SSPT Deadlift Training

USA Powerlifting MARYLAND

The squat is the king of all exercises but the deadlift is the purest test of total-body strength. The deadlift primarily focuses on the musculature of the back, hips, and legs while recruiting just about as many muscles as any other exercise. The concentric-only nature of the deadlift is unique to the powerlifts because the squat and bench press both afford the lifter an opportunity to lower the bar first before actually lifting it. Without the eccentric phase, it’s nearly impossible to generate any momentum and stretch reflex utilization is practically non-existent. A belt, knee sleeves, suits, and wraps offer the least ergogenic aid in the deadlift. Accordingly, one’s performance in the deadlift is largely determined by three factors: genetics, technique, and training.

Genetics (Leverage)

As with all athletic endeavors, genetics play a major role in aptitude and performance. The most favorable physical attributes for the deadlift are a short…

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SSPT Deadlift Training

Programming 101

There are a lot of types of powerlifting programming out there, linear, periodised, DUP, conjugate, Bulgarian and many more. These are all ways to get stronger over time, but the routes are different.

A standard linear routine will have you adding weight to the bar every week or session until you can’t anymore, usually following the same set and rep scheme the whole time, e.g. Stronglifts 5×5. For the beginner powerlifter or strength trainer these can provide a solid foundation, being easy to follow and trying to potentially maximise your strength gains. Do I think a 5×5 linear programme is the best way to go? Not necessarily, but starting out on a template like that and playing with the exercises that you like can be beneficial. 

This brings us on the next training methodology, periodisation. This is a type of training where you start with high volume and low intensity, and eventually get to a low volume and high intensity state. For example, you start off with 3×10 for 2 weeks, then 3×6, then 3×3. That would be a complete 6 week cycle. Some of the greatest American lifters have simply ran a programme like this for their whole careers for the compound lifts and it has worked. 

Daily Undulating Periodisation programming involves changing your set/rep scheme from workout to workout. Say you squat 3 times per week, you could do 3×8, 5×5, 6×3, all in one week. This differs from liner periodisation because instead of using ‘blocks’ or ‘phases’, you have the whole cycle in one week. You can build muscle mass with your 3×8 on a Monday, then have a power day later on in the week with your 6×3 routine. Changing the monotony of doing the same reps when you enter can be beneficial mentally, making you more excited to lift weights which you haven’t lifted before. 

Next we have the conjugate method. Originally a favourite of Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell, the conjugate method in a basic form will involve a maximum effort upper day, a maximum effort lower day and dynamic effort upper and lower days. The maximum effort days have you push yourself to the highest single double or triple you can manage on that day, then do dropback sets at around 80% of the weight you’ve just hit. This programme relies heavily on the idea of ‘weak point training’, ie practicing variations to work on the overall competition lift. The dynamic effort days will often involve speed sets, bands, chains and variations.

Finally, there is the ‘Bulgarian Method’. There are many ways to implement this but the skeleton of a Bulgarian programme would be to work up to a max on all lifts and then do dropback sets at a given percentage of the max you have just hit.

ains and variations.

Programming 101

Deadlift Programming

Deadlifting is often seen as the most brutal of the three main compound movements. It’s a weight you wrap your hands around and pick up, simple? 

In my opinion, the three training variables, frequency, volume and intensity have the most change from person to person for the deadlift. What is right for you as an individual? Some people train deadlift twice a week, others once every two weeks and some programmes have deadlifting just once a month! I would say that 1-2 times per week is usually going to be ideal for a natural powerlifter. That’s frequency out of the way.

My usual deadlifting volume is around 10-20 working reps per session so 5 sets of 2, to around a 5×4. For me personally, I do not like doing 5+ reps when deadlifting, my form breaks down and it induces a lot of fatigue. I prefer to keep my reps low at higher percentages and perhaps add dropback sets or lower the weight in another session to ingrain good motor patterns and naturalise the movement.

Intensity for deadlifting is something I have played around with quite a bit. I feel that working in the 85%+ range exclusively is what helps my deadlift the most, unless adding dropback volume or doing assurance exercises (deficits, stiff-legged etc). This is what works best for me and I can stay fresh working with this kind of weight.

This brings us on to assistance exercises. Ed Coan, one of the greatest powerlifters of all time is a very big advocate of stiff legged deadlifts to build up strong hamstrings. I am a very big fan of deficit deadlifts which enable me to have speed off of the floor, where I am weakest. Introducing reverse hyperextensions to strengthen lockout can be good if that is a weakpoint, getting a burn on your lumbar after a session. Glute-ham raises can also be beneficial to strengthening the muscles in its name. 

