Training Deadlift: Targeting Your Weakness, Part 2

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Article written by Alanna Casey
Read part #1 here
When bringing up your max deadlift, I suggest you train efficiently. Part of training efficiently is focusing the majority of your attention on your weak portion of the deadlift. If the slowest part of your deadlift is at the top half of your pull or lockout, then you may want to try the following exercises.

Rack or box pulls: Set the bar on pins or boxes that puts the bar just below your knees. Many people do rack pulls, but they start with the bar above their knees. While this isn’t “wrong” it’s not the most effective way to bring up your max deadlift. Start the bar below your knees. This will force you to get your hips involved and generate more power through your sticking point. I suggest working with 80%-110% of your 1RM.

Chain deadlifts: These are great because you are essentially adding more weight to your deadlift as you pull. Place 2-6 chains overtop of the deadlift bar. I usually use 2 chains that weigh about 25-30lbs each. I place one chain on either side of the bar and get ready to deadlift. Because you have more weight at the top of your pull, you are forced to accelerate through your pull in order to overcome the added weight from the chains.


Band resistance deadlifts: Band pulls work similarly to chain deadlifts but give you a different kind of added resistance. You REALLY have to be explosive to pull against the bands. You can loop bands around either end of the barbell and through a deadlift band platform (only hardcore powerlifting gyms have these) or around the bottom of a power squat rack or even around heavy dumbbells. Some gyms will have four hooks in the deadlift platform that you can loop your bands through. The idea is that the bands give you little to no resistance at the start of the pull and 20-80lbs of resistance at the top of the pull. 


Ab work: Don’t forget your abs! I like to do weighted ab strap pull downs. I like these because they are quick and effective. I do three sets of 8-10 reps and I’m done. I don’t have time to do 200 crunches and even if I did, I wouldn’t do them. I prefer to work my abs in a standing position. Think about it (exception being the bench press), when you are performing powerlifting or strongman movements you are not laying down. You are standing/walking/running. Therefore, I prefer to train my abs while in a similar position. Standing ab pull downs allow me to do that. Strong abs will aid you in just about every movement, especially the deadlift so don’t neglect them! At least 3 sets of heavy abs once-twice a week.


The biggest mistake that I see people make on deadlift is that they overtrain it. I have experimented with deadlifting every other week, once a week, and twice a week. I’ve found that training deadlift 3-4 times a month is most effective for me. It might be different for you BUT, you need to slowly progress your deadlift and be patient with it. Training heavy pulls twice a week and trying to max out once a month is a recipe for disaster. You will plateau and you will get frustrated.

Tip: If you want to add some of these assistance lifts, pick ONE of the modified deadlift exercises and add 2-3 sets of that after you do your regular deadlift working sets. Except for rack pulls you want to work with about 50-60% of your max for these assistance exercises (from “Training Deadlift” Part 1 & 2). If you feel your form slipping a little, do your best to correct it and continue. If you feel your form slipping a lot, either lighten your load considerably or stop that exercise all together.



Bringing up your deadlift might seem impossible but, it’s not. Identifying and attacking your weakness is a great first step in bringing up your deadlift. About 4 years ago I deadlifted 330lbs. Since then, I have gained about 20lbs and now deadlift 450lbs. It took me FOUR years to add 120lbs to my deadlift. So, be patient. Once you develop a good strength foundation, your deadlift will increase in slower increments. That’s okay. Be patient and attack your weakness. Experiment with your programming and figure out what your body responds best to. There is no “secret” deadlift programming. The “secret” is figuring out what works for you and keeps you healthy and on a slow and steady progression.

Casey out!