I am in Barcelona at the moment and treating this trip very much as a holiday, so I’m being a lazy blogger and posting up one of my old newsletters. Enjoy!
I strongly recommend regularly performing the main lifts (squat, deadlift, bench and overhead press) for maximal physique- and strength-related results. Outside of doing the main lifts themselves, it is also important to perform variations of each lift. This means paused repetitions, repetitions with varying ranges of motion, and repetitions using additional equipment such as chains, bands and boxes.
Whether your deadlift sticking point is off the floor or at lockout, at least one of the following five variations will help to improve your pull.
Rack/block pulls: If you have difficulty locking out your deadlift, I highly recommend performing rack or block pulls. These will improve your upper back and grip strength while being less stressful on your body. Set the pins or blocks so that the bar is just below knee height, and work at 85 to 100 per cent or more of your regular deadlift 1RM. Keep the volume fairly low: three sets of three to five reps will suffice.
Paused deadlifts: These are just like a regular deadlift, however, you will pause for two to four seconds either at mid-shin or knee level (depending on where your weakness lies). Drive your hips into the bar as forcefully as possible, and really squeeze your glutes. The most common way to perform these is by pausing on the way up, but you can also try a double-pause variation by pausing on the way up AND on the way down. Again, keep the total number of sets low but feel free to take the reps higher (six to eight). Use no more than 70 per cent of your 1RM.
1.5 rep deadlifts: With these, you will pull the bar to lockout, return the bar to knee level and then lock out again, before returning the bar to the floor. That is one rep. Follow a similar rep/set scheme as with the paused deadlifts, but lighten the weight slightly (50 to 60 per cent of your 1RM).
Deficit deadlifts: These are great for those that are weak off the floor (holla!). Stand on a two-inch mat or a weight plate and allow yourself to feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings before pushing your hips through and locking out. Do these stiff-legged. You may feel sore in your lower back the first few times you try these, but I promise they work really well. If you are really sadistic, try doing these with a snatch grip (very wide grip). When you return to regular deadlifts, they will feel so much easier due to the reduced range of motion. Do three to four sets of five to eight reps with 50 to 60 per cent of your 1RM.
Sumo deadlifts (or conventional if you regularly pull sumo): While deadlifting twice a week is usually too taxing on the central nervous system, adding in light (think 50 to 70 per cent of your conventional 1RM) sumo deadlifts on your squat day can improve your deads without putting too much strain on your body. Keep the second day light and focus on pulling with speed. I find that sumos develop the glutes and quads better while conventional deadlifts are better for back and hamstring strength.
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Have you ever tried any of these variations? Which is your favourite?