We’re back with another installment of Training Talk here on M&S!
We really appreciate everyone in our community being so involved and engaging in discussion of all things iron.
For those of you that are new to this, here’s how Training Talk works.
We pick a topic every month with two opposing viewpoints. Then you get to join us in the discussion via the comments section below with your take on the topic.
While we start off with sharing the topic and popular viewpoints, it really is you, the M&S community that makes Training Talk special so we hope you’ll continue to share your insight with us.
As for this month’s topic, we’re going to cover the most basic but also the most respected movement in the iron game. It’s the deadlift. As simple as it is to perform, it’s also among the most intimidating to prepare for.
Related: Deadlifts Hurt Your Back? Here Are 4 Pain Free Alternatives
You walk up, grab the bar, pick it up to waist height, lock out, and lower it to the floor again. To paraphrase Eddie Hall, who deadlifted an amazing world record 1,100 pounds in a strongman competition, "the guy who can do the most is considered in the eyes of many the strongest man on the planet.”
I already know what many of you may want to say about Hall’s pull and we’re going to cover that too because the deadlift is so important we’re going to cover not just one but two topics about it so stay with me here.
Topic #1 – Leg or Back Day
While the deadlift might be simple to perform, it definitely isn’t an isolation movement. It involves the entire body in some form or fashion. You have to maintain hold of it with your grip and arm strength, lift it off the floor with the legs, straighten out with the lower back, and lock out by bringing the shoulders back, chest out, and tighten your core.
The areas that are emphasized the most are the legs and back. So because of that there is a lot of discussion and thought behind where to place the deadlift when creating a routine.
Should it be on leg day with your squats, leg presses, leg curls, etc.? Or should it be a part of your back training with the rows, pullups, pulldowns, and hyperextensions?
We’ll highlight the benefits of both and then cover topic #2 of this discussion.
When you start to lift the bar off the floor or blocks, you plant your feet into the floor and activate your legs to start off. Your hamstrings are tight, your quads are firing, your calves are stabilizing everything below the knee, and your glutes will even come into play by the time the weight comes up and you’re ready to lock out.
So it would make sense to include deadlifts with your leg training. I’ve met athletes who do nothing but squats and deadlifts for their leg training because they feel that is all they need. There are others who will do a little more than that though. A sample leg day routine with an emphasis on power that includes deadlifts might look something like this.
|2. Hack Squat||3||10-12|
|3. Leg Extension||3||20|
|5. Lying Leg Curl||3||10|
|6. Standing Leg Curl||3||15|
|7. Seated Calf Raise||3||15|
The opposing viewpoint on training this way is that the other leg exercises minimize your ability to perform the deadlift to the best of your ability because they were preceded with quad work.
If you start with deadlifts on leg day and follow with quads, then your squats could be affected negatively. So many lifters including powerlifters prefer not to train these two beast moves together.
While the legs are definitely recruited during the deadlift, the back is just as involved, especially during the second half of the movement when the bar passes the knees. Your upper back and shoulders are assisting in pulling the weight up and are staying tight throughout the movement.
The lower back is the main focus when it comes to bringing the weight to the lockout position. While you’re standing with the weight, the entire back is working to provide that strong foundation for you to secure that position without damaging your spine.
Because of this, some trainers and athletes feel that deadlift should be included on back day since the lower back is a part of…well...the back. This sample workout places the emphasis on deadlift power as a part of a mass-building back program.
|3. One Arm Dumbbell Row||3||6-8|
|4. Wide Grip Pullups||3||failure|
|5. Seated Row Machine||3||8-10|
|6. Close Grip Pulldown||3||12|
While this is great for back, the fact is that legs are still involved so some trainers feel that doing deadlifts with back creates a second leg day which could lead to a greater chance of getting hurt than simply doing them along with the other major leg moves in one day.
The fear is if you train legs and then work deadlifts without enough time to recover in between, then the hamstrings or knees are more susceptible to injury.
Before we get into discussing this further, let’s briefly talk about topic #2 for the deadlift.
Topic #2 – To Strap or Not to Strap?
Remember when I talked about Eddie Hall and his 1,100 pound world record deadlift? What if I told you there was a controversy about that lift? There are some experts and fans that felt like he didn’t really set the record because that particular competition allowed the athletes to use lifting straps.
