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Deadlift Not Going Anyplace


I am very new to powerlifting. 41 year old male 6 foot one and 235/240 pounds. I began with Starting Strength in April. I got my Squat to 325, Bench to 250, Deadlift to 385. After stalling out on both Bench and Squat for the second time I moved to Madcow 5x5. I felt that I was probably in intermediate territory and at 41 I just don't recover as fast as I used to but I know I can be a lot stronger.

All my lifts have gone up on Madcow. I am on week 7. I squatted 355x5 and Benched 265x5 on Monday. But my deadlift wont move. I can't even get my old PR off the ground. It is stapled. This is makes three weeks of missed deadlifts.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I will try to video myself next week.

I have been wondering about sumo v conventional. I have been pulling conventional but I am short legged and a long long upper body. At 73.5 inches in height my pants inseam is a 31. I have never missed a deadlift that came off the floor. I either pick it up or it doesn't move at all.

Should I drop weight and learn to pull sumo? Or do you think something else is the problem? Programing problem, the lifter... etc?

  1. Video current pull form and post for critique. Video preferably from the side at a level about where your shoulders are at the starting position.

  2. If you have a hard time breaking on the ground try deficit pulls on 4", 2" and finally just shoes.

  3. You sound pretty suited for sumo and won't lie since I made the change to Sumo my dead lift has rocketed. But only problem I see for you is that if breaking weight off the ground is a issue now then just wait to the first time you pull Sumo. I have pulled 530 sumo but for some reason 405 and up feels like its stapled to the ground and then all of a sudden it starts to rise and doesn't stop but, its a shitty feeling haha.


Could be programming also. I know both of those programs call for a single heavy set of five as your work. I have never been able to progress this way and finally started making real progress when doing lots of lighter sets and working up to pulling a few heavier singles (basically a pyramid structure), or pulling lots of singles/doubles for time.

Also unless you're very lucky you can't rely on just the squat and DL to drive your numbers up. Make sure to do some accessory work and address your own weak areas. What you should do really depends on you, but typical exercises are hamstring curls, GHR, reverse hyper/hyper extension, pulls from different heights, deficit pulls...


I don't know how long your arms are, but if they're on the shorter side, this article may help you:


These are some of the reasons I am thinking of making a switch from Madcow to 5/3/1. With Madcow I find it hard to do much for assistance. After you squat, bench and row there is not much left in the tank. And there is only so much time in the day. I think a 4 day program might be better. I just hate to switch it up so soon. When the other lifts are still going up.

And I have done some warm up sets with Sumo. I am a lot weaker for sure. One reason I was reluctant to switch. But that is probably ego talking.


Maybe keep everything else the same but change up the volume on the Deadlifts to more of high volume type rep scheme.


I really like 5/3/1 for the other lifts, but it didn't do much for my DL. I actually eventually changed it to two squat variation days instead of a squat and a pull day and got better results. Just a thought.

For sumo, I recommend you train both heavy. You wont know which one you are stronger on unless you put some good work into either. My max DL went up 50 pounds just by discovering this, and warm ups/rep work still feel heavier sumo:

I run into this as well, the lift feels shittier and slower, but I lift more.


Any suggestions about how you would program the dead lifts differently. I am new to this so you really have to write it out.


@mkral55 why do you feel 5/3/1 doesn't work well for your deadlift and what squat variations did you use?


I have some ideas why it didn't work at the time, but basically it was specific to me. I know a 700# deadlifter that lives by 5/3/1.

My latest 5/3/1 cycle I did wide stance squats to a box one day, and front squats the other day. Wide stance to get the posterior work in, front squats to bring up quads and core, which are a weakness for me since my surgeries. Should note that this cycle I left out deadlifts mostly because I moved to my home gym and couldn't deadlift heavy without damaging the floor until a few days ago. Gonna bring em back in for meet prep


As someone new to this I get overwhelmed by all the options out there. Deficits, rack pulls, bands, chains etc etc... I belong to a key club with bands and chains and everything but I can only get there maybe twice a week.

