T Nation

Deadlifts

What do you all think of doing deadlifts? Do you use them in your training? Do they really add mass to your back like I’ve read, or do they mostly work the legs like it looks to me.

I think deadlifts are just as important as bench presses, squats, pull-ups and rows. I didn’t think that for years and my progress suffered. I split training Ian King style- Tuesday is quad dominant leg day with squats etc. and Friday or Saturday is a hip dominant leg day that revolves around the deadlift.

The deadlift seems to hit everything- legs, upper and lower back, traps, forearms etc. It’s a staple exercise. Don’t leave it out.

I’ve done a bit more research on the subject and I believe you. I’m going to polish my form a bit before I do much more weight though. Thanks.

Chris is 100% Right, listen to the man!!!

Don’t worry, Steely, just because you’re deadlifting doesn’t mean you have to be powerlifting. What I mean is, you can use reps in the traditional hypertrophy range of 8 to 12 when deadlifting. Use a narrower stance and keep both hands facing you. You won’t be able to lift as much weight compared to the powerlifting style (wide stance, sumo, mixed grip), but that’s no big deal if you’re doing it for bodybuilding purposes.

You may also try one of those diamond shaped shrug bars, too. That’s a nice variation. Partials in the cage with a regular bar are great too. Good luck!

Chris, maybe you could help me out while we are on the topic of deadlifts. I’m doing them first in the week right now and I’ve only been doing them consistently for about 6-7 weeks. What I find is that using strict form, my lower back is usually sore but I don’t feel like my legs have been worked. Should I stop deadlifting until I strengthen my lower back??

This is common, J. (Of course, I’d need to see your form to answer perfectly.) You’ll probably get some low back soreness even with correct form. Much also depends on how and when you’re training the rest of the body. As for leg soreness, I never feel it much either, so don’t worry about it. (Don’t expect much quad soreness either since this is a hip dom movement.) Of course, you don’t have to be sore and limping for an exercise to be working either. I’d say to keep deadlifting; you’ll get stronger all over pretty soon.

One of the best programs I ever used was the 20 rep deadlift program from Strossen’s book.
Unfortunately, some asshole invented the octagonal plate, so now I can’t deadlift (or clean or high-pull) in my new gym.

Your lower back should not take a beating when deadlifting. Without watching you do it, its impossible to find the problem. But these are the mistakes I see repeatedly -

  1. using too much weight too quickly. This is the most frequent mistake I see. Did you try to squat 225 lbs the first time you squated? No? Then why are you determined to deadlift over 225 lbs your first time dealifting?

I started deadlifting 135 lbs. I spent a couple of months working on my form and taking it up to 225. Yeah, I could have started at a much heavier weight, but I then would have been lifting to impress others. 5 lbs here, 10 lbs there, and a year later I was doing 365 for 6 reps. I then spent another year moving up to 415 for 4. All without a single back problem. Remember, lifting isn’t a sprint, its a marathon.

  1. get your hips down and under you. This is where you need someone to help you. If you don’t start with the correct form, you’ll probably run into #3

  2. do not use your lower back until you get the weight to, or slightly above, the knee.
    I see too many people using too much weight with poor form who don’t have strong enough hips to get the weight to their knees, so they bring in the lower back to help them get the weight up. Might as well schedule that back surgery now.

  3. Once you’re standing straight up and have made the lift, do not do that stupid thing everyone does where they lean back a couple of extra inches.

  4. do not let the weight drift forward. You want the bar scraping your shins on the way up.

Finally, cut back on any squat work you’re doing for a few weeks (less sets or lighter weights). Trying to do both at the same time may be too much for your lower back to handle right away.

I started deadlifting regularly when I did Ian King’s “Get Buffed” program. This is great for those new to the deadlift as it starts focusing on proper technique and higher reps and gradually works up to the heavier weights. The deadlift is essential for me as I am trying to reverse quad/ham imbalances from years of focusing solely on the squat in my leg training. Additionally, when done with Ian’s technique, the training effect on the upper back helps counteract the “forward shoulder” that many bodybuilders have. I sometimes find that my hamstrings don’t feel as fatigued as my low back during the workout, but the DOMS is usually greater in the hamstrings.

Chris, thanks for the reply! I know you must be quite busy so I really appreciate you taking time to answer questions. Keep up the great work! I think your answer to my question was great advice. I Deadlift on Monday’s, Squat on Thursdays, and upper body is Tuesday’s and Friday’s. I’m not doing any rows for back because I am deadlifting. I focus mostly on Bench and pull ups with some lighter external rotator cuff and shoulder work. I am experimenting with a conjugated periodization type of split for bench press only with Friday being my speed day. My max effort day is more of a CP 5% solution routine with reps of 5-3 for the 6 workouts I am doing this.

I train three times per week.(mon wed fri) Is there any reason not to squat and deadlift on the same day?

Okay, guys, I need to ask a rudimentary dumb question. I’ve shied away from DL’s before because of a fear that I, like many other guys, have about the effects of them on my waistline. I’m trying to reduce the size of my waistline and increase other muscles ,and I’m concerned that DL’s would enlarge the muscles of the torso and interfere with my goals in that regard. So even though DL’s are phenomenal, will they expand my waist significantly?

hawk- I think Poliquin once listed “expanding the waist line” as one of the top myths surrounding deadlifts. So don’t worry about it.

Jesse- it’s perfectly OK to do squats & deads in the same W/O - although I personally get better results using Ian’s split. I can use MUCH more intensity this way, having to do only (1) per w/o

Your body structure will determine how helpful deadlifts are for adding mass to your back. I personally have long arms and legs but a short torso. So basically, I end up pulling a lot more with my back, whereas someone with a long torso and short legs might feel it more in the hammies. This is of course based on the assumption that good form is used.

I think you fellas are right on with the significance and effectiveness of these beauties. I am in the second phase of Coach King’s Limping series and this it has been a while since of done bent-knee deadlifts and the first time I’ve split up quad- and hip-dominant training. I feel that this is an extremely effective approach to lower-body training (deadlifts and separate days for quads and hams). A lot of trainees do legs all in one day and devote two, three or maybe even four separate days to upper body! To these trainees I would offer the analogy of training quad-dominant exercises, hip-dominant exercises and calves on separate days and only one day of upper body. I know it sounds kinda strange but if you think of it that way, it’s somewhat true.


Anyway, back to the point of deadlifts. I find them to be one helluva exercise. Surprisingly, I experienced DOMS in my traps for about 2-3 days! My traps are definitely in need of some growth, so this was welcomed with open arms. I like doing deadlifts extremely explosive and really focusing on gluteal recruitment (I’m sounding kind of like good ol’ Ian himself). Since it’s been a while though, I am concentrating more on form than anything else. I may look like a goon busting my balls with 145, but just like the rest of the T-Men out there, I could really care less what other people think cause I know I’m sparking some growth and strength! I do think it’s a function of focus on whether or not they can add mass to your back. If you retract and protract your shoulder blades like Ian recommends, I think you’re in for some major gains in your entire back.

Good topic!
I like doing them with supine grip. Seems to be good for upper body posture. Is this possibly dangerous for biceps or what? I haven´t seen anybody recommending supine grip.

for whatever reason, i find deadlifts to really hit my upper back and rear traps the hardest. im a g footer and still squat down to the bar but i have never felt it in my hams and only really the first deadlift day on my low back. for this reason deadlifts has usually been a back day movement and stiff leggeds which make my hams really sore go for hip dominant days. thoughts?