Related: Ditch the Wrist Straps and Build Better Grip Strength
In strongman, straps are allowed but in powerlifting, they are not. The powerlifting version of the deadlift calls for the athlete to use his bare-handed grip strength. No straps and no gloves are allowed. They are only allowed to use chalk for their hands.
So there are many who feel that the world record in powerlifting, held by Benedikt Magnusson at 1,014 pounds is the true world record. This debate won’t be ending anytime soon either until a standard set of universal rules is established that the strongman and powerlifting communities can both agree on.
What do YOU think?
This is called Training Talk for a reason and now it’s your turn to talk to us. There are two questions we pose in this edition and we want to hear your thoughts on both.
- Do you do deadlifts as a part of your back training or on leg day and why?
- Do you use straps when you deadlift or do you go after it bare handed?
The answers you share here can help someone new who is looking for information to help them reach their goals so please contribute.
If you want to share your own program that you follow, go for it. What is your belief about deadlifts? If you don’t do them at all, why not?
Also, if you have any ideas or topics you’d like us to cover in future Training Talks, we’d love to hear them.
Let us know where you stand and feel free to add any information that you feel would be relevant to the discussion that we may not have included here. This is why we do this column. We want, no, we need to hear from you.
I am 46 and began sumos 3 1/2 months ago. I’m currently lifting 175x5 for 4 sets on my heavy day. 3 months ago I was just at 130x5x4 so I think this is good progress. I don’t do anything else for my back other than sumos. My objective was to commit to this best full body exercise to get back my strength I lost from taking a break from weights. I also squat which is the other best full body exercise. I’m not focused with gaining strength on my squat so I do them after deadlifts, light day on my heavy sumo day and moderate squat weight when doing my light sumo day. My only goal squat wise is to always be able to easily do 4 sets of 10 135 lbs as I grow older. All my life I’ve trained with aesthetics as my primary goal and this is the first time I focus strictly on strength gains. It’s nice to see such amazing aesthetic improvements as a side effect! My whole physique is so much more tied together. My aging weaknesses I was beginning to feel in my rotator cuffs, lower back and legs when climbing stairs and gardening are completely gone! So glad my Dad started training me on weights at 12 yo! You never really lose it!
I deadlift on back day. No straps, no chalk. Another thing you might want to consider taking about is the grip that you might use to hold the weight. Maybe another topic for another time. ;)
I don't have a back day as such as I train upper lower. But i do deadlifts on my 2nd lower day of the week. So i'll do stiff leg deadlift on one leg day and normal deadlift on the other. In regards to straps. Unless you're a powerlifter then straps should be a given imo. My wrist strength will hold back my gains if i wasn't to use them so it seems silly not to.
I do Deads twice a week and squats once a week on separate days.
I agree in regards to straps. I use straps deadlifting higher reps when my grip is likely to give out first. Thing is straps do not prevent you developing a strong grip. My back develops faster than my grip strength yet there is a spillover effect. I've found if my DL goes up say 100lbs my grip strength also increases considerably straps or no straps. If I don't use straps ofcourse my grip strength increases but at a slower rate than it does in relation to gains made from the spillover effect of increasing my back strength.
Personally I Deadlift on leg day & back day & Ab day. That said completely different lifts & weights. On leg day part of my warm-up is Sumo Deadlifts with a light weight, then after Squats & Leg extensions I'll do two sets of straight legs squats still light for my hamstrings. On An day I'll do three sets of very light Deadlifts. Then on back day I will Deadlift heavy & hard.
My feelings on straps vs just chalk. I just use chalk, I'm still a beginner to weight lifting. Personally I think if your deadlifting under twice your bodyweight you should stick with chalk, but after deadliting twice your bodyweight you should consider straps so you aren't limiting your development due to one weak link. Also, you need to consider how weak/strong/thick/thin your wrist is. I have skinny wrists eventually I'll hit a point where my wrists can't take anymore weight but my back still has room to grow. Ultimately it's a personal choice with multiple things to consider
That's a unique routine you have, Bhavik. Thanks for sharing with us. How long have you been following that plan?
