Deadlifting 101 – How To Do The Deadlift

There was a day when bodybuilders were characterized by thick massive torsos, tumbling traps, and sweeping lats that hung like boxcar doors from broad-beamed shoulders. All this came about from slapping as many iron plates as possible onto a barbell and dead lifting it off the ground in whatever manner it took to get the weight up.

The deadlift is the oldest of all weight training exercises and is one of the most effective exercises for overall body development. Deadlifts are not pretty and neither are the men who hoisted them, but this movement made their physiques the biggest, thickest, and strongest in the world.

The deadlift is a compound movement that works all of the major muscles in the body, with most of emphasis on the traps, spinal erectors, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. The remaining muscles are involved in stability control.

It is the purest single test of strength because it is one of the few lifts where you lift a dead weight off the ground. In most other lifts the weight changes direction or starts from the top position and you can use reversal strength and momentum to rebound and assist in lifting the weight, as in the squat and bench press.

In this blog post you are going to get a complete deadlift workout program that will help increase your deadlift poundages, allowing you increase your overall strength, and pack on slabs of thick dense muscle mass to your frame.


==========================================================

Click PLAY To Watch Deadlifting Tutorial Videos:

If you can’t see the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it on YouTube by Clicking Here




If you can’t see the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it on YouTube by Clicking Here

==========================================================


Regular Conventional Deadlift

Conventional Deadlift

This is the standard deadlift. To perform this lift stand in front of a barbell with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Line yourself up so that the joint of your toes are under the bar. Grab the bar with your hands outside your legs, a bit wider then shoulder width. Bend down and grab the barbell with your arms straight. Keeping your head up, drive your heels into the floor and pull your shoulders back and bringing your hips forward to straighten out your body and lock out the deadlift. (This is shown in more detail in the 2nd video above Deadlift FAQ).


Sumo Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift

The Sumo deadlift gets its name because you position your feet wide and squat down, just like the stance of a Sumo Wrestler. This variation changes the emphasis of the lift and places more of work on the hips and legs and a little bit less of the workload on the lower back. In a powerlifting meet you can perform either dead lift variation. Depending on your physical build and strengths you’ll generally find that you are stronger with either the sumo deadlift or the conventional deadlift. But you’ll have to try both variations to see what works best for you and your body type.

When doing the sumo deadlift, rather then focusing on pulling the weight up, focus on keeping your knees out wide and pushing your feet out to the sides as if you are trying to spread the floor apart with your feet. At the same time drive your hips forward. This will improve your leverage and allow you lift more weight. (The sumo deadlift is shown in more detail in the 1st video above How To Deadlift).


Stiff Leg Deadlift (aka Romanian Deadlift)

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift, also known as the Romanian Deadlift, is a variation that places most of the emphasis on the hamstrings. This variation is often used for higher reps and lighter weights compared to the conventional and sumo deadlifts. The legs are kept almost straight through the movement, with just a slight bend in the knees to take stress off the tendons.

You can start with a regular conventional deadlift to get the weight up off the floor. Then just bend over at the waist until you feel good stretch in the hamstrings and then straighten your body back up. If you don’t let the weight plates touch the floor in between reps you’ll keep constant tension on the muscles at all times during the Romanian deadlift. (The stiff leg deadlift is shown in more detail in the 1st video above How To Deadlift).


Extra Deadlift Training Tips

For most guys, their grip strength (or lack there of) is the weak link when it comes to deadlifting. If your hands are not strong enough to hold onto the bar, than the weight will not go up, regardless of how strong you are in the back, hips and legs.

Increase Grip Strength…

To help increase your grip try using lifting chalk on your hands. Lifting chalk is just magnesium carbonate and it is actually good for the hands. Chalk will dry up sweat and increase friction between your hands and the bar.

Weight Lifting Chalk

Lifting chalk comes is small blocks and is available at most sports stores for less then $10. I keep a block of lifting chalk in my gym bag at all times. I store it in a small Tupperware container and use it for most all free weight exercises, especially deadlifts.

Another grip tip that helps the deadlift tremendously is using a mixed or alternate grip when lifting heavy weights. This is simply holding the barbell with one hand facing forwards and the other hand facing backwards.

