Deadlifts are generally the strongest of the three lifts in powerlifting. Consequently, when it’s time to compete, one would want their deadlift 1RM to be as high as possible to boost their total score – but the question is how to increase your deadlift 1RM. There’s no magical way to make it happen, but here are 5 tips to help strengthen your deadlift and improve your chances of increasing the weight you pull.
Deadlift Tip 1: Check Your Form
You want your mechanics to be as spot-on as possible so when you pull, you’re only exerting the effort necessary to complete the lift. To explain a bit better: when pulling conventional, you want the bar to be close to your shins. If the bar is further in front of you, you are exerting more energy than you should be due to your less-than-optimal starting leverage position. Conversely, when pulling sumo, you want your chest to be upright and your hips to be open and close to the bar so your bar path will be straighter and your leverage will be better, as opposed to having your chest down and hips back (which will increase the effort needed to pull the bar up to lockout).
Deadlift Tip 2: Figure Out Which Part Is Holding You Back
Is it breaking from the floor, locking out, overall slowness from start to finish, or something else entirely different? If you don’t have a coach, filming on your cell could help, then compare to Benni’s deadlift, below. Then you can use the different tips below to work on specific areas.
Deadlift Tip 3: Deficits
If breaking from the floor is difficult or you would like it to be faster, incorporate deficit deadlifts into your program. Deficit deadlifts are done by standing on a platform and keeping the bar on the ground. Having the individual higher up on a platform (like standing on 1 or 2 45lb plates) increases the range of motion for the lift, which means the individual has to pull a longer distance until lockout, which will help strengthen the break off the floor when the individual is back on the same plane as the bar.
Deadlift Tip 4: Block Pulls
Block pulls are essentially the reverse of deficit deadlifts, and instead of working on breaking from the floor, they work on strengthening your lockout. This time, instead of you being on a platform, the bar is on a platform (again, with 1-2 45lb plates under each side of the bar). Deadlifting when the bar is higher up is going to take the strain of breaking from the floor away, and instead leaves the individual with the lockout to focus on. Block pulls can be done heavier than what one normally pulls from the floor, because the starting position is considerably higher. Heavy block pulls are going to help strengthen the hip flexors and an individual’s overall lockout, so when the weight gets heavy, lockout won’t be as much of an issue.
Deadlift Tip 5: Speed Pulls
If your overall speed is slow, then you should look to do speed pulls. Speed pulls are done off the floor but with considerably lighter weight so one can focus on breaking and locking out in a quick fashion. Resistance bands can also be used during speed pulls to intensify the lift. The quicker you break and lockout, the easier a pull will be, because the bar will spend less time traveling from start to finish.
A Few Final Deadlift Tips
Work on grip strength if the bar tends to slip from your grasp (or maybe investing in some liquid chalk if your grip strength lessens due to sweaty hands). Work on your lower body mobility. Putting your body through repeated heavy weight training sessions can take a toll on the body, and mobility work is a great way to not only rehab your sore muscles, but to also increase your mobility/flexibility for the big three lifts.
Most importantly, don’t over-train. Deadlifts don’t need to be done multiple times a week. You can benefit from doing them once or twice, and alternating heavy weeks with lighter weeks. Doing deadlifts too much during the week will overload and fry your posterior chain, so be good to your back and take the necessary rest between deadlift sessions.