I will admit that early on, I fell in love with the deadlift.
In my first meet, I only did deadlift and ended up hitting 535lbs when I was 20 years old.
Not great, but with little experience I was happy.
Logically, I figured 600lbs was close by for me based off how I lifted at the meet. To get there, I began to deadlift heavier more frequently and also doing some extra volume work on my deadlift.
This left me spinning my wheels for five years until I finally hit 600lbs in a meet. Then with the help of Josh Gutridge and everyone at Westside Barbell, I went from 600lbs to 740lbs in three years.
The biggest difference was I started to do the lift less and less.
Here are the biggest movements that helped me push my deadlift up.
1. Good Mornings
There are several variations of good mornings that I think people should try. For the sake of this article, we will just cover standing good mornings. When I first got to Westside, I had just pulled 600, but Lou was amazed to discover I could only do 400lbs on good mornings.
He told me for 8 weeks I needed to do good mornings on both Max Effort and Dynamic Effort days to play catch up. As much as I didn't want to, I did and noticed I was holding better positions on each lift.
After three years, my good morning went from 400 to 540lbs. An increase of 140lbs. My deadlift in the same time went from 600 to 740lbs. Also an increase of 140lbs. For me, this was probably the biggest indicator I could use when finding out where my deadlift is without pulling a deadlift.
To perform these, take a conventional deadlift stance, slightly bend the knees and drive the hips back until your chest is around parallel to the floor. When you start to come back up, drive your head back into the bar. For me I noticed as I got stronger, I could almost flex my abs off the crease of my hip to start the movement back up.
2. Reverse Hyperextension
If your gym doesn't have a reverse hyper, then you're missing out. My first day at Westside, Lou pointed to his original machine and said do 100 reps of those hypers. There were four 100lb plates on. I went to take them off, but couldn’t…they were welded on the machine, this is when I knew I was in trouble.
I did 10 sets of 10 reps that day and had more blood in my low back than I had ever experienced. As I have increased my weekly volume on reverse hypers, I have noticed I have less low back pain and all my lifts feel stable.
When performing these, let the weight pull you under a little and flex the weight back up keeping legs straight and heels out. At the same time, raise your chest and flex your upper back. This will create tension from head to toe.
For absolute beginners, start with body weight and start the movement by squeezing the glutes, then hamstrings. Slowly add weight and add volume for three weeks, then drop the weight back down to a little higher than what you used the first week.
3. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
This was a movement we used when I played sports in high school, but dropped them afterwards. When I began competing I could only do 135 for 10 reps and my hamstrings would shake like crazy. Now we have worked up over 400lbs for 15-20 reps. We have also done these against mini or monster bands which adds a lot of top end tension.
For me the RDL helped a lot with the movement of locking out a deadlift. Use a weight that you can keep a good arch and drive your hips back as hard as you can. When you get heavier it will also test your upper back as you will want to pull your shoulders forward.
To perform these, use a double overhand grip using a conventional deadlift stance. Pull shoulders back, slight knee bend and pack your chin. From there just push your hips straight back and slide the bar down your thighs. Do this until you feel your hamstrings lock up and flex your glutes to start the movement back up.
4. Pull Ups
Pull ups are something I will admittedly ignored for a long time and would instead jump on a lat pull down machine. When I started to get serious about increasing my deadlift, I reached out to a few people who I thought would help.
Tim Harold pulled 855, Jake Anderson 865, and Jake Norman who pulled 900. They all said when their pull ups got better their deadlift shot up.
I saw Jake Norman doing sets of 6-8 reps with kettle bells ranging from 40-80lbs hanging from him at 300lbs of bodyweight. I saw Jake Anderson do sets of 10 reps with a mini band around the bottom of the rack to over his shoulders at 275lbs.
They all said change reps around and some days do high reps and then other days do super heavy sets of 4-6 reps. This will help a lot with tightness off the ground and pulling power to help create speed.
Common Deadlift Mistakes
- Pulling too frequently
- Using too much weight
- Not training both stances
- Looking down
- Jerking the bar
- Pushing straight up instead of driving feet out
- Hands too close
- Only pulling from the ground (try pins, weight on mats, stand on mats etc)
- Not enough speed (drop bar weight and use bands to develop speed)
- Pulling up and not back
These movements and fixing the above mistakes are what helped my deadlift take off. As each of these lifts get better for me, my deadlift continues to go up.
Also by rotating the movements it will help avoid injury because you're stressing the body differently.