19 July 2010

Deadlift Frequency... Or A Total Lack Thereof.

I've stated before that I rarely deadlift more than once a month. I'd read in the past that a wide variety of elite level powerlifters eschewed the deadlift in favor of other exercises for the majority of a month, and then trained the deadlift once or twice therein to ensure that they were still capable of doing the lift. Though Andy Bolton trains 10x3-5 every Wednesday on the dead, and does so after his squat, it seems more often than not powerlifters avoid doing this exercise more than fortnightly. I've essentially tried every level of frequency imaginable for the deadlift, as for a long time it was by far and away both my favorite exercise and my best lift.
My Jon Pall Sigmarrson imitation with 375.
At one point around 2000, I was doing a push-pull meet every 6 months or so, and as I've never been a big bencher, was relying entirely on my deadlift to get me through. As such, I started doing some of the craziest shit you could imagine to get it moving up ever further, and in doing so discovered that my body does indeed have a limit on the amount of training shenanigans it will endure before it tells me to fuck off. Now, I'm not talking about "cheeky and fun" shenanigans- I'm talking Farva-esque "cruel and tragic" shenanigans. This was the workout I developed to get my deadlift from 515-555 over the course of about a year, done once a week:
Deadlift to max 8-10 sets progressively increasing until failure
Rack deadlift from knees to max in the same manner
One arm, 2 finger deadlifts 5x5 (using two fingers and a thumb on one hand, alternating hands)
One finger deadlifts 5x1 (using both arms, thumb and index finger)
Shrugs 6x5-10

Yeah. That just fucking happened. I loved that fucking workout, and looked forward to it all week. That is, until my midback cramped one day while picking up a 30 lb dumbbell off the rack, and I had to stop lifting back for a couple of months due to completely debilitating, uncontrollable cramping. Since then, nearly every time I deadlift to max more than once every couple of months, my back cramps up horribly and it totally fucks my other lifts, most notably front and back squats. As such, I'd all but laid off deadlifts for the last year or so, doing them only when I didn't feel like doing anything else and wanted to get fucking nuts in the gym.

Lately, I decided that discretion was the better form of valor, and as my dead had been stuck at 615 for the last 6-10 months, I figured I'd try something a bit different. About two months ago, I decided to cut my shrugging back to once a week and supplement that with deadlifts at 85% of my 1rm for 45 mins to an hour of singles. I didn't track my reps, ground out all of the knots in my back in between sets by laying back onto a barbell and driving myself into it as it lay in the rack, and hitting a single about once a minute. The result, after dropping about 5 lbs of fat, I pulled 635 easy. Thereafter, I went for 675, and got it halfway up before realizing it might be the last thing I ever did if I kept pulling, haha.

What'd I learn from this?

  1. If you lift like a complete fucking asshole, your body's going to let you know what it thinks about things at some point.
  2. If you tone down the assholishness a bit, you can get your body back on the same page as your brain, more or less.
  3. Dogmatism of any form is a fucking horrible thing. If you dogmatically follow any program, as I did, without considering the repercussions, or simply ignoring them when they arise, you're fucking yourself, and you look like a jackass in the process. Adaptation, assimilation, and modification are your fucking friends in the gym. Additionally, dogmatically following any system, be it Rippetoe's, Pythagorus's (that asshole drowned one of his students, because the guy discovered irrational numbers) or Jesus's, and you'll one day find yourself a pudgy little fucker wearing a lime green t-shirt bearing the words "Dance so that the Lord can see it" in a bookstore while drinking some sugar-laden coffee concoction and wondering why you have man tits, like the sorry motherfucker before me right now. Dogmatism is bad.
For comparison, some big deadlifters' routines:

SHW Andy Bolton, the only man to ever deadlift over 1000 lbs, current record holder with 1009 lb DL:
10 min on bike to warm up.
bench press: 10x 3 to 5 reps using 3 different height boards on chest 2″, 4″ and 6″.
close grip bench: 3 x 5 reps
light shoulder press: 2 x 8 reps
light front and side delt’s.
heavy vbar pushdowns working up to max at 6 to 10 reps.
abs: 5x10

Tuesday: rest day.

