T Nation

Deadlift Plateau/Form Issues

Hey everyone,

I’ve finally decided to try and find direct help, instead of looking through other peoples problems and their feedback regarding form and plateaus.

Here’s the back story: I’ve been deadlifting for awhile, I have hit a PR of 465 multiple months ago with sloppy form (your typical rounded back, no leg drive, etc.) The problem is, I was deadlifting wrong - I have very over developed erector spinae, which gives an illusion of a rounded lower back. I have pulled/tweaked something in my back a couple times, so I decided to do a form check (at this time I thought my form was perfect, I assume this is where I started transitioning into a more experienced level of lifting), after recording and watching videos of my deadlift. I told myself, I need to correct my form if I want to stay healthy and lift for an extended period of time. So I tooked to forums, youtube, etc. and decided to try sumo because I couldn’t drop my hips enough for conventional and I thought I just wasn’t built correctly. I tried sumo, it felt very unnatural and my drive off the floor seemed very weak and slow (I do understand sumo is supposed to be “slow” off the floor) however I stuck with it for a couple months, It doesn’t really seem anymore natural to me, however, I think I have gained some strength lifting sumo. I recently watched a video and got some good cues for conventional, so I tried again today and I recorded my lifts and I found weight I could previously do felt kind of heavy. However, I noticed at 315 (a previously sub maximal weight) my hips shot up at the beginning of the lift. I dropped down to 225 to see if they shot up, and I think they did a little but not nearly as much.

So my question is, are my hips shooting up a result of weakness in a certain muscle, poor starting position (ex. hips maybe too low now), etc. I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion.

It’s very frustrating, I feel like I’ve fallen so far out of a groove that I’m just running in circles/making no progress, struggling with “submax” weight. And I keep telling myself, changing my form is like starting fresh, so I need to build strength/nervous system back up, etc. However it’s tough to stay on the right track.

I’ve uploaded a few videos, first being 405x5 with very poor form before I decided to make a change. Sumo with 135, form doesn’t change at 315, I just don’t have a video. 225 with new conventional form, and conventional 315, with double overhand, and mixed grip.

Some of the videos aren’t playing. But to be completely honest that first one with 405 looked like someone attached a barbell to a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. Not right at any point. The others available look better but still need work. When you start your pull it looks like it pulls your shoulders over the bar.

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I can’t say you’re wrong, haha. Which videos can’t you see? How would I correct falling back forward over the bar?

There’s no illusion, you area pulling with a rounded back. It looks like your pelvis is tilted posteriorly. You have fairly long arms so setting up with a neutral or slightly extended spine shouldn’t be an issue, it just seems that you are trying to set your hips too low.

You need to learn how to brace properly, it looks like you have no tension at all. As far as weaknesses, your technique is the biggest issue for sure. Other than that, it appears that you are shifting most of the load to your hamstrings and lower back so building up your quads and glutes should help. How much do you squat by the way?

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Which area of my back is rounded in the most recent videos? Upper back still? I could be losing tension in my lats as I start to lift off. What would be a good cue to get my hips at the most natural height? I do in fact feel “compact” when I roll my weight back to drop my hips even further.

I believe I have good tension in my midsection, breathing in and filling up my stomach and “pushing” down and out. However, I do agree, I can’t get good bracing or tension in my legs, which may be the reason why I feel slow off the floor. My squat is fairly weak as well. I squat low bar, 315x2 (Although the second rep is a grind). I could just be lagging on lower body strength as my max bench is up at 300. I’ll try to upload a video of my squat.

Sorry for double post. Here is a video of my squat. Also I fixed both links to the videos above that weren’t previously working and found a sumo pull of 315. Starting to think pulling sumo would be the better direction?

In the 405x3 video everything is rounded. In the other conventional ones your lower back is rounded before you even start pulling. Your back looks to be neutral in the sumo video, but your setup is messed up. You are leaning way too far forward, you need to keep the weight on your heels and open your hips up.

