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Stuck on Deadlift. Need a Good Routine to Break 400

We have very similar stats @THack I’m 6’ at 204ish and just recently, in the past 6 months or so pulled 405. I had been stuck at 355x5/385x1 for about a year.

My issue was definitely mental. I had tried to pull 405 multiple times and failed off the floor solely due to just giving up because it was hard to move.

I’ve come to realize that, yeah, pulling 405 off the floor is hard for me. But it’s possible. Just pull/push your feet into the floor and it’ll break. Then just keep going and don’t let your brain tell you to stop. Maybe try working up for a few weeks with 375, 385, 395 just to get acclimated to a weight heavier than you’re used to.

Going in with the mindset of knowing you have the strength (which it seems as though you should) and confidence to grind it out will go a long way. The first rep may not be pretty but it will get you over that initial hurdle and subsequent reps won’t have so much baggage attached to them.

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This is how I got from 500 to 600 in about 6 or so months.

  1. Squat heavy low reps (1-3) for higher sets (4-6) RPE 8-9. Do a little more weight or volume each time. Pick 1-3 light accessory exercises (abs, hamstrings, or glutes) keeping it in 10-20 rep range.

  2. Light upper body pressing for 2-3 sets RPE 5-7. 50 light reps chest supported rows (to save the lower back) or pull-ups

  3. Squat heavy high reps (8-12) for low sets (1-2) RPE 8-9. Do a little more weight or volume each time. Pick 1-3 light accessory exercises (abs, hamstrings, or glutes) keeping it in 10-20 rep range.

  4. Light upper body pressing for 2-3 sets RPE 5-7. 50 light reps chest supported rows (to save the lower back) or pull-ups

  5. Off

  6. Deadlift. For me I was using 500, but you should use 315. Work your way up to 5x5. I literally started with 500 for three singles. Then the next week I did 5 singles. Then 2x2. Then 3 sets of 2. Then 2 sets of 3. I kept at 500, adding total reps or the same total reps in fewer sets until I got to 5x5. Once I could deadlift 500 for 5x5, I worked my way backwards to 600, adding weight each week. I did something like 525 for 2 sets of 5, then 530 for 2 sets of 5, 545 for 4, 555 for 4, ect. Since you are a little closer to your goal, you won’t take as long as I did, but still start w 315 and build it up from there. You might want to start with 315 for 3x3.

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Slightly old thread but I thought it was a good question and something I have struggled with before also. I finally made some breakthroughs last year during COVID that may be another helpful data point for someone reading this (or OP) to consider.

I really liked the article The Simple Deadlift Program and ran it on 2 back-to-back occasions, but with little success. The program really resonated with me in terms of its structure, but I was dumb-founded both times I ran it that I didn’t realize any more than a 10lbs increase the first time and zero progress the second time. I still can’t explain that and would actually still consider running the program again in the future but for whatever reasons at the time I tried it I was very frustrated with the results. Maybe other factors such as diet, sleep, and stress were off. I sincerely doubt the program “doesn’t” work and I likely sabotaged it in some way without realizing it. It looks reasonable on paper and written by someone who definitely knows what they are talking about.

What I ended up doing was similar to the advice of Chicken Little and LongDongSilver in some ways. Apparently what I needed was to focus on deadlifting more often (up to 3x a week rather than once) and to pull from different ranges of motion and with different rep schemes and loads. I would do heavy deficit deadlifts (70-90%), 6 sets of 3, from 1.5” (2 horse stall mats stacked on top of each other) rather than a larger deficit like standing on a 3” bumper plate as I had done in the past. I think this was the best thing to build strength off the floor, but still maintain a similar Deadlift pattern. Then two other days of the week I would do 4 sets of 6-8 reps using chains or pull from 4” blocks (bar just below knee). These sessions were with lighter weight than the deficits done in the beginning of the week but still with moderately heavy loads (60-80%). I did this for two 16 week cycles.

Previously I was stuck at 445lbs and couldn’t get any heavier weight to break from the floor. The next time I maxed out I surprisingly got stuck above the knee with something like 475lb. To get from 475 to 500lb I did the same sort of programming for another cycle, but also modified my training to use Cambered Bar Squats and Box Squats rather than regular back squats and good mornings.

A final thought, it can be easy to forget to focus on building grip strength. I agree with the idea that a weak grip will limit what your body will allow you to pick up. It’s like your brain disconnects/short circuits your ability to strain through an initial heavy struggle unless you have a vice grip on the bar. If you have larger hands I would suspect that grip strength may be less of a problem. Other than deadlifting more often and without straps the other thing that I think worked well for me to build grip strength was suitcase Deadlift holds …holding a barbell in one hand with something like 135lbs and pulling it from a rack to about waste height and holding it for 30-60 seconds then doing the other hand. I stole this one from a Mark Bell / Ed Coan video where Ed was explaining his approach to training the DL. Come to think of it I should begin doing these holds again.

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