Boneheads call it cheating, but this deadlift variation gives you a stronger and more useful body. Here’s why and how to do it.
For some reason, internet trolls and even some seasoned lifters regard the touch-and-go deadlift as cheating – the opposite of a true deadlift. From one perspective, they may have a point, but from another perspective, they’re missing a whole lot of benefits that the touch-and-go can deliver.
A traditional dead-stop deadlift is where the bar is allowed to land on the floor and completely settle before the next rep, allowing a lifter to reset his positioning and eliminate any transfer of forces from the ground.
A touch and go deadlift is the opposite. The bar does just what the title implies – touches the floor briefly and is lifted right away.
Now, aggressively and stupidly bouncing the bar off the ground to cause a gym earthquake isn’t what I mean. That’s outside of the true touch-and-go method and crosses over into “fool” territory.
Somewhere along the line, though, someone decided that even doing the touch-and-go method the right way still constitutes cheating. It’s time we stop vilifying it and put it to practice. Here are four reasons why the touch-and-go deserves a bit more of your attention.
Most of the time you see a heavy set of 3 or 5 reps where the lifter drops the weight down on the floor between each rep like a dump truck falling off a freeway overpass. When the bar always slams down to the ground rather than being put down “gently,” the lifter forfeits a whole lot of eccentric tension on the lowering phase. (The “eccentric” is lowering or negative part of the rep. The “concentric” is the lifting part.)
The dead-stop certainly isn’t bad technique, and of course that’s what you do for a one-rep max. But in regular training, it’s a technique that neglects much of the lowering phase. If we’re talking strength, there’s a give and take when it comes to eccentrics. You’re probably going to be able to increase your work capacity in terms of sets and reps when you ditch the eccentric portion. That can mean more results, as long as you put in the time.
But both the nervous system and the strongest muscle fibers get the most action from the negative portion of a lift. That’s something our low backs, hamstrings, and glutes can benefit from if we’re trying to get stronger (and bigger). In reality, being able to lift 600 means a whole lot less if you can’t lower it.
A set of 5 dead-stop deadlifts is more like 5 sets of 1. Without eccentric control and having to maintain a contraction while the bar is on the floor, it makes it harder to train certain capacities, especially that of improved grip strength. You can only lift as much as you can hold.
From a training perspective, it’s better to be able to hold 500 pounds for 30 seconds rather than 650 pounds for 2 seconds at a time. Using a touch-and-go method allows you to maintain a solid grip on the bar without being given the chance to slacken it. Whether you go mixed grip or double overhand, there’s a definite benefit to it.
Using the touch-and-go method more effectively trains both sides of the rep (concentric and eccentric), meaning you’re essentially doubling your time under tension. People need to make the decision as to whether they’re lifting for the “lift” or for the training effect of that move.
If you’re after the latter, then it would be wise to go the touch-and-go route. Backing off of heavy singles and strength “tests” in order to actually strength train will be a big step in the right direction. Adding some unbroken time under tension to your deadlifts can do you a world of good, especially if you haven’t used the method for a while.
Touch-and-go demonstrates an implementation of the stretch reflex and a much more dynamic muscular effort than complete stops. They’re better for cultivating athleticism and the learned explosiveness will transfer over to bigger dead-stop lifts.
Beyond a certain point there’s not much return for a heavier and heavier deadlift other than bragging rights. If you’re a guy who’s looking to not only get stronger, but also have a more “useful” body, you should train the deadlift and the hinge pattern in general with more than just one style.
To be clear, I’m not advocating touch-and-go deadlifts over dead-stop deadlifts. I’m encouraging the use of both methods equally, as long as you’re not a competitive powerlifter where one style can be argued to be more efficient in fulfilling your primary goal, which is to lift more metal off the ground than anybody else on the planet.