Periodisation for the Deadlift

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Snapshot of Takeaway Points

  • 90% of 1RM is the danger zone for nervous system recovery
  • Speed work can always be done weekly
  • Deadlift eccentrics should not be avoided

Introduction

There are many ways to skin a cat. There are also basic physiological principles that need to be adhered to. Going ‘Hard as a Mother Fucker’ day in day out, week in week out is not the way to get stronger. It’s a recipe for injuries, fatigue and a lack of progress. Here are some of the concepts, rules and principles I’ve used with lifters such as helping Darryn Wright achieve a World Record of 350kg at under 90kg bodyweight!

Big 3 Principles

90% of 1RM is the danger zone for nervous system recovery

The deadlift is the most neurally fatiguing of all lifts. Knowing that should instantly signal to your brain that it can’t be trained like all the other lifts.

What I have found is that 10-14 days of recovery is needed when you use 90-99% of your one repetition maximum. When you go 100% and over, 14-21 days is needed.

Speed work (2nd gear) can always be done weekly

I like Louie Simmons’ analogy of speed strength being like second gear in a car. Without a second gear, you’re not going anywhere fast. Maximising this strength quality is of huge importance if you want a big deadlift.

Properly periodising and progressing accommodating resistance is going to be an important way of working on technique and ensuring you don’t lose touch with the lift in general.

Deadlift eccentrics should not be avoided

The first part of the deadlift is going to involve an eccentric contraction at your erector spinae, lower traps and lats. Watch any maximum deadlift in slow motion and you’ll see the lower back lengthen and hips maybe tuck and the shoulders round forwards and lats lengthen. So, why are you avoiding a way of training this? Anyone who believes that controlling a deadlift on the eccentric is bad for your back/ligaments/etc should be taken outside and shot. You are a certified moron if you believe that. Talk about a fixed mind set.

If you want to be strong, you must learn to control the weight first. If you want to be strong, you can’t be injured. Eccentric control and eccentric only deadlifts can help with both of these and many more factors to improve strength

Periodisation Options for Neural/Heavy Deadlift Day

If we take the above principles and apply them accordingly, your deadlift training cycle could take a variety of forms. Here are some of the most successful ways:

Alternate weeks of eccentric control and eccentric-less

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Eccentric control (e.g. 5 reps at 5110)
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Eccentric-less (e.g. 5 reps at X2X2)

Or

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Slow tempo (e.g. 5 reps at 5150)
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Eccentric-less (e.g. 5 reps at X2X2)

Or

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Floating deadlift (e.g. 5 reps at 4210)
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Eccentric-less (e.g. 5 reps at X2X2)

Alternate weeks of a longer range of movement (R.O.M.) with a shorter R.O.M.

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Longer R.O.M. (e.g. Deficit deadlift, Snatch grip deadlift)
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Shorter R.O.M. (e.g. Clean grip from floor, rack/partial deadlift)

Or

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Shorter R.O.M. (e.g. Rack/partial deadlift for 4-6 reps at 90% RPE)
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Longer R.O.M. (e.g. Clean grip from floor)

Alternate weeks of belt on and belt off (Your trunk can never be too strong!)

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Belt off
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Belt on

Alternate weeks of deadlift and compound lower body movement

  • Week 1/3/5/7: Powerlifting Style Squat/Standing Good Morning/Romanian Deadlift
  • Week 2/4/6/8: Deadlift

For repetition and set schemes for the above options I recommend either a 2 week undulating periodisation scheme such as:

  • Accumulation 1, Week 1: 5 x 5 reps
  • Accumulation 1, Week 2: 4 x 5 reps
  • Intensification 1, Week 3: 5 x 5 (1-1-1-1-1*) reps (*Cluster Training, rest 10-15 seconds between reps)
  • Intensification 1, Week 4: 3 x 5 (1-1-1-1-1) reps
  • Accumulation 2, Week 5: 5 x 4 reps
  • Accumulation 2, Week 6: 4 x 4 reps
  • Intensification 2, Week 7: 6 x 5,3,2,5,3,2 reps
  • Intensification 2, Week 8: 6 x 3,2,1,3,2,1 reps

*For more repetition & set schemes check out my Program Design Templates

Periodisation Options for Speed/Dynamic/Intermuscular Co-ordination Day

For this day to be effective you must adhere to the following rules. I said rules and not principles this time on purpose as these are steadfast:

  • Concentric speed must be 0.8m/s or faster
  • Technique must be perfect
  • Accommodating resistance must be utilised

Too often I see videos of deadlifting resembling an epileptic trying to hump a football. Although Louie has provided a magnificent template with his Westside system, many of you are too taken in by the numbers. My tip is to ignore the percentages of bar weight and accommodating resistance, and if in doubt pick a lighter weight so you can move faster with better technique.

