Detailed Deadlift Program for Boosting Your 1RM

Are you striving to improve your deadlift? Want to build lean muscle mass, power, and stamina? But are you a novice at this compound exercise? No need to rush and run to a random gym to climb out of your skin to squeeze out the maximum of your capabilities. Entrust your training regime and skilling up your deadlift to proficient Oly lifters. That’s why we’re here! We’ll pick up the proper combination of workout exercise options to develop your general strength and enhance your deadlift progression in the shortest time possible.

Deadlift

What's Deadlift

The deadlift is a basic exercise in which almost all the body muscles are involved. Many athletes are familiar with and use this movement in their training program to develop their muscular system and strength.

Often, the deadlift is the first exercise that athletes learn in the gym, and continue to increase the deadlift throughout their careers. Also, it can be found in every strength training plan in the gym.

The deadlift originally came from powerlifting. However, it is also used in Olympic weightlifting, fitness, strongman, and many other sports that have a strength component.

The deadlift training program allows you to increase your RM performance quantitatively and qualitatively, gradually improving your lifting performance based on your body weight and gender. Regardless of your fitness level, join the deadlift training plan to load the bar with heavier weights in a short time.

What muscles work in the deadlift exercise?

This is one of the most basic exercises for training and developing maximum power and strength at the same time. The main emphasis is on the largest groups - the muscles of the back and legs. The hips, hamstrings, glutes, and lats also work well in the deadlift. Trapezius, deltas, triceps, core, forearms, etc. are also actively involved in the work.

What muscles work in the deadlift exercise?

Deadlift Variations

Each variation of the deadlift program serves to achieve a slightly different result. Let's take a look at the most common variations below:

1. Sumo Deadlift

This variation is mostly used in professional powerlifting deadlift routines. The technique of this exercise is more complicated than the classic deadlift. The main difference is that the athlete puts his feet as wide as possible stance and grabs the barbell with a shoulder-width grip. This technique significantly reduces the range of motion and more actively involves the muscles of the legs in comparison with the classical technique.

2. Romanian Deadlift

Another popular pull variation is performed with almost straight legs. This helps to train the hamstrings, glutes, and erectors of the spine more effectively.

The Romanian deadlift is a variation of the deadlift that focuses on the posterior chain muscles. It helps increase the size and strength of the hamstrings, glutes, and erectors of the spine.

RDL is included in the deadlift training program of almost all strength athletes, as the easiest and most effective way to work out the back of the body. As for other sports, it is often used as an auxiliary exercise. For example, strong spinal erectors are important for snatch and C&J, while hamstrings are critical for fast running and jumping.

3. Snatch Grip Deadlift

This option is ideal for Olympic weightlifters. This is almost a deadlift from the floor but executed with a wide grip. Its technique is almost the same structure as the traditional snatch exercise pull, but there is no power position and calf raise. This exercise gives good results in increasing the strength of the upper back and lower body, but without the phase of explosion.

Certain weightlifters choose snatch grip pulls as it puts less strain on the lower part of the back. The snatch deadlift is the main drill training of the snatch for strength development, balance, and movement control.

Weightlifters typically perform snatch deadlifts with heavier loads in comparison to snatch. This definitely helps them to grow specific strengths. The deadlift with snatch grip can be used as a corrective exercise with low loads to correct body position and angles, or as an instrument for learning the snatch.

The snatch Olympic deadlifting involves almost the same muscles as the classical deadlift. But, due to the wide grip, it gives more stress on the upper part of the back than on the lower back. The snatch-style deadlift is a longer exercise than the classic deadlift. A wide-style grip makes the athlete drive his hips back to complete the exercise. It targets the hamstrings and upper part back and can be effective for progressing with other drills, including classic pull.

To keep increasing the deadlift, you must do a similar load for a few weeks. This is usually achieved by adding weight, volume, and intensity each week. Keep in mind that linear and easy progress will one day end. Once this happens, a variety of exercises can be planned to overcome the plateau.