I'm a big fan of 2 leg days a week, one emphasizing quads and the other emphasizing posterior chain. On the latter day, I start with deadlifts then torch my hams with GHD's. Follow that up with front squat (for a little bit of quad focus) and you are gold. The former day I do back squats, lunges for volume, then hyperextensions to get a little hams and hip extension in there. Made decent gains with this split. And I don't compromise either lift (back squat or deadlift).
Re: straps, I say there is no shame in using them. I do a fair amount of heavy pulling outside of deadlifts, so my grip is pretty much torched from that. On a heavy deadlift, I want to focus on the movement, not on whether or not my grip is going to fail. And mixed grip leads me to an uneven pull, but to each his/her own.
I like your strategy and your opinion on straps makes sense, Mark. Thanks for chiming in. Keep making those gains.
I have trained both ways depending on my goal at the time. However I prefer not to train squats and deads together. The main reasons for this is I don't like loading my spine that much all in one session and I like focusing on my hamstring specially because I am very quad dominant.
As for straps I never use them or encourage the use of them because in my experience lifter become too reliant on them and stop focusing on developing grip strength to support their lifts.
Hey there, Austin. Thanks for joining the conversation. Since you like to focus on the hamstrings, do they come first in your training split?
I personally have a hamstring and a quad day. My legs are the lacking part of my physique so I want to hit them hard each week. As far as straps go I try my best to never use them, and when I do it's usually on my max or if my forearms are too tired to hold onto the bar.
So what is your plan right now to improve your legs, Kyle? Have you found a good one here on M&S?
Probably unfair for me to comment but as a powerlifter deadlift is given its own day. I work to singles every 6 weeks. I follow it with light pause squats 50-60% of my max followed by both leg and back accessories. With the goal of helping my DL. On squat day after I squat I do deficit DL then leg accessory work
But since you are a powerlifter, that's not always the case as in some of the high frequency powerlifting systems have deadlifts practiced more than once a week and sometimes together with squats like Candito for instance. Sheiko has deadlifts practiced twice but usually with the bench press. The Texas Method has the bench press, Deadlift and Squat practiced together on the volume day.
David, quite the opposite. Your input can be very valuable. I've stated in articles before that I believe bodybuilders and powerlifters can benefit from sharing knowledge. Please keep joining us and sharing your thoughts.
Apparently, I modified my workout a month go. From then, I do my back and leg on the same day.
The effect of deadlift is more on my legs (glutes and quads) if i don't bend your knees too much. The effect is balanced when between legs and lower back if the knees are bent at the starting position.
I use straps and a belt for for both the lifts.
Thanks for sharing your insight, Amar. How long have you been training?
My preference is to deadlift on back days. I find combining deadlifts with squats compromises both exercises. I use straps on sumo deadlifts so that I can max out although I only use sumo deadlifts to strengthen the posterior chain. I then go as heavy as possible on the conventional deadlift always aiming for a new personal best.
Right on, Robert. I like that you perform the movement both ways to reap more benefits. Do you do any extra assistant work?
Hello Roger, every visit to the gym consists of a workout with the objective of improving my goals. The assistance work will include good mornings, all variations of the deadlift, upper and lower back and and legs. I only attempt heavy deadlifts sparingly, being aged 70 I have found the stress on the central nervous system can knock me about for a day or two. Still, life is all about the next lift.
Never used straps till recently. The reason being I know a bodybuilder who tore his bicep from deadlifting with the over and under grip. If you are bodybuilding and not powerlifting then using straps isn't a problem. But if you are a true powerlifter chalk is the only thing you use.
What's up, Peter? Thanks for joining us here. I have actually known a few powerlifters who will use straps for assistance work so they can prevent injury or because they have torn their biceps on rows. So I guess that injury is a universal issue. What kind of straps do you use? Any specific brand you like?
Currently doing squats and deadlift on heavy day along with bench and standing barbell shoulder press. Then I have a light day and a moderate day as well.
I have split them up in the past with squats on leg day and deadlift on back day. liked that style as well.
As far as straps go, I will use them if my grip strength is not strong enough. Only in the sets where I want to hit the reps that day. Don't want to short change getting stronger in deadlifts just because of grip strength.
