10 Tips to Build a Stronger Deadlift
The deadlift is a phenomenal exercise -- one that’s considered by many lifters to be the “king” of all exercises.
The reason for this is pretty simple. The deadlift is about raw power and strength.
Find something heavy, pick it up, and put it back down.
Repeat, repeat, repeat and you’ll be the beneficiary of slabs of lean muscle, increased athleticism, and traps that would make Bane blush.
With that said, here are 10 tips for a stronger deadlift.
Top 10 Tips for Stronger Deadlifts
#1 Warm Up Properly
A proper warm up is vital to lifting your heaviest weights on the deadlift. Not only does it prime your muscles, joints, and connective tissue for the intense efforts ahead, but it also gets your nervous system fired up so that it can tell you muscles to contract as forcefully as possible.
And, before you ask, no -- running, jogging, or ellipticalling for 5-10 minutes before your workout is not what we mean by warming up. You can still do that cardio warm up to increase core temperature and circulation, but that’s not really what we mean by warming up properly.
Your warm up for the deadlift should be just that -- deadlifts.
You’ll slowly ramp up to your working weights, and along the way you’ll fire up your muscles, joints, and nervous system.
Here’s how we like to structure our warm up before heavy deadlifts:
- Warm Up: 135lbs x 5 x 2 sets
- Warm Up: 185lbs x 5 x 1 sets
- Warm Up: 225lbs x 3 x 1 set
- Warm Up: 275lbs x 1 x 1 set
- Working Set: 315lbs x 1 x 1 set
- Working Set: 335lbs x 1 x1 set
#2 Improve Technique
The deadlift (like all the powerlifts) is as much about technique as it is about raw strength and power.
What this means is that if your technique has any weird hitches in it, you’re leaking energy, and thus won’t be able to deadlift as much as you’re truly capable of lifting.
Bad technique will significantly increase the risk of injury -- something we’d all like to avoid.
As you continue to improve and gain strength, it’s imperative that you constantly assess and refine your technique. You can do this by having an experienced, qualified trainer or coach watch you lift, and/or you can record yourself performing the deadlift to see how your technique is.
#3 Lift Explosively
Moving heavy weights demands that you lift explosively.
Attack the bar with vengeance, aggression, and an undeniable thirst for success.
It’s not a question “if” you can make the lift -- it’s a matter of how fast and violently you’ll rip that sucker off of the floor.
#4 Don’t Neglect Assistance Exercises
There are a number of exercises you can perform each week that complement the deadlift and will pay dividends towards improving your performance in the lift.
Some of our favorite deadlift assistance exercises are:
- Leg Presses: great for the quads, hamstrings, and adductors
- Romanian Deadlifts: hammers the entire posterior chain
- Dimel Deadlifts: great for the quads and hamstrings
- Kettlebell Swings: good for developing explosiveness
- Farmer’s Walks: builds grip strength and athleticism
- Rows: Develops upper back (lats, rhomboids, traps, etc) muscle and strength
#5 Get Your Mind Right
Setting new PRs on the deadlift (or any of the big lifts) isn’t easy, nor is it supposed to be a walk-in-the-park. You’ll also have those days when you’re just not “feeling” it, but you know that in order to progress you have to be willing to put in the work, even when you’re not all there.
Realize that there’s more to building strength than simply showing up to the gym and lifting weights.
You have to adopt a certain mindset and develop a particular type of attitude towards the weights.
Be willing to bust your ass in the gym.
You’re not there to get a “work out”, you’re there to train.
#6 Think “Push” Rather Than Pull
Instead of thinking about pulling the bar up from the floor, think about pushing the floor away almost as if you’re performing a leg press or belt squat.
Often, when lifters think too much about pulling, they end up dumping a lot of stress onto their low back and missing out on valuable leg drive. A lot of other lifters allow their hips to shoot up when attempting heavier weights (relative to their 1-RM) and they miss the lift.
Bear down, keep your hips low, drive through your feet and push the earth away.
#7 Increase Grip Strength
A weak grip not only limits your ability to hold the bar during the deadlift, it actually makes the lift feel harder, too.
And, if your grip isn’t steadily getting stronger over the course of your training career, your deadlift will inevitably stall.
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to increase grip strength once you know what to do.
Some of our favorite ways to increase grip strength include:
- Plate pinches
- Farmer’s walks (weighted carries)
- Using fat gripz
- Barbell holds
- Towel pull ups or deadhangs
#8 Prioritize the Deadlift
Specificity is key in any venture in life in which you want to excel.
The deadlift is no different.
If you’re serious about improving your deadlift, then you need to make it a priority. Make it the first exercise in your workout, and make that workout the first one you do each week when you’re at your freshest mentally and physically.
Start making the deadlift a priority and watch your numbers steadily increase.
#9 Improve Weak Points
We all have different phases of a lift in which we’re stronger and ones in which we’re weaker.
The deadlift is no exception.
If you’re struggling at lockout, try performing block pulls, chain deadlifts or band deadlifts.
If you’re struggling with the initial pull off of the floor, do speed deadlifts, deficit deadlifts, and 3-inch block pulls.
Also, don’t neglect stiff-legged / Romanian deadlifts as they are great for building strength along the entire posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, etc.).
#10 Build a Bigger Back
The deadlift is a total body lift, but the back plays a huge role in your ability to lift heavy.
In other words, if you want to build a stronger deadlift, then you must build a stronger back.
In addition to performing deadlifts each week, you should also perform other vertical and horizontal pulling exercises, including:
- Barbell Rows
- T-bar rows
- Pull ups
- Chin ups
- Seal Rows
- Meadow’s Rows
- 1-arm dumbbell rows
- Batwing Rows
- Cable Rows
The back is such an expansive muscle group, many lifters find they can tolerate a higher amount of volume and/or frequency compared to other muscle groups (chest, shoulders, etc.).
Pick a few of these accessory pulling movements and focus on getting as strong on these as possible. Then, watch your deadlift start to soar!