The deadlift is the King of lifts-
it's the bad boy on the block, it
takes no prisoners. If you don't
respect it, and don't do it with good form
and on an irregular basis, you'll get hurt.
Few men approach this lift, exercise or
movement (whatever you prefer to call it)
with the proper attitude. I hear from all
kinds of authorities that it's a useless
movement, and a waste of time for a
bodybuilder. They are wrong.
Every man who uses a barbell should deadlift if he has
a healthy back, and he should do it with a
flat back to keep a healthy back.
Something that opened my eyes to the
deadlift was, over the years, taking my
powerlifting team to prisons. The Pit has
lifted at the Kentucky State Prison,
Eddyville and the Marion Federal
Lifting in a prison against
men whose struggles in life are different to
mine and yours, and causes them to have
respect for what's hard and not so much
for that which requires skill. And in prison
I saw some very good deadlifters.
No disrespect for the wide-foot
deadlift, but I didn't see many wide-foot
deadlifters in prison. What I saw were
close-foot pulls through a long distance
of travel, done by men with a great
respect for strength.
I've seen a close-foot deadlift of 760
pounds done by a man standing about 6-1
tall, and he weighed only about 180
pounds. With a close stance is the way
you want to deadlift if you want the most
from the movement.
I want to say that it's my belief that
the deadlift builds more useable strength
than any other movement, and affects
more muscle than any other movement.
The deadlift is also the easiest
movement to overtrain. It needs to be
treated with great care.
To keep the back flat and tight is of
utmost importance. As you start your
pull, never let your back start to round,
but keep it tight and flat. Here's how to
deadlift by the numbers:
- As you step to the bar, place your feet
no more than shoulder-width apart, and
toes pointed out so that as you bend over
and grip the bar with bent legs, flat back
and head up, the feel is right. Fine-tune the
stance and toe flare until you feel right in
the bottom position.
- The pull should start over your feet,
and you pull the bar towards you as you
pull the bar up. You must keep a flat back
and begin your pull with good control.
Do not jerk on the bar. In most cases the
bar will be right against the legs just after
you start the pull.
- As you start the pull, your shoulders
and hips must move at the same time! This is very important, and you may need
a spotter/assistant to tell you if your hips
are moving up and your legs are
beginning to straighten and yet the bar
has hardly moved from the floor. The
typical error is that lifters raise their hips
faster than their shoulders, and straighten
their legs too quickly. This error distorts
the exercise and puts massive stress on
the lower back, leads to rounding of the
back, and injury.
- By the time the bar gets to the knees
the legs should still be bent, and the bar
should be right against the legs. As you
get close to the finish, push your hips
forward and stand erect.
- Don't lean back, but stand erect with legs straight and
shoulders pulled back. Deadlift correctly
and save your back. The deadlift is a great lift - the only
true power lift, since the use of support
gear has ruined the squat and bench press.
Never deadlift intensively more than
twice a month, and never more than one
work set per workout. If you've been
training hard on the deadlift for six
months or better, drop the frequency to
every third week.
Example Deadlift Routine
Here's a good deadlift routine. It's not
the only way to do it, but it's as good as any
and better than most. Only work sets are
listed - warm-up work is additional, and
necessary - and exercises unrelated to the
deadlift haven't been included here. You
must, however, keep your overall training
program brief if it's to be effective.
- Deadlift: 15 reps
- Back Extension: 6
- Negative Chin: 10
- Side Bend: 15
The back extension, negative chin, and
side bend should be done very slowly-10
seconds up and 10 seconds down.
Other Issues: The ench Press
Recently a man asked me if I thought an
abbreviated training program would be
effective for him. The man weighed
about 225 pounds at 6-1 tall. He
explained that his best bench press was
315 but after going on a very
abbreviated routine in which he only did
two sets of bench presses a week, his
bench press went down to 300. As I
understood, he was doing a general
routine with little assistance work and
just a few basic movements. I don't
know how hard he was training though.
