How I added 20 Pounds to my Pull in less than 2 Months
By Eric Prush
Louie Simmons once described the best deadlifters in the world as “the people you don’t mouth off to.” To be sure, there is no better test of overall physical strength than the deadlift. While there is often a debate raging about equipped powerlifting versus raw powerlifting, the fact remains that there is almost no way to cheat the deadlift, as even top level equipped powerlifters get virtually nothing out of their gear as compared to the squat and bench press. As far as the deadlift goes, you either are strong enough to pick up the weight or are you aren’t. There is no middle ground.
For this reason, I am proud to say that out of all of my lifts, my deadlift sucks the least. In fact, over the past year and a half I have put nearly 100 lbs on my deadlift with the help of the man they call “Don” John Gaglione. And for those of you out there who are having trouble pushing up your deadlift, I will share with you some of the knowledge gained from a training cycle that I and a few other lifters at Gaglione Strength utilized in order to hit some monsters PRs in the deadlift.
Now before I hear anyone out there say “Anyone can help a novice trainee PR in the deadlift” bear in mind that these simple steps moved my pull from 610 to 630 in only two months time. While not world class, these are not novice numbers. So, before I stroke my ego any more than it needs to be, I will give you the methods that I utilized to move my deadlift forward:
#1 Do block pulls: Let’s get this out of the way.. merely performing the competition deadlift over and over again will not improve an advanced trainee’s pull. If anything, it will lead to stagnation, plateaus, regret, and probably a deep state of depression. Following my last full meet in April, we began our training cycle with a few weeks of block pulls done from below the knee. Initially I scoffed at doing this, because clearly everyone knows that lifters who miss off the floor (like myself) will clearly gain nothing by pulling off of blocks. Wrong. Block pulls done with a deadlift bar require you to generate an unbelievable amount of tension to even get the bar moving. Doing these for heavy singles and triples make you feel you are going to have a brain hemorrhage before the bar even moves an inch. Heavy block pulls WILL teach you the proper way to pull the slack out of the bar and generate tension, a key for anyone looking to pick up heavy shit.
#2 Do deficit deadlifts: After performing block pulls as our max effort exercise, we then moved on to deficit deadlifts on our max effort lower body days. For the next month I performed deficit pulls from various heights, standing on anything from a 45 lb plate to a 100 lb plate. Some weeks were max triples while others were max singles. These will build starting strength as well as teach you how to finish the lift from a compromised position. I knew I was on to something when I tripled 545 while standing on a 100 lb plate, a number that was my old PR from the floor during my previous training cycle. Be mindful though, deficit pulls will put you in a compromised position so be sure to make sure each rep is done with solid technique so that you can keep your spine from resembling Batman’s after a run-in with Bane.
#4 Perfect your technique: This should go without saying, but finding the technique that best works for your body type is essential if you want to move anything heavy. I have had my deadlift technique tweaked by world class lifters (ever hear of Donnie Thompson?) and I have figured out what works for myself. Find out what works for you and drill it over and over again, so that when you get to the meet, you won’t have to think. It will just happen.
#5 Train your upper back EVERY DAY: Take some time to google these names: Andy Bolton, Konstantin Konstantinovs, Benedict Magnusson, Donnie Thompson, Eric Prush. What do they all have in common? Aside from being world-class deadlifters and fantastic looking individuals, they all have huge upper backs. A jacked upper back will help you lockout heavy weights and possibly cause people to mistake you for a silver back gorilla (but only if you don’t excessively manscape).
To increase upper back size I trained my lats every single day of the week. While in the gym I did rows with the strongman log, t-bar rows, kettlebell rows, and even pull-ups. On my off days I choked a jump stretch band around a pillar in the basement of my house and did sets of 20 every time I walked past it, usually adding up to 100 repetitions a day. This style of training packed muscle onto my upper back and allowed me to have supreme confidence in my deadlift lockout.
#5 Do glute-ham raises twice a week: This was another trick that worked for me. Many have talked about how the GHR builds the deadlift so I will not elaborate on that any further, but I will talk about exactly what we did at Gaglione Strength in order to build up our posterior chain. After our dynamic effort squat days, I would typically run a monster mini underneath the GHR and put it over around my neck. I would shoot for 5 sets of 10-15 repetitions with a controlled eccentric and an extremely explosive concentric. After our max effort day, I would put on a 25 lb weighted vest and run a regular mini band underneath the GHR and wrap it around my neck. And for the last time, there is no valid replacement for this exercise. There are just substitutes that suck less than others. If you are serious about getting strong, find a gym that has one and LIVE on this machine!!
#6 Use reverse band deadlifts to overload your CNS: One of the disadvantages of using decifit pulls is that while they will make you stronger off the floor, you will be using less weight than on a block or rack pull and the technique required to perform them is slightly different than pulling from the floor. In order to prevent our lockouts from suffering, we also included reverse band deadlifts into our max effort rotation. The important thing here to be sure that you are NOT using a ridiculous amount of band tension. For our set up we used average bands set up at about shoulder height for me (bear in mind that I am 6’1”). At my height, the bands let off completely at the top of the movement. This set up allowed me to pull 615 for a solid triple a few weeks out from the meet and it gave me the confidence to know that my grip could handle heavy weight without a problem. Doing pulls this way also allowed me to groove my technique the way I would at the meet as it is the exact same range of motion as a competition deadlift. Include these in your next training cycle and expect to hit some big numbers!
There you have it. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? The fact of the matter is that while increasing any of your lifts is often far more simple than one would think, it’s very easy to overcomplicate things and make a mess of your training. That’s why when I wanted to improve my deadlift, I didn’t write my own program: Instead, I asked Gaglione to do it for me.
Hiring a coach has done wonders for my own training and it has allowed me to hit numbers that I never thought were possible. If you are serious about getting strong, the solution could be simple… you just might not be able to see it yet.
Get someone to help you and if you are in the Long Island area, give us a call!
Eric Prush is a strength coach at Gaglione Strength located in Farmingdale NY. He runs the “AM crew” for the G-team and the morning internship program. He is a competitive powerlifter always practicing what he preaches. He can be reached at [email protected]
Looking to smash your PRs and take your training to the next level? E-mail [email protected] to schedule your free trial workout at Gaglione Strength.