It also helps you mentally. Any changes and updates in the usual routine make workouts way more exciting. It may seem obvious, but enjoying your sessions is critical to sticking with a training cycle for the long haul.

4. Trap Bar Deadlift

This option is performed with special equipment. It helps to more evenly distribute the load between the legs and back and, therefore, is more comfortable and safer for the lower back. This makes the trap bar deadlift one of the best choices for a beginner deadlift program.

5. Deadlift From a Deficit Position

This variation is performed from an additional platform of regular weight-lifting plates. You can vary the height to make the exercise more difficult. The deficit deadlift aims to improve breakaway technique and starting speed. It teaches you to use all the important muscles and correctly distribute the load between them.

The Deadlift Advantages

Let's take a look at the main benefits that can be achieved by performing regular deadlifts.

1. The Hip Extensors Activation

The deadlift and its variations are the best exercises for hip extension training. These muscles include the gluteus maximus and the hamstring.

2. Explosive Power and Jump Development

Jumping is a key skill for many sports. The quality of the jump integrally reflects the development of the strength of the lower body. In addition, jumping power is transferred to other activities with maximum power, such as sprinting.

3. Increased Bone Density

Decreased bone mineral density is a common problem with aging and a problem in older people. This can lead to osteoporosis, which greatly increases the risk of fractures in the elderly. A large amount of scientific research supports the use of resistance training to slow bone density loss. This includes using exercises such as deadlifts.

4. Strengthening the Muscles of the Trunk

Coaching experience and research have shown that the deadlift and other free-weight strength exercises are an effective way to activate and strengthen the core muscles that stabilize the spine.

5. The Metabolism Acceleration

Weight loss is a common goal of many fitness programs. Qualitatively, losing weight through fat requires a person to burn more calories than they consume. When it comes to effectively boost your metabolism through movement, strength training with exercises like the deadlift is one of the most effective methods.

6. Minimum Number of Equipment

An important advantage of the deadlift is the simplicity of the equipment. All you need is a barbell and some discs to complete the movement.

Man with knee sleeves lifting a barbell

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Tips for Improving Deadlift Performance

Here are 8 top tips to improve your deadlift performance.

1. Regularity and Systematic Approach

The deadlift is a physiologically stressful exercise, you can recover from it for 48-72 hours, but for progression in the result of this exercise, it should be in the weekly plan 2-3 times a week. With a proper deadlift workout plan, progress will begin to be felt after 6-8 weeks of systematic training. Experienced trainers believe that in exercises such as squats, bench presses, and deadlifts, a full training cycle should last about 12 weeks or more.

2. Using an Optimal Grip

In Olympic weightlifting, there is only one grip option: the hook grip. But when we talk about basic strength training, there are many more rational options:

  • regular overhand grip;
  • mixed grip;
  • straps and hooks.

It all depends on your training goals. If an athlete trains the deadlift as an accessory exercise for their sport, the more varied the training and grip, the more functional the strength will be.

3. Grip Strengthening

Everyone who watched powerlifting competitions knows that unsuccessful attempts by athletes happen not only because they cannot pull up the barbell, but also because the weight slips out of their palms. It is for this reason that many strength athletes pay special attention to grip strength endurance.

There are two secret life hacks:

  • perform all the assisting exercises with a regular grip: bent over rows, pull-ups, farmer's walk, shrugs, etc.
  • on the last rep of the set, always hold at the top for 4-5 seconds to help strengthen your grip with static.

4. Increasing the Initial Speed of Movement

For pulling maximum weight, starting speed in the initial position is significant. To do this, it is important not only to pay attention to this phase of the movement, but also to develop strength in other auxiliary exercises:

Combined pulls:

  • with varied grips (narrow, regular, medium, wide);
  • with pauses or stops;
  • with an explosive start;
  • slow eccentric mode;
  • T&G;
  • variations of lunges;
  • variations of jumps.

The development of strength in these exercises is an important condition for increasing the starting speed in pulling.