Perhaps he wasn't training as hard as he
needed to for good results. But to know,
I'd have needed to see him train.
If this man is as heavy in bodyweight
as he wants to be, and his main interest is
the bench press, he needs to add
assistance work for the bench press,
improve his technique, train hard and drop back in his other work in order to have the
recovery ability to cope with the added
assistance work. He would probably have
to trade some strength elsewhere in order
to boost his bench press.
If, however, you're a true hard gainer
and want to build bigger muscles, you
have to think in terms of gaining on your
whole routine, not just your bench press.
If you're a powerlifter you must
improve your total, not just one
movement like the bench press. That's the
way a hard gainer needs to think.
I've known men who could deadlift
over 550 yet who couldn't bench press
David Wedding, one of The Pit's
powerlifters, has been able to become
very good at the deadlift and squat, with
560 and 480 respectively, but his bench
press is sub par at 250, all at 165 pounds
bodyweight. If David decided to drop the
squat and deadlift he could improve his
bench press by 20-50 pounds, but in the
end he would lose strength overall.
Strength is a whole lot more than,
"How good is your bench press?"
Of the three great pressing
movements, the bench press is third
behind the dip and overhead press. Don't
worry about one particular movement.
Give each compound movement in your
routine your best, which means in some
cases no more than one work set per
exercise, in other cases two or maybe
three work sets.
Almost none of you can productively
train over twice a week, and most can
productively do no more than five work
sets in a single workout. Some extreme
hard gainers can productively do no more
than three work sets a week.
You must find out for yourself. If
you're not gaining, but you are training
hard and eating and sleeping well, in most
cases you need to train less.
I believe the following are the best
basic free-weight movements: deadlift,
squat, chin (supinated grip), press, dip, row (with a dumbbell), shrug and bench
press. Beyond this are the best assistance
movements: side bend, crunch sit-up, back
extension and L-fly-these help protect
the back and shoulders.
The order these exercises are written
in, in my opinion, is the order of their
importance in building strength.
As for machines, the best are the leg
press, old Nautilus plate-loaded pullover,
and the pulldown.
The leg press must be a good
machine-Hammer Strength's, for its
price, is hard to beat. The old Nautilus
plate-loaded pullover is impossible to
duplicate with a barbell, but it must be
done correctly-very slowly-and then you have a great upper-back workout.
The pulldown is needed by hard gainers,
so it's important. I don't know of
anything else that can do anything that
these exercises can't. And consider that
The Pit has vintage Nautilus
machines-1970 models. We also have
some of the new machines. And I'm in
the process of upgrading our barrel, bag,
and log equipment.
We use all types of equipment, and
know well what works if you work. But
the basics will always be the same, and
they will always be the best.
No equipment, however, is going to
replace your heart and mind in getting you
the strength you want.
Especially for new readers...
While strength and physical development are our shared interests, some of you
are primarily concerned with your physical appearance (with strength building
being just a means to an end), others of you are primarily interested in strength
and strength feats, while a third group is interested in a combination of
appearance and performance.
And some of you have physical limitations that
proscribe methods of training that other people gain well on. To cater for these
different needs and preferences, HARDGAINER provides a diversity of training
information-but always within the framework of abbreviated training routines.
Be prudent in what you select, only put into practice what's appropriate for you
to apply, and always keep safety uppermost in your mind.
There are many ways to train, each proven to be effective, but not
necessarily effective and safe for all trainees. All our contributors have their own
emphases and preferences, coming from their own experiences, but all
recognize that no single person "knows it all." The opinions published in
HARDGAINER are those of individual authors, and not necessarily those of the
publisher and CS Publishing Ltd.
The training methods promoted in HARDGAINER are physically very
demanding. If you have any doubts about your body's ability to tolerate any selfimposed
exercise program, consult with your physician. Proceed with caution.
- Stuart McRobert
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