T Nation

Deadlift 1RM Lagging


Today I went for a 400lbs deadlift. I failed miserably on two tries and decided to just rep out on my next set and be done with it. So I put 352lbs on the bar and I managed to do 8 reps. It seems weird to me that my 1RM is 375 (I've done this before) and my 8RM is 352, is there something I'm doing wrong?


If you want a heavy 1 rep max, train in the lower rep ranges more often (1-3).


Yeah that is pretty odd that you can do 352 for 8 and can't do 400. I've pulled 405 and with 352 I'd probably get 3. That's more cause my grip isn't good enough though, gotta get straps soon. I agree with Vegg, if you want to get better at the lower rep ranges, work in them more


This is the bodybuilding forum, post this in strength sports for some (hopefully) educated opinions dude...

But yeah, low rep strength and moderate-high rep strength are two different animals.


I guess it all depends on what you're shooting for. High rep training will probably do great things in terms of hypertrophy, but I don't think it's likely to give you the 1RM that you seem to be looking for. I've found in the past that if I train with heavy low reps, I can get pretty high reps with decent weight if I decide to try. The reverse doesn't seem to be true. Anyone else find this?


only thing i can think of is that youre not used to a heavier weight. or maybe you werent psyched up properly.

a 23 pound increase is nothing. fuck a 1RM you should be able to do that x5 in a week or two.


A limiting factor in lifts and particularly (it seems to me) the deadlift is Golgi tendon organ inhibition.

What this is is, there are small organs that measure (so to speak) stretching of the tendons. When they "decide" that a tendon is being stretched too much, neural inhibition occurs preventing greater muscle activation.

The biological intent no doubt is to, in ordinary circumstances, prevent the nervous system from activating the muscles more forcefully than what it's estimated the tendons can tolerate.

So if the system, so to speak, is unaccustomed to heavy weight, it can easily be that one can be strong enough to have an 8RM of 352, but unable to do a 1RM greater than 375.

It may well be that the muscles are more than strong enough for 400 -- they might well be strong enough for 445 or better -- but the tendon inhibition organs are shutting down as soon as the load exceeds about 375.

Another possibility is that you have an unrealized weak link that might be "merely
a supporting/stabilizing muscle. For example I never realized till quite recently that my quadratus lumborum is my limiting factor. I'd always though that what felt to me like my erector spinae being strained was actually the quadratus lumborum.

When that is the case, as such a muscle may not be working through much range of motion, its 1RM may not be much greater than its 8RM.

However, if you have little history of low-rep work the Golgi tendon organ inhibition explanation is probably the more likely one. The solution is more low rep work, training the body to recognize that it can in fact safely deal with heavier weights than it is now used to.


How did you strengthen your QL then, Bill?


Thanks for the insights Bill. I do low rep pretty frequently on deadlifts but I guess I will have to work on it some more. I don't mind... I love deadlifts :slight_smile:


This is a great point. The best way around this reality, besides years of exposure to high intensities, is feed forward tension. You have to master the art of turning your entire body to stone before you start your pull.

Take a big breath, tighten every muscle in your body, go down to the bar, pull the slack out and re-tense your glutes, which should already be tight. Then, instead of ripping the bar off the ground, which will rob you of most of the tension you've built up, start grinding while staying as tight as possible. Thrust your hips forward hard to finish the lift.

This approach is your best bet for combating GTO shutdown. Creating tension everywhere will tell your body your spine is protected and give you a better shot at making the lift.


I haven't yet accomplished anything in that direction because I just learned the problem.

What happened is, I really quite substantially spranged what I thought were my erector spinae with the last rep of a final set of deadlifts a couple of weeks ago.

Of course I still went on to do Romanian deadlifts and snatch-grip deadlifts, and one set of Med-X back extension. To my surprise these didn't bother me at all.

But I was really beat up in terms of finding it hard to walk that evening or the next day, quite a bit of pain and stiffness, etc, which I thought was the spinal erectors.

But I get deep-tissue massage every week (and I need it) and it turned out that the erector spinae had no issues at all whatsoever. It was the QL. And where it hurt and every problem I had was the same as has ever hurt before in the lower back, so everything I'd always figured was the spinal erectors I'm now sure was the QL. D'oh.

Knowing that, I realized the cause was that, due to a new girlfriend who likes abs, I foolishly had been doing ab work (I really don't need it, in general, as it's pretty pointless for me, having abs without specific work and not really adding much from it, and I totally hate doing ab work.)

I ordinarily even in this instance avoided doing ab work the day before squats and deadlifts, for the obvious reason.

But I had forgotten, and the day before had done high-rep side bends (along with other ab work which did not cause a problem.) Which tired the QL and thus made me more prone to the weak link being exposed.

However EVERY time lower back feel has forced ending a set, due to muscle feeling at the edge of being overstrained or in fact overstrained, that feel, I now know, has been from the QL being overstrained, not the spinal erectors.

So I'm dealing with it by working up in weight in low to moderate rep side bends, half a week away from the deadlifts. Since I haven't done side bends with anything remotely approaching seriousness or consistency for at least the last 10 years --

I also just naturally have good obliques, and I was in total ignorance that side bends also work the QL -- there ought to be a ton of room for improvement.

Hopefully that will yield dividends: I really think it will.


I have pulled my lower back on the last rep of heavy squats about 2 years ago, and then last summer I pulled the same spot when attempting a massive jump in PR for rack pulls. I was at the university gym at the time so I saw one of the PT's there and they saw the immediate swelling of the QL and told me that I had pulled my QL quite a bit.

I then had trouble walking and moving in general for a few days, and took a few weeks to heal altogether. Even now, 5 months later, my right QL is slightly more raised than my left despite the foam rolling I've attempted to prevent that.

I asked you what you've done because now I get worried when attempting to max my deadlift or squat that I will retweak it. Your post led me to the realization that the relative weakness of my QL's may be the problem, so I was looking for some advice on how to bring them up specifically. I will have to give side bends a try.