Woman lifting a barbell

5. General Physical Fitness

Obviously, the deadlift effectively develops the strength of all the muscles of the athlete's body. But the safe and reliable performance of the deadlift itself is impossible without an additional strengthening of smaller muscles and stabilizing muscles.

For those who dream of serious kilograms in the deadlift and it is important to regularly train the following groups of exercises:

  • weighted pull-ups with different grips;
  • vertical and horizontal pulls;
  • farmers walk;
  • squats variations;
  • static and dynamic planks;
  • kettlebell swings.

6. Intensity and Progressive Overload

Obviously, in order to progress, you need to increase training weights. In order to become stronger, you need to purposefully develop loads. One method of developing strength is setting up a deadlift progression program. In simple terms, it includes progressive overload which is an alternation of training methods that exposes the athlete to specific stress that they have not experienced before. Adapting to these "unaccustomed loads" makes him more resilient, more powerful, stronger, and faster.

7. Pulling Barefoot

To perform barefoot deadlifts for an Olympic weightlifter sounds very unexpected and strange. And for a fitness amateur, this will seem not like the best deadlift program, but more likely as unsafe and unhygienic. But for powerlifters that this is absolutely acceptable. In fact, deadlifting without shoes is much more biomechanically rational than in any shoes. When the lifter has no heel, then the overturning action of the bar is practically absent, and the buttocks and thigh, especially the hamstrings, are turned on much more efficiently. Another detail - the trajectory of the bar is reduced. For an ordinary person, this may seem insignificant, but when you pull a world record, it matters a lot.

Barefoot deadlift

8. Mental Preparation

Never underestimate the power of mental preparation. There is such an unspoken rule that at the World Championships and the Olympic Games the first five athletes have almost the same strength level. But, as we know, there is always one winner. And this is the one whose nervous system remains stable in a stressful situation.

Another important aspect of mental preparation is visualization. Sports psychologists recommend that athletes while preparing for a competition, play with their imagination a successful scenario of performance or performance of individual exercises or their elements. In physiological terms, this is called autogenic training.

Technique in the Deadlift for Beginners and Intermediate to Advanced Lifters

The deadlift consists of 4 main phases:

  • starting position;
  • pull;
  • lockout;
  • descending.

Here’s a detailed description of each phase of the deadlift exercise, including its characteristics, advantages and drawbacks, as well as performance technique.

1. Starting Position

After the athlete has approached the bar, he must correctly set his feet. To do this, he needs to put his feet shoulder-width apart, and the projection of the bar passes through the middle of the foot. The bar should be as close as possible, touching the shin is allowed.

In the classic deadlift, the standard grip is slightly wider than the setting. There are three most common barbell grip options: overhand grip, mixed grip, and hook grip.

The first one is the simplest in terms of technology. Despite its simplicity, this grip has an important drawback: for many athletes, in the process of movement, fingers open underweight, and the bar simply rolls out. This does not mean at all that this grip is useless. Many athletes use straps to secure the bar, metal hooks, leather and synthetic training gloves, and other accessories that help solve the problem of grip stability.

The mixed grip is used not only in professional powerlifting, but also in the strength training of athletes and mass fitness. This technique looks like this: when grabbing the bar, the athlete holds the bar from below with one hand, and vice versa - from above. This technique significantly increases the reliability of the grip. The disadvantage of the mixed grip is the asymmetric distribution of the load and, as a result, the muscular imbalance of the right and left parts of the body. For example, to different muscle development of the arms, shoulders, or back.

The hook grip is the optimal solution primarily for professional weightlifters, as well as athletes of other sports. The technique of this grip is as follows: the athlete wraps his fingers around the bar and thumb. This allows you to hold a lot of weight and at the same time keep your arm muscles as relaxed as possible. This grip can really cause some pain, but all athletes get used to it and feel this position is quite natural.

