How to Have an Awesome Deadlift Workout
Oh sweet, sweet deadlifts. I do love them ever so much. Conventional, sumo, trap bar, rack pulls, snatch grip . . . it doesn’t matter what type of deadlift it may be. I absolutely love deadlifting.
In fact, I love deadlifts so much I even wrote a poem about them. Okay I’m just kidding (maybe) about the whole “ode to deadlift” thing.
In honor of my love, admiration, and respect for one of the best exercises anyone could ever do, I am going to share with you how to have an awesome deadlift workout.
First things first – know how to deadlift properly!
Once you know how to deadlift properly and safely, it’s time to move on. Here are 8 tips you can use to have an awesome deadlift workout.
1. Pre-workout, have some caffeine. I don’t do this every training session, but if I want to hit a personal record, or just test out my Beautiful Badass abilities, I’ll have a large cup of coffee about half an hour to 45 minutes before my training session. If you want a little extra kick to fuel your workout, then I suggest you enjoy a large cup of coffee as well before your training session.
2. Start and stay warm. Wear pants and zip up sweatshirt if necessary, but you should be very warm before you even touch the barbell. This is a little tip most people don’t use, but once they try it they notice a difference.
Make sure you get thoroughly warmed up before you even start deadlifting, and this can go quicker with a couple extra layers of clothing. I generally train with pants and sweatshirt on and then take off the layers as I get very warm. After your warm-up, proceed with your warm-up sets for the deadlift, but only take off the layers when you get really warm.
This tip is especially important during the winter months and for Beautiful Badasses over 40.
3. Stretches and glute activation drills. You simply won’t have a great deadlift session if your hip flexors are tight and your glutes aren’t firing. You want the right muscles doing the work you demand, and for a deadlift that means putting the brunt of the load on your hamstrings, glutes, lower and upper back.
The majority of my clients sit most of the day, and so they always conclude their warm-up with hip flexor stretches followed immediately by glute bridges and clams. You can get more info on those movements here: Wake up Your Glutes.
Do not neglect this tip. You will have stronger and safer pulls if your glutes are firing properly.
4. Keep everything the same. From the first warm-up set to the final rep you pull, the warm-up and work sets should be identical.
- Approach the bar the same way
- Set up the same way (feet, breath, belt, hands, etc)
- Get a big breath of air and hold it in your belly
- Exceptions: I do my first several warm-up sets with a double overhand grip and switch to a mixed grip when the weight gets heavier. I also put on my weight belt and use chalk once the weights get over 80 percent of my work weight.
The point is, everything should look the exact same from the first set of the warm-up until the last work set. Even if you’re working up to a 315 pound deadlift, treat your 135 pound warm-up like it’s 300 plus pounds.
I always approach the bar the same way, set my feet the same, and follow the same cues for every single set. This way when the weight gets heavy, you’ll have a nice pattern to follow to get your set up properly. The last thing you want to think about when you’re about to pull a heavy weight off the floor is how to set up for it.
5. Don’t be afraid to get aggressive. The deadlift is not a dainty little exercise, and I highly recommend “unleashing the inner beast” when you approach the bar. As I told my fellow Girls Gone Strong gal, Alli McKee, at our recent Baltimore get-together, “There is no love in deadlifting.”
Approach the bar with some aggression. Tell yourself you’re going to rip that barbell off the ground with force. Feel free to growl if it helps – grrrrr!
6. Don’t get distracted. Don’t listen to conversations going on around you. Don’t watch other people train. When you’re about to pull that bar off the floor, focus on the barbell and nothing but the barbell.
Don’t mindlessly chat with someone or fidget with your iPod while you’re setting your feet and getting ready to pull. Be involved 100% in what you are about to do. It’s amazing what a little bit of focus and determination can do.
7. If necessary, use some music. A lot of people like training with music blaring in the background, and unfortunately most music played at commercial gyms is total crap (in my opinion, anyway). If it helps you, then bring your own and use it.
When you’re about to perform a work set, put on your favorite song, get fired up, get focused, and dominate that set.
8. Don’t give up, and keep pulling. That’s the fun thing about deadlifts – you are literally pulling dead weight off the ground. When you’re going for a heavy single or triple, you’re going to have to commit to the pull. You may have to fight a little bit, but keep pulling.
The only thing I thought about was getting that damn bar off the floor. It was a bear of a fight, but failure was not an option.
I will mention that you shouldn’t keep pulling if your form goes to hell, or if you simply have too much weight on the bar. If your hips shoot up and your back rounds before the bar budges off the floor, you simply need to strip off some weight. But don’t be afraid to stick with the lift for another second to break it off the floor or getting it moving.
So there you have it – some great tips on how to have a great deadlift workout. Be sure to put them to use the next time you are going to rip some weight off the floor.
Want some training inspiration before you head to the gym to deadlift? Watch this training compilation of the Girls Gone Strong crew from when we met up in Baltimore.