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How I Added 40 Pounds to My Deadlift in Four Weeks

December 5, 2007 02:24 PM

Before I get started with this program, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and explain how this program came to be. I am nineteen years old and I compete in powerlifting via the USAPL. I first got introduced to powerlifting when I was in karate through Pavel's Power to the People! I started getting stronger and more muscular, from there I was hooked. I started competing when I was 17, which two years later brought me to USAPL Teen Nationals this summer. This was probably the most fun meet of my young career. I was competing in the 198 class and the meet started off with squatting, which I missed my opener, for some reason still unknown to me today, but still came out with a competition PR of 556.5Lbs. This put me in the lead by 33Lbs. Next was the bench. It took me three tries, but I finally got 347, which is what my competitor also bench pressed. At this point I was in the lead by 33LBs. The next lift was the deadlift. My deadlift in the last year had only gone up a meager 30Lbs while my squat and bench both went up by almost 100LBs. This was also my competitor's best event. As the numbers fell, my competitor made his final deadlift to beat me by 16LBs. I was booted out of my national championship by sixteen pounds! Let me say that one more time, sixteen pounds was the difference between a championship and "A good meet."

When I came home, I decided I never wanted to lose on the deadlift by such a small margin again, and that is the thought behind my program! Before you get excited about how great another forty pounds will be, know that you will be pulling for up to thirty sets of five in a week, while still squatting! This program is far from easy. There were many times I wanted to quit, but every time the thought came I blasted it away with the thought of losing again because of my deadlift. Well, here is the regime, and I will walk you through it week by week.

Pause Squats
Stiff-leg deadlift
Leg press (with calf raise at top) 3 sets of 8
Abs, 3x10

Feet up BP
Cambered Bar
DB MP: 3x12
Rows 3x10
Curls 4x8

Snatch grip deadlift
Abs 3x10

Loose shirt BP
4 or 5 Board
DB BP: 3x12
Pull-downs: 3x10

This plan was written with a conventional puller in mind. I start out with pause squats, I chose this exercise mostly because I haven't done them in a long time, make sure you get a good two second pause at the bottom of each rep. The choice of the stiff leg deadlift was simply because I wanted to hammer the glutes and hamstrings and it just seemed like the right thing to do. These were performed with a double overhand grip to work the grip muscles. I figured if my pull increased I would need a stronger grip. If your grip is horrible or your hamstrings are very strong, do these on a box. Don't let your grip limit you, just work it hard. Do ten sets of five on both, the pause squat, and the stiff leg deadlift. I like to work up to something close to a 5RM, maybe 20 lbs less, drop the weight down, and repeat until all ten sets are done. I counted my first set at about 65% of my 1RM, if you don't know, just start at something that you feel, but isn't too strenuous. No slacking, this is the first session! I know you hate leg pressing, but it is easy volume and will help build work capacity for future cycles.

Example based on 380 5RM:
275x5, 315x5, 345x5, 365x5, 285x5, 305x5, 325x5, 345x5, 365x5, 335x5

Try to get something close to 75% average intensity. It doesn't sound like, much but it is more than enough. I never made it to 74% so you have your work cut out for you.

I really don't think it matters what you do on bench, but my loading was just as strenuous, so I'm sure just about anything will work. While my bench increased, this isn't what this article is aimed at, nor was it by anything as significant as 40LBs!

Week one's Thursday workout isn't fun! It calls for ten sets of five deadlifts, followed by ten sets of five snatch grip deadlifts. For the first ten sets of five, setup up just like you would in competition, and keep the weight up and don't quit, no matter how sore you are still from Monday. After five sets give yourself a pat on the back, you're a fourth of the way through the day. After you're done with the tenth set take a fifteen minuet break and lick your wounds, as I'm sure your hands are killing you by now. The snatch grip deadlift is a tough and humbling exercise. If you're pulling around five wheels raw, I would start at about 225x5 for your first set if you've never done these before. To start put your hands as wide out as you can, none of this "index on the ring" crap; put your pinky close to the collars. If your grip and hands are killing you there isn't too much shame in using straps. Your grip should have gotten plenty of work so far this week anyway, especially if your squeezing the bar hard on the bench like you should! Get in your ten sets, finish up on abs, go home, eat a few triple cheeseburgers and sleep. The hard part is over….for now.

Week two is much more forgiving than week one. Do the same routine except instead of ten sets of five for the first two exercises, do four sets of five. This still calls for eight work sets of five per workout, but after doing twenty it will feel great and give your body a chance to catch up with your ambition, and for another hard push in week three. As far as the loading in week two goes, I did it similar to week one.

Example based on 380 5RM:
275x5, 315x5, 345x5, 365x5

Try to at least tie your average intensity from last week and rest up. This is not supposed to be easy, just not gut busting. Don't forget to hit your accessory work.

Week three brings new horrors! Just like week one you are going to be doing ten sets of five again. If you have trouble enjoying the pain, just think about how good it will feel when you stop! To make things more fun, you are going to try to at least tie your old 5RM on the two primary exercises on both days. This should be the most intense week of the four-week cycle!

Example based on 380 5RM:
275x5, 315x5, 345x5, 380x5, 285x5, 305x5, 325x5, 345x5, 365x5, 335x5

Stick with it, don't even think about quitting. Pat yourself on the back after week three.

Week four you get to reap the fruits of your labor as you deload and recover. There are a few ways you can do this. This is how I did it:

Tuesday and Friday:
Squat 72.5%x3x3
BP 72.5%x3x3

Then I just jumped into my next cycle of training.

If you only are concerned with your deadlift and want to test your Deadlift, this might be better:

Tuesday: Deadlift 65%x3x3, just focus on groove
Friday: Work up to new 1RM

Have fun with your new PRs! If I would have done this cycle sooner you would be receiving this article from the 2007 USAPL 198 Teen Champion!

Looking back, I think I would have structured this cycle a little bit different if I had a chance. If I do this cycle again, I probably will have chose box squats instead of pause squats, mostly because box squats encourage better form, and you know you won't be cheating by cutting depth as you get tired. I would also probably do the stiff legs from a box to build starting power, or if my lock out is falling apart, do the stiff leg deadlift from just below the knee.

Curt McDonald is an engineering student at University of Missouri-Rolla and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He has been competing in powerlifting since June of 2005. His best lifts in the teen 198 class include 556Lb squat, 363Lb bench press, 529Lb deadlift. You can contact him through the forum.