After placing the feet and arms correctly in the starting position, it is necessary to place the torso and legs. The back must be arched and tense. The legs must be bent at the knee and hip joints so that the pelvis is approximately in line with the knees. The shoulders should be positioned so that they are above the bar or slightly cover it. The gaze should be directed forward, the neck should be in a neutral position.

Man lifting a barbell in the gym

2. Pull

After the athlete has taken a correct and comfortable starting position for himself, it is necessary to perform several more important preparatory actions. It is necessary to bend the lower back, open the chest and bring the shoulder blades together. A movement starts with the legs. It is important not just to strive to lift weight, but with the maximum to push the platform away from you.

During the exercise, maintain the position of the shoulders above the bar and synchronously unbend the back and legs. After the bar has passed the level of the knees, it is necessary to actively engage and compress the gluteal muscles.

To maintain an economical and efficient trajectory, it is necessary to pull the bar as close. It is allowed to touch the legs throughout the entire trajectory. If the lifter lets the weight go away, then there is a risk that your back will round and the whole biomechanics of movement will break.

Man lifting a barbell in the gym

3. Lockout

The pull is considered completed after the full extension of the knee and hip joints. Overextending the trunk back can lead to spinal injury. Therefore, the athlete must ensure that his position is as vertically straight as possible. This position must be held for about a second to fix, and after that, the bar must be correctly lowered onto the platform.

Lockout deadlifting

4. Descending

Lowering the barbell must be done in a controlled manner. In fact, the lifter must copy the path of the bar up when moving down. You cannot relax the muscles immediately after fixation and do not throw the barbell onto the platform. This can lead to unpleasant consequences and even injury. And in competition, if the lifter has not escorted the barbell down to the platform, the judges will not count the attempt as a good lift.

Also, if the pull is performed for a large number of repetitions, you need to maintain back tension throughout the entire set.

Progress in the Deadlift

Progress in the deadlift depends on the athlete's fitness level. Let's take a brief look at the development of the deadlift performance for each level of training.

1. Novice Deadlift Progress

For athletes whose training experience is less than 6-9 months and its training frequency is up to a 3-day deadlift program, it makes no sense to strive to set records. Their training process in deadlift should be aimed at studying and improving the technique of all phases of movement, developing general physical fitness, strengthening the core, and small stabilizing muscles. Overally, they should follow a general deadlift strength program to build their body strength capabilities to lift more in further.

2. Intermediate Deadlift Progress

Intermediate lifters perform full-fledged deadlift training programs and actively participate in competitions. They are very familiar with the technique, progress steadily, and move with their intended results. Intermediate athletes (depending on the weight category) are able to reach weights equal to two body weights and more.

3. Progress in Advanced Lifter's Deadlift

An advanced-level athlete has more than 3 years of training experience. Most often, those who are engaged in advanced deadlift programs or other power sports professionally fall into this category. Such athletes train under the guidance of a personal trainer and have an individualized training program, which is compiled taking into account:

  • competition schedule;
  • the level of training of the athlete;
  • a basic law of periodization;
  • the individual characteristics of this athlete.
Man lifting a barbell

Key Factors in a Deadlift Program

Obviously, in order to progress, a personalized deadlift workout program is a must-have. That means you need to increase the load, and in order to become stronger, you need to purposefully develop strength. One method of developing strength is progressive overload.

In simple terms, progressive overload is the alternation of training methods that puts the athlete under stress that they have not experienced before. Adapting to that stress makes it bigger, stronger, and faster. And it's not just about increasing the weight of the barbell, sets, and reps.

It can also be:

  • frequency of training;
  • prescribed number of sets and reps;
  • rest time between sets.

A combination of these methods can help speed up progress and avoid deadlift plateaus. It is very important to remember that all of the above WITHOUT correct angles and technique is a direct path to injury.

1. Training Frequency

Deadlift training for maximum results always works with heavy weights. The experience of high-level powerlifters shows this type of deadlift cycle. They practice super-heavy deadlifts 1-2 times a week, and the last heavy deadlift is done 3-5 weeks before the performance.

