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Deadlift More by Not Deadlifting?

By not Deadlifting I mean not Deadlifting heavy.
I’ve read some articles recently (bill Starr for example) that stated that the best way to get stronger on the deadlifts is to pull less.
What do you think about this approach?
I recently had a piriformis injury and would like to get back on Deadlifting without pulling heavy.
For instance

Heavy hypertrophy work 4 times a week for glutes, hamstrings, lower back, lats, traps, upper back, quads etc
And pulling for speed once a week like 10x2 @50-60% to make sure technique is good

It might work, it might not. If you can’t pull heavy due to an injury then I can see why you would do that, but even at Westside Barbell they do max effort deadlifts for something like 1/4 of their ME workouts. Bill Starr did a lot of power cleans, which start off like a speed deadlift, and he was able to make it work for him but if it was actually the best way to build your DL then nobody would pull in training.

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Are you talking about frequency or %1RM?

You’re gonna have to build back up to heavy lifting at some point. Starting light when coming back from injury is what you’re meant to do.

As for “pulling less” in general training depends what you mean by “less”. At 75-80% 1RM weights move relatively fast still, you can practice imparting more force to the bar to increase this speed and form is unlikely to break down after a few reps.

At 50-60% you’ll need a lot of reps/time to get in some good volume and doesn’t carryover to lifting heavy as effectively as… seems obvious but lifting heavier weights. For practicing form I’d go a bit heavier

As for frequency plenty of people do well off once a week. If technique really is important to you maybe go twice a week tho not twice at high intensity/volume if you can’t handle that. Is better to learn/maintain the movement pattern with plenty of practice.

I went from being stuck at a 540 deadlift for years to a 650 when I started deadlifting once every 2 months.

I think it has some merit.


What did you do in between?

ROM progression mat pulls.


This Method Works For Conventional Deadlifters

I used Starr’s to increase my Deadlift to 620 lbs. As per Starr, I performed Heavy Good Morning increase my Deadlift Strength.

I wrote the “No Deadlift, Deadlift Training Program” for Powerlifting USA in 2001.
https://www.strength-oldschool.com/blogs/news/the-no-deadlift-program-to-improve-your-deadlift The foundation of is built on on Starr’s "A Different Approach To Improving The Deadlift.

It examines Loren Betzer "“To Deadlift More, Don’t Deadlift” and Simmons’ Westside Method that employs Heavy Good Mornings.

My Progression

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical about not training or limiting my Deadlift Training.

I implemented it with Heavy Rack Deadlifts from the knee area since that was my weak point and I was strong off the floor. I also performed Hang Olympic Pulls for Power Training, as well.

However, the Heavy Rack Pulls were beating my back up. I then switched to Heavy Rack Partial Good Morning, working the knee area of my Deadlift. I kept the Olympic Pulls in the program the same.

I lifted in two meets a year. The only time I Deadlifted was at the meets; which means I only really Deadlifted twice a year. My Deadlift moved up with this method.

So, Yes this method will work if written and executed correctly.

With that said, let me update the article with some new information…

The Issue of Using The Competition Deadlift as A Training Exercise

The issue with employing the Deadlift as strength building movement for the Deadlift is muscle fatigue. Fatigue is an effective method for increasing strength. However, it is counter productive for developing Technique.

Building Strength In The Deadlift

  1. Auxiliary Exercise are the key to building strength in the Deadlift, any movement.

  2. The Auxiliary Exercise must be have a similar Movement Pattern to the movement; the Deadlift in this case.

  3. Auxiliary Exercise are “Disposable”; you can overload them, push to the limit. Gutting a bad rep out in an Auxiliary Exercise doesn’t impact the technique of the Competition Lift, the Deadlift in this case.

Developing Technique In The Deadlift

  1. The movement is performed for multiple Set of 1 Repetition.

  2. Load of 85% of 1 Repetition Max are used. Research shows the muscle firing sequence changes dependent on the 1 Repetition Percentage. Thus, the closer you are to your 1 Repetition Max in your Technique Training the greater the carryover to your Competition Max.

  3. Once Muscle Fatigue sets in on a Near or Max Effort Day, STOP. Continuing to pull the weight up at any cost lead to Poor Technique.

Technique Development

Using load of 50 - 60% of 1 Repetition Max doesn’t work well for maintaining or developing good technique.

Technique is optimally developed when load near your 1 Repetition Max are using, as discussed above.

Baseball Batter Example

A Batter practicing hitting 60 mph pitches become better and hitting 60 mph hour pitches.

However, hitting a 60 mph pitch doesn’t have a lot of carry over to hitting a 90 mph pitch.

To become good and have great technique you need to hit pitches that are closer to 90 mph.

Kenny Croxdale


Great article Kenny!

That exactly so. Some of the reason are…

Fear of Losing Ground

Most athletes are fearful of lowing ground/lifting less if they try something new. I get that.

I guarantee that anytime you implement a new method or change your lifting technique, you
are going to lose ground.

It amount to taking “One step backward and the two steps forward” in many cases.

Lack of Knowledge

The majority of lifter don’t understand how to make it work; write the program correctly and implement it.

I got my Deadlift up with 590 lbs with Starr’s program in a year. I then revised my No Deadlift Training Program.

In doing so, I took my Deadlift from 590 lbs down to 550 lbs in a year. The concept during that year were good. However, I had misapplied them.

I tweaked my No Deadlift Program. The following year, I pulled 606 lbs, 617 lbs and finally 620 lbs.

Kenny Croxdale

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The lower back is quickly and easily overtrained, research Dr Tom McLauglin.

“The Deadlift takes more than it give back”. Simmons.

