Deadlift Training Max Less Than Competition Max

It seems that my deadlift training max is significantly less than my true 1rm. What I mean is that I have deadlifted 550lbs in a competition setting on three occasions over the past year (Once at a PL meet, twice at Strongman Shows), however if I use this number in training I fail to hit prescribed reps for all programs I’ve tried to follow. A more realistic “max” for me to complete prescribed reps is around 475-500lbs depending on the program. This has been the case when I deadlift once a week, once every other week, or even following a deload (note that for contests I do not attempt to “peak”, so I go into contest similar to a training week after a deload).

I have gone with the mentality that if I can consistently increase my numbers in training, I will be able to lift more on contest day, regardless of how far off my training numbers are. Though this makes it hard to go in confidently or know where my strength will be at and choose weights for my attempts. I also feel that I’m still lacking the CNS stimulation of the near maximal weights in training, causing me to plateau. @Christian_Thibaudeau what do you think needs to be worked on in order to close this gap in training?

If your max is 550 then 500 is near maximal. I believe that CT has written that you will recruit all available motor units with weights as low as 80% of your max. Maybe try lifting faster.

Do you know which articles he has touched on that? I’d like to take a look at them.

Also just to clarify, I rarely work up to 500lbs in training as it tends to be my “max” when I’m training, so I am usually working in the low or mid 400s. Then come contest day, 500lbs will feel light and like it flies up on a 1st or 2nd attempt.

This was my experience when I powerlifted in the late 1970’s. I never could budge 600lb in the gym, but trained 4 reps with 550lbs. I never missed 600lbs in a meet when I could easily handle 550lbs. On the deadlift I was a meet lifter.

On the squat I was more of a gym lifter.

I’ve been trying to find it. He has a lot of articles here. There are times when I’ve spent an hour or more trying to find an article he wrote.

That’s the case for a lot of lifters, especially on “brute” lifts like the deadlift.

It’s because of the adrenaline from competition. Adrenaline increases muscle contraction strength but it can also negatively impact coordination, timing and range of motion (by making muscles more stiff) if there is too much of it.

That’s why a lift like the deadlift, which is the less technical of the strength lifts, has a greater chance of being positively affected by the excess adrenaline from competition whereas more technically complex lifts, requiring more timing or a better groove, are less positively impacted.

Russian weightlifters have both a training and a competition max. The training weights are planed based on THE TRAINING MAX. Never on the competition max, especially if there is a significant difference.

If in your case there is a 10% difference, using your competition max to plan your training weights will lead to using weights that are 10% too heavy across the board, which will lead to stagnation rapidly. And even possible regression.

Always plan your training weights using a maximum that was realized under the same conditions as you are training.

I know that psychologically it’s hard to accept, but that’s the only way to go. But if your training max to competition max is always the same you know what if you hit 520 in training, you will hit 570 ish in competition

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@Christian_Thibaudeau thank you for that feedback. Good to know this is a fairly common situation. Quick stagnation has been exactly the case if I try to base training on my competition max.

Am still getting proper CNS stimulation without coming near my comp max in training? And would it be wise to implement some explosive training to stimulate the CNS from a different angle?


Your TRUE max is your gym max. I say that because the competition max is achieved solely because of a physiological reaction that artificially boost your strength and allows you to lift 10% more than you normally can.

It’s kinda like if you train normally your max is 500 but if you take amphetamines you can lift 550lbs. Doesn’t mean that 550lbs is your true max, because it’s not something that can be repeated in normal circumstances.

I know it’s hard to accept because it’s still “all-you” in competition. But it is still an artificially inflated maximum.

The best proof that basing your training weights on your gym max is sufficient neurologically is that if you base your training weights on your competition max you hit the wall, which clearly indicate that the task is excessive.

Honestly, I’ve rarely seen explosive work do a lot for maximum strength. Jim Wendler himself wrote about how speed work made him weaker.

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Appreciate the input, this is all very logical and helpful information.

@Christian_Thibaudeau One more question on this topic came to me after reading your response to another forum topic here:

When asked about a training week leading up to testing a 1rm, you stated you have powerlifters work up to opener (90-92%) on Monday, and 3x2 of opener on Wednesday.

How would you apply that here to the deadlift in my situation? Say I program around a training max that is 525, leading me to believe I can hit 575 for my 3rd attempt in a meet with the benefit of high adrenaline. To hit 575, I may open with 520.

I assume should take about 10% off that opener for that last week of training or similarly, work with 90-92% of my TM in that last week, not my opener.