The deadlift is one of the most beneficial exercises anyone can do at the gym, and that’s exactly why it has become such a popular lift and an essential part of any serious workout routine.
The exercise is a full-body compound lift that trains and works your whole body. It’s also one of the most challenging exercises you can do, both physically and mentally. There are many aspects to the deadlift, and all of them have to work in a symphony in order to lift heavy. If you are laking in one or two of them, the whole lift will suffer.
In this article, we will bring out 10 ways you can improve your deadlift and lift more weight.
1. Deadlift More Often
One of the most simple things anyone can do to increase their deadlift is to do it more. And by more, I mean more often. There is a simple rule in life: If you want to get better at anything you need to start prioritizing it and doing it more. And that can’t be more true when it comes to strength training and deadlifting.
It’s a really big and heavy lift, so more often than not, people (especially beginners) tend to fear performing this exercise too often. Many newcomers use it a maximum of once a week or every other week (or even once a month).
There is a large misconception that the DL requires a very long recovery process, because of the enormous stress it places on both your body and your nervous system. Actually, if done whit the right load, it can be performed two or even three times a week without having to worry about overtraining or doing too much.
So, in order to start improving in the deadlift, you have to prioritize the exercise for yourself and take a good look at how frequently you are deadlifting. If you are doing it only once a week or every other week, increase it to twice or even three times a week.
2. Work on Your Mobility And Flexibility
Lower body and even your lower back mobility and flexibility issues can have a direct effect on your deadlift form, technique, and how much weight you can pull.
When people think about the deadlift, they usually don’t think about mobility or flexibility, but in reality, both of them play a big role in the exercise. You need a decent amount of hip and ankle mobility to even get into the right starting position for the lift. If you can’t achieve the correct starting position, the whole lift will be largely affected, as will be your ability to lift heavier weights.
So take a good look at your mobility, try to identify where you might be lacking mobility, and start to work on those points. A good place to start would be to improve the flexibility of your glutes, ankles, and hamstrings by regularly doing stretching exercises for those muscle groups. Also, you should incorporate different hip and ankle mobility exercises into your routine.
3. Use Deadlift Variations
A good way to improve your deadlift is to use different modifications and variations of the exercise. They can be used both as an alternative to the conventional deadlift or as an accessory exercise.
Using deadlift variations as an accessory exercise has many benefits that all will work together in a beautiful symphony towards increasing your conventional deadlift. Let’s start with the fact that all of these different variations mimic the movement of the original exercise to some extent (some more, some less). Also, they work and train all the same muscle groups.
They can help you strengthen a specific part of the lift you are having trouble with, for example, the initial lift-off or the lockout. These variations will also help you strengthen many of the specific deadlifting muscle groups you might have overlooked or just aren’t getting enough of work.
Also, sometimes it’s a decent idea to replace the original exercise with an alternative one altogether. That can help especially well when you have reached a plateau. In addition to the benefits, I listed above, choosing an alternative exercise will give you a little bit of mental rest from the conventional lift.
Plus, the conventional lift isn’t for everybody. Some people will lack the necessary ankle or hip mobility to be able to do the exercise correctly and with the right technique. Also, many of us have different back problems that might interfere with deadlifting. All of those problems can be fixed by replacing the conventional lift with a variation that is more suited for your needs.
Luckily there are tens of different modifications and variations of the original exercise. Just to name a few, there are the sumo, stiff-leg, Romanian, deficit, trap bar, snatch grip, and many more deadlifts out there.
4. Use Progressive Overload
Your deadlift or any other exercise won’t improve unless you challenge it and create an environment where you continuously do so. Nothing will change unless you force it to change. And that’s exactly what progressive overloading is.
Progressive overloading means that you continuously increase the load and keep challenging your body. It’s the act of always increasing your muscles and body’s stimulus beyond what it has previously experienced and what it is already used to. Without continuously challenging your muscles, you will fall into your comfort zone, and your progress will halt, and you will hit a plateau.
So, in order to increase your deadlift, you need to continue adding stimulus, and you have to keep pushing and challenging your body. There are a few ways you can achieve this. You can either increase the volume by increasing your repetitions and sets. You can increase the weight you train with. You can increase how frequently you train and deadlift. And you can decrease the rest periods between your sets.
The key to this is to increase them regularly to avoid falling into your comfort zone and to keep challenging yourself.
5. Train Your Accessory Muscles
The deadlift is a full-body exercise that incorporates almost all of the muscles in your body into the movement. It’s a compound lift that requires many of your big muscle groups to work together in symphony. Now when one or two of those muscles are weaker than the others, they will start to interfere with the lift, and you won’t be able to lift as much weight. As the idiom goes, the chain is as strong as its weakest link.
So it’s a good idea to train those assistance muscles, and all the other primary muscle’s that this huge exercise targets with accessory exercises. So you wouldn’t develop any weak points, and you could eliminate any already existing weak points in your body and overall improve your deadlift.
The muscle groups you should be focusing on with your accessory exercises are your upper and lower back, your core, and your legs. Here are a few good exercises to do:
- Hip thrusts – to train your glutes and hips. They are great for isolating your hips and improving your deadlift lockout.
- Bent over rows – To strengthen your upper back (eccentrically) and lower back (isometrically. They are great because they keep you in a hip hinge position under a heavy load.
- Weighted pull-ups -to train your lats and upper back. Weighted pull-ups are a great way to strengthen your lats and train them with heavy loads.
