts, and a variety of accessory exercises.

Before beginning this training program, you must know your one-rep max and target weight.

During the first four weeks of the program, the focus is primarily on improving work capacity, speed, and explosiveness.

The final six weeks have been designed to peak your strength. Therefore, this program is an excellent choice for powerlifters with an upcoming competition.

To peak strength most effectively, the volume gradually decreases and rest periods are extended to allow for optimal recovery.

Throughout week one through eight, specific accessory work is prescribed, however, it is reduced in week nine and removed in week ten to lessen training volume.

Program Workouts

The following deadlift and accessory workouts must be run simultaneously.

Deadlift Work

With each week that passes, you will be using two training methods – heavy sets and speed sets. The following table provides detail on the training volume of each for the ten weeks.

Be aware that the percentages used are based on your target one-rep max. At a maximum, this value should be thirty pounds heavier than your current one-rep max.

WeekHeavy (Sets x Reps @ %)Speed (Sets x Reps @ %)
11 x 2 @ 75%8 x 3 @ 60%
21 x 2 @ 80%8 x 3 @ 65%
31 x 2 @ 85%6 x 3 @ 70%
41 x 2 @ 90%5 x 3 @ 75%
53 x 3 @ 80%3 x 3 @ 65%
61 x 2 @ 85%3 x 3 @ 70%
71 x 2 @ 90%3 x 3 @ 75%
81 x 2 @ 95%3 x 3 @ 70%
91 x 1 @ 97.5%2 x 3 @ 70%
101 x 1 @ 100%2 x 3 @ 60%

Accessory Work

The accessory workouts performed in week one through four are circuits while the workouts in the second portion of the program are conventional-style workouts.

Week One through Four

ExerciseVolume (Reps)Rest (seconds)
Stiff Leg Deadlifts890
Bent Over Rows890
Underhand Grip Lat Pulldowns890
Arched Back Good Mornings890

*Circuit to be repeated three times.

Week Five

ExerciseVolume (Sets x Reps)Rest (seconds)
Power Shrugs3 x 5 @ 60% of Deadlift 1RM90 – 120
Stiff Leg Deadlifts3 x 590 – 120
Bent Over Rows3 x 590 – 120
Underhand Grip Lat Pulldowns3 x 590 – 120
Arched Back Good Mornings3 x 590 – 120

Week Six

ExerciseVolume (Sets x Reps)Rest (seconds)
Power Shrugs3 x 5 @ 65% of Deadlift 1RM90 – 120
Stiff Leg Deadlifts3 x 590 – 120
Bent Over Rows3 x 590 – 120
Underhand Grip Lat Pulldowns3 x 590 – 120
Arched Back Good Mornings3 x 590 – 120

Week Seven

ExerciseVolume (Sets x Reps)Rest (seconds)
Power Shrugs2 x 5 @ 70% of Deadlift 1RM90 – 120
Stiff Leg Deadlifts2 x 590 – 120
Bent Over Rows2 x 590 – 120
Underhand Grip Lat Pulldowns2 x 590 – 120
Arched Back Good Mornings2 x 590 – 120

Week Eight

ExerciseVolume (Sets x Reps)Rest (seconds)
Power Shrugs2 x 5 @ 75% of Deadlift 1RM90 – 120
Stiff Leg Deadlifts2 x 590 – 120
Bent Over Rows2 x 590 – 120
Underhand Grip Lat Pulldowns2 x 590 – 120
Arched Back Good Mornings2 x 590 – 120

Week Nine

ExerciseVolume (Sets x Reps)Rest (seconds)
Power Shrugs2 x 5 @ 75% of Deadlift 1RM90 – 120
Stiff Leg Deadlifts2 x 590 – 120

Week Ten

No accessory work.

Chris Holder Deadlift Program

Another high-quality deadlift program was designed by Chris Holder who is the head strength and conditioning coach at California Polytechnic.

This program is slightly shorter in duration and runs over an eight week period. It can be broken down into three simple phases:

  • Week One to Three – 3 days per week, 3 sets x 20 deadlifts
  • Week Four to Five – 3 days per week, 3 sets of 10 deadlifts and 10 kettlebell swings
  • Week Six to Eight – 3 days per week, 3 sets x 20 deadlifts 

It is important to note that this program is to be entirely self-regulated. Therefore, there are no weights or percentages prescribed.

Because you’re lifting three days per week, it is important that you use the following structure to ensure intensity is at the right level:

  • Day One – Heavy
  • Day Two – Light
  • Day Three – Moderate

Holder recommends that no other resistance training should be performed when using this structure due to the high demand this training places on the body.

Rest times between sets are also not provided, therefore, take as long as you need to fully recover.

Additionally, for the most optimal results, he recommends that you use the touch and go deadlift technique and the Russian kettlebell swing.

Final Word

The deadlift is a highly challenging strength exercise that many incorrectly believe to be damaging to the back. In actuality, the deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do, providing it is performed correctly.

To maximize your deadlift strength and performance, it is highly recommended that you follow one of the aforementioned plans – the simple template, Ed Coan, or Chris Holder programs.

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