Back Exercises

The Lightening Deadlift

Give this lifting technique a try to see why speed is king when it comes to this staple move.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES

The lightning deadlift was inspired by the late Bob Peoples of Tennessee, the first man to deadlift over 700 pounds. Bob would lift a weight out of a jack at lockout height. He would then lower the weight to the floor and lift it back up, taking advantage of the stretch reflex. I’m not sure if Bob knew why it worked, but he knew it did. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. People’s!

I have implemented this method with some of my intermediate and world-class powerlifters with astounding results. I am not claiming to have invented this technique, but I have never seen anyone else use this lift.

Speed is king in the deadlift. Here's why.

Both the squat and the bench press have a true eccentric (negative) phase and true concentric (positive) phase. Even with a one-second pause at the amortization (switching from negative to positive phase), around half of the original stored elastic energy is available to aid in the positive portion of the lift.


Deadlifting is deadweight or a concentric only lift. The force produced at the beginning of a concentric contraction that follows an eccentric contraction is much greater than the force at the beginning of a concentric contraction that was not preceded by an eccentric contraction.

Lightning deadlifts create a powerful eccentric phase that teaches you how to deadlift explosively. Lightning deadlifts are performed for doubles. The first rep is performed with a chain on the bar, generally for speed. These are done with 50–75% of one’s maximum deadlift and the chains are an additional 10–20% added on the bar.

The first rep is performed with the chains on the bar. Immediately, when the bar touches the ground, have the two people on the sides pull the chains off the bar. Then, pull the weight as explosively as possible to lockout without chains. This will be the most explosive deadlift you have ever pulled—you will literally feel like you are going to fall over backward.

Some guidelines to remember with Lightning Deadlifts:

  • Have two component helpers.
  • Do not pull the second rep until you hear “go” from the designated helper.
  • Pull each rep as explosively as possible.
  • Do three to six sets.
  • Do doubles—any more or any less will eliminate the benefits.

Final Thoughts

Lightning deadlifts will teach you new meaning to pulling explosively—it will train your CNS to learn and adapt to that explosive motor pattern, resulting in bigger pulls and, if you’re a powerlifter, bigger totals.