- Kettlebell swings – for your lower back and posterior chain muscles in general. They are also a great tool to increase your explosive power.
- Squats – for your lower body and legs. They are great for strengthening your legs and getting used to heavy weight. Also, they work your core and stabilizer muscles.
- Planks – using different kinds of plank exercises are great for developing your core strength.
6. Improve your Starting Strength
One of the most important parts of the deadlift is the starting point. It all starts from the floor, and if you aren’t able to lift the weight efficiently up from there, then you definitely won’t be able to complete the lift. This means you need to be strong enough to get the barbell up from the floor and do it efficiently enough.
The heavier the lift gets and the more weight you add, the harder it will be to get the bar moving from a low starting point (the floor). So in order to improve your deadlift and lift more weight, you are going to need to work on your starting strength.
There are many different ways to do so. You can improve your explosive strength by doing more explosive deadlifts and other similar exercises like different variations of the clean. Deficit deadlifts are also good for increasing your starting strength. Because they force you to start from a lower point, and they make the first half of the lift a lot more challenging. Deep squats are also great to strengthen the initial movement.
In conclusion, there are many ways to strengthen your starting point and the initial lift. You should find the exercises that fit you the best and incorporate them into your training program.
7. Improve Your Deadlifting Form and Technique
Often a weak deadlift is actually the result of bad form, not your strength. Your DL form can affect many parts of the lift and will directly affect how much weight you can lift. So start by either analyzing your form yourself or by asking a more experienced lifter take a look at it.
If you are doing it yourself, then the first step would be to get a better picture of your current deadlift form and technique. A good way to do so would be to film your deadlift workout from different angles (side and front view will do fine). Then you can get a complete picture of your technique.
Next, thoroughly analyze your lift and try to spot any mistakes in it. Are you keeping your back straight? Head neutral? Is the bar traveling in a straight path? Look for any kind of mistakes you can find.
Also, really focus on identifying any weak points you might have in your lift. Like are you having trouble getting into the right starting position? Are you having trouble getting the bar off the ground? Or are you struggling to lock your hips? Once you figured out what you are doing wrong or where you are lacking, you can start to improve those points.
To improve your technique, you can use drills, light load training, and different deadlift variations.
8. Improve Your Grip Strength
Grip strength can be a big factor in how much weight you can pull up. A weak grip can be quite limiting when you are trying to increase your deadlift.
Your grip affects your lifting because of a few different reasons. Let’s start with the simple fact that when you have a weak grip, you just won’t be able to hold the weight. The heavier the exercise gets, the more your gripping and forearm muscles need to work to hold the barbell and not let it slip out of your hands.
If they are lacking in the strength department, you just won’t be able to lift the weight all the way up or for as many repetitions as you would like. Also, when you have weak gripping muscles, the weight will feel much heavier, and the whole lift will feel a lot harder.
To improve your grip strength, you could use such exercises as the farmer walks, heavy shrugs, different hangs, wrist curls, or even some deadlift variation that is more demanding on your gripping muscles like the snatch grip, one-handed, or the Reeves deadlift.
9. Change Your Reps
Changing your rep range for the deadlift is a great way to improving your technique and for overcoming a possible plateau. If you train in a specific rep range for too long, your body will get used to it, and your development will halt.
You have two options when it comes to changing your rep range. You can either increase your reps and lower your weight or lower your reps and increase the weight.
One benefit of increasing your rep range is that it can be used to improve your technique. Using a lighter weight (below your 70% 1RM) with a higher rep range can be a very effective tool for improving your technique, and by improving your technique, you will increase your deadlift. This way, you can focus on lifting with a perfect form.
Lowering your repetitions and increasing the weight you lift is a great way to increase your strength. It’s a well-known rule that if you want to get stronger, you need to be lifting heavy. Lowering your rep range to anywhere from 2-6 repetitions and using about 80-90% of your 1RM will start working more on increasing your strength than building muscles.
The key to changing up your reps is being versatile. If you have been using only lower reps in your training routine, you should start incorporating higher reps into your workouts and vice versa.
10. Deadlift Less
In a previous point, I stated that increasing how frequently you deadlift will be a great way to improve in it. Well, usually it is, but sometimes the exact opposite is necessary.
If you have been working on your deadlift a few times a week for a longer period of time and you are still not seeing any gains or improvements, you might be overtraining.
The deadlift is a massive lift that takes its toll on the body. It’s quite a harsh lift on both your muscles and your nervous system. And it can take quite a while to recover from. The recovery time will vary from person to person and really depends on the specific person’s recovery abilities.
It will also depend on your workload. By that, I mean how much are you lifting every session and at what volumes. Higher volume training (both in higher repetitions and higher weight) means your body will need more time the recover from the session. For example, if you are deadlifting 2 or 3 times a week at about your maximum effort, your body just won’t be able to recover from it.
So take a good look at how frequently and at what loads you are training at. If you aren’t able to recover from your DL days, you should either decrease its frequency or loads. For example, once a week, you could have a heavy lifting session, and once a week a light lifting session, where you focus on your form.
The deadlift is a really complex exercise that depends on many factors and many different muscle groups. In order to improve your deadlift, you should start by identifying your weak points in order to improve them.
Overall when you want to increase your deadlift, you should remember to:
- Improve your form and technique
- Continuously keep challenging your body.
- Train your accessory muscles.
- Be more versatile, and every once and a while, try using different variations of the lift or change things like your rep or set range.
- Work on your mobility.
All in all, just keep training and working hard on it, and one day you will see the results you want.
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