Article written by Matt Falk
If you’ve been following the page for a while, you should know by now that we at LBEB are in love with the deadlift. As a matter of fact, if I could pick one specific movement to do for the rest of my life, it would be… (you guessed it) the deadlift. Over the last year and a half, I have put about 140 pounds and counting on my pull and am frequently asked on how I did it. It has been a long road, but I’ve learned a few things on the way that may be of use to you.
The best way to put pounds on your deadlift, is obviously by deadlifting. That’s a no brainer, but I would like to take a moment to cover a few of my favorite assistance exercises. I am by no means saying this is the only way to do it, I am merely stating what has worked for me and the clients I work with.
Paused Front Squats:
The deadlift is a movement that primarily stimulates the posterior chain. The front squat, being anterior chain dominant, is a great complement to the aforementioned. Even to this day, I struggle at times keeping my hips down and getting the most out of my legs, while breaking the bar off of the floor. The pause helps to create explosiveness from a point of rest, simulating a bar at rest on the floor. Speed from the floor can make or break your lockout, and the pause will substantially help that. Many great deadlifters use the cue, “squat the weight up”. While this cue does not work well for me, it’s a good reminder to stay in your heels and let your quads do some of the work. If your hips come up too early, you’re wasting those wonderful teardrop quads you’ve worked so hard for.
I’m fairly certain these are the second greatest movement of all time. I primarily train RDL’s with a snatch grip (yes straps are encouraged), and load the bar up pretty heavy for 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps. The snatch grip lengthens the range of motion, and forces you to really fight the urge to roll your shoulders forward. Not only good for developing a wonderful set of glutes and hamstrings, they also build a powerful upper back. Do them on a weekly basis after training your main pulls and watch your numbers skyrocket.
Fairly self-explanatory, but I would like to elaborate on what I have found to be the best way to properly execute them. Start with the bar in a high bar position with weight that would seemingly be light (I usually use between 155-185), and make sure to keep your shoulder blades retracted and extremely tight. After you unrack the bar, keep your feet narrow, hip width or less, and turn your toes out slightly. I should note that I also grip out to the collars to keep my shoulders and lumbar from rounding forward. Take a slow and controlled eccentric, shifting the hips back first, and always keeping your head up/looking forward. Pause briefly at the bottom (which should be deep enough to give the hamstrings a nice deep stretch), and then explode up from this position shifting the hips forward and shoulders back. Think of this as a top loaded RDL. It is imperative to maintain a neutral spine through the entire duration of the set. Failure to do so will result in a less than optimal experience getting out of bed the next morning. I will generally perform these for 3-4 sets of 12-14 reps as a secondary assistance movement.
Yep, I said it. A lot of people hate the leg press, but I am not one of them. 4-5 rep sets of 12-14 reps at a challenging weight has helped to put some serious mass on my quads without taxing the hips and lower back like the front squat. Nobody is forcing you to do them, but I doubt you will regret it when your pull starts jumping up.
This is where the haters come out. A lot of purists will argue that pulling trap bar or sumo as a conventional puller will ruin your movement pattern, has no carryover, blah blah blah (I stopped listening a while ago). Uhhh… No carryover? Deadlifting, will always have a great carryover to deadlifting, you idiots. It doesn’t take long to search through the YouTubes and watch some elite pullers training their deads with variety. Trap bar, sumo, conventional, from the high blocks, from the low blocks, from a deficit, with a snatch grip… You see the point I’m making. If you want to master the deadlift, get good at EVERYTHING. I promise it won’t make you weaker, or forget how to do your primary competition pull. If anything, your weaknesses will be exposed, and then you will have some fun homework to do. My hips really used to suck, then I started pulling sumo and my lockout got better. Magic! Of course, your primary pull will always be stronger, but I can pull roughly 90% of my conventional max sumo (started at about 70%), and can no longer add weight to a normal trap bar with metal 45’s. Put in the effort, reap the rewards.
There you have it, my secrets have been exposed. If you are interested in checking out a sample training cycle, my deadlift manual is available for purchase inthe LBEB store.
Thanks for reading, and may your deadlifts be large and abundant.