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Training for New Deadlift 1RM Without Frying the CNS


Hey everyone,

I’m struggling to find a program to improve my deadlift 1 RM. Every time I try a program, I end up stalling or even losing strength, and it very much feels like CNS fatigue. Here is what I tried:

At the end of 2014 I hit my best deadlift so far. It wasn’t much - just a humble 175 kg (bodyweight is 75kg). But It was a new 1RM for me, without using any specific ramping program. I just felt like giving it a try on that day.

At that time I had been training using a 5/3/1 scheme. I continued doing so afterwards, but was never able to hit 175kg again. I could not get past 160kg.

Then, in fall 2015, I tried CT’s Powerlook Program, wich is aimed at hitting a new 1RM for the big lifts. I followed it as written, but by the last couple of weeks of the program, I couldn’t keep up with the numbers (not just the deadlift), and it felt like it was due to the CNS.

A few weeks later I took part in a mock meet at my gym, which allowed no belts, and was able to pull 160kg without belt.

After that, I thought I would try Ed Coan’s deadlift program. Because I was afraid of overdoing, I calculated all numbers based on 160kg as current 1RM (although I would train with belt), and 170kg as a target. Week 8 felt pretty solid, pulling 161kg x 2 with good speed. But my CNS really started to feel fatigued after that. Week 9, 165kg x 1, was an awful grinder, so I decided to repeat that week, and couldn’t even lift 165kg.

While running Ed Coan, my other lifts were programmed in a Texas Method manner - one heavy set of 5s for each lift, and 5x5 on another day, respectively.

I have the feeling that deadlifting heavy every week is too taxing for my CNS. Do you guys have any advice on how this can be avoided, or how to make progress in the deadlift without frying the CNS?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


I don’t think you’re frying your CNS as much as you’re under recovering.


This could be ^. I sometimes refer to cns being fried…whereas due to long 12 hr shifts at works it’s probably under recovery. ( for me)


What does a "fried " cns feel like?


You already answered your own question. All programming led to nothing. No programming led to a PR. Stop lifting too heavy. Take your time over the course of many weeks and build up to the heavier weight.

Ok, programming is necessary but it doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be as rigid as what you’ve been doing.

Make it simple.

Start with the 175kg. Take 90% of that (157.5) and count back 12 weeks by 5kg per week. Start week 1 at whatever weight that will be and do two worksets with that weight. Don’t worry about how many reps, just handle the weight for whatever amount of reps your body/mind allow for two worksets. Make sure you use proper form on all reps. Then add 5 kg the next week and do the same thing. Again, don’t concern yourself with hitting a particular amount of reps. Do what feels right at the time. Just learn to handle the weight correctly.

Don’t go balls to the wall every week. Hit good reps with good form. Save yourself for when the weight gets heavy. On week 13, go for a new 1RM. You could also do your training max (157.5) for max reps and estimate your 1RM using the formula: weight x reps x .0333 + weight and take week 13 off.

Doing it this way will give your four cycles per year perfectly and still allows for auto regulation. I cannot stress enough to you to take your time and build over time. You’ll burn out and get frustrated if you don’t discipline yourself to recover and listen to your body.


I’ve recommended this a bunch of times on here, but for busting a deadlift plateau, I highly recommend StrongFirst’s Daily Dose Deadlift program.

  1. Get more sleep
  2. eat more

There is no mention of your current sleep or nutrition plan so I’m going to assume it’s inadequate.

In a year and a half you’ve done 3 different program styles. There is no reason you can’t progress with 5/3/1 boring but big or another template unless you’re under recovering, have some injury, or have terrible technique.

Pick a long term program. Commit to it for a year, eat and sleep like it’s your job. Get back to us at the end of it.


Definitely fix your eating and sleeping. Also look at your style and technique. I used to think I didn’t recover well from heavier DL and limited it to once every 10 to 14 days. Then I started 531 and found out I recover just fine deadlifting heavy weekly if I eat right and use a technique that works better for me.


Thanks for all the replies. So most of you said it was a matter of under-recovering. Does this mean recovery of the muscles or recovery of the nervous system? Because to me it doesn’t feel like a muscular issue, but more like not having the mental power to generate the force to lift that weight. The feeling I have post workout is what CT described as “workout hangover”.

I’m actually getting more sleep than ever these days (thanks to taking time off from work in order to write my PhD thesis - so I basically sleep until I wake up naturally, without setting an alarm). With regard to my nutrition, I’m keeping a slight caloric excess. This is likely the point where any further calories would lead to fat gain.


Stress is stress, your body doesn’t know the difference between stress from a max effort deadlift and the stress caused by working on your thesis.

Your body is a a beer glass. Stress is beer. There’s only so much beer that glass can hold. Either get a bigger glass ( not really possible ) or fill it with less beer.

It IS possible with this new knowledge that you just can’t handle the stress from deadlifting. However if you can still really heavy squats and benches every week I doubt it’s the deadlift.

Do this for us, get a video of your deadlift when it’s good and then another video when it feels like shit.


Stop saying CNS. Your CNS is your brain and spinal cord. It isn’t fried, it’s working fine, you’ve typed up a bunch of posts, and presumably can move around normally. You’re just fatigued, don’t feel that great, and your performance is uneven, which is what happens when you train hard and don’t recover well.

Do what that OSU guy said, that is good, solid, basic advice, and get out of your own head. Put in the work over time, eat and sleep. A much bigger pull will come with time and patience. Wringing your hands over a 385 deadlift is not a characteristic of a strong person, so stop doing that.


Ok, maybe “frying” was the wrong word. CT described it in his article as “overtaxed”. And I know that I’m far from being strong and that people around here easily lift twice times the weight I can handle, but for me at 165 lbs bodyweight (who started at 130 lbs) , it has taken quite some while to come to where I am now. I just haven’t seen progress in the deadlift for the last 1 and a half years. My other lifts have improved though.

I’m actually filming most of my main lift work sets, so I will shortly post videos of my deadlift on good days and on bad.

Osu’s advice does sound reasonable indeed, considering that my deadlift was at its best when I was putting the least effort in training for it.


Take 1 to 2 weeks off of training and max out afterwards like preparing for a meet. You aren’t going to be strong at every workout. If you try and max the week after going heavy you will be weak. It is that simple. I got a 600DL at my last meet and it took a month for my strength to recover from that. In fact I decided to take a few months off of deadlifting at all and focused on other variations. Your body is not a machine.
Personally I don’t like the AMRAP aspects of programs like 5/3/1. That always burns me out.


Your form might be bad.

But if I were you Id train for rep PRs rather than 1 rep max PR. For example, if you hit 161kg for 10 reps, youll easily be able to hit 185kg. Youll also be able to hit 185kg if you can do 175kg for 5. Try this: warm up, do 2 sets of 5 at a fixed weight, then the last one try to increase your reps by 1 starting at 5. For example, set up with 150kg for 3 sets of 5, then next week do 150kg for 2 sets of 5, then 1 set of 6, the week after follow the same thing except hit 1 set of 7. Work your way up to 1 set of 10. When you can do that, increase to maybe 155kg and repeat.


Make sure you are actually following the programs and not plugging in ego numbers. If it says use 90% of your training max for calculations, don’t deviate. A lot of people start with a goal to hit that is not realistic. Usually they get away with it at the beginning of the program, but when you start getting into the 80% to 85% range it becomes an issue. Be honest with yourself.

If this isn’t the case, disregard the advice. I just see it a lot.