These intervals should help you understand how important physical and mental recovery is and that it takes time. It's also important to remember that powerlifters can develop tremendous strength, but often lose out to weightlifters, strongmen, and functionalists in terms of power, speed, and flexibility.

2. Intensity

Speaking about how to train deadlift and about specific load parameters, you need to remember that effective strength work is a load of 75-85% of your 1RM, for 3-8 reps.

Man with deadlift belt

Common Deadlift Programming Mistakes

For many, the deadlift seems to be a fairly technically simple exercise. But in fact, learning the right movement is not so simple. A large number of novice athletes often make a similar set of mistakes. Some of them can be traumatic.

1. Rounding Back

This mistake is quite common among both beginners and experienced athletes. The back can round out if the lifter “releases forward” the bar during the upward movement and as a result the center of gravity moves to the forefoot. Another reason for rounding the back can be an incorrect starting position: when the athlete’s hips are too high and the entire load is shifted to the back as much as possible.

Also, this error can occur if the athlete has not arched enough and strained the lower back and back muscles in the starting position. This skill is essential to keep your torso in the correct position throughout the entire pull.

And practical advice: do not try to lift a weight with which you are not able to follow all the technical rules. This risk is absolutely not justified, especially if you are engaged in weightlifting, fitness, where as a rule there is no goal to perform this exercise to the maximum.

2. Overextension During Fixation

Overextending the trunk back can lead to spinal injury. Therefore, the athlete must ensure that his position is as vertically straight as possible. This position must be held for about a second to fix, and after that, the bar must be correctly lowered onto the platform. It is important for athletes to always remember that this fixation phase ends when the knees and back are straightened, but the torso is not tilted back.

3. Release the Bar Forward

When an athlete makes this mistake, it causes a lot of dangerous and unnecessary leverage in the body. With this position and angles, the spine receives a very large load and compression of the lumbar discs, which can injure them. To minimize the risk of this mistake, always pull the barbell as close to your shins and thighs as possible.

4. Wrong Projection of the Bar

Both in the starting position and in the deadlift, the projection of the bar should be in the middle of the foot. If this balance is shifted further forward or backward, the entire biomechanics of the pull is disrupted. In this case, the athlete is more likely to make the mistake we discussed first on this list.

5. Too Narrow Grip

The optimal grip width in the classic deadlift should be slightly wider than the width of the feet. If an athlete performs an exercise with a too narrow grip, then this can provoke a number of more errors. For example, the arms may be bent at the elbows to make room for the knees in the starting position. With this technique, there is a strong tension in the muscles of the arms. And this significantly increases the risk of injury and rupture of the biceps.