Alternate Grip For Deadlifting

The advantage of this grip is that as the bar is rolling out of one hand, it is also rolling into the other hand. Thus allowing you to hold onto heavier weights then you could with a regular overhand grip.

When using a mixed grip I like to switch back and forth with the hand positions for each set. For example, do one set with my left hand facing forwards, then the next set with my right hand facing forwards, etc. Switching back and forth like this will help to ensure equal development in your arms and back over the long term.

Proper Foot Ware…

When you deadlift you should wear flat thin soled sneakers. This will keep your body in proper alignment to lift and keep your feet as close to the ground as possible. If you wear thicker soled sneakers this will increase distance that you have to pull the bar. It may not sound like much, but that extra inch of cushioning could take several pounds off your max deadlift. My personal favorite sneakers are Chuck Taylor Converse, these are one of the best lifting sneakers that I’ve ever worn. They are totally flat and provide good grip and ankle support.

Weight Lifting Belts…

A weight lifting belt should be worn on your top weight heavy sets. The purpose of a belt is to provide protection, support, and stability for the entire mid-section, especially the lower back. I recommend that you NOT wear the belt for your lighter weight warm up sets. Instead just save it for your top weight “working sets” when you need it the most. Overuse of a weight lifting belt may actually weaken the muscles of the mid-section because of the constant support, the muscles will not get a chance to be worked like the rest of the body.


==========================================================

Click PLAY To Find Out Which Weight Lifting Belt Is The Best:

If you can’t see the embedded video clip above,
you can watch it on YouTube by Clicking Here

==========================================================


Training For A Bigger Deadlift!

Most guys who try to improve their deadlift go about it the wrong way and pump out a few high rep sets, just like you would for bicep curls. However, the best way to improve your deadlift strength is to perform multiple sets of single reps. This is how a lot of powerlifters and strongman competitors build up to deadlifting huge weights. Below you’re going to get a simple 7 week deadlift workout program that will help increase your deadlift 1 rep max.

I’ve used this cycle several times with great results each time. With each set / rep focus on pulling the weights with perfect form and being fast and explosive. The faster you lift the weight (with good form), the more stress you’ll apply to the muscles, and the stronger you’ll become.

7 Week Deadlift Workout

Do this deadlift workout once per week as part of your back training day. The weights listed are based on a percentage of your current 1 rep max deadlift.

Week one: 70% – 15 sets of 1 – rest one minute between sets
Week two: 75% – 12 sets of 1 – rest one minute between sets
Week three: 80% – 10 sets of 1 – rest 90 seconds between sets
Week four: 85% – 6 sets of 1 – rest 90 seconds between sets
Week five: 90% – 3 sets of 1 – rest two minutes between sets
Week six: Rest (no deadlifting)
Week seven: try for a new max deadlift. Rest as long as you need in between sets (i.e. 3+ minutes)

Note: You can use this 7 week deadlift cycle for either the sumo or conventional deadlift. But do Not use this routine for the stiff leg / Romanian deadlift, for those keep the reps higher (i.e. 3 sets of 10 reps).

To show an example with some real numbers, lets assume the lifter has a 1 rep max of 315 pounds.

Week one: 15 sets of 1 rep with 220 pounds
Week two: 12 sets of 1 rep with 235 pounds
Week three: 10 sets of 1 rep with 250 pounds
Week four: 6 sets of 1 rep with 265 pounds
Week five: 3 sets of 1 rep with 285 pounds
Week six: rest
Week seven: work up to a new 1 rep max…

Most folks who are used to bodybuilding type workouts will probably be quite surprised by the idea of doing multiple sets of single reps. But this is one of the most effective ways to develop strength and power. Obviously you will not be pumping out reps until failure, but rather you’ll be explosive and feel strong and powerful with each single rep set. Generally, after the first few sets you’ll actually feel stronger and be able to pull the bar up harder and faster. This is due to getting comfortable with the exercise and getting into your individual groove where your body position feels strongest.

By using the training tips and suggestions covered in this blog post and video tutorials you should have no problem increasing your personal best deadlift.