Hey Jamie. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. So which strategy have you found works better or does the success depend on your goals?
I split the difference and have strictly deadlift day.
Thanks for discussing deads with us, Andrew? What does your deadlift day look like? Just pulling or do you have extra assistance work in there too?
I would typically do deadlifts on leg day, however I'm currently doing a 5x5 type full body routine and do my deadlifts once a week and squats 3 x's week. I keep my Training simple and stick to compound lifts. As with straps, I use them sometimes- to sore my hands from getting tore up, but I also think bare handed improves grip strength so it is better to go that way. That's just my opinion
Your opinions are what we asked for so thanks for sharing, Mike. How long have you been on your 5x5 plan?
I agree with Aaron. I believe that squats are a very strenuous exercise, like deadlifts, and should be done separately to maximize each of their potential. I don't have enough time for it, but my brother even does deadlift on its own seperate day because it is such a beast of a lift and he's had a ton of success with it. I've been trying to go without straps but I'm definitely not against them. Whatever works
Right on, David. It is a serious movement and should be approached as such. Straps do have their place and from what I've read here in the comments, use is determined by goals. Thanks for being here.
IMO, I think it might be a little bit odd nowadays to say that training legs -or any other muscle for that matter- 2 or more times a week is over kill. Actually high frequency training is being advocated a lot nowadays for so many reasons (specially for natural lifters).
Hey Wael. Thanks for chiming in. Since the legs are used so much anyway (standing, running, walking, etc.), it would make sense to think it would take serious loads of work to maximize their potential. How do you work deadlifts into your routine?
Hi Roger, thanks for the article. Now I've just started Candito and I have deadlifts and squats together on the same day. Previously I was doing Sheiko and he has deadlifts and squats on different days. I have also did a few months of DUP and actually all of the big three are done on each workout, so you bench, squat and deadlift on the same workout. I can't personally say I have a preference, they all worked well with me, and maybe to cycle it like I did every 4-6 months would be a good thing to do.
I have found for me, to alternate deadlift and squats on leg day works best.
I do rack pulls on back day to place more focus on the lower back.
Back day is on Tuesday and Leg Day is on Fridays, so it is a nice spread to live the lower back a rest between movements.
As far as straps, it is a must for me. Arthritis in my fingers make my holding power pretty much compromised, even though I still do grip and forearm exercises. At 57, you sometimes have to rethink your strategy to keep lifting without injury.
A great article. I enjoy learning differing concepts and ways to maximize results.
At 57 I think you've earned your straps. It always makes my day to read that guys like you still go all out and train hard, Rick. Thanks for giving me some extra motivation today. I also appreciate your feedback on the article.
I own a barbell to do deadlifts and back squats. So on my leg day, I like to do every variation of a squat there is. I don't have access to any machines so I want to make sure I cover all parts of my legs including the glutes. There are time I train the legs and the back and when I do, I lay of the glutes. If I don't feel 100%, I lay off the deadlift or use a single weight bar. My goal has always to be safe when training and pay close attention to my body. As far as using grips. I would say I use grips less than 25% of the time. Since I work at a warehouse, it's usually for protection of my wrist but I try to stay away from grips because my wrist are actually small. They may be 6-7 inches in circumference. I always want to train my wrist to be stronger.
Hey Mellyssa. Thanks for joining us here. You train at home? It makes sense to focus on training in a way that allows you to perform at work? What does your routine look like?
I like to do my deadlifts immediately after my squats in my heavy leg day! That is also all I do on my heavy day. I have a separate back day and volume leg day later in the week so they get real attention as well. As for straps, never used them, probably never will!
Hey, David. Thanks for chiming in. I used to do a routine for legs where I would alternate starting with deads and squats. It was a good plan. So what sets and reps do you do?
I just build up to a daily 3 rep max and squats I'll do 3-4 sets there and deadlifts once I got that top weight I'm done for the day! Not hardly any volume but i'm usually about 90% of my max so it exhausts me anyways. Might have to try starting with the deadlifts come next week!
I see the benefit of training deadlifts both on leg day and back day but when you put the pros and cons together I believe incorporating them into your back day is far more productive.
Understood, Aaron. I appreciate your insight and for reading. Thanks for supporting M&S.