Just because it is speed day doesn’t mean you have to transition from the eccentric back into the concentric as quickly as possible (face-palm!). In fact, taking 2-4 seconds rest in between reps is fantastic for transfer to maximal deadlift strength as it mimics overcoming inertia. Ever wonder why your second and third reps feel better? Well the elasticity of your muscles is responsible for this. Now consider that to be irrelevant for maximal deadlift strength with the fact that the lifts starts from a dead stop (hence dead lift…duh!).

Speed/dynamic day offers you an extra opportunity to hone your technique. The more automatic and efficient your motor pattern, the stronger you will get. Ever heard of the 10,000 perfect repetition rule? (Perform 10,000 perfect repetitions to become an expert). Well this gives you another day to knock some digits off that number as you surge towards excellence. Only if you use perfect technique though!

I’m not a fan of compensatory acceleration training (C.A.T.) which is essentially speed work without accommodating resistance. I find it hugely inferior to adding in accommodating resistance. I only recommend it as a workaround if your gym is too cheap to invest in chains and bands. Without accommodating resistance you’re trying to turn off a natural mechanism within your body, without a tool that allows you to do it. You’re just making your life harder and seeing limited returns on time invested.

I also like to alternate and progress the type of accommodating resistance, the rep and set scheme and even tempos. Here are two examples I’ve used with success:

This option uses a larger variety of accommodating resistance and tempos for maximal strength (4 second dead stop on the floor) and for fast transition between repetitions (1 second dead stop on the floor).

  • Week 1: 5 x 5 reps, X1X1 (1 x Chain)
  • Week 2: 4 x 5 reps, X1X1 (1 x Chain)
  • Week 3: 8 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Reverse Band)
  • Week 4: 6 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Reverse Band)
  • Week 5: 5 x 5 reps, X1X1 (2 x Chains)
  • Week 6: 4 x 5 reps, X1X1 (2 x Chains)
  • Week 7: 8 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Banded)
  • Week 8: 6 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Banded)

This option increases the total accommodating resistance and periodises the tempo to peak for maximal strength.

  • Week 1: 5 x 5 reps, X2X1 (2 x Chains)
  • Week 2: 4 x 5 reps, X2X1 (2 x Chains)
  • Week 3: 8 x 3 reps, X3X1 (Banded)
  • Week 4: 6 x 3 reps, X3X1 (Banded)
  • Week 5: 5 x 5 reps, X2X1 (3 x Chains)
  • Week 6: 4 x 5 reps, X2X1 (3 x Chains)
  • Week 7: 8 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Banded) *more tension than week 3 & 4
  • Week 8: 6 x 3 reps, X4X1 (Banded)

How should each day look on paper?

Neural Day

  • A Series: Plyometrics (E.g. Kneeling Jumps)
  • B Series: Heavy Deadlift
  • C-D/E series: Assistance work (Use back extensions to balance out compression of spine and hypertrophy posterior chain and trunk)

Speed/Intermuscular Co-ordination day

  • A Series: Plyometrics
  • B Series: Speed/Dynamic Deadlift
  • C series: Assistance work (Good morning or Romanian deadlift or back extensions)
  • D series: Assistance work (Use modified strongman work for hips, posterior chain and trunk)

Bonus Tip: Only use a stiff bar during the whole program. Break out the whippy deadlift bar for PB’s only! A tip backed up none other than Andy Bolton himself.

Conclusion

Don’t worry, your InstaBook followers won’t take a nosedive just because you’re not posting hyooge lifts in a testosterone fuelled atmosphere complete with head/back slaps and chalk clouds every week. Applying these principles will allow you to build a big deadlift, instead of just attempting a big deadlift every time you walk in the gym.

Article written by: Tom Hibbert

Published on: 17/2/2019

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