Smash a New Deadlift PR With These 4 Exercises
Have you been stuck on deadlifts? I love deadlifts, but they can be frustrating to progress after you've been lifting for a while.
No matter what your personal record currently is, I know you are gunning for a set number. Maybe it's 225, 315, or 405?
When I first started lifting, I was going to the gym with my friend. He was a lot more outgoing than I was — I am a put your hoodie up and get to work kind of guy... but not him.
So my buddy started talking with this older guy who looked jacked. We found out he was 65 at the time and he and his partner were doing what they called "deathlifts." They joked about how they pulled until they couldn't see anything.
After doing rep after rep of what weight I couldn't calculate in my head, he did his circus trick — he deadlifted 605 pounds one-handed with straps.
So 605 was my goal, and I've lifted 605 without a belt a few times, many after being off for months.
So while I'm not an elite lifter, I can share four exercises that helped me break my personal records, ultimately leading me to my 605 deadlift goal.
The secret to progressing your deadlift into the higher numbers is to actually deadlift less frequently. Doing other movements along with training your deadlift pound out your weaknesses and allow you to progress along your path.
So let's jump into the exercises that helped me reach new personal records.
Hit a New Deadlift PR
1.) Good Mornings
There are a few variations to a good morning, but the variation I'm talking about is the standing good morning.
Standing good mornings are a great way to directly impact your deadlifting capabilities. Rack the bar as if you are going to do a squat, with your feet at the width that you deadlift.
Slightly bend your knees and hinge your hips back until your chest is parallel with the floor. You will feel all of the load on your posterior chain and hips.
Drive your head back into the bar, maintaining a neutral spine, and stand up.
Start with just the bar to get used to the movement. This isn't a squat.
2.) Dumbbell Shrugs
If you're asking how dumbbell shrugs could help your deadlift, here's the scoop.
Then you initially pull that weight off of the ground, your traps, lats, and upper back need to be bulletproof.
When you see lifters that slowly round their back and lose their groove — they would benefit from dumbbell shrugs. In fact, any upper back movement will build your deadlift.
- Pull Ups
- Pull Downs
- Lat Pull Overs
- Rear Delt Lateral Raises
- Dumbbell Rows
- Barbell Rows
3.) Romanian Deadlifts
Romanian deadlifts pound your posterior chain, maintains a solid time under tension, and is great for isolating hamstrings.
Romanian deadlifts are great at improving your lockout. You don't have to use a lot of weight for these to be effective — and this is why it's a great exercise to do instead of deadlifts from the floor all of the time.
Perform a conventional deadlift. I instead of lowering the weights to the ground, stop the bar around knee to shin height and stand back up.
Your hamstrings will scream at you, but your personal records will improve.
4.) Rack Pulls or Deficit Deadlifts
Like I said, doing less conventional deadlifts... Actually helped my deadlift.
Using different heights for your bar allow you to target specific parts of your form that is lagging, offers new ranges of motion, and they can be fun to try something new.
For deficit deadlifts, simply standing on a plate will provide enough of a deficit to start. Rack pulls you can start anywhere from mid shin height to just above the knees. The higher you start, essentially the more weight you can use — overloading your upper back and core.
Wrapping It Up
This is a long journey so don't expect to get your goals overnight.
Utilizing these four exercises, along with avoiding these common deadlift mistakes will help you break personal records and move one plate closer to your goals.
Common Deadlifting Mistakes
- Deadlifting too frequently
- Trying to add more weight before you are ready
- Looking down when pulling
- Jerking the bar and not staying tight
- Having your hands too close
- Not utilizing varying intensities
Simply rotating in an exercise or two to replace your deadlifts that day will help your routine stay fresh and ultimately build a stronger and better physique.
Spend time getting some video of your deadlift form. See where you are fundamentally breaking down and assess what you need to work on.
If you are trying to beat your 1 rep max every time you deadlift, you are significantly slowing down your gains. This is why elite powerlifters only compete in a few shows per year — 100% max effort work takes a long time to recover from. This is why you read to not test your maxes often.