If you’re looking to increase your muscular size, strength and overall density then you have simply got to be deadlifting. And the stronger you are on the deadlift, the bigger and more powerful your muscles are going to be. In this article, you’ll discover a half dozen things that you need to start doing today to bring up your deadlifting poundage.
Your feet are the contact point between you and the floor, so it is crucial that you are wearing a stable, secure pair of shoes when deadlifting. The wrong shoes will not only make you weaker, but also less safe.
You want a deadlift shoe that is free of any padding around the heel. You also want a flat sole to enable you to push your heels into the floor. Chuck Taylor Allstars and such minimalist shoes as the Inov-8 range are good deadlifting options.
Warm Up Thoroughly
Before attempting to hoist serious iron off the floor, you need to be physically prepared. Heavy deadlifting requires a strong back and warm back muscles are stronger and more capable of effort than cold ones. Begin with few minutes of cardio followed by stretching, and back-bending. Once the lower back is warm and loose, move on to 3 sets of light back extensions, free squats and dumbbell shrugs. These exercises are great for warming up the three primary muscles stressed in deadlifts – the lower back, the quads and the traps.
Check Your Form
The heavier your weights get, the more important your deadlifting technique becomes. Nothing will curtail your gains like an injury, so you have got to regularly go through a form checklist to make sure that everything is on point. Great form will allow you to progressively add weight to the bar.
Here is your form checkpoint:
- Place your feet hip width apart
- Place the bar between your shins and midfoot
- Stand tall with your chest out and abs braced
- Take a deep breath
- Push your hips back to lower to the bar
- Maintain a neutral spine
- Grab the bar with an over and under grip
- Look straight ahead
- Drive your feet through the floor
- Squeeze your glutes together
- Break with the hips
Increase Grip Strength
For many lifters, grip strength is the weak link that prevents them from making continual progress on their deadlift. As your weights increase, you need to make sure that the strength of your grip is keeping pace.
Improve your grip strength with the following exercises:
Grab a barbell, thumbs up, with your hands about six inches apart. Straddle an exercise bench and let about half of your forearms extend over the end. Brace your arms against the inside of your knees. Let your wrists bend back and slightly open your fingers. Allow your elbows to come off the bench at the bottom of the stretch. Now curl the weight up as far as you can go.
You will make this exercise much more effective by gripping the bar as tightly possible throughout the motion.
Reverse Wrist Curls
Take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip on a barbell, palms down. Place your forearms on your knees as you sit on an exercise bench. Your wrists should be just beyond your knees. Your forearms should be at a slight diagonal, so that your elbows are just outside of your thighs.
In the starting position, your elbows should be up off your legs with your wrists bent down. Now simultaneously bring your wrists up and rotate your elbows in. Your forearms should end up parallel to each other with your elbows down against your thighs.
Again, it is very important that you maintain a very tight grip on the bar as you perform this exercise.
Practicing at home to boost your grip strength can dramatically improve your deadlifting ability. You can do this with the chair hold:
- Lie face down on the floor facing a chair with your arms fully extended. Grab the bottom of a chair leg with each hand.
- Keeping your elbows on the ground, use forearm strength to lift the chair off the ground. Keep the rest of your body prone, so that the forearms are doing all of the work.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds.
Using a weightlifting belt is a proven way to improve your deadlift form and to lift more weight. The key reason is that it provides a great deal of intra-abdominal pressure and core stability.
Use a belt when you are lifting more than 80% of your one rep max. The wider the belt the better, with 4 inches being ideal. Rather than pushing your stomach into the belt, concentrate on pushing onto the front, sides and back at the same time.
Put yourself on a heavy lifting program based off your one rep max. Follow a 10 week program where you train the deadlift just once per week. Do 5 sets each workout and start at 70% of your one rep max. Each week go up by 5% of your one rep max, dropping the reps by two each week. When you have 5 x 1 at 80% of your one rep max, start back at 75% the following week and go back to 5 reps. Continue this pattern until you are performing 5 x 1 at 95% of your one rep max on the 9th week. The following week retest your one rep max – it should have gone up by between 20-50 pounds.
Activate the Lats
The latissimus dorsi are the strongest and most powerful muscles in your back. Learning to activate them is key to a big deadlift. To do this, imagine that you are squeezing an orange between your armpits.
The Sumo Deadlift is a wide stance variation of the traditional lift that allows you to focus more on the hips and quads. You may find that the Sumo Deadlift works best for your unique bodily proportions.
Do Auxilliary Lat Exercises
Improve your lat strength for a bigger deadlift with pull ups. Once a week, camp yourself in front of a pull up bar and set your target in 50 reps. You might get 15 reps on your first set, then 9 on your second. Put them together and you’ve got 24 reps. Keep going to get to 50 total in as few sets as possible.
Use a Trap Bar
The trap bar consists of a bar that is welded into a hexagonal shape, with long sides that allow the user to stand inside the bar. Two coaxial ends allow for the loading of weight plates. Inside the hollow part of the hexagon, a pair of handle bars are welded to allow for a secure grip.
The trap bar was designed as a deadlift alternative. However, it can also be used for shrugs, upright rowing, military presses and stiff legged deadlifts.
The unique design of the trap bar presents some major benefits over the traditional straight bar:
- There is a lessened amount of shear force exerted on the lower back
- You can lift more weight than you can with a conventional straight bar
- It is easier to perform the exercise correctly
- It allows you to work around injuries
- Ideal for beginners
Once per week perform 3-4 heavy sets of deadlifts on the trap bar. This will allow you to go heavier than normal while maintaining neutrality through the spine.
Do the Rack Pull
The Rack Pull is great exercise to increase your strength on the lockout when deadlifting. It will help you to become a stronger, more proficient deadlifter. They will also add thickness to the mid back and add to the v-taper of the lats.
To set up your power rack for rack pulls, position the safety baars so that the bar is at a level just below your knee. Stands directly behind the bar with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab the bar with an overhand hook grip just slightly wider than shoulder width.
Maintaining a straight spine, drag the bar up your legs to squeeze your shoulder blades at the top of the movement. Keep all the tension on your back through the full range of motion.
Perform rack pull deadlifts once per week for 4-5 sets, maxing out the poundage between 6-8 reps per set.