We also cannot forget the biggest assistance of them all, the squat. Many of the muscles used for squats are also used during deadlifting. If you are working your squat and building muscle and strength in that movement, odds on that you are building muscle and strength in your deadlift as well.

The key to perfecting to fine art of deadlifting programming is always going to be finding what is right for you! Find what gets you stronger in your deadlift the fastest and stick with it.

Deadlift Programming

Pre-Workouts: Are They Worth It?

Pre-Workout supplements, C4, Hyde, The Curse etc, it’s a big market. I’ve tried a few and even made my own, do I think they are necessary?

These supplements are often quite expensive compared to others e.g. creatine, which can add up. People work out without them all the time so they’re clearly not an absolute necessity. Using them will probably give advantages for sure, but is using them every day really a good choice?

I try to limit my usage to workouts that I think are gonna be particularly taxing, like testing maxes or during high intensity phases. Using them every workout is going to increase your tolerance, potentially denting your progress if you run out or forget to bring it to the gym. It may also unnecessarily increase your costs of lifting. If you can afford them then why not, but I prefer to use them sparingly.

I like to keep my lifting simple.

Pre-Workouts: Are They Worth It?

Breaking Plateaus: Training Volume

When lifting weights in the gym there is, eventually, going to come a time when you hit a plateau and your progress stalls. If you’ve been bench pressing 100kg for 5×5 and move up to 105kg and can’t press it, you’ve plateaued.

Often, beginner programmes such as Stronglifts 5×5 will tell you to reduce the weight and build back up, getting stronger. This clearly goes against the proven convention of progressive overload to get better.

When you can no longer add weight to the bar, add reps! This is overloading in the most natural sense, and will make you get stronger. If you can get a 5×5 at 100kg, add another rep, add two reps, or simply add as many as you can, increasing from session to session.

Once you can press 100kg for 6/7/8 sets of 5 you will then be able to increase the weight. So do this! Drop back down to 5×5 and increase the weight to that 105kg. This concept is one that Greg Nuckols (of promotes heavily, because as we know, the main driver of growth is volume.

Breaking Plateaus: Training Volume

Is Whey Necessary?

Whey Protein. You’ve heard of it: diet whey, ultra whey, fat loss whey, need I go on?

Will protein get me bulky? Will whey make me muscly? Protein helps you lose weight, right?


All of these questions have been asked millions of times over, by all different kinds of people, but what is the point of whey protein?

Whey protein is, put simply, a protein source, in case you didn’t guess. Just like meat, dairy, soy, et cetera. If you cannot get sufficient dietary protein from food in your diet, turn to whey. Drinking whey for the sake of it because you’ve heard quasi-science spewed by people who think they know nutrition, is just pointless.

You’ll hear recommendations of how much protein to eat per day and I’m not here to tell you how much to eat. All I will say is, if you think a protein shake per day will make you lose weight, you’re going to be disappointed. If you think drinking a protein shake per day will make you look like Schwarzenegger, you’re going to be disappointed.

Whey protein, like all food and drink, contains calories. If you are adding more calories to your diet by drinking whey protein, how do you expect to see the scale numbers fall?

There really isn’t much more to say on the topic without going overboard into science and why you need sufficient protein in your diet, when training or otherwise. Just know that adding calories through drinking protein, isn’t going to help your weight loss, or get you ultra muscly, either individually, or at the same, as some companies like to assert.

Is Whey Necessary?

Newbie Gains? How To Capitalise

In the fitness industry we here the phrase ‘newbie gains’ thrown around a lot by the more ‘experienced’ gym-goers.

In layman’s terms ‘newbie gains’ refers to the muscle growth that most people new to the gym experience in their first year or two or working out. When a muscle or muscle group is untrained and has little work capacity it is, in essence, deflated from its potential.

When you start working your muscles on a regular basis on a full gym programme, you experience muscle growth regardless of your nutrition or training quality, usually.

This post is about how to capitalise on your first year or two of ‘gains’. If you are starting from a reasonable size and body shape, i.e a size you are moderately happy with, then my advice will always to be start with a slow bulk.This way you can capitalise from extra calories, extra energy, higher quality gym sessions, and gain muscle while reducing your potential for fat gain.

This works because your extra calories go towards anabolising muscle, reducing the weight gain coming from fat.

When an ‘experieced’ natural lifter bulks, they will often gain weight which is around 50/50 fat/muscle. not ideal. A beginner can have a much better muscle/fat gain ratio, being helped by none other than their ‘newbie gains’. Your muscular potential in the first 2 years of training is something to be desired and definitely taken advantage of.

A slow, comfortable bulk while you are new to the gym should see you muscular potential fulfilled during the ‘newbie’ phase and give you a solid physical foundation to build from for your future physique or lifting goals.

Newbie Gains? How To Capitalise