Deadlifts Necessary?

Hey coach,

I’ve been training without deadlifts for a few weeks, and am currently training with the 4 day upper/lower scheme you gave me. And it is delightful! Feeling explosive and getting 2 times a week exposure to the lifts feels like a turn the right way, I don’t feel like I need to ‘learn’ the lifts again every week now.

I am getting of track…I am now training without deadlifts, and I feel fresher than when I do deadlift.

My question was: if building a well-rounded program for strength and size, could the deadlift replaced, for good (as in ever)? So could someone get just as strong and big without deadlifts?
I even heard a load of top powerlifters deadlift with VERY low frequency (not sure if raw lifters also do this).

Thanks in advance!

Unless you are a competitive lifter who needs to be really strong on a few select lifts there are no “necessary/mandatory” lifts.

So can you get big and strong without training the deadlift? Sure! But you will have to select exercises to strengthen muscle groups that will lack from the removal of deadlifts.

Now regarding the topic of SOME powerlifters rarely training the deadlift… this is mostly relating to those following a Westside-influenced system in which there is one ME lower body lift per week either a squat OR a deadlift OR a goodmorning. So the deadlift is at best in 1/3rd of the workouts.

I can work for powerlifters who A) squat with a style that uses the same muscle groups as the deadlift (e.g. the style used by a lot of heavily geared powerlifters is basically a hip/lower back lift as opposed to raw squattes who tend to use more of a quads-dominant style) and B) who do tons of assistance work for the posterior chain.

Look at raw powerlifters (Green, Duffin, etc.) they tend to have larger quads than those using gear. These people using a hips dominant squat will actually have a stronger transfer from training the squat to the deadlift. Not so much for those who use a more quads-dominant squatting style. The later will thus need to train the deadlift more often for it to do up.

Lifters with a strong grip also do not need to train the deadlift as often. Those without a naturally strong grip might need to practice pulling big weights more often to be good on the platform.

But if your goal is just to get overall muscular and strong, the deadlift can be replaced or done infrequently. The job might be a bit harder (at least for the strength part) but it is doable. In fact I would say that a majority of bodybuilders do not deadlift.

But make sure that the back and posterior chain get enough heavy work to compensate.


There was powerlifter who pulled high sixes at 198 and said trained deadlift week one, straight legged deadlift week two, and heavy bent over rows week three. Then just repeat, i do something similar, nothing says power like a well developed posterior chain. But i have a very physical factory job, walk 6 to seven miles on concrete and steal, and wrestle around with two and three hundred pound tires.

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Christian, in my schedule I’ve planned deadlift, but doing a 3-5 double progression I’m uncomfortable specially when I reach only 3 reps. My issue is proper hip extension and it is a grueling workout.

Anyway I feel comfortable around 6 rep range or more conservative %.

I don’t want leave it and I drop deadlift day by back day, but I would like to use in this way:


A. Squat 3-5 double progression
B. Deadlift 6-8 double progression
C. Front foot elevated split squat 6-8 double progression

D. Leg curl 3-4 x 6-8
E. Leg extension 3-4 x 8-12
F. Hyperextensions 3-4 x 8-12


A. Pull ups 3-5 double progression
B. Chinese row 6-8 double progression
C. Seated good morning 6-8 double progression


Is it doable?

Thank you very much for the elaborate answer!

The SGHP’s take care of all-round posterior chain work (and make up for strong hip extension in the end range), I feel the farmer/zercher walks help build tension needed to deadlift, and the squats help build a strong erectors and leg drive to start the deadlift.

I would like to implement RDL’s, Stiff leg deadlifts, Rack pulls later on as PC heavy exercises, but that is for later.

It’s weird: I love deadlifting, due to my long levers the deadlift is my best lift by far. But a heavy session takes quite a toll on my CNS, and I don’t feel adding weight to my deadlift really builds that much muscle.

Are Deadlifts necessary for building a physique like CT’s and feeling as manly as possible? IMO yes. Sure they wear you out and diminish your work capacity especially at first, but that doesn’t mean you won’t adapt. Yeah, the super elite can get away with super infrequent deadlifting, but we’re probably not super elite. Most natural guys like Alexander Kang are deadlifting every week, who btw is totalling elite.

Well, for many years I didn’t do any deadlifting. In fact I started training fairly hard on them again this year after about 6-7 years without doing any.

Even when I competed in Olympic lifting I wouldn’t deadlift often.

Now I would not program my own training without them. First because I like to do them and also because I feel that they give me a good training effect, mostly because I have awful deadlift leverages. But it is incorrect to say that you cannot build a physique like mine without deadlifts.

As for the elite doing deadlifts often… sure, if your goal is to compete in powerlifting in which the goal is to excel in 3 lifts… 3 lifts that you thus practice to become efficient at.

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Well back when you were deadlifting in “Never Chase Fatigue, Chase
Performance”, you were possibly the hugest I’ve ever seen you. Even when
you were Olympic Lifting you were pulling from the floor, maybe not as
heavy as a true deadlift, but we all have seen the freaky backs of OL
Lifters. I remember an article where you attribute your thick lower lat
development to heavy pulling of all types. I know personally, Deadlifts
are the only lift that gives me that “turtle shell” quality to my back
from lumbar and inner lat/midback thickness. I can row a decent amount
but it just isn’t the same without deadifts. But I know you’re right
it’s possible to build a similar looking back without deadlifting, doing
weighted hypers, pull thrus, SLDL, leg curls, etc but I’ll bet you
won’t get the same level of performance and athleticism without doing
them. Plus with all the accessory work you’d need to replace deadlifts,
I’d think the time and CNS drain is as bad or worse than you’d get from a
few sets of deads.

