The deadlift is one of the best bang for your buck exercises. It can also be one of the most frustrating, as progress often stalls. This article gives you solutions for overcoming deadlift plateaus.
1. Use Slow Eccentric Tempos
The eccentric motion occurs when a muscle lengthens. In the deadlift, the eccentric is the down motion. Because fewer motor units of a muscle contract during an eccentric contraction, a muscle can generate the highest level of tension. In practical terms, this means you are stronger eccentrically.
A proven way to overcome deadlift plateaus is to emphasize the eccentric motion with a longer tempo, by lowering the weight slowly during the last rep of a set. For example, if you are doing 3 sets of 3 reps in the deadlift, perform each rep by lifting the bar as fast as good technique allows. Then on the third rep take 10 seconds to lower the bar.
Focus on lowering the weight at an even speed throughout the movement. This takes discipline. You are much stronger with the bar above the knees, so the temptation is to go very slow when starting to lower the weight but then move quickly when the bar goes below the knees. Resist the urge.
2. Increase Lifting Speed Off The Floor
A second way to overcome deadlift plateaus is to increase lifting speed off the floor. When you increase lifting speed, power output increases. Research shows that maximum power outputs are achieved with submaximal weights in the 50 percent of 1RM range.
Increasing your power recruits higher threshold muscle fibers, which will increase your speed and help you overcome deadlift plateaus.
Train for power by programming the deadlift with loads in the 50 percent range. Focus on moving as fast as good technique allows on the concentric up motion.
3. Train With Chains
Another way to increase lifting speed in the deadlift is to overload the end range of the movement by using lifting chains.
When you attach lifting chains to a barbell, the resistance increases as you lift the bar off the floor. This is a great technique when you have a problem with the locking out portion of a deadlift, but chain training also forces you to pull harder throughout the entire exercise because the resistance increases. One reason this works is that because you know the resistance will increase as the bar leaves the platform, you instinctively try to move faster at the beginning of the lift to get through to the end.
4. Use Contrast Training
Contrast training occurs when you do a heavy set followed by a lighter set to increase power. The heavy set triggers greater neural activation, allowing you to be more powerful. Apply contrast training by alternating sets of maximal deadlifts with sets of submaximal deadlifts.
Let’s say you want to get in 4 sets of 5 reps in the deadlift. Rather than using the same weight each set, reduce the resistance 5-10 percent for your second and fourth sets. When you use the lighter weights, the bar will feel especially light and thus your lifting speed off the floor will improve, boosting power and tapping into more motor units.
If you've found your results have stagnated, apply these four training principles to blast through deadlift plateaus. By training smart, you will come closer to reaching your genetic potential of strength, power and muscle mass.