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Deadlifts HIT Style?

Dr Darden,

Recently reintroduced deadlifts after many years leaving it out (old herniated disc). Now, it works wonders and I keep it as a warm up excercise, up to a heavy working set (of 10 to 12 reps) in regular 1-2 sec pos / 1-2 sec neg cadence.

Bearing this in mind, I have yet to read about you recommending deadlifts in your books.Thing is, I’d really like to implement deadlifts in my routine.

If you were to do deadlifts, how would you do them, in what cadence/fashion, and where would you put them in the workout? Any other advice from you re deadlifts?

Edit: Also interested to hear other HIT trainees ideas considering deadlifts?

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I started doing SLD way back when I first learned and started training in HIT fashion … just the way Leistner promoted it which was doing them right after squats. That of course reduced then amount of weight you could use in the SLD considerably which was thought to make it safer.

Later I tried the regular DL but it never felt right to me. Trying to pick up a barbell in that position , with bent legs and the weight in front of me felt unnatural and an accident waiting to happen so I never used the exercise. But I continued with the SLD which became a staple in my workouts and unlike the regular DL with a straight bar, felt totally natural and safe.

Then I learned about the Trap Bar. This was back in the 80’s sometime. Right after I learned about it I attended a strength training seminar at Rutgers University in NJ where Leistner gave a talk and put his female powerlifting secretary through a workout which began with Trap Bar deadlifts. After that I had my Uncle weld me one up and used it until years later when I bought one called the Shrug Bar from Piedmont Design.

The TBDL easily became my favorite exercise and piece of equipment. For me, it was what squats were to a lot of other people … it triggered growth, weight / strength gains unlike anything else.

Twenty years ago I set a goal with it for 405 X 10 and have continued cycling up to that and doing that once a year close to my birthday - kind of like a Jack LaLanne thing but much easier ; I don’t try to pull trains with my teeth :astonished: or anything like that .

As I did then, when I do it from mid January to the end of March , I use it once a week as a '50% Set’ which was another of Ken Leistener’s methods. If not familiar with it you do one set , rest one minute (a little longer once the weights get up there), then a second set which you shoot for getting half of what you got the first set. For me it’s 10 and then 5 or 6. Done once a week for those six seeks, it’s what starts off my Back and Biceps day.


Whether or not to do deadlifts, and how to do them is a highly individual matter, I suspect. I still do them, despite my age (69), but I do so very cautiously. I definitely do not do them HIT style (to failure/max effort), but I still do them. As to the details…

It took me a long time (and more than a few back injuries and tweaks) to learn how to set my back properly when pulling a bar from the floor. I have a set up sequence and set of queues that seem to work pretty reliably now. I basically get into position, put some tension on the bar, then push my belly out slightly and contract my low back to the “correct” arc, then push away from the floor with my legs, and stand up. I do this for every single rep… meaning I reset my low back after every pull, and each rep is done very deliberately. That is just what seems to work for me

Other practices that I employ:

  • I do a deadlift variation once a week.
  • I alternate between RDL’s done with less weight, and regular DL’s done with more weight.
  • Never go to failure, avoid grinding reps and max effort singles… Instead, do several sets of well controlled reps, with relatively short rests. So more of a cumulative fatigue approach.

Basically I approach it as an exercise to fatigue hips, glutes, and hamstrings, while trying to avoid excessive tension and fatigue to the low back.

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Do the deadlift in a smooth manner and don’t go to failure. I use an overhand grip and keep the knees slightly bent. I like doing the deadlift toward the first or the end of a workout.


I was at that seminar at Rutgers back then also. Still have the Rutgers Strength Training T-shirt they gave out. Dr. Ken was a great guy and along with Dr. Darden, my favorite training authors.
Have used the Gerard Trap Bar for nearly 40 years now. Still go close to failure or until form starts to break down (No ugly reps).

LOL, I forgot all about that tee shirt … I had one as well but mine disintegrated a long time ago . That seminar was the only time I was able to briefly meet and talk with Leistner though I had written him a few times … back in the paper and pen days …and he was great in answering. Like you, he and Darden were THE guys to me for the longest time and I didn’t want to hear anything about training if it didn’t come from them.

I also got to meet and talk with Kevin Tolbert and Roger Schwab about the same time period also. Roger was very generous with his time and I spent a whole Sunday afternoon talking with him at his Main Line Nautilus facility.

“Have used the Gerard Trap Bar…”

Do you have an original Gerard Trap Bar? I search ebay for one every so often but no luck so far. I occasionally buy old weight plates, clean them up, and add them to my home gym. I have newer stuff too (well, 20 years old now) but just like the history of an old dumbbell or weight.