Less Deadlift Training, as T3hPwnisher stated and demonstrated with his 650 lb pull is often the key to a better Deadlift.

Kenny Croxale


What’s your dead at right now? Love the username by the way. I saw them a couple of years ago and it was a great show.

Glad you noticed buddy is My favourite band.

My deadlift pre injury was 200kg, used to train high volume and high frequency in all 3 lifts that’s probably the reason why I injured myself with the deadlift

Great infos man thanks a lot

I never tried to build my deadlift by not deadlifting so I can’t speak from personal experience, and some people have good results with this method, but looking at the example of people like Westside Barbell/Louie Simmons gives the impression that most people would be better off to still deadlift. From what I understand, they tried something along the lines of Bill Starr’s approach for a while (almost no actual deadlifts, ME squats or good mornings and DE squats) and had mediocre results in the deadlift. Louie has an article titled “DON’T DEADLIFT”, in it he says “We do lots of deadlifts, of course, but not off the floor with just straight weight.” Another thing to consider is that speed work with 50-60%, as @veilofmaya suggested, would be done with additional bands or chains so it’s not quite as easy as some people would like to believe.

As far as the Bill Starr approach of using no actual deadlifts of any sort, unless you count the first pull in the power clean, it obviously works for some people but it doesn’t seem like something that should be prescribed across the board. Bill Starr was a competitive weightlifter, was he not? He was already skilled at performing the power clean so there was no learning curve when using this as the equivalent of a speed deadlift. Similarly, one of John Broz’s lifters named Josh Gilbert set a federation junior record in the deadlift a few years ago while training specifically for weightlifting and performing little or no actual deadlifts in training. It worked for them, but will it work for someone who doesn’t know how to do a proper power clean?

From Josh Bryant’s book "Built to the hilt: Strength edition:

“Olympic lifts can be tedious and take years to execute properly. Eastern bloc Olympic lifters, routinely the best in the sport, begin training as early as age 5. With technique being a critical component, most strongmen learning to Olympic-lift correctly must start off using just the bar or a broomstick. They never develop any strength or explosive power. In some cases, athletes are prematurely given the green light to go heavy and often get injured in the process. Furthermore, log cleans and axle cleans in strongman are much different technically than traditional Olympic lifts. Olympic lifts must be broken down and analyzed microscopically, and therein lies the problem. This necessary aspect of learning the nuances of Olympic lifting teaches athletes to concentrate more on form than on attitude, explosive power, and the amount of weight they can use or should be using. If performed properly, Olympic lifts are great for enhancing RFD and power in triple extension movements. But, do you want to spend time getting better at Olympic Lifts, or at your chosen endeavor?”

Solution: Compensatory acceleration training AKA speed work.

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That’s still deadlifting, just not off the floor.

If I posted a video of me pulling a 7 mat ROM pull PR and called it a deadlift PR, would you be ok with that?

Or a 2 board press as a bench PR?

I find people tend to change the definitions depending in what they want to prove.


I personally, would start off by reducing your frequency in which you deadlift heavy, before I would try replacing it with a different movement all together, while trying to maintain technique with lighter loads. I alternate between heavy squats and deadlifts weekly and use the alternate movement as supplemental for much lighter loads. I do the same with BP and incline and I’m back to pr’ing steadily with all. I’ve used progressive ROM in the past, much like the Ortmayer cycle and ended up regressing a little. Ymmv, as this was just my experience with progressive ROM. My issue was with lower back fatigue from squatting and pulling heavy in the same week. Same with my RC and pressing heavy twice a week. Also, with the progressive ROM I have always been weak off the floor, so pulling from blocks did nothing for my pull off the floor, while still accumulating the lower back fatigue that was killing my progress in the first place. I’ve had similar issues with piriformis and psoas in the past and it’s always came down to the frequency I was pulling heavy, high volume or both.

There’s also an article called “Finding the Ideal Training Split” by Fred Hatfield that I would urge you to read. While, there’s no scientific data out there to support it, that I’m aware of, applying it has been the best thing I’ve ever done as far as my training is concerned. I was hesitant to lowering my frequency at first, with all the material out there preaching that you have to bench or squat 2-3 times a week to make progress, but it has totally blown that out of the water for me. Another good read is a John Sanchez article. Google his name and something like alternating squats and deadlifts weekly. Both totally opened my eyes and I haven’t looked back.

What is your deadlift now? Its good to have a baseline for where you were, but in terms of progress tomorrow, knowing what you did before you were hurt is obsolete. Even at 200 kg I would still pull once a week in some fashion. Whether it be a deficit, block pull, rack pull, whatever. In most people, your dead will go up from squatting more, but you still need to build up your posterior chain with something, and if you’re concerned with dead lift strength, you might as well pull at least some of the time.

As far as the power clean debate goes, most people who played football with a good power clean, deadlift a good bit. The only difference is their power clean looks horrendous in terms of Olympic lifting, so they’ve built up more strength in the areas that are used deadlifting. Jim Wendler said once that “the guy with the ugliest power clean was usually the strongest.” Obviously it’s due to having to muscle the weight up instead of relying on technique. This isn’t to say that technical weight lifters aren’t strong, but in the football world and average gym bro world, this is generally true.

I haven’t trained the deadlift since my injury which was a few months ago. But now is getting better, so I’d like to deadlift again.
I am a technique freak so I always try to have at least one session where I practice the lift very light in order to get used to perfect form.
I bench With a conjugate method but I’d like a different approach to deadlifts.
At the moment I’m doing high volume good mornings, hip thrusts, hyper extension, leg raises, rows, shrugs, Romanian deadlifts, and upper back work (at least 100 reps for every exercise per week) in order to make my posterior chain stronger.