If you can deadlift 465 but your best squat is only 315x2 then you probably have very weak quads in comparison to hamstrings and lower back. High bar squats, paused high bar squats, and SSB squats (if you have an SSB available) will help with that, it wouldn’t hurt to do some leg press or hack squats as well.

Thanks for the feedback Chris. Sticking to my sumo set up - I need to aim for a more vertical or upright back? Did you get a chance to check out that squat video? I may need to switch back to high bar for a while to get more quad development. Would Front Box Squats be a good assistance movement to work on explosiveness? Or leave the box squats for high bar? I suppose lifting sumo and low bar I haven’t had much strain on my quads and are being neglected.

Yes. For conventional you could actually be more horizontal thought.

Your squat looks OK, but the weight looked easy too. Overall, you need to learn how to brace better. Lats and abs in particular. There is no point in not squatting low bar at all, just add high bar squats. Your technique isn’t really solid enough to work on explosiveness at this point, and it is questionable whether front squats or box squats are really beneficial for raw squatting. Just focus on submaximal volume (like 5x5 or something similar) and do some higher reps on bodybuilding-type movements (like leg press or hack squats).

What sort of program are you following?

Thank you for the guidance. I was planning on starting a 3x5 followed by an AMRAP set and increase weight % if I can hit 8 reps on AMRAP set. Starting at 70% max weight. Would you recommend a 5x5? I’m not too familiar with it though.

PS. I was at home and setting up sumo how I previously did vs. How you mentioned and I feel like it is stronger/I can get more tension. :ok_hand:

Don’t do AMRAP sets, it won’t help your technique first of all and it isn’t necessary to get stronger, plus there is a much higher risk of injury - particularly if you have technique issues. It may be appropriate for some people, but it’s not a good idea for you at this point.

3x5 and 5x5 are almost the same thing, aren’t they? I don’t know if the 3 is reps or sets, but it doesn’t make much difference. Do more sets if you can recover from it, less if you can’t. You could keep the same set and rep scheme and just add 5lbs. or so each session.

Makes sense. I was leaning toward that so it would force me to make progress. My bench program worked very well, as I feel like it forced me to get stronger as well as making me do lots of volume. It also helped with recovering quicker. So maybe I could implement the same thing with my deadlift and squat as my leg soreness lasts a couple days. So a 5x5 are just working sets with 2-3 more warm up sets before hand? And I would increase weight once I can hit 5 reps for all 5 sets? I’m just trying to stop myself from spinning in circles. I want to get into the gym with a goal in mind and a strict program to follow.

Yeah, just add 5 or 10 lbs. each time. If you are only deadlifting once a week then make it 10, you can switch to 5lb increases once you start to stall. If 5x5 seems like too much then do 3 sets instead. Just start with a weight where you can get all the sets done with good technique and continue from there, don’t start too heavy or you won’t go anywhere. And definitely do more than 2-3 warm up sets, more like 4-6, just don’t do a lot of reps on them, maybe 5 for the first one or two and then 2-3 for the rest.

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In my current training schedule I have an extra day for another squat or deadlift day. I’m leaning towards squat to develop more raw power and strength. I can do a heavier 5x5 low bar one session and second training session I could do a lighter high bar to get the quads going while I work on deadlift technique. I think doing this and just getting stronger would translate to a better deadlift rather than a second deadlift day. Thoughts?

I didn’t read every response, but the last one Chris stated I agree with mostly.

I don’t know if it was said, but I would encourage “heps” to check out proper deadlifting technique in any Mark Rippetoe vid that talks about deadlifting technique.

I can’t stress enough that you need to use ridiculously light weight and learn proper form. Practice makes perfect. If your max is 400, then imo, you should be working sets of 3-5 in the 225-275 range. Don’t grind at all. Keep hitting good reps. Video every set. When your form gets better then start adding 5-10 lbs.

If you don’t work on proper execution, you will be done lifting very early in life. Even 2-3 years down the road and you’re stronger and moving more weight, its ALWAYS good to back off for a number of weeks and do lighter rep work.