Do you want to know how to increase the deadlift? Is your progression coming to a halt? Are you struggling to hit those numbers? Do you want to get the most out of every single rep? Then keep reading to discover 8 proven methods that will take your deadlift to the next level.
Unfortunately, with any exercise, let alone a big technical one like the deadlift, your progress is going to come to a slow and steady halt and plateau at some point through your program. Gaining muscle and building strength start to become an uphill struggle.
The more advanced you are, than the more so this will apply to you. Why? Because you are so much closer to your genetic potential than a beginner would be.
Trying to prevent stagnation and climbing out of those horrible ruts is all part of the training journey.
The strategies listed below will help you to consistently progress in the deadlift by pulling you through those ruts. However, if you implement them properly they will also help you avoid those ruts in the first place.
1. Proper Form Is Key (Learn It Then Learn It Some More)
If your form sucks, then your deadlift will suck. You may be able to get away with some crappy form in the beginning and still see those weights go up, but very quickly those improvements will stop and/or you will get injured.
Learning to deadlift properly should be your utmost priority before anything else. You are creating the foundation for everything else to work from.
Even when you are at an advanced stage, don’t think the learning process should stop. It can become very easy for the brain to get lazy during the lift and it’s vitally important you constantly remind yourself of proper technique. Many of the best deadlifters around will go over cues in their head before a heavy lift to ensure everything is in place and done correctly.
I really can’t stress enough how important proper technique is when it comes to such a complex movement as the deadlift.
Quick Tip – Write down some cues on a cheat sheet to constantly remind yourself of the little parts that are easy to forget. Below is an example of what a cheat sheet may look like.
- Grip the bar with your fingers, not your palms
- Squeeze and crush the bar as hard as you can
- Squeeze your arms in tight to your side.
- Drive the bar up with force
- Push the world away with your feet
As you can see I have not listed a guide here on every aspect of the technique. The last thing you will want to do is read a full guide before attempting every set. But these are little points that can often be forgotten yet make a huge difference to the lift.
Another Quick Tip – Don’t be afraid to video yourself doing the deadlift. Yes, I know it can be annoying constantly seeing people taking mirror selfies and updating their Instagram profiles mid-workout, but you won’t be doing this for vanity.
Video both your warm-up sets and your working sets. Do this from all different angles. Look to see if there are any differences and at what stage of the deadlift your form changes from your easier lighter warm-up sets to your heavy working sets. You can then really focus your mind on correcting any parts that are not quite right during your next session.
Also, use a video like the one below, of an expert doing deadlifts in perfect form and again compare each segment of yours to the person in the video. This will again show you which parts need adjusting, and you can quickly get to work in correcting them.
2. Add-In Accessory Work To Strengthen Your Back And Grip
The most common places to fail on the deadlift (reach sticking points), or where form changes from perfect to questionable are a few inches above the ground or a few inches shy of fully locking out and standing up with the bar.
There will, of course, be many strategies and tips on this list to help but one of the main causes of this is usually a lack of strength through your back and grip. Work on both of these and you will see a huge difference.
On your deadlift or pull days, depending on what program format you are following, add-in some accessory work to help strengthen these weaker areas. Below are some brilliant exercises you can include.
Back Accessory Work
Lower Back Hyperextensions
Grip Strength Accessory Work
Double Overhand Grip Barbell Hold
Here’s how to incorporate this into your program:
- Aim to grip onto the bar for around 30 seconds.
- By the end of the 30 seconds, you should be failing or very close to it. If you clearly had a good few seconds left in the tank, then add more weight.
- Do this at the end of a deadlifting/pulling session.
- If 30 seconds is reached when doing the first set, that’s your cue to increase the weight.
- Don’t worry if you manage to reach 30 seconds on your first set, but once increasing the weight on the next 2 you fail. This is meant to happen. When you come to do these again in your next deadlift/pull session, you will start with the increased weight.
- Aim for 2 to 3 sessions a week.
3. Create A Strong And Focus Mindset Before Each Set
You see it all the time these days in the gym. Someone has been sat down on their phone for 6 or 7 minutes and when they finally decide to put it down and do their next set, they just casually walk up to the weights and have zero intensity in their lift.
If you are attempting to do a heavy set of deadlifts then this isn’t going to cut it. I’m sure whoever you were talking to on WhatsApp can wait until after your training session so leave the phone in your bag and use the time before your next set to get 100% mentally prepared, excited and pumped up ready to lift those dam weights.
It’s proven by research that there is a significant improvement in force production when verbal feedback is received before the set. Pumping out some of your favourite training music is a great way to achieve this.
And guess what. The total opposite is true as well. If you are distracted or have your mind elsewhere then there is a significant reduction in force production.
In any walk of life, successful people already visualise themselves reaching their goals before they even have. Take this idea into the weight room and see the improvement. Imagine yourself lifting the weight and how it makes you feel when you complete the set, smashing your PB. Don’t just take my word for it there are studies backing it up.
