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The Evolution of My Deadlift Training

June 9, 2005 08:32 AM

I have experimented with many different methods to train the deadlift during the past 25 years. Initially my deadlift training was very crude and elementary. I would pull as much off the floor as I could for a single rep on a frequent basis. This is great for a young lifter with lots of energy but with this approach back injuries can be frequent and severe. I was fortunate to remain fairly healthy but in a short time gains dropped off. Youthful exuberance will lose out to gravitational pull and the human body is not invincible. Try telling that to a teenager or a lifter in his/her early twenties. Eventually we all learn. Our pain and failures educate every lifter.

I found a new approach when I adapted to a high-intensity periodized rep scheme but still primarily pulled every week off the floor. Eventually I went to a partial rack deadlift (PRD) approach as assistance to my full movement, but I still pulled every week off the floor. Basically, I was grinding out heavy sets and then pulling PRD's until failure. Oh, my aching back! When I hit the magical age of 25, I hit the wall. The body had slowed down and training to failure each and every workout was no longer feasible. I began reading more about workout schemes and I started to look at a different approach. From age 25 to 30 I implemented a plan of PRD every other week and behind the back (BTB) deadlifts on the opposite week with a few heavy singles thrown in the mix. I had brought my BTB up to a set of 5 with 715. I had a lot of my early strength gains with this approach. The BTB deadlifts really worked the back, legs and hip extensors in a brutal way. Eventually I became too thick to train BTB deadlifts and I was at a loss for a couple of years as to how to train. The one movement that remained consistent was the PRD.

I found I hit another age plateau in my early thirties. I began to struggle with balancing my squat training and deadlift training during the same week. At this point, I developed my new method of training. I built a system that would utilize my squat training and my deadlift training in the same week to get gains out of both lifts. It has become a complete system of training rather than sacrificing one lift for the other.

I broke my deadlift training down into a new mentality of trying to build my leg, hip and back strength through both combined and separate movements to accomplish my pulling strength. I talked with Scott Safe, SAFE USA, and he turned me on to Front Squats and Romanian Deadlifts (RDLS). A good friend of mine, Jorgen Ljunjberg from Sweden told me about his squat training method. Jorgen trains by himself on a frequent basis in a small town located in Northern Sweden. He built his 400KG+ Squat by training 5x5 rep schemes with lower percentages of weight.

I have called my new method the 5x5 method. The basis of the method is to hyper load the major muscle groups during the squat training session, and to lessen the muscle fatigue on the erectors during the deadlift training work out. I use a 3-day per week split. On Mondays I train the deadlift movement. Every other week I alternate between PRD's and pulling singles from the floor. I supplement this workout with front squats, RDLS and rowing movements. Wednesday is my heavy bench night. Friday is my heavy squat training session. The Friday workout is primarily a high volume 5x5 training night with a few low percentage 8x2 active rest nights built into the program. The body is really fatigued from the 5x5 night. It can make for some long weekends. The delayed onset muscle soreness usually kicks in around noon on Sunday. This makes for a lot of TV watching on the weekends. This program really works but expect muscle soreness like you have never experienced. The program is not for the casual lifter. It is Pain and Suffering but it proves big dividends on your total.

I am a lifetime drug free athlete. I have used this method to win 2 IPF World Championships in 2000 and 2001. I was Silver Medalist in 1997, 1999 and 2002. This approach really works. I have coached several USA Powerlifting World Team members by using this method. I would like to add that no method is the best method for everyone and your individual strengths will keep changing. Make sure to be progressive and work your weak areas.

Train Like an Animal!

Brad Gillingham Team GNC Pro Performance

Brad Gillingham Squat and Deadlift Program

SQUAT Projected Squat max with no gear and no belt -780  Recalculate the poundages based on your projected maxes. 
*5x5 sets are done in 20-30 minutes. *8x2 sets are done High Bar with close stance in 10-15 minutes.      
Week Weight Sets Percentage Gear
14105x552.50%None/No Belt
24495x557.50%None/No Belt
34885x562.50%None/No Belt
44688x260.00%None/No Belt
55075x565.00%None/No Belt
65465x570.00%None/No Belt
74688x260.00%None/No Belt
85855x575.00%None/No Belt
94688x260.00%None/No Belt
105275x567.50%None/No Belt
115665x572.50%None/No Belt
124688x260.00%None/No Belt
136055x577.50%None/No Belt
144688x260.00%None/No Belt
15 3x1Full GearFull Gear
164688x260.00%None/No Belt
DEADLIFTProjected Deadlift max with full gear -881 Recalculate the poundages based on your maxes. 
1 Rack 7 Belt
25296x160.00%None/No Belt
3 Rack 6 Belt
45956x167.50%None/No Belt
5 Rack 5 Belt
66616x175.00%None/No Belt
7 Rack 4 Belt
87276x182.50%None/No Belt
9 Rack 7 Belt
105296x160.00%None/No Belt
11 Rack 6 Belt
125956x167.50%None/No Belt
13 Rack 5 Belt
146616x175.00%None/No Belt
15 Rack 4 Belt
167276x182.50%None/No Belt
* Deadlift Assistance work is Front Squats and RDL's. Front Squats are done before the Deadlift.* RDL's are done afterwards. I warm up with Hang or Power Cleans.   
Rack 7Just above knee Work up to a single and record max in training log. 
Rack 6Just below knee Try to better PR's each time through the program. 
Rack 53 inches below knee A good hint is to not go overboard in breaking PR's. 
Rack 45 inches below knee   

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Brad Gillingham pulling 854 in Slovakia.