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8 surefire ways to improve your deadlift performance

8 todsichere Wege, um Deine Leistungen beim Kreuzheben zu steigern

The deadlift is one of the most effective exercises for building the body and here are 8 ways to keep increasing the weight on the bar

Deadlifts are one of the best all-round exercises you can do. Deadlifts are essential for building a muscular, thick and strong lower back and it works pretty much every major and minor muscle group in the body.

But deadlifts are also one of the hardest exercises and one of the exercises that many exercisers simply get stuck on at some point. This exercise requires extraordinary effort to perform properly and the stronger you get, the more important technique becomes when it comes to injury prevention and continued progress.

In this article, I'll introduce you to 8 proven ways to improve your deadlift performance while preventing injury. Let's get started.

Tip #1 to improve your deadlift performance: Control your technique

As you get stronger, proper form becomes more and more important to prevent injury and continue to increase the weight on the bar. Dave Tate once said that an inch (2.5 cm) can make the difference between success and failure.

For this reason, it is a very good idea to occasionally check the correct form of the exercise by having a second person film you performing deadlifts (don't try to use a mirror to check your form while you are training as this will throw you off).

Perfectly executed deadlifts should look like this:

The setup:

  1. Position your feet so that they are slightly less than shoulder width apart

  2. Place the bar somewhere between right at your shins and the center of your foot

The key here is to have your shoulders directly above or slightly behind the bar, which will allow you maximum leverage when you pull the bar up and back. For taller or thinner exercisers, this may mean that the bar touches the shins. For smaller or bulkier exercisers, this will place the bar approximately over the middle of the foot.

If the bar is too close to your body and your shoulders are too far in front of the bar, you will have to move the bar forward during the upward movement to get it past your knees. If the bar is too far away from your body, you will feel like you are falling forward and will not be able to support the upward movement with pressure from your heels.

3. straighten up with your chest stretched forward and take a deep breath from the diaphragm while tensing your abdominal muscles as if you were expecting a punch to the stomach.

4. move down towards the bar by pushing your hips back and not by doing a squat movement downwards. Push through your lower back and keep your shoulders down.

Don't make the common beginner's mistake of moving your hips too far down with the intention of moving the weight up with a squat motion. The further your hips are below the optimal height, the further you have to move them up before you are able to move the weight off the floor when you pull, which is a wasted movement.

Instead, you should feel tension in your hamstrings and hips as you move into what is essentially a "half squat" position and as you move your hips up, you should also lift your shoulders and the weight should immediately move off the floor.

5. place your hands on the bar, using an overhand grip or a mixed grip with your hands right next to your shins and gripping the bar as tightly as you can. Keep your shoulders back and pulled down and tighten your latissimus.

6. do not look up at the ceiling or down at the floor, but keep your head in a neutral position.

Pulling when deadlifting:

7. move your body upwards and slightly backwards as fast as you can by pushing from your heels. During this movement, keep your elbows straight in their position and your lower back pressed through (i.e. no round back!).

Make sure that your hips and shoulders move upwards at the same time - do not move your hips upwards without also lifting your shoulders.

8. as you approach the top of the movement, engage your glutes to push your hips through the final phase of the movement.

The deadlift lowering

9 Many people start the lowering movement by bending the knees and this is incorrect. Instead, you should start the downward movement with your hips by performing the exact opposite movement of the upward movement with your hips. The bar should slide down your thighs.

10. keep your lower back engaged and your shoulders down and back.

It is also worth noting that you should ensure that each repetition is a separate movement. Don't try to bounce the weight off the floor to gain extra momentum for progressively sloppier and sloppier repetitions. There is a reason for the name deadlift. It means lifting the weight from a "dead" position without using momentum by bouncing it off the floor.

So as soon as the weight is back on the floor, get back into the correct starting position (take a deep breath, tighten your abs, make sure your spine is in the correct position, get your shoulders in the correct position, etc.) and only then perform the next repetition.

Tip #2 to improve your deadlift performance: Increase your grip strength

A weak grip not only makes it harder for you to hold the bar, it also makes the whole exercise feel significantly harder. And if you don't ensure that you continuously increase your grip strength, your progress in the deadlift will stagnate.

Tip #3 to improve your deadlift performance: Prepare yourself mentally for the exercise execution

If you are an experienced strength athlete or weightlifter, then you will know how important it is to prepare yourself mentally for heavy exercises or individual attempts. You can either push yourself and master a heavy exercise, or drive yourself crazy and fail.

You've probably seen powerlifters go through what sometimes looks like a ridiculous, satanic ritual before attempting a heavy one-on-one, but did you know that such mental preparation has been scientifically proven to actually work?

A study conducted by scientists at AUT University with elite rugby players found that after such a mental push up before performing bench presses, power production increased by 8% (1). The researchers also found that distraction significantly reduced force production. There was a 12% difference in strength production between subjects who mentally pushed themselves and subjects who were distracted.

The message here is that you should push yourself mentally before heavy exercises and focus on performing each repetition - no talking and no mental wandering.

