T Nation

Sudden Strength Loss in DL


Ive been doing strength training for about 19 months. For most of that time I deadlifted sumo-style, and worked my way up to 355x10 about a year ago, then stagnated for many months after that. About 4 months ago I decided I hated sumo deadlifting and changed to conventional.

I was only able to pull 420x1 on my first day, but I made some pretty newbtastic gains and last month pulled 385x10 (I am following 5/3/1 and so using the formula Wendler provides to judge progress, 385x10 translates to 513lb, ie 93lb of progress). That was my last PR. The week after that I made 410x6 and then the week after 440x3 and then deloaded the week after. That was when I suddenly lost deadlift strength.

The next week (i.e last week) the last warm up was hard and it should not have been. I was attempting 410x8 and I made 0. Couldnt even break it off the floor. WTF? Same thing today. I was reattempting the same weight and couldnt break it off the floor. Two weeks in a row my deadlift has been in the gutter. What gives? All my other lifts have been doing fine. I just lost 100lb on my deadlift out of goddamn nowhere.

I apologize for giving you my life story, I wasnt sure how much was relevant. Anyway, my question is how should I approach this sudden strength loss, given that I have no idea what is causing it? As far as I know I am not injured. The only other thing that might be relevant is that the week I pulled 440x3 (ie the last time I pulled anything respectably close to my best calculated 1RM) I tried out the snatch grip deadlift as a new assist exercise.

I only worked up to 315 since my hook grip blows and I dont own straps, but my lower back was pretty sore and stiff for a few days after, which I figured was normal since Id never done the lift before, but I wasnt in any pain.

As of right now, my only plan for approaching this sudden strength loss is to start back at a weight I know I can handle now for at least 5 reps, like 360 lb, and keep adding 10lb a week until I get back to where I was. At that rate I would be back to where I was in 8 weeks.

Other information if it is useful:
-My sticking point is breaking the bar off the floor. If I fail a rep, it will be in breaking the bar off the floor. I have never missed a lockout once the bar is above my knees.
-5'8, 192lb, 20yo
-Other lifts/ current PRs: SOHP: 170x6, Push press: 190x6, Oly Squat: 335x7
-Natural deadlifters build. Long arms, short torso, long femurs.


I haven't pulled that much weight before, but every time I couldn't get it off the ground it was either my set up or my mind wasn't completely focused on the lift.

Your plan sounds right to me. Just lower the weight to what you can handle and build it back up. Pay attention to your assistance and supp lifts, and if your just having a shitty day. The deadlift is hard to fix since theres so many things involved.


Bad days happen. If you're weak off the floor get stronger hamstrings and glutes.


hey you might have exhausted your central nervous system and sometiems you just need take a break from doing one particular exercise and yea sometimes you just have a bad day. without getting into extreme scientific detail outside stress can also affect your nervous system and your body.

i have ran into the same problem before getting up to 515 in the gym then wasnt able to pull 505 at a meet just now got back up to 510 all do to i stopped doing deads and when i did it was usually speed pulls and with the opposite stance of my competeing stance. i know i have read that sometimes to increase your dead you should do everything except deadlift.


mphulk - to be fair the reason you may have not been able to pull 505 at the meet when your gym lifts are higher is that you took 8 close to max attempts prior to your last deadlift attempt. Could be that you simply don't have the work capacity to be able to do a full meet, whereas in training, on a deadlift day chances are you're not squatting and benching before you deadlift.


To the original OP. you didn't lose 100 lbs. the most I saw you pull from your post was 440. Rep max calculators don't work unless you know your actual max. Example if I pull 500 x 4, and I max 530, when I pull 520 x 4, 550 is fairly probable . 440 x 3 might only be 450 depending on many factors.

This rep max calculator drives me nuts. You need actual maxes to figure out reps. As for your problem, you're probably overtrained. Take a little time off and ramp back up.


Agree with ^^^ and start adding GHR!!


liguidmercury- yea you propably right that was a push pull meet and i hadnt competed in quite awhile. i do do plenty of gpp work and active resoration i think i didn't contest prep very well and either lifted to heavy to close to the meet or cut back to soon which i can only fix this by just competeing more and educateing myself more on precontest. next meet is 25th of february any tips?


Choosing attempts is a skill that is developed over time. I think this is one of the biggest things people get wrong at a meet, simply not putting themselves in the best position to perform well.

Without knowing what your training is, hard to say if how you peaked was good or not. Just keep doing meets and working on peaking for them and you'll figure out what works for you in time.