1/4 squats: sets of 3 reps
deadlift:. 10x3 to 5
partial deadlifts pulled from shin height: (with straps) for an array of reps and sets

Lying leg curls 4 sets 8/10reps
Single leg curls 2 sets 8/10reps
Leg ex 3 sets 12/20 reps
Leg press max weight 600kg 20 reps
Seated calf raises 2 sets 20 reps
Barbell shrugs 4 sets 10/12 reps max weight used 410kg/900lbs
Hammer rows single arm 3 sets 8/10reps max weight used 200kg
Vbar pulldowns 3 sets 8/10reps
Dumbbell concentration curl 3 sets 12 done for pump only
Dumbbell hammer curls 3 sets 10reps max weight done 130lb
Abs floor crunches 4 sets 10/12reps

Konstantin Konstantinovs (#1 ranked raw powerlifter, 847 lb raw DL at 275 lbs)
Workout 1.
1. Light squat for a warm up.
2. Deadlift. I do a different variant every time I train: rack pulls – 7, 11, 15, 20, 23 cm from the knees (higher than that I never pull). I do either a set of 3 reps or 8-10 depending on how I feel.
3. Bench press. I consider bench press as rest between heavy work. I bench either with touch and go with a medium grip, or with a close grip pausing at the bottom. I might do a single set of 10 reps with touch and go, or might max out pausing at the bottom. It all depends on how I feel and my mood.
4. 2nd deadlift. I pull either from a floor or from a deficit (about 9 cm). I do a single set of 2-3 reps pausing at the bottom. Then if I have enough energy, I might do another set of 6-8 reps.
5. Box squat. Heavy box squat as described above.

Workout 2 (in two days).
1. Medium heavy squat as described above.
2. Heavy bench press for a single set of 3 reps. Once in two weeks: negatives – 1-2 set for 1 rep. Then a single set of 8-10 reps with either close or medium grip depending on how I feel.
3. Cardio – 15-20 min.

Workout 3.
1. Light squat.
2. Medium heavy bench press: a single set of 6-8 reps.
3. Speed deadlift with bands: 8x1. Bands increase weight by 130 kg at the top.
4. Pull ups with weight or bands. ONLY explosively. Very important for my deadlift.
5. GHR, hyperextensions, very heavy abs work (6 sets with emphasis on strength).

Workout 4.
The same as workout 2.

After this the microcycle is repeated.

Two brutal lifters, two wildly different methods, and both completely different from Ed Coan's widely utilized deadlifting methodology.

There are no universal truths in lifting- there's only what's working for you right now, and what have and haven't worked for you in the past. All else is fucking horseshit.


  1. Jewish Meshugenah PainJuly 19, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    I thought you said you didn't like to train to failure, for reasons to numerous to put in a short comment about a blog post.

  2. I did that program 10 years ago... hence the "around 2000" part of that paragraph.

  3. I also have got to the point where i'm deadlifting very rarely, they just destroy me if i try and train them with any kind of volume. I put it down to the fact i was being a pussy for a long time but once you get past pulling 500 it really does destroy you. But being that i've decided to compete this year and want to try and hit 600 in the meet i've had to rotate deads back in much to the disgust of both my back and my psyche. A massive cheat on deadlift days seems to help but jesus that lift is a cunt! haha

  4. You sure cramp a lot.

    Maby you should eat some magnesium?

  5. Konstantinov's max best raw deadlift was 939.

    Another great post Jamie. Deadlifts are fucking awesome.

  6. So would you recommend Shrugging 1x per week and Deadlifting 1x per week? (not on the same day)

  7. Aw man! I just started to deadlift every day, just for this week to see how things progress because my deadlift has stalled.
    Good post though, definitely needed to read this.

  8. Ryan,

    Don't change your program just because Jamie said he doesn't deadlift frequently. Find out how your body reacts to deadlifting every day. You set a course, now follow thru!

  9. So anyone who follows a workout program which calls for working a particular lift once a week or less is a pussy who whines about overtraining, unless his name is Jamie Lewis and the lift in question is the deadlift? What happened to "Nobody ever got better at anything by doing it less"?

  10. Talk again after you try that crazy routine he posted for a year and YOU have trouble picking up a 35lb DB.

  11. overtraining and overreaching are different. what's your current bodyweight and deadlift max?

  12. Actually, if you'll go back and check, Jamie's always talked about the lack of efficacy of deadlifting four times per week or what have you.

    Coming from a guy who squats as much as he possibly can, that definitely means something...especially since he just said that anyone who blindly follows his advice is fucking retarded.

  13. 675 lbs? Kicking ass. What did you weigh the morning of the pull?

  14. Not to sound gay, but could you post a picture of what your back is looking like, these days?
    That is impressive lifting, Jamie!

  15. Although that's pretty gay, I'll see if I can get some pics up sometime in the vaguely near future.

    As for my weight, I weighed 191 that morning.

    To the 675 comment- I stalled halfway. That was 635.

    To the deadlifting frequency comment in re my alleged hypocrisy(Rantypants, posting anonymously), your reading comprehension sucks. Apparently, everyone else understood my take on DL frequency.

    Ryan- what Dray, Manveet, and Anon said.

  16. I'm confused. I thought lack of frequency is for pussies and that over training was bullshit? Which is it? Thanks for all the drug addict routines. Those were really "useful".