No, my first one was one my Uncle welded for me from a wood template I made. It worked but was much bigger that it needed to be.

Years later I bought the Shrug Bar from Piedmont Design Associates and loved it from day one. I’m figuring I bought it probably 23 years ago since I’m now on my 21st consecutive year of doing my original 405 goal. LOL, time flies when your having fun :grinning:

For years I drug that back and forth to the gym every Sunday during my TBDL periods. People looked at me like I was nuts as nobody ever saw one before I brought mine into the gym

Yes. I have an original Gerard Trap Bar. Can’t remember the year I bought it.
I guessing 88’ or 89’. Yeah, they quit making them a number of years ago.
John Wood sold them and he sold Dr. Ken’s Log Bar. Whoever he had making them, went out of business or sold. The company that made the Log Bar got bought out by Rogue, and they don’t make it. One of the best equipment ideas ever.

Yes, Roger Schwab is a great guy. Years ago I drove from Michigan out to Penn State to visit Chet Fuhrman (Football Strength Coach who ran a great HIT program at the time) and then drove on to Philadelphia to visit and train at Roger’s Mainline Nautilus Center. If you liked to train on Nautilus equipment, it was “Nautilus Heaven”. Penn State also had 70+ machines in their facility at the time.

At one time had several Nautilus machines with Penn States name on them.

I usually do stiff legged deadlifts for around 8-10 reps with normal speed cadence at the beginning of the workout, after the squat or at the end. I don’t think regular or sumo deadlifts have any advantage over stiff legged deadlifts for bodybuilding unless you care about strenght personal records, I couldn’t care less about PRs so I don’t do them.

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That’s interesting … never heard the two DL’s described in that way ; one a BB move and the other a strength or power move. I guess it depends on what you call bodybuilding as no doubt the regular DL with a straight bar or Trap Bar will certainly build muscle.

It’s not that the regular deadlift is inferior to the sl deadlift, it’s just that there isn’t any advantage for bodybuilding in doing the regular style apart form using heavier weights, but that’s just my opinion. In the sl deadlift you can move continuously rep after rep, instead the regular and the sumo deadlift are performed more like sets of singles and that makes them more suited for building big poundages in that particular movement, if you care about that. The regular also places more stress on the quadriceps, the sl more on the lower back so one can choose one or the other based also on that considerations. The trapbar deadlift is a different story imo since it can be also used as a substitute for the squat.

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Thanks for your input . I do both the SLD and TBDL at different times through the year and am using the SLD right now.

I’ve always liked the SLD and is something you hardly see anyone doing in the gym anymore … or any DL for reps.

I also like using dumbbells for SLD but you have to be careful that the last rep doesn’t end upon your feet !

The TBDL is less taxing on the lower back vs straight bar for this type of training.
Try a slow cadence say 5/5 --dont touch the ground and dont stand up all the way to keep continuous tension on the muscles. Aim for a TUL between 45-90 seconds.You’ll use lighter weight but your goal with this is to make the exercise harder.

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I like doing the standard deadlift on my back day to open the workout. I go for heavy weight in the 2-5 rep range, and then a few backoff sets with slightly reduced weight in the same rep range. The form is about 2-3 seconds up because the load is very heavy, and then just let gravity lower the weight. This exercise feels like magic for my lower back, mid back, and hamstrings.

Then after squats on my leg day I do Romanian Deadlifts fairly heavy in the 6-10 rep range then super set them with pull ups which decompresses the spine after those two heavy lifts. These are done in probably about 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down, but again I don’t really count. Romanian’s use of a negative makes it a very interesting option for Hypertrophy, so I like to use and progress on both during the week.

No problem, I also like SL dedlifts more. If you look at the old Arthur Jones articles he always praised this exercise but he never talked about the regular style. Probably the reason is that the regular and sumo are performed like sets of singles, they are more a powerlifting lift,and more than that they usually are performed only in the positive without the eccentric, but in bodybuilding continuous tension, the negative and intensity are more important then moving heavy weights per se, or at least that’s what I found works best for me, I’m definitely not an expert. Some guys find they respond well with low reps powerlifting workouts with multiple sets, but for me this type of training did nothing for size. I saw some guys that can deadlift a lot of weight without showing big muscles but with a fat gut, so if one is not interested in powerlifting why even bother? Just to show you can deadlift x amount? I personally don’t care.

Impressive that you can do Pull Ups following Squats and DL. I always found Pull Ups so hard I couldn’t even think of doing them justice in the same workout as Squats or DL !

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It’s super challenging and it’s taken time to get my cardiovascular and muscular endurance to that point, but it’s mental as well. Just pushing through the discomfort. It means I may get less reps on the RDL and pull up, but it puts me in a more relative intensity window.

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