T Nation

Deadlift 1st Rep Help

Hey guys, I’m having issues with deadlifting especially on the first rep. I do 4 sets of 5 once a week(Bill starrs 5x5). Last wendsday I hit 360x5, resetting all of the reps except for the last once which I bounced. Today the target was 365x5, and I hit one rep which felt like a max. I don’t know why this is, I don’t think it’s momentum because I usually reset each rep. Maybe this is difficult for me because the deadlift is one of the only lifts I do that starts on the concentric. Any suggestions?

First things first: The first rep on a deadlift is always hardest because it’s not proceeded by an eccentric, as you note. If you don’t completely reset (and by that I mean standing up after the first rep and giving at least a few seconds before you get ready for the next), the second one is always going to feel easier. Personally I think it’s best to always do singles for deadlifts or reset completely between each rep.

Second, I’m not entirely familiar with Bill Starr’s program. But what had you been doing the few weeks leading up to these last two? Were you always working up to a true 5RM or some weight above 90% of your actual 1RM? If you keep using the same movement each week and working above 90%, you’re eventually going to deal with accomodation and a burnt out CNS. The result will be that your progress stops or even starts to regress. If this is the case, it’s best to add variation… either by changing the exercises every week or two (sumo DL, conventional DL, rack pulls, deficit DLs, bands etc) or changing the intensity.

I agree with rock, it could be simply that you are getting too strong, and your body doesn’t want to be doing that many heavy deadlifts. Personally, I don;t like reps for deadlifts at all. I prefer to do speed work one day, and a few heavy singles another day - and I have hit consistant PR’s of 20-30 lbs over the past year an a half training like this. So don’t be afraid to move away from the sets of 5 as you get stronger. It’s normal for progress to stall on these beginner programs, in which case you have to start looking into slightly more advanced stuff.

Another point I would make is that it could have to do with bad positioning during the lift. A lot of the time, I see people with mediocre deadlift form who can rep out lighter weights easily, but as the weight gets heavier their ability to lift the weight drops off drastically. I used to be that way - when I first started lifting, I remember being SO frustrated because I hit 250 x 8 one week, and then the next when I tried to max out I could barely pull 265. My point is, deadlift is a very technical lift, and that could also explain why your strength seems to drop off fairly suddenly. Maybe upload a video and get technique critiques. In the long run, drilling perfect technique is goign to be one of the best ways to keep progress consistent.

You could try posting a video of your setup followed by the deadlift itself. My first guess was that you may be spending too much time squatting down at the bar on the first rep. I see that a lot, and it has always felt much better to me to grip the bar and stand up as far as I can before going back down and beginning the pull.

And, if you don’t have time to upload the video, some general points: if you are having trouble breaking the weight off the floor, working to get your squat/front squat up will probably help, as well as pulling from a deficit. Often times, weak quads are the culprit there. Or by contrast, if you are having trouble locking the weight out weak hips/butt could be the problem, OR bad back position could be the issue - you let your back round or start with your hips too high, and then are in bad position to get your hips through. So, if you have a particular “sticking point,” think about those two things and be honest with yourself, and you might be able to diagnose/work on the problem without further help.

Thanks for the feedback guys, I will try my best to make a video next wensday(deadlift day). Rock,starrs program is computed through your 5 rep max, it has you pr in week 5 I believe and then increase every week following. I’ve deloaded a couple weeks back, I think my cns is fried from lack of sleep though. I’ve been adding 5 pounds to the bar every week since 335(week 6). Nk, I think my posterior chain is the weekness, I’ve had a back injury from snowboarding couple years back. My front squat is decent so I doubt its the quads could be wrong though.

Heres a deadlift triple at 315. Looking at the video my form is pretty bad, as my hips shoot up, and I don’t get sufficient leg drive. I took your guy’s advice and fully reset each rep which is very foreign to me. Somedays I’m able to activate my hamstrings and drive through the floor alot better, but today I just kinda pulled with my back, and this was after squat and bench(not trying to make excuses). I usually use a belt on my heavy sets if that’s any revelence. The most I’ve ever done is 360x5. I think I need to sit back more and use alot more leg drive, what do you guys think? inb4 1,000 snap city comments

As you noted, your hips rise very early, leading you into a stiff-legged deadlift. Fixing that is the most important thing, because it can completely change what the rest of your pull looks like.

Its hard to tell from the angle, but it looks like you may be letting the bar get a little bit away from your body. Squeezing your lats as you initiate the pull should help keep the bar closer to your legs, which should help you get your weight going back instead of straight up. Again, this may look better if you started the pull correctly, but its worth mentioning.

ok, when getting setup how close should the bar be from my shins? Thanks for the feedback I will try to activate the lats from the start next time

How close you setup to the bar is one of those “it depends” questions. Lots of people echo Mark Rippetoe’s advice of setting up with the bar halfway through your foot; this is a decent general starting point. Someone who has exceedingly long arms is going to be able to get away with bending at the knees a bit less, so they’ll have a more vertical shin and can set up closer; the opposite of this is also true.

The important thing about how far away you setup, to me, is getting to the point where you can reach the bar, drop your hips into a position that flattens your back, and have your shins just barely in contact with the bar. Exactly how far away you’ll be initially to get there is a little different for everyone.