If you like this post, please LIKE it and SHARE it with your friends and leave me your comments below…

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

48 Comments

  • Hi lee.
    Makes a lot of sense. Except everyone needs to be really aware of the implications of hernia, and specifically umbilical hernia. Everyone has a congenital weakness where the umbilical cord was connected,
    unfortunately for me, I overdid the weight for too long. Years later I have this lump the size of a chickens egg sticking out my stomach. $35k of surgery, and 6 months later, I’ m back to the gym.
    I now deadlift 225 x 15 for 3 or 4 sets. My surgeon has banned me from anything more.
    Also would like to comment on the effect of any pull exercise on the hands.
    Over time the grip eventually gives out. Your muscle power far exceeds your grip.
    I wake at 3am , hands like a claw, and tingling crazy. Takes hours to get feeling back.
    I now use wrist wraps, and wrist loops to take the strain off the joints.
    Listen all you people in your 20s & 30s. this stuff will come back and bite you in the arse when you are older. It’s not fun. Believe me

    Tricky one. Lee,w onder what your comments are on this subject ?
    Thanks for all the good work

    By the way, I still work out 6 days a week, and totally push myself to the limit.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Bruce

    Reply Reply

    Lee…just watched your video on which belts to use. A great place on the web is Best Belts.
    Just bought one last month…they have different types, but the most popular is the
    Athletic. It’s suede lined, 4 inch belt and is 10-11 mm thick.
    Best Belts is at http://www.bestbelts.net/
    I believe in passing on what I’ve found to be great products.

    God Bless Lee
    Bruce

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • steve C,

    Hernia’s are weird because the majority of people who get hernias don’t even lift weights. So you can’t just assume that weight lifting is the root cause of hernia’s.

    As for your hands getting the tingling feeling, it’s sounds like carpal tunnel syndrome to me. I suffer from this. It’s not too serious, I can keep it under control with stretching and forearm exercises. This here could be the topic for another video lesson.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Bruce,

    I’ve never heard of them before, but they seem to have good prices. Thanks for sharing.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Steve Langley

    Reply Reply

    I have a stiff neoprene belt which is thick in the front and in the back but narrower on the sides. It was a christmas present as it happens so i didn’t buy it myself, but I just wondered what your opinion on this style belt was?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Steve Langley

    Reply Reply

    Steve Langley: neoprene

    Well, I wouldn’t say it was neoprene. A fabric which is not leather would be more accurate.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sam

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee, I’ve got a question for you,
    I’ve seen many power lifters handling heavy weights in the deadlift, but they all have small traps: So why do you think deadlifting develops large traps?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Adam Stroud

    Reply Reply

    Great so the guy at the gym telling me to have my butt all the way down in the squatting postion was talking out his arse actually and I’ve been doing them right all along so that’s cleared that 1 up. Nice one brother!!!!!!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sam,

    Powerlifters will come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of them will have small traps.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Tman

    Reply Reply

    The tingling in hands and wrists could also be due to Thoracic outlet syndrome- compression of the neurovascular bundle , between the first rib and clavicle. Caused by the downward compression of your shoulder girdle and ac joint with the heavy weight held at the end of your arms. The wrist straps also may be a cause for concern as they can cause traction to the radiocarpal joints.
    steve C,

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Hey Lee, you ever hear of or try Advocare products? We have quite a few guys in Olympic lifting and bodybuilding using their products and it is a great way to earn income with referrals. Has anyone ever talked to you about it? If not I’d love to share my experience. I’ve been training for about 13 years and they have great stuff. Ok, thanks for the video 🙂

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sam

    Reply Reply

    leehayward:
    Sam,

    Powerlifters will come in all shapes and sizes. Not all of them will have small traps.

    They’ve all got big lats, but not big traps!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Perfect, I’m always struggling to get my technique 100% right

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • mr.lee thanks for the tips on buying wt.lifting belt …however I cant get to my gym regually. however I would send me printout form on jungle gym resistence band work outs. for all around workouts.pls send me printout if you can. p.s. I enjoy all your routines…..