The answer is really quite simple. You peaked early.

If you are going to train linear progression, IMO, you are better off structuring it in 7-8 week blocks. If you don't hit the prescribed reps you were probably too ambitious in the numbers you chose and peaked prior to the end of the cycle.

This happens and if I had a dollar for every conversation I have had in the gym with guys similar to this one, I could go on a nice vacation.

Redo the cycle. Or, redo it and deduct 5-10%. Rep calculators are not particularly reliable if utilized for limit strength but can be reliable for setting volume. However, as I said previously, if the accumulation of volume is more than you can recover from you will peak earlier in the cycle and end it flat or take a step back.

Completely normal and a good part of the explanation of why a lot of PL's hit their best lifts in the gym and then enter the competition flat. The goal is to be stronger on meet day than you were at your heaviest training day but accomplishing this takes some finesse and the ability to go back, evaluate, determine where you were the strongest in that cycle and adjust accordingly.


Thanks all. I've decided to take two weeks off the DL and then start a new cycle with 10% off. I know the rep max calculator is not perfect, but it's the closest I have on hand for judging progress over the course of months given that I pretty much never pull my 1RM, ie if I'm pulling 375x5 one day and then after 3 months of training pull 385x10 I've certainly gotten stronger. I'm not a PLer (I squat Oly and don't bench at all) so I don't have the goal of peaking my 1RM for meets, just of getting stronger in the long run.


I had similar issues, most of mine stemmed from 2 issues. Mobility (couldnt get into proper starting position) and Bouncing reps (didnt stop the bar dead on the ground) I fixed those two and improved drastically. Dont know if that helps at all may not apply to you


And quads??


No, I've got the opposite problem. I often take too long resetting and preparing myself for the next rep after the bar has returned to the floor.


Depends how they come off the floor. If they're coming up where their ass is shooting in the air they'll need more hamstring/glutes (majority of the time this is the issue). If they are able to keep their tuck and body position and still not able to pry it, then quads would be a possible issue.


Sounds like a plan.

I think alot of people (not necessarily you) don't fully understand the ramp in training volume and it's contribution to limit strength. Wether you are competitive or just trying to structure consecutive cycles to get stronger/put on mass the same ideas apply.

If you are at week 4 of a cycle, hit week 5 flat and take a step back in week 6 (for example) the cycle was likely to aggressive (there may or may not be personal/lifestyle factors that contributed but this is still the case) and the best thing you can do is back off and repeat the cycle either flat or with a deduction.

Unfortunately, with a lot of beginner/intermediate lifters, they just scrap the whole thing with the thought it didn't work and move on to another training method. You see it all the time and the problem with this approach is you never really learn anything about programming. You just become a cycle jumper.


I understand the idea of accumulation of fatigue from ramping, and I know what it's like to have a really shitty day, and I know what it's like to have a long string of mediocre days followed by a big PR or several big PRs. It's just that I've never experienced such a large sudden strength drop. Going from 410x6 to 440x3 to 410x0 is pretty unnerving. But I have no intention of ditching the program.


Well, if it's any consolation I have. The first Gilli 5x5 cycle I did where I alternated rack pulls with pulling from the floor (the standard template) I overshot the squat cycle and just kept getting more and more beat-up and instead of asking what to do just stuck with it. It got to the point that after the 4th week of the squat cycle (which is one of the heaviest) I was supposed to pull 82.5% of my projected for 6 singles and I could barely break it from the floor and then just stood there and shook. It was ridiculous.

I had a tremendous temper tantrum which I still get shit for, (prior to my newly adapted kinder and gentler ways) but I finally got on the phone and asked WTF was going on and got ummmmmm.....corrected.


OP the same thing used to happen to me when I would pull heavy every week. I could add weight like clockwork for a couple weeks then suddenly one week it would be a dogfight just to make it through warm-ups.

On thing that has helped me was only pulling heavy every other week, since you said you are doing 5/3/1 on way to set this up would be:

Week 1: 3x3 - do extra reps on the last set
Week 2: 3x5 - just do the minimum reps
Week 3: 5/3/1 - do extra reps on the last set
Week 4: deload week

Also it is recommended to stop 1-2 reps short of failure


Gillingham 5x5/rack-pulls is a great method also. The last weeks of 5x5 are brutal I remember once falling asleep during stretching after one session LOL

Kind of weird how that works with such a low % the heaviest I think I went was 392x5x5 (no belt) and then 2 weeks later did my first 500+ squat