  17. Hey Rant, post your routines and diet.

  18. been pulling heavy 6-7xweek for years now, looking for a 260kg DL@82-63kg bw pretty soon.

  19. Jamie, I strongly recommend you to get regularly some ART tratment for cramping, stiffness and such.
    It greatly helps me keeping up with DL volume and frequency.

  20. Anon posting above was not rantypants. My name's Nathan, I was posting as anonymous for convenience. I agree that you have a perfectly legitimate reason to deadlift relatively infrequently and given that you can dead 635 easily, your program obviously works. In fact I heartily agree with everything in this post.
    My implied point was that it is possible, however unlikely, that some people who train other lifts only once a week might also have legitimate reasons for doing so.

    If "There are no universal truths in lifting- there's only what's working for you right now, and what have and haven't worked for you in the past.", why is it necessary to imply that everyone who trains comparatively less frequently is a base coward? While I agree that probably most people who adopt lower frequency training systems do so out of indolence, some extremely strong mother fuckers have adopted lower frequency training programs for for reasons in line with points one two and three under "What'd I learn from this?"

    You've offered ample evidence that your training system is a good one, but constantly bashing other systems does little to further your case. I like that you are willing to call people bleeding vaginas and the like, but I'm pretty sure you've hit some people to whom the epithets don't apply with collateral damage. Still, great blog, and much respect.

    Oh, and to the loyal followers, I'm pretty sure Jamie isn't going to cry himself to sleep tonight because I called him a hypocrite, so you probably don't need to leap to his defense. Kool-Aid isn't paleo so don't drink it. No one ever improved themselves by being constantly told how great they are and being shielded from criticism.

  21. Nice post anon. I always post as Rant but anytime someone else calls C&P on his bullshit they insist it is me. C&P is cunt that makes sweeping statements without putting much thought into them. His sycophants always rush to his defense. I am surprised they even notice the criticism with his dick so deep up their asses. C&P used to post at IGX but fled in fear because he wasn’t getting validation. As a matter of fact the consensus was that he was a self important cunt and pussy who ran way with his tail between his legs. I love to watch the self absorbed implode from their own hubris. I have been training hard for over 30 years yet I’m the one that doesn’t know shit. LOL. The deadlift frequency conundrum was as plain as day yet apparently we both missed out on something. I guess we didn’t get the memo about ignoring C&P and his hypocrisies.

  22. Rant, I don't agree with everything Jamie says, but your comments have been totally inane, since you showed up here. You contribute zero to this blog. Why don't you try to improve your own blog?
    By the way, it is interesting that I did a little tooling around the web, and I see that YOU, my little friend, seem to be pretty much loathed, and this is the same act you have tried on other sites.
    Run along, son, wouldn't a drink taste good, right about now? Listen, I can hear it calling your name.....

  23. that was actually pretty funny

  24. There is no trying involved. Rant is Rant everywhere he goes.

  25. Nathan-

    I'll actually address that at some length this evening, as you make some good points and I've evidently failed to articulate some of the finer points of my philosophy.


    Gave up on calling me gay for calling me a drug addict, eh? Go do some yoga and some kettlebell swings, douche.

  26. Rant's talking in the third person now.

    What the fuc...

  27. Yo, turn my mic up. I can’t hear myself. Where my mic?
    (P. Diddy: Here we go. You’re on, Dracoy.)

    Uh. Uh.
    Yo, Rant shut the fuck up.
    Your rants suck like Dyson.
    And if I hear you speak again,
    I’ll knock you out like Tyson.

    (P. Diddy: I know that’s right.)

    I never deadlift,
    Or do anything dead.
    Except Boni’s mom,
    When I fucked her corpse head.

    (P. Diddy: Rest in peace, Boni’s mom.)

    As for the rest of you clowns,
    Quit being so dogmatic.
    There’s no universal truths in lifting,
    So be a C&P fanatic.

    (P. Diddy: Yo, isn’t “There’s no universal truths in lifting” a universal truth itself? I’m confused, Dracoy.)

  28. Oh no, I was going to Deadlift all week anyways. I just think reading this post gave me pretty good perspective.

  29. ..so..how much is your best meet bench ??

  30. Rant is a cunt. hahahaha cockfag

  31. dracoy I think you should make your raps a regular edition to each new post.

  32. Dracoy, you should have your mom contribute some poetry the next time she runs downstairs to save your ass from being crushed by the next 185lbs. squat you fuck up.

    True or false: your mom's roast beef puts the Carnegie deli to shame.

  33. "There are no universal truths in lifting- there's only what's working for you right now, and what have and haven't worked for you in the past. All else is fucking horseshit."

    I love how you're so fucking to-the-point with things. Now if only more people would realize this.

  34. Is that your belt in the background?