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • vijay

    Reply Reply

    i have sciatica problem, can i perform deadlift?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph

    Reply Reply

    My only concern with these kinds of routines are the increased chance of getting injured especially with dead lifts considering the weight being moved. If I were to try this out I would do partial reps instead of full reps to try and decrease the chances of injury. My max dead is around 405 for 3 reps so how much do you think I should be able to gain afterwards? 20 lbs, 40 lbs, 90 lbs? I’d like to hit the 500 lb dead lift for a personal best.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply

    Going to try this. How many times per week do you expect this workout to be done? I probably get a back workout in every 4 days or so, or do think I’ll need more rest with this routine? Thanks

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Andrew,

    This deadlift routine should be done once a week. You need to rest a week between deadlift workouts for optimal results.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph,

    The risk of injury with this routine isn’t that great because the weights are all below your max effort lift and the reps are very low. You’ll build strength through performing multiple sets and improving your technique and explosiveness. To find out your starting weights, just use a calculator (i.e. start with 70% of your max for week 1, 75% of your max for week 2, 80% for week 3, etc.) Round the number to the nearest 5 pound increment.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • vijay:
    i have sciatica problem, can i perform deadlift?

    I don’t have any experience with this myself. If you have concerns you should check with your doctor or a physiotherapist to see what exercises you can and can’t perform.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph

    Reply Reply

    leehayward,

    So how much would you estimate your max should increase with this routine? 5%, 10%?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Thomas mc donagh

    Reply Reply

    Hi lee good way to improve it and get max results it would widein your back alot id think doing that work out along with ur 3 day split all the best thomas.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Peter Mijares

    Reply Reply

    I like your videos a lot very helpful !! You did talk about shoes for deadlifting keeping your feet flat on the floor. Is this true for squats, I hear you should have 1/2″ to 3/4″ heel is there truth to that?
    Pete

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • keviw

    Reply Reply

    I have bulging disk in my lower back. What is the should i do less when to it come to working out

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • joseph kaufman

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee I Can’t Download The Free 12 Week Workout Program

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Sam

    Reply Reply

    You’ll develop good lats, but no traps.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Clayton P.

    Reply Reply

    Hey, Lee:

    First of all, let me say I’ve been using your workout routines cyclically for about 2 years now, and I really love the results. Your Blast Your Bench and Blast Your Biceps programs, in particular, I’ve really found helpful. I’ve used your deadlift routine, too, but I’ve always wondered: on leg day after completing the deadlift routine assigned for that day in that week, what other leg work should I do? Leg presses? Hack Squats? If you could let me know, I’d sure appreciate it. Thanks, and keep doing what you’re doing!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • hi man
    I don’t agree with putting your back in the position you use at finish of deadlift , your are asking
    for trouble with that position, I used that and my back was always iffy ,been ok since
    I finish standing straight and tall.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph,

    It’s hard to say for sure because there are a lot of variables involved. But most guys should get upwards of a 10% increase in their max deadlift with this program.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Peter Mijares:
    I like your videos a lot very helpful !! You did talk about shoes for deadlifting keeping your feet flat on the floor.Is this true for squats, I hear you should have 1/2″ to 3/4″ heel is there truth to that?
    Pete

    For deadlifting your feet should be flat, a lot of lifters wear deadlift slippers or flat sole shoes when deadlifting.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • keviw:
    I have bulging disk in my lower back. What is the should i do less when to it come to working out

    If you have pre-existing back problems you should NOT perform this deadlift program.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • joseph kaufman:
    Hi Lee I Can’t Download The Free 12 Week Workout Program

    Try entering your e-mail address in the form again and make sure to check your junk mail folder to see if the program mistakenly got filtered out as spam.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Clayton P.:
    Hey, Lee:

    First of all, let me say I’ve been using your workout routines cyclically for about 2 years now, and I really love the results. Your Blast Your Bench and Blast Your Biceps programs, in particular, I’ve really found helpful.I’ve used your deadlift routine, too, but I’ve always wondered: on leg day after completing the deadlift routine assigned for that day in that week, what other leg work should I do? Leg presses? Hack Squats? If you could let me know, I’d sure appreciate it. Thanks, and keep doing what you’re doing!

    The deadlift would be your main exercise for this workout. Afterwards you can do some isolation work for your back, legs, and core.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • sean:
    hi man
    I don’t agree with putting your back in the position you use at finish of deadlift , your are askingfor trouble with that position, I used that and my back was always iffy ,been ok sinceI finish standing straight and tall.

