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Deadlifts - The Best Exercise for Building More Powerful Physique

Well there is one exercise that is head and shoulders above the rest and that is the deadlift.

Many would argue that compound exercises such as squats are more beneficial but deadlifting is one of the best compound exercises you can do to increase strength and muscle mass. It works virtually every muscle, with emphasis on the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and most muscles of the back and also the forearms.

As well as increasing muscle and strength another great reason for deadlifting is the release of testosterone and growth hormone, as studies have shown that compound lifts like the deadlift use the most muscle groups hence they release the most of test and GH.

You can't get more basic than lifting a heavy weight from the floor but there is an art to the deadlift and I will be detailing how to perform the deadlift correctly and safely.

Regular Conventional Deadlift

 Stand in front of a barbell with your shins close to the bar. Feet shoulder width apart or closer. Grab the bar with your hands outside your legs, a bit wider then shoulder width. Keeping your arms straight, bend your legs and flatten your back. Position yourself so it is like you are doing a squat with the barbell at arms length in front of you.

Pull the barbell off the floor by straightening your legs and torso until your body is completely erect. Pull your shoulders back. Then lower the bar back to the floor.

Sumo Deadlift 


 The Sumo deadlift is a variation of the deadlift whereby the legs are spread far apart to the sides, mimicking the stance of a sumo wrestler. This variation changes the emphasis of the lift and places more work on the hips and legs and a bit less work on the back. Depending on your build the sumo deadlift may be easier to perform then the conventional deadlift.

When doing the sumo deadlift, rather then focusing on pulling the weight up, focus on keeping your knees out wide and pushing your feet out to the sides as if you are trying to spread the floor apart with your feet. At the same time bring your hips forward. This will improve your leverage and allow you lift more weight.

 Romanian deadlift (aka Stiff Leg Deadlift) 

The Romanian deadlift variation places most of the emphasis on the hamstrings and lower back. This variation is better suited for higher reps and lighter weights then the conventional and sumo deadlifts. The legs are kept almost straight through the movement, with just a slight bend in the knees to take stress off the tendons.

You can start with a regular convetional deadlift to get the weight up. Then just bend over at the waist until you feel good stretch in the hamstrings and then staighten back up. Don't let the bar touch the floor in between repititions. This will keep constant tension on the muscles at all times during the Romanian deadlift. 

 6 Week Deadlift Cycle

The weights are based on a percentage of your current 1 rep max.

    Week one: 75% - 12 sets of 1 - rest one minute between sets
    Week two: 80% - 10 sets of 1 - rest one minute between sets
    Week three: 85% - 10 sets of 1 - rest 90 seconds between sets
    Week four: 90% - 4 sets of 1 - rest 90 seconds between sets
    Week five: 95% - 2 sets of 1 - rest two minutes between sets
    Week six: Rest (no deadlifting)

To show an example with some real numbers, lets assume the lifter has a 1 rep max of 400 lbs.

Week one: 15 sets of 1 rep with 280 lbs.

Week two: 12 sets of 1 rep with 300 lbs.

Week three: 10 sets of 1 rep with 320 lbs.

Week four: 6 sets of 1 rep with 340 lbs.

Week five: 3 sets of 1 rep with 360 lbs.

Week six: rest

Once you become comfortable with the amount of weight, start to increase it by 10-20% and lower the rep range by 1-2 reps. Building your strength will be a gradual process so don't get disheartened .