Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Quit Skipping Your Deadlifts

by Nick Delgadillo, SSC | December 15, 2020

 hard deadlift lockout

Making sure you show up to the gym consistently is the single most important thing you can do in the long term to ensure you actually get strong. Lots of sub-optimal programming has been used by lots of people to get very strong through the long-forgotten method of walking into the gym three days a week, adding weight to the bar as often as possible, and eating enough to get big and strong.

The process now is for a guy to spend countless hours on the internet researching what to do, disagreeing with people on social media about programming, and agonizing over every bit of minutiae regarding nutrition, exercise selection, and which personality to follow before even having started a novice linear progression.

But that’s not you. You go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and get your squats in, because you know that squats are what make you strong. You get your presses and benches done, because what’s the point of being strong if you don’t look jacked, right? But by the time you’ve done three hard sets of squats and thrashed your upper body with bench or press, you sometimes skip your deadlifts ... don’t you? You do this because the day’s work is done: you’ve been working hard squatting and getting PRs, and you can just deadlift next time. Maybe this time you’ll do some chins instead. Chins give you The Pump while deadlifts are just hard and your back is already tired, and you really don’t want to tweak your back.

Now, if you’re honest with yourself and you come to the realization that you’re skipping deadlifts regularly because you heard that you really only have to do them once a week, and once a week turns into once every two or three weeks, you should consider adding them back in on your next workout and doing them consistently every workout for a few weeks. If your lifts are stuck and your squat and deadlift work weights are close to the same, focusing on getting your deadlift up will get you unstuck.

Remember that if you are deadlifting less than 50 to 100 lbs more than you can squat, your deadlift is seriously lagging and it’s time to focus on pulling heavy. Doing heavy deadlifts conditions your brain and your body to be okay with pushing on something that doesn’t seem to be moving. A heavy pull is the heaviest exercise you can do in the gym, and through mechanisms that I can only guess at, I have multiple clients that kickstarted a stalled LP by working on their lagging pull with no other change to programming.

A big part of this has to be the fact that completing a heavy deadlift rep requires that you decide to not give up. There is less commitment than when you start a squat rep since you have to go ahead and grind through the rep – if you drop it on the pins everybody knows you're a pussy, while on a deadlift you can decide to just set it back down. No one will ever know that you decided to quit, and you can chalk it up to the bar just being too heavy. There is some profound stuff going on during a set of five deadlifts when you decide to set your back, take another breath, and pull another rep when every molecule in your brain is telling you to pack it in for the day and that you’ve done enough.

So quit skipping your deadlifts. They are good for your brain since you have to decide to keep pulling on the bar when it doesn’t want to move, and they are good for your program because they’re really damn heavy. If your deadlift is not significantly ahead of your squat in terms of the weight on the bar, add them back into your program every day for a while and see what happens.  

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