    Thanks for sharing, the main thing is you do what feels best for your body type.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • DJ

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee
    i dont know if the the below question has reached you yet , im asking the person that has back problem how he could perform this exercice

    your is much appreciated
    DJ

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • mike sanders

    Reply Reply

    Hey Lee, you should have emphasized when doing the dead lift its important to touch the floor on the negative, reset yourself and start again. I was doing this mistake ( unknown to me) of bouncing the weight. So after careful research, I was able to correct myself and avoid injury. I hope you can include this common mistake in your next video. Thanks for the tips bro and much success!!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • Re-setting the weight and starting from a dead stop each time is a lot harder. But I know some guys who like to bounce the bar off the floor when performing higher reps. It’s not really a matter or right or wrong, as long as you are aware that using the bouncing technique is a little bit easier.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  • I have two degenerat discs in my lower back, is it ok to do this exercise?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • 121mcv:
    I have two degenerat discs in my lower back, is it ok to do this exercise?

    You should check with your doctor first to make sure your back is strong enough for weight training. And if you get the green light to go ahead than you can perform the deadlift, but just start really light, even with the weight of the empty barbell and progress gradually.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph Croft

    Reply Reply

    I am 71 years of age and I have been deadlifting for about 6 months now and I can do 1 rep with 303 lb , I normally start with 6 reps and work my way up to 1 – 2 reps near my max 3 times a week , I started doing it as I read some where that lifting heave weight increases bone density , I also work out 4 times a week on my York multi-Gym , is that too much for an old boy like me ,

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Dave

    Reply Reply

    Hi Lee
    Can this program type be used for other exercises such as bench press and squats

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • I personally haven’t tried it for other exercises, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work for those lifts as well.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph

    Reply Reply

    leehayward,

    wow, that’s more then I thought. When I commented awhile back I hadn’t quite perfected my technique and was having back issues thus the comment i left about possible injuries. but sense then I have gotten much more better at it and my lower back issues have completely gone. I’ve been doing a routine that I adapted from Mark Bells bench pressing routine. it’s sorta like the one you gave but a bit more reps. Here’s what I do for my first week. I actually did this routine last week. Its a 5 week program maxing on your 5th week.
    Week 1 3/24
    Warm up
    125 lbs 10 reps 30% of max
    165 lbs 6 reps 40% of max
    255 lbs 3 reps 60% of max
    290 lbs 1 reps 70% of max

    Working Sets
    310 lbs 6 reps (4 sets) (75% of max)
    330 lbs 3 reps (3 sets) (80% of max)

    so what do you think about this routine? it increasing the sets, decreases the reps and increases the weight percentage slightly as the weeks progress. in your opinion is this an optimal routine for increasing your max? to be honest I’ve been doing this for several months and my max has not increased anywhere near what your estimates were on your routine. I started out at a max of 405 and am at around 425 now and I’ve done the routine at least 2 times. of course i’m not quite a newbie at this so there’s that. i mean i know newbs are going to get much faster gains then a more advanced lifter would.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

    • The most important thing is that you still made strength gains, which is good. But for deadlifting progress I’ve personally found that I’ve made my best gains doing multiple sets of single reps. I got this routine from the old West Side Barbell VHS tapes, this was a routine that Louis Simmons recommended back in the day to increase your deadlift max and I’ve found it to be quite effective.

        (Quote)  (Reply)

      • Joseph

        Reply Reply

        leehayward,
        Right well I was wondering if there was potentially a better way to do it. I was thinking the routine you would use to increase your one rep max on the bench doesn’t necessarily mean it will be as effective adapted to the dead-lift or the squat for that matter. I don’t know maybe the squat and bench are more similar then deads as you have stated in previous videos I mean you don’t have that rebound effect and all. you don’t happen to have a routine like this suited for squats or bench press do you or would you just do this routine for those also?

          (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Joseph,

    I do have a bench press specialization training program called “Blast Your Bench” at: http://www.leehayward.com/muscle-building/blast-your-bench-program.htm this is a totally different style of training from the deadlift program here in this blog post, but it is very effective for busting through bench press plateaus. There’s also a squat specialization program that’s included with the Blast Your Bench routine.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Videos were very helpful. Thanks

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Darshan

    Reply Reply

    Steve Langley,

    These are poor belts Steve. Buy a thick wide powerlifting belt, a budget version would do nicely. It will. Last you a lifetime. These neoprene belts provide no support and most experienced lifters only use them for keeping your lower back warm

      (Quote)  (Reply)

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field