Woman lifting a barbell in the gym

Training Plan for Every Grade Level

Choose your own deadlift workout plan based on your fitness level, experience, training needs, and goals.
Grade levelBeginnerIntermediateAdvanced
1-week training planIncludes:
  • training frequency is up to a 3-day deadlift program
  • Aim: studying and improving the technique of all phases of movement
  • developing general physical fitness
  • strengthening the core and small stabilizing muscles
  • build body strength capabilities for further lifting
Includes:
  • full-fledged deadlift training programs
  • progress steadily, and move with the intended results
  • an athlete is already able to reach weights equal to two body weights and more
Includes:
  • training under the guidance of a personal trainer
  • have an individualized training program, which is compiled taking into account:
    • athlete's competition schedule
    • the level of training of the athlete, his general condition
A 1-week Olympic weightlifting program that includes the deadlift cycle with the following training schedule:
Deadlift program
Monday:
  • General warmup
  • Hyperextension: 3 x 10 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • ABS: 3 x 10 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • Muscle snatch: 4 x 6 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • Deadlift:
          1 x 5 x 50% of 1RM of DL
          1 x 5 x 60% of 1RM of DL
          1 x 5 x 70% of 1RM of DL
          4 x 4 x 80% of 1RM of DL
  • Good morning: 3 x 12 x 50% of 1RM
  • Plank: 3 sets x 45 sec
  • Post-workout stretching
Tuesday: day-off
Wednesday:
  • General warmup
  • Superman: 3 sets x 15 reps
  • Gakk squat: 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Snatch: 4 x 3 x 50% of 1RM of SN
  • Front Squat+Jerk: 4 x 1+2 x 50% of 1RM of C&J
  • Front squat:
          1 x 4 x 50% of 1RM of C&J
          1 x 4 x 60% of 1RM of C&J
          1 x 4 x 70% of 1RM of C&J
          4 x 4 x 80% of 1RM of C&J
  • Wrists flexion: 3 x 15 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • Post-workout stretching
Thursday: day-off
Friday:
  • General warmup
  • Hyperextension: 3 x 10 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • ABS: 3 x 15 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • Deficit clean: 3 x 3 x 50% of 1RM
  • Deficit deadlift:
          1 x 5 x 50% of 1RM
          1 x 5 x 60% of 1RM
          4-5 x 5 x 75% of 1RM
  • Romanian deadlift: 3 x 12 x 55-70% of 1RM
  • Reverse plank: 3 sets x 45 sec
  • Post-workout stretching
Saturday: day-off
Sunday: day-off
Depending on the grade, the deadlift workout cycle can vary in the number of sets and reps, by performing different ratios of the RM. For starters, the repetition deadlift may look as follows: 2-3 sets x 8-12 reps at 50% of 1RM, or 1 set x 5 reps at 50% of 1RM. Also, when an athlete has a day off, it's possible to do some accessory movements to maintain proper body form.

FAQ

How Many Days a Week Do You Deadlift?

It depends on your fitness level: a beginner can train one to three times a week, with a longer period for recovery between exercises. While an experienced athlete who has already been training regularly and has already been performing deadlifts can work out five or six times a week. Recovery time can be decreased.

Are 3 Sets of 6 Good for Deadlift?

Yes, it’s considered to be a standard number of sets and reps. Generally, you should choose a set & rep range, and weight according to your capabilities. For strength training, it’s recommended to perform 3-4 sets of 2-6 reps. For building muscle mass, it’s better to do more - 4 sets of 6-12 reps will be enough.

Conclusion

Pick up your surefire way to improve your sports performance, particularly excelling at deadlifting with a properly selected deadlift workout plan. Master your pulling technique, hit your personal record in deadlift, and build up raw power under the guidance of top sportsmen and Olympic weightlifters.
Also read:
References:
  • Deadlift Muscle Force and Activation Under Stable and Unstable Conditions  //  The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2010/10000/Deadlift_Muscle_Force_and_Activation_Under_Stable.20.aspx
  • Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review  //  PubMed Central: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7046193/
  • An electromyographic analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts  //  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 34(4):p 682-688, April 2002: https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2002/04000/An_electromyographic_analysis_of_sumo_and.19.aspx
  • An Electromyographic Analysis of Romanian, Step-Romanian, and Stiff-Leg Deadlift: Implication for Resistance Training  //  PubMed Central: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8835508/
  • Shod vs. Barefoot Effects on Force and Power Development During a Conventional Deadlift  //  Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32(6):p 1525-1530, June 2018: https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2018/06000/Shod_vs__Barefoot_Effects_on_Force_and_Power.5.aspx
  • Variability of lumbar spinal alignment among power- and weightlifters during the deadlift and barbell back squat  //  SPORTS BIOMECHANICS 2022, VOL. 21, NO. 6, 701–717: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/14763141.2019.1675751?needAccess=true&role=button

My name is Oleksiy Torokhtiy. I am a professional athlete with 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. I have won multiple European, and World titles and have taken part in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008, London 2012).

After finishing my career, I have committed myself to coach, and as of 2022, I’ve hosted 200+ weightlifting seminars all over the globe. I’m the founder of an international sportswear and accessories brand, Warm Body Cold Mind (my motto), author, and creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

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