Today’s guest post comes from none other than world renowned strength coach, and author of the brand new 2 x 4 Maximum Strength Program, Bret Contreras.
One of the leading researchers in the field of strength and conditioning, Bret has drastically influenced me and my coaching methodologies.
In light of the release of his new 2 x 4 Maximum Strength Program, Bret graciously agreed to write a guest post outlining specific instructions to help you program your Deadlift for the best results possible.
Your Guide to Programming the Deadlift
In the world of strength training you have the deadlift…and then you have all the other exercises.
What I mean is the deadlift is the only lift that has its own rules. Take a look at all of the popular powerlifting routines and you’ll find that nearly all of them have the lifter squatting and benching more frequently than they pull.
Strong people have figured out that if you try to deadlift too heavy and too often you will either stagnate or hurt yourself.
What then is the optimal dose of deadlifting?
Obviously this will depend on the lifter but there aren’t too many lifters who can pull heavy twice per week all year round. Trying to squeeze in 104 heavy deadlift sessions into a single year is recipe for disaster. Go ahead and squat or bench heavy twice per week but, with the deadlift, I believe the optimal approach is to go with the light/heavy method.
With the light/heavy method you’re going to have one sub-maximal training session per week and one maximal training session per week. The maximal session will be performed three days after the sub-maximal session, allowing for four days of recovery from deadlifting after the heavy session. Step one will involve picking your sub-maximal approach and step two will involve picking your maximal approach.
With the sub-maximal session, you want to pick one of the three methods listed below and also your deadlift variation.
Load the bar up to 60-80% of 1RM. Use such strict form that the load actually “feels” heavy. Perform 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
Load the bar up to 60-80% of 1RM. Pause at strategic points during the lift for a 3-second count.
For bench: pause at the chest.
For squats: pause at parallel
For deadlifts: pause 1 inch off the ground.
Perform 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
Load the bar up to 60-80% of 1RM. Perform the movement with compensatory acceleration (i.e. keeping the load under control but ramping up in speed throughout the range of motion). Perform 3 sets of 1-5 reps.
With the maximal session, pick a set and rep scheme and go for a personal record (PR). My favorites are:
- 3 sets of 5 same weight on each set
- 3 sets of 3 same weight on each set
- 3 sets of 1 same weight on each set
- 3 sets of 5 ascending weight on each set
- 3 sets of 3 ascending weight on each set
- 3 sets of 1 ascending weight on each set
With ascending weight, you’re really going for an all-out max set. This gives you 6 PR options per exercise variation. Make sure you pause for a brief moment and reset after each repetition. This makes the set more difficult but it’ll build more strength.
With each training session you’ll need to pick your deadlift variation. In general, you will need to decide upon:
- Stance width: conventional, semi-sumo, sumo
- Barbell: traditional bar, hex bar (only conventional stance is conducive to hex bar)
- Range of motion: deficit, standard, block, rack
There you have it! An sample week would look like this:
Monday: Pause Rep Hex Bar Deficit Deadlifts: 3 x 3 @ 70% of 1RM
Thursday: Sumo Deadlift: 3 x 1 with progressively heavier weight leading up to a new PR.
Remember to use very strict form in training. If you’re going to use slop, save it for a meet (yes, you should decide upon a competition and start prepping for it – the sport of powerlifting kicks ass).
Also remember to de-load regularly. Some coaches like to have an easy week every 3-4 weeks, others every 4-6 weeks. Listen to your body and know when to pull back on the reigns and when to push the pedal to the metal.
If you want to optimize your strength training and take it to the next level, you’ll love Bret’s 2 x 4 Maximum Strength Program. On sale through this Friday, it’s currently available at an incredibly low introductory price.