Do deadlifts to gain strength and size and overcome a plateau in your training. When was the last time you increased your weights or tried a new lift? If you are part of the regular Poliquin readership, you may say “yesterday” or “last week”, but I bet there a few people out there who will benefit from new strategies to overload the body and make fast gains. The deadlift is one of the best ways to do this.
Assuming basic structural balance and health, anyone and everyone will benefit from deadlifts. Two recent studies in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show us how. First, in regards to the basic deadlift movement in which you pick up a weight off of the ground, there is the traditional straight bar deadlift that is performed with a barbell, and there is the hexagonal bar deadlift. The straight bar deadlift maximally recruits the posterior chain, particularly the lower back muscles of the erector spinae and the glutes.
The hex bar deadlift more evenly distributes the load between the ankle, knee, and hip joints, with the quads performing a larger percentage of the work. The hex bar does not place as much stress on the lower back, making it an ideal lift for a novice trainee.
The hex bar deadlift can also be used to train faster, more powerful lifting movements than with the straight barbell since the weight is more evenly distributed. For example, in a study that measured peak power output from the deadlift, the average peak power produced by subjects during the hex bar lift was as high as has been previously recorded in the power clean (nearly 4,900 Watts).
With loads in the 40 percent of the 1RM range, it is possible to use the deadlift to generate the highest levels of muscular power, which is useful for novice athletes who have not yet technically mastered the clean. Heavier loads can be used to train for strength and to stress the neuromuscular system.
More advanced trainees who want to mix up their training may benefit from using variable resistance or partial-range training. For example, adding chains to a deadlift will challenge the natural strength curve because it requires you to produce greater force during the latter stages of the concentric action. If you perform the lift “as fast as possible” as the trainees did in a recent study, you will increase power output as you stand up from the floor. The chains also allow you to produce more force near the end of the concentric motion when you would normally have to decelerate to complete the lift.
Finally, more advanced trainees may benefit from deadlifting twice in the same day. You could try long-range deadlifts from the floor in the morning and short-range deadlifts in the evening—alternate between snatch grip deadlifts on a podium or regular grip deads from the blocks for your second workout. For anyone who missed it the first time around, check out the Twelve-Week Training Program for Deadlifts designed by PICP Instructor Ryan Faehnle.
Swinton, P., Stewart, A., Agouris, I., Keogh, J., Lloyd, R. a Biomechanical Analysis of Straight and Hexagonal Barbell Deadlifts Using Submaximal Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. June 2011. 25(7), 2000-2009.
Swinton, P., Stewart, A., et al. Kinematic and Kinetic Analysis of Maximal Velocity Deadlifts Performed With and Without the Inclusion of Chain Resistance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. September 2011. 25(11), 3163-3174.