Also my hips just feel beat to hell all the time. Another reason I am thinking a break from squatting 3 times a week would be nice.


STOP MISSING LIFTS! it's not the worst thing in the world to do every once in a while, but you are killing yourself not only physically but mentally. If you keep missing the same lift week after week you probably won't ever have the confidence to pull that weight again. Learn to gauge yourself each day during training. If you aren't feeling 100%, i don't care what the program calls for, don't take the chance.

with that said, all plateaus are physical, mental, or technical. If your squat is getting stronger, i doubt it's a physical problem. Mental, probably. Technical, probably. work on both of those.

hope any of this helps!


I don't think you should worry too much about bands, chains, etc. unless you are training in gear. Assuming your form is at least passable, you shouldn't be missing on the floor because your squats keep going up and leg drive is what gets a dead off the floor. If you're missing mid shin, then you need to do more lower/mid back work. If you're missing above the knee, hip and glute work needs to be done.

Honestly, I would smash the hell out of some good-mornings after squats. Do them a couple times a week. Also, eat more and rest more. The deadlift is a mental monster, and it sounds like you are letting it beat you. On deadlft days, take a weight you can hit for 6 to 8 moderate intensity sets of triples, and hit that weight you KNOW you can do to boost your confidence back up instead of worrying about sticking to your program.


It sounds to me like you need to structure your training a little better.

1 Stop missing lifts. As stated above.

2 5x5 is great for volume training, but you need to break your training up into volume and intensity at the very least. constantly doing 5's isn't going to get you anywhere in the strength world. You need to do about 3-5 weeks of volume followed by 3-5 weeks of intensity. Always leave at least one rep in the tank, and preferably 2-3 reps per set in volume training.



3 Don't deadlift heavy every week. Some weeks you need to just back off and do some speed work or technique work. This was the number one thing that helped my deadlift.

Hope this helps.


I think certain people have a better capacity for deadlifting and aren't as prone to having their CNS shot from heavy work. I, sadly, do not fall into this category, nor do many people who have much stronger deadlifts than I do. I've best responded to working at a perceived exertion of about 8-9 for the most part (i.e., leaving at least 1-2 reps in the tank) and doing speed/technique work for several sets of doubles.

As the poster above said, I'd really consider coming down on overall deadlift intensity for the bulk of your training. A lift might seem easy during training but could fry your CNS for a while afterwards, perhaps without you really noticing it. I used to attribute feeling shot up after my deadlift training to simply not getting enough sleep or to poor overall recovery, but since I stopped going for PRs so frequently on deadlift day, I feel much fresher and am indeed able to progress again when I do occasionally push the envelope.


I am thinking this has a lot to do with it. I just can't set a a new 5 rep squat PR each Monday and have anything left in the tank for a 5 rep deadlift PR on Wednesday. And Friday is another heavy squat day too.

I don't like age to be an excuse for anything. But I was starting to wonder if that was just too much to keep trying to set PRs each week on each big lift at 41.


Not saying your training order is wrong, but it doesn't seem optimal. Squatting and deadlifting use similar muscles. as do bench and press. I'd split the movements up If I were you. I'd do what you most need improvement on to Monday. This of course assume you have weekends off and you'll be the freshest on Monday. If you work rotating shifts like me, it doesn't matter cause I'm fk'd up all the time.

Anyways, Squats or (deads) on day 1, bench or (press) on day two, Deads or (squats) day 3, Press or (bench) day 4. I enjoy Mon-Squats / Wed-Bench, Friday- deads, Sun- press. you could go M, Tue, Thur, Fri, whatever for a 4 day a week. 3 days/ week could go Mon (S)-Wed(B)-Fri(D) Mon(P) Wed(S), Wed(B) etc,, see?

BTW, I'm 40 and I DO set PR's every week. It may be 1 more rep, 5# more weight or both. In 5-3-1 if you set your training maxes conservatively, you will set PR's all the time. That's the beauty of the program, constant progress. When you don't meet the required reps, reset your training maxes. This is all i the 5-3-1 book, which I suggest you get asap if you plan to do 5-3-1- and haven't purchased the book yet.