4. Increase How Often You Deadlift
There are many opinions floating around at how often you should train a particular movement or muscle group in order to build mass.
However, if you have followed any powerlifting or Olympic lifting program written by someone with good credentials in the industry, you will notice a common theme. They all have you doing the main lifts multiple times during the week.
It’s simple really, and this doesn’t just go for weightlifting but everything in life. If you want to get better and improve at something then do whatever it is with more frequency.
I suppose it’s not rocket science really. When first starting out with the deadlift, you may spend 20 minutes on it. Your form, at this stage, sucks, so why on earth would you want to wait a full week before trying to learn it again.
By deadlifting more frequently, the quicker you will learn perfect technique, therefore, leading to faster muscle and strength gains.
The key to increasing the frequency of such a complex movement like the deadlift is proper planning and programming. This will ensure you stay on track and avoid any issues with smashing your central nervous system into the ground.
5. Improve Hamstring Flexibility And Strength
Ill Keep this one short and sweet. Tight and weak hamstrings can be a major stumbling block to being able to deadlift in proper form.
If you have tight hamstrings it’s going to be very hard to maintain a neutral spine during the preparation (set up) phase of the deadlift. Tight hamstrings will force your hips into a posterior tilt, meaning your butt will tuck under you and your lower back will round.
If you have weak hamstrings then the chances are they will not be strong enough to support the load on the bar. As soon as you lift the bar from the ground, your hamstrings hide in fear and your lower back will round.
Now how can you fix tight of weak hamstrings? Obviously, for tight hamstrings, you can incorporate some form of static stretching, and it’s definitely something I would advise. However, a great way to both stretch and strengthen the hamstrings is doing Romanian deadlifts. Not only will this movent benefit your hamstrings it will also help teach you to deadlift properly. Check out this video below.
6. Learn Different Grip Techniques To Maximise Your Lift
I have written a whole article on this, so I am not going to go into much detail here.
One point I would like to make is, don’t even worry yourself with different grip styles until you have built a considerable amount of strength through your hands, wrists and forearms.
Once you can lift at least 1.5 times your body weight for 1 rep using the Double Overhand Grip, then you can start looking at grip variations for improved performance.
Just to give you an example of one though, below is an athlete using the overhand underhand grip variation. A very powerful grip, but it does have some downsides for you to consider also.
7. Wear A WeightLifting Belt During Your Working Sets
Many people will wear a weightlifting belt to help reduce the risk of injury. However, studies have shown that wearing a belt doesn’t actually help with this side of things. What they have proven through research though, is wearing a belt will hugely increase your performance when deadlifting. You will be able to complete more reps per set, have increased force production and be able to lift more weight.
Being strong has very close links to muscle mass. So basically, the stronger you get the more muscle mass you will have.
What does this mean for wearing a belt? Wearing a belt will help you get stronger much more quickly, which, in turn, means you will also gain muscle at a much faster rate.
Lastly, let’s look at the effect wearing a belt has on your core. There are many opinions flying around still that you will have a decrease in activity throughout your core. However, studies have shown this to now but untrue. You will either get increased activation throughout your core, or it will be the same as when deadlifting without a belt. However, it is never less.
8. Lift Every Rep With Explosive Power
There has been study after study proving that lifting with explosive power will enable you to gain more strength and muscle at a much faster rate. It becomes very frustrating when you see trainers out there still promoting slow steady reps. I understand for an absolute beginner lifting weights at a slow and steady pace can be helpful in learning the movement patterns, but for anyone trying to increase in strength and muscle, it’s extremely counterproductive.
Below are a few studies showing how lifting explosively helped athletes gain strength quicker than lifting with a slow tempo.
- At the University of Sydney, scientists tested subjects on the bench and found that fast explosive training had a greater effect on their strength than slow tempo training.
- At the University of Wisconsin, scientists found that even in beginners and untrained people, they had a greater increase in peak power when squatting with traditional fast training than with a super slow approach.
Key Points To Take Away From This Article
- Proper form is key. Never stop learning and trying to improve your deadlift technique.
- Make sure you work on strengthening your grip. This is vital to long term success with the deadlift.
- Do some accessory work to help strengthen your back further. Trying including Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, lower back hyperextensions and hamstring glute raises.
- Mentally prepare yourself properly for each set of deadlifts. A strong mindset will help you lift more.
- Once you hit a plateau, try increasing your frequency. All major powerlifting and Olympic lifting programs worth their salt will have you doing the main lifts more than once a week.
- Weak or tight hamstrings can play a major part in halting your progress. Romanian deadlifts will both strengthen and stretch your hamstrings.
- Once you hit at least 1.5 times your body weight with the double overhand grip. Try using stronger grip variations to help you lift more weight.
- Wearing a belt will instantly help you lift more weight. The benefits of wearing a belt for your working sets are huge.
- Don’t try and control the bar up and down with a slow tempo. Lift explosively only. It’s been scientifically proven to increase both strength and peak power.
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