Adding weight to your pull
The dead-lift is one of the most basic yet physically and mentally demanding exercises to perform. Having a great pull can make all the difference in a power-lifting show, as the old saying goes "the meet don’t start till the bar hits the floor". Recently mammoth lifters like Benedikt Magnusson and Andy Bolton have attracted more interest in the lift with both men going over the 1000 pound mark! The question most of us want to know is what we can do to increase our deadlift, let’s take a look at a few things you can do to help your pull.
For me block dead-lifts are fantastic for breaking through sticking points and working weak areas of your lift. You should be able to handle at least a minimum of 10-20kg over your best floor pull going off the blocks. The hardest part of the lift should be getting the bar moving, you just have to keep pulling and pulling until you feel the weight moving. Pulling from these angles is a fantastic way to build a strong lockout and get your grip stronger to cope with bigger weights from the ground. I try and work a personal best from each height. When I first did this way of dead-lifting I started at 20 inches, the bar should start over your knees. Try a few workouts at this height then move down to 18 inches. You then need to try and work up to a 3 rep Max, double or even a single. I always try to increase my pull from different heights, I will add on 2.5kg if I'm feeling low on energy and tired. If I come in the gym and my energy levels are high then I will add anything up to 7.5-10kg to break through a PB. I like to pull off the floor first working up to a heavy set, this way I'm not neglecting the bottom half of my pull and I see this as a nice warm up for the block pulls. You can even just go off the blocks for a few weeks; I have seen some of my training partners increase the pull from the floor without pulling off the ground for 6-7 weeks using block pulls.
There are two ways to dead-lift at a power-lifting show, conventional and sumo. Always make sure your shins are touching or close to the bar when you start the lift, you need to apply as much force to the bar as possible once your grip is set. Speed is the key to a strong pull; you want as little friction on the bar as possible. If you can use baby powder, apply it to your thigh, knee, and shins and under arm. Be very careful not to get it on your hands as your grip will fail on you. Shave your legs if possible; I'm a firm believer that I get much more out of my pull this way. Never hitch the bar just to get the weight locked out, leave your back fail the weight. What I mean by this is you need to keep your shoulders and arms relaxed; your arms should be like hooks with the back doing the hard work at the mid part of the lift. Your arms will never be as strong as your back, by hitching your not getting your back stronger when you hit that sticking point.
Use footwear that allows you to stay as close to the floor as possible. Wrestling shoes, dead-lift slippers etc. are excellent for dead-lifting. I see a lot of people dead-lifting in trainers, you would be better off dead-lifting in your socks. An inch on your ROM makes a big difference. My 18 inch dead-lift is much bigger than my 16 inch dead-lift; don’t give away any possible range advantage. One of the best exercises you can do that goes hand in hand with the dead-lift is the squat; make sure you are squatting at least once every 7-10 days. Try and allow enough recovery between squat and dead-lift workouts. You could try and squat and dead-lift in the same workout, this does work for some lifters but I find it very taxing on my body and like to train them separately. A strong squat will give you a strong pull from the bottom of the lift; you could also add some dead-lifts standing on blocks. Be very careful not to injure your back when pulling this way, it can be a very effective exercise. Nothing beats pulling from the floor, to get better in any lift you need to work that lift as hard as possible.
The deadlift is a very mental lift that requires a lot of focus and concentration. You should be thinking about your deadlift long before you get to the gym. You have to get fired up, there is a reason the exercise has the word DEAD in it. You need to put life in to the lift, thing dark thoughts if you have to. Anything that makes your blood boil to bring the rage to the surface. Before a deadlift I never think can I move this weight? I always think how fast am I going to move this weight? You need to unleash all of your energy on the bar, keep the aggression for the weight. Have you ever seen Benedikt Magnusson stalking the bar before a lift, he is on another planet. Nothing else matters, it's you against gravity. Envisage yourself as one of the strongest men in the world, all your heroes rolled in to one. You have nothing to lose and most important of all, never give up pulling.