I was doing trap bar deadlifts which, because of my levers (short limbs/long torso) is more of a squat than deadlift.

Listen, I’m not disputing the value of deadlifting. As I mentioned in a previous post I would not drop them from my program now. But they are not a mandatory exercise, and that was the question.

As for athleticism I believe that if you can do them, variations of the Olympic lifts are superior as a hip hinge movement.

Again I’m only playing devils advocate here. But I worked with well over 600 athletes and at least 3x as many athletes, and have been in contact with tons of strength coaches. And there were just as many great athletes not doing deadlifts and those doing it.

In training there are rarely absolutes.

While I don’t disagree on any particular point, I’d like to stick up for the dead lift as my favorite of the big three, basically because when people ask a favor of a strong man, it almost always means picking heavy stuff off the floor. The dead lift’s muscles also transferred to jujitsu more than the other two. In the boxing club I used to attend, the younger guys would run on by me during the warm ups, but when the coach had us do laps carrying each other piggy back, I was suddenly the fastest runner in class because carrying another person on my back didn’t slow me down (of course, this was in China, so these weren’t heavyweights). I do squat more days than I dead lift, but more to manipulate my metabolism into burning fat.

I agree Paules, in fact I wrote in an article that the deadlift is the best movement for overall strength development. My point was that if your goal is to build a muscular and strong physique there are no mandatory exercises, you always have options.

If you want the best physique the exercises are:

Low bar TPDL & Front squat
SGHP & Weighted Chins/rows
Push press & Incline tilt

aint that right CT (:

I appreciate that you are a more open minded coach who allows people the freedom to avoid certain exercises. Seems to me though, the only two legitimate reasons someone would not want to deadlift is 1. A back or spinal condition, or 2. They just don’t like to deadlift. With most cases being the latter.

There is third one,… the deadlift not building muscle in some people.

Some people get nothing out of the deadlift as far as muscular development goes. This is normally the case of people who have the perfect built for the deadlift (long arms, normal legs , short torso). For these guys the deadlift becomes totally a leverage lift. I know quite a few guys who can deadlift 600 or more and don’t look jacked at all… Heck, one of the best deadlifter in history, Bob People who did over 700lbs at a bodyweight of 180 didn’t even look above average when it comes to muscular development, even from the back.

A friend of mine did 585 and at best he looks somewhat athletic. But he has the perfect leverage for the deadlift.

The issue is that for these people the amount of weight they will have to reach to get much larger from the deadlift might actually do harm to their body in the process… you might have perfect leverages, but your tendons and structure might be overly stressed because you have to load so much because of you mechanical advantage.

The deadlift is likely a decent muscle-builder mostly for those who are not built for it.

I thought alot of powerlifters aren’t jacked since they use such low volume and focus on neural strength anyway? I guess if someone has reached a 600-700lbs deadlift and want to not do it anymore, they’ve earned that right. LOL

Most of the non-jacked powerlifters are geared powerlifters. Most raw powerlifters are jacked and muscular. But I was referring even to average Joes.

I’ll give you an example. I have two friends… Martin is a baseball player. 6’1" very long arms. Patrick is a bodybuilder, very short arms/legs and very long torso.

Pat gets A LOT of back and lower body development from the deadlift, Martin doesn’t. In fact Martin deadlifts 100lbs MORE than Patrick but has less than half the back/lower body size.

That’s what I’m saying, the deadlift is not a good muscle builder if you have the perfect structure for it. BUT it is a great one if you are not built for it.

Well I’m not sure how I’m built for deadlifting. I think I have a fairly even torso to leg length and my arms are somewhat short. 5’9’ or 5’ 10". I get hamstring, lower glute and traps soreness from them and I feel they stimulate my lats and delts too just from holding the heavy weights.

And let’s not confuse the need to deadlift if …

  1. you are a powerlifter (in that case you SHOULD train on it fairly often because you need technical efficiency… I do not believe that you maximize your deadlift without deadlifting)

  2. you are someone who doesn’t care about competing and just want to get strong overall (the deadlift is likely an important piece of the puzzle but it is not mandatory because you can use other big lifts to get similar results).

  3. you care mostly about building a lot of muscle mass (in that case the deadlift would be important only if you are not built for it and thus becomes an effective muscle builder… but even then it is not necessary to just build muscle).

Yeah you seem to be built like me and I agree I do get a lot from deadlifts… most people with short arms do.

But just because YOU get a lot out of it, you shouldn’t blindly think that it will be the same for everybody. Someone with very long arms and a short torso will not get the same muscle building effect as someone like you and me from deadlifts.

That is the thing… we tend to look at everybody from our own angle. As a coach I get to work with every single body type and I learned through the years that not all bodies respond to the same exercises of methods.

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From now on when I see people who are built like a Tim Burton character, I won’t bug them about not doing deadifts.Haha! Good lesson :joy: