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Troubles with Deadlift Plateau


I have a problem with deadlifts. I’m stuck at 170 kg for about 2 months. I’ve hit prs, 152,5 kg for 9 reps, 160 kg for 7 and 165 for 5. And I sometimes can’t budge 170 kg… My estimated max is around 200 kg. But can’t lift 170 kg for more than once.

What could be the reason for this? It seems once the intensity gets high. Over 80 % rm, I get in trouble. While no problem for squats and bench. They rise like nothing.

Getting bit frustrated about this, and hope I can get some help


I’m almost 100% sure I can’t help. I’m also 100% sure people will need a video.

Btw is it your grip? Do you chalk up?


You are overtraining your lower back with your Deadlift. That because the lower back is quickly and easily overtrained.

That is the reason you are able to pull 165 kg X 5 and then “Can’t budge 170 kg.”

Moderately High Rep Deadlifts

Secondly, the lower back and hamstrings don’t respond well to moderately high repetitions.

The Deadlift is best trained with lower repetition ranges, 1-3, no more than 5 reps.

Deadlift Frequency

The lower back take longer to recovery.

Deadlifts should be limited to once a week. If you training it more than that, cut it back to once a week.

Kenny Croxdale

Hey KennyCrox why is this? What about for sumo?

To reiterate, the lower back is quickly and easily overtrained. It needs more recover time.

Sumo is less taxing on the lower back than the Conventional Deadllift.

However, the Sumo Deadlift can be overtrained, too.

That is the reason that majority of Powerlifter only train the Deadlift once a week.

Kenny Croxdale

Could try changing up your training template. This works…

Only want to add Kenny Croxdale is dead on correct. Keep the DL lower volume with higher intensity. Add a second movement if wanted with more volume less intensity,e.g. SLDL.
BTW Kenny Croxdale is a pretty well respected knowledgeable PL, in my opinion.

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Thx all for the responses.

I am currently squatting 3 times and deadlifting 2 times a week.)
(Layne norton ph 3 program) So I guess it’s my lower back that’s over trained. Gonna change to 2 times squat and 1 time deadlift and try it out.

Bench 3 times, squat twice, deadlift once with one extra deadlift accessory day, seems to be the sweet spot for me

Layne Norton

Norton is very knowledgeable. The foundation of his PH3 Program appears to be based on Dr Michael Zourdos’ PhD Dissertation…

In a nutshell, Zourdos’ research found that Limit Strength (1 Repetition Max) was optimized to a greater extent with…

Conjugate Training

A weekly program included a…

  1. Hypertrophy Day

  2. Power Day

  3. Limit Strength Day

The inclusion of Hypertrophy, Power and Limit Strength into a weekly training program elicited a…

Synergistic Effect

…that defined as the sum being greater than its parts.

Exmple: 2 + 2 = 5!

Westside’s Powerlifting Conjugate Training Method

Zourdos’ research simply reinforces the Westside Powerlifting Method that has been around since the early 1980s.

The foundation of the Westside Templet was taken from Olympic Lifter’s Conjugate Training Protocol. Olympic Lifter are the “Poster Children” of Conjugate Training.

Norton PH3 follows Zourdos’ research and falls somewhat into the Westside’s Protocol.

Now let’s back track for a minute.

Volume Squat and Deadlift Training

This method has been around for decades with a Light, Medium and Heavy Day for Squats, Deadlifts, etc.

Light Days promote…

Active Recovery

This means making Light Days Light with higher repetitions. The objective is to increase blood flow to the tissue.

One of the two functions that circulatory system performs is…

  1. Delivering nutrients to tissue for repair.

  2. Eliminating metabolites that hinder recovery. In plain English, “Taking out the garbage”.

Thus, well written Light Days promote faster recovery.

The issue that most lifters, including myself have, is being overly ambitious with Light Days, and pushing it too hard and “Over Reaching” (being temporarily “Overtrained”).

The purpose of “Active Recovery” is promote faster recovered.

Going into the following workout from “Over Reaching” means you are under recovered; you’ll perform less weight for less repetitions.

“I make my Light Days Light and my Heavy Days Heavy”.

Chip McCain was one of the great Powerlifters of the 1980’s.

In an interview with him, I stated to McCain that his Light Day Training was inconsistent and made no sense. His Light Day Training load were all over the place.

McCain replied that his focus on Light Days was only for “Active Recovery”. It ensured that he was able to push his Heavy Days to the limit.

McCain Light Days were based on…


Essentially, this means you use your intuition and go by how you feel.

McCain used light loads on his Light Days. McCain use load that felt light. Once he had to labor with an exercise load, he immediately stop the exercise.

To reiterate, the purpose of the Light Day is to promote “Active Recover” and allow greater load on his Heavy Days.

Occam’s Razor

A simplistic definition of this is, “The simplest answer is the right answer.”

This take us back to…

This Is A Neon Training Sign

The fact that you performed 165 kg X 5 Repetition and can break 170 kg off the floor means that you overtrained your lower back in the Deadlift.

In a well recovered state, you’d have been able to pull a few reps with 170 lbs.

Kenny Croxdale


Secondary Posterior Chain Movement

The SLDL for higher repetition is a good movement as long the load is kept light,

The Bouncing Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Charles Staley’s article goes into this. Staley demonstrated in it this video…

Other Posterior Chain Exercises

  1. Hip (Back) Back Extensions

  2. Kettlebell Swings

  3. Dragging A Sled

  4. Etc

I appreciate the plug.

