Friday, August 27, 2010

Do YOU Need To Deadlift?

A blog reader asked me recently "Do you ever deadlift heavy?". It's a legitimate question. I don't discuss deadlifting much in the Squat Rx videos and it's true that I don't do plain-old deadlifts very often. Let me just say that I DO like deadlifts (who doesn't like to pick up heavy things?) but I generally choose not to do them in training. Why? Let me explain...

Gray Cook has written "Maintain the squat. Train the deadlift" and it is sage advice for some people. For others, it is NOT.

I believe that there are three kinds of people who deadlift:

Gary Heisey (right) - Was there EVER a man better suited to deadlift?

If you are "built to deadlift", you probably have a short torso, long arms, big hands, short femurs. You can follow Ed Coan's training template. You can deadlift heavy once a week or more. You will make gains. Progress, while it may slow, is steady and reliable. You laugh at powerlifting competitions as you pass your fellow competitors by a hundred pounds or more in the last pull of the meet.

If you are "not built to deadlift", you are not built to be a superlative deadlifter, however, with intelligent effort, you can be formidable - your deadlift may very well become a strength. Most people probably fall into this category.

Those who are "built to NOT deadlift" (long torso and femurs, short tibias and arms) will quickly overtrain or injure themselves if they deadlift heavy with any kind of frequency. For people like this, they would be better off training their squat and doing supplemental work in the form of good mornings, box squats, and Romanian deadlifts as tolerated.

I'm built to not deadlift. That's not an excuse - that's a reason. Doesn't mean it's an excuse to be weak-sauce - just that training should be adjusted accordingly.


firemama said...

I love, love, love this post.... especially coming off a back injury... slipped disc at L5 to be exact. I was always told in order to get strong just 'lift heavy shit'. And so I did... even though deadlifts always felt so the proportions of my body didn't quite fit with the bar but I still soldiered on. So weighing in at 145 pounds I was feeling pretty badass hitting PR's every week.... got up to 235 lbs deadlift like it was nothing. Then one day during a warm up set I blew my back out. Recovering from that was the most depressing thing... barely being able to sit, move, stand, cough......

Nice to see after this post that I was fighting my body trying to lift the weight up. I will continue to deadlift but with much less frequency and much lighter.

I prefer to squat anyway. ;) And in my line of work, all my heavy lifting is generated from the mechanics of a squat anyway... :)

Bred Blog Admin said...

I'm "not built to deadlift" but it happens to be one of my favorite lifts. I do have a short torso, but I also have high hips and thus long femurs.

With my long femurs, high hips, and a short torso (at 6'1") sometimes I feel I'm "built NOT to squat".

Boris said...

Thanks Firemama. I think squats (and variants) and RDLs would be more than enough to cover most things and get very, very strong.

IMHO, squats are a little more forgiving because you can vary the bar position, but I understand the frustration.

vinnie said...

In Starting Strength 2nd Rip forewarn trainees to allow more time to recover from the deadlift than from the other strength building lifts he has written about. Pages 237 thru 246 provide a variety of derivatives from the conventional deadlift to allow recover and to continue training. Folks that section has help me and it will help you.

Boris Terzic said...

Great post, just gotta figure out where I stand in the list. I haven't DL'd in a long time most of my focus has been GS.

Jeremy said...

How do you know what is proportionately long and short compared to others? I'm 6' and fairly lanky looking. Probably built to not deadlift, but I'm comparing myself to the short, squat guys who I see DLing regularly in my college gym. I like to DL, because picking up heavy stuff is fun. I only train it every other week or so (I'm not that intense and I'm going for mastery before heaviness). I want to know proportions so someone can tell me if I'm being smart or being overly cautious. DLs are fun

Boris said...

I can't give you exact magic measurements. The only way to really KNOW is to try. You've said you're on the path to mastery and that's good, but the path is unending and without competent coaching, you'll need to pay extra attention to form, push it when you can, and back off as needed.

My advice would be to work toward "feel strong" sets. Leave a little in the tank on your sets. Very, very very rarely sow your deadlifting oats and pull something close to a max - it just isn't necessary for most people, most of the time.

I don't know if any of that is helpful. Hope it is.

Sam The Rep MAn said...

What a cool post and such an inspiring Pic! Man, its all about the Deadlift and half the world doesnt even realize it! Keep spreading the word y-hear