One way to push yourself mentally can be to find the right workout music. I've found that if I focus on performing the exercise to the right music for 10 to 15 seconds and visualize it, I can perform much better. Does that sound ridiculous? Maybe, but scientific research has shown that visualizing yourself successfully performing an exercise with a heavy weight before doing it can increase strength (2).

Tip #4 to improve your deadlift performance: focus on heavy training

The topic of the "ideal" repetition range is very complex, which is why I will not go into it in detail in this article. Instead, I'll keep this point short and sweet:

If you've just started strength training (you've been training for less than a year), you should use a repetition range of 4 to 6 reps (men) or 8 to 10 reps (women) for deadlifts. This means that you use a weight with which you can perform at least 4, but no more than 6 repetitions. As soon as you can do 6 repetitions with one weight, increase the weight for the next set.

If you are an experienced strength athlete, you may benefit from working with different repetition ranges or periodizing your training.

A simple way to periodize deadlifts could look like this:

  • Week 1: 2 sets of 2 to 3 repetitions (~90% of 1RM) + 1 set of 4 to 6 repetitions (~80% of 1 RM
  • Week 2: 2 sets of 2 to 3 repetitions + 2 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Week 3: 2 sets of 2 to 3 repetitions + 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Week 4: 3 sets of 2 to 3 repetitions + 3 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions
  • Week 5: 4 sets of 2 to 3 repetitions + 2 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions

In the above program, you train deadlifts once a week (or once every 5 to 7 days), working in a repetition range of 2 to 3 repetitions for maximum overload and a repetition range of 4 to 6 repetitions for maximum myofibrillar growth. After you have completed a 5 week cycle, you should plan a de-load week (or not train for a week), after which you start the cycle again at week 1.

Tip #5 to improve your deadlift performance: Work on your lower body mobility

If you're like most of us and sit in a chair staring at a monitor all day, there's a good chance you're suffering from tightness in your hips, hamstrings and gluteus, which in turn can affect your ability to perform deadlifts. The solution to this problem is an extensive lower body stretching program, which can dramatically improve your deadlift performance.

Tip #6 to improve your deadlift performance: Prioritize your deadlift training in your workouts

If you want to improve your deadlift performance, then you should start your training sessions with deadlifts. The reason for this is simple: numerous studies (3, 4) have shown that the order in which you perform your exercises has a significant impact on your strength and performance capacity for each exercise.

This is also the reason why most successful training programs start with heavy multi-joint exercises such as bench presses, deadlifts, standing shoulder presses and squats and only then move on to isolation exercises such as dips, dumbbell rows, side raises and lunges.

Start your back training (or your pull training sessions) with deadlifts and you will most likely make progress.

Tip #7 to improve your deadlift performance: Use a rest-pause workout

I'm not usually a big fan of fancy set schemes like supersets, descending sets and mega sets and I'm also not a fan of non-traditional training protocols like super slow training, super fast training, negative reps, etc. Many of these techniques have been scientifically shown to be no more effective than traditional set and repetition schemes and my experience is consistent with the results of these studies.

However, there is one "special" type of training that is supported by both scientific research and anecdotal evidence, and that is rest-pause sets. Rest pause sets are an old-school powerlifting training technique used to break through plateaus. Researchers at the University of Western Sydney have studied this technique and found it to be an effective way to increase strength through greater muscle fiber recruitment (5).

Rest pause sets are very simple. You perform an exercise to muscle failure (the point at which you can no longer perform another repetition under your own power), pause for a moment before performing the exercise again to muscle failure, whereupon you pause again briefly and then perform another set to muscle failure, and so on.

If you want to incorporate this into your deadlift program, I would recommend using rest-pause sets in the range of 2 to 3 or 4 to 6 repetitions and limiting them to 3 to 4 rest-pause sets per training session.

If you use rest-pause sets with about 90% of your 1 RM weight (repetition range of 2 to 3 repetitions), you should pause for 45 to 60 seconds between sets. If you perform them with about 80% of your 1 RM weight (repetition range of 4 to 6 repetitions), you should rest 20 to 30 seconds between sets.

Tip #8 to improve your deadlift performance: Make sure you don't under- or overtrain

Just like the topic of the ideal repetition range, training frequency is also a hotly debated topic. The bottom line here is that training frequency depends on training intensity and volume. The lighter the weights and the fewer sets you perform per training session, the more often you can train a given muscle group. Conversely, the heavier the weights and the higher the number of sets, the less often you should train a muscle group.

I have tried many different training splits and frequency schemes and the one that works best in my experience is consistent with the findings of scientists at Gothenburg University who have studied this topic extensively (6):

If you train at the right intensity (and focus on training with heavy weights), the optimal training frequency seems to be around 40 to 60 repetitions per muscle group every 5 to 7 days.

Even though the trend is to train each muscle group two to three times per week, and even though this is doable (as long as the volume is planned correctly), this is not necessarily more effective than training each muscle group once every 5 to 7 days if the volume is chosen correctly.

The bottom line is that when it comes to gains in muscle mass and strength, scientific research shows that proper volume appears to be more important than frequency (7, 8). If you use less than the optimal volume, you will miss out on potential gains and if the volume is too high, you risk reaching a state of overtraining.




By Michael Matthews

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