Kenny Croxdale

It sound like maybe you are able to do more reps at a higher percentage of 1rm on deadlift, you are basing numbers off estimated maxes but if you haven’t actually lifted that yet it means nothing. Do you do touch and go deadlifts? The times that you couldn’t pull 170kg, what did you do leading up to that attempt?

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Thx for the effort you take explaining this to me. The thing is following the Norton program… On the light day it has prescribed percentages of my 1rm. But it doesn’t feel light. Because I have to do all 3 compounds on 1 day for relatively high rep sets.

For example I’m already half dead before starting my deadlifts because I did 4 sets of squat and 4 sets of bench before.

Maybe I took on a too advanced program for my experience and I should back off. I’m just early intermediate with a Wilks of around 300. And in the introduction he states that ideally you need to have at least a Wilks of 350.

BTW I have aches on my lower back for past 3 weeks now. Should I take completely time off squatting and deadlifting? In that case I would feel really bad. Or should I just go 1 light, 1 heavy ish day for the 2 and keep the benching to 3 times a week?

I was wondering if it would be OK to start a Wendler program from his new book Forever. I bought it, but haven’t done it for long, because I think it would not be optimal for powerlifting. As it seems way lower in Intensity. Its more focused for explosive athletes, like football players… In my opinion. Cause he leaves room for 3 to 4 conditioning sessions à week.

Any opinion on this?

I do dead stop conventional style deadlifts. No touch n go. I could do touch and go when doing 10 reps from time to time.

I might have been a bit fatigued before trying to pull the 170 kg, maybe I do too many warm up sets? I usually take 20 kg jumps. 5 x 60, 5 x 80, 5 x 100, 3 x 120, 3 x 140, 2 x 160, then the 170.

Also you are right about my training intensity though. I usually use my estimated 1 RM for most programs to start of with.

That’s also the reason why my light days for Norton still feel heavy. You solved a problem for me. Kudos for that. Guess I need to lower my Deadlift training max a bit.

My Estimated maxes are as follow

Squat eRM 148 kg, 135 is my real RM
Bench eRM 154 kg, 145 is my real RM
Deadlift eRM 198 kg, 170 is my Real RM

So guess that explains my overtraining. Squats and Deadlifts are programmed way too heavy.
Bench goes OK still, but even with that my left tricep hurts after every benching session.
But i wonder why i do so well on my Amrap still for bench. it asks for 125 kg x 5 for 3 sets , and then 1 amrap with 125 kg on my last bench training, and i got 8 with that. So it seems i can move the weight. But i’m using a RM i haven’t pushed yet before.

I know i’m weird, my bench is higher than my squat, but that’s because i neglected my legs for the first year of my 2 year training period. Chicken legs dude. Trying to work it up now, if my back would allow it.

Light Day

If it doesn’t feel like it is not light.

Exercise Order

It is common sense. Your fresh and at your best with your first exercise. With each exercise that follows, you have less strength and power.

Performing your Deadlift, any movement, in a depleted state mean you are not able to put much into the exercise. That means you aren’t going to get much return it.

Also, technique falls apart when performed in a fatigued state. The focus is on getting the weight up anyway you can, at all cost.

Rest Periods Between Exercises

If you’re going to continue to perform Deadlifts after Squats and Bench Pressing, you need take some time to recovery.

Wilk’s For Determining Training

That a new one for me. So, I can’t comment on it.

Read The Sign

Having a back ache for three weeks isn’t normal.

It a neon sign stating that you are Overtraining (Over Reached).

Continuing to push in a chronic fatigued state is counter productive. You end up getting weaker.

Passive Recovery

Doing nothing is Passive Recovery.

Active Recovery

Active Recover means performing light, easy exercise. Research shows that Active Recovery is more effective for recovery than Passive Recovery.

I touched on this in a previous post.

Power Training

Starting a Power Training Program is fine, providing you start it off light and easy.

Also, Power Training enhances strength. Zourdos’ research demonstrated that. The Westside Training Method has proven it, as well.

Kenny Croxdale

Looking at how many reps at just 5-10kg under im guessing you’re either warming up way too much like hitting one of those sets before you jump to 170 or your over thinking the weight.

Are you sure you aren’t injured? If the muscles are just tight and cramped up then doing some myofascial release on your psoas and quadratus lumborum should help.

Wilks is one thing, but it doesn’t take into account your work capacity and ability to recover. Some of the best lifters don’t do much volume, both because they don’t need to in order to make progress and also because they cant recover from so much more. High volume and high frequency has its place, but isn’t appropriate for everyone.

Are you training to compete in powerlifting or to play football? Choose a program that is appropriate for your goals. There is no reason for a powerlifter to do 4 conditioning sessions a week unless you are fat and out of shape and the focus is on losing weight rather than getting stronger. Conditioning is an additional stress to recover from.

That doesn’t really sound like too much warmup sets. Maybe its as I said before, you are good at doing reps with a high percentage of 1rm so any 1rm calculation is inaccurate.


I think my lower back is hurt. Guess it’s time to take it light for a few weeks. It doesn’t feel like doms. I just hate stepping out mid program. But it needs to be done. And like Kenny says I’m only getting weaker.

Problem is I think I overextend my lower back (butt tilt) too much during squats. Should do some light sets and work on my technique. And work my way back up after. Cause I will have lost some strength after recovery I guess.

Anyhow everyone thx a lot for the help.

Try rolling out your quadratus lumborum with a lacrosse ball or something similar, work on your glutes too, see if that helps. Psoas could be involved as well. Back pain doesn’t necessarily mean injury, but doing nothing about it can make it worse. My QL gets tight if I sit too much, especially in the hours after a high volume lower body workout.