Workout Tips

Break Through Plateaus with Deficit Training

Get ahead by getting behind. Bust plateaus and build new muscle and strength with deficits.

To make muscles grow, usually lifters with a good head on their shoulders will combine the perfect mix of volume and intensity. That means an increased number of sets to up overall work capacity coupled with a weight that poses a challenge for the muscle. Add low rest intervals and you’ve got a recipe for size. 

So you’ve done that.  And you’ve added size. Good on you. 

But what happens when you reach the inevitable plateau?  It’s only a matter of time before the body adapts to a training method and your gains become scant. “Changing it up” is the name of the game, but choosing different exercises, set schemes, and rest intervals can only go so far. 

We’re forgetting about another important piece to the size puzzle—time under tension (TUT).  Increasing the time a muscle spends under tension increases its work capacity and also helps release necessary hormones for growth like testosterone and HGH. It makes sense when you think about it. Having a heavy bar on your back for 60 seconds will be better than having a heavy bar on your back for 20 seconds where building muscle is concerned. 


Other than playing with your tempo, an easy, quick, and less often used way of increasing TUT would be through adding a deficit to certain exercises.  This increases the ROM and ultimately makes you more beastly. Here are four of the best moves to use deficit training with. 

Deficit Deadlifts

If you want increased grip strength, added flexibility, and a kick start to posterior chain development, then adding a deficit to your deadlift variations is key. To do them, set up a 6-inch box or step platform under your feet, but make sure the barbell still rests on the floor. Assume the same starting position you normally would with a flat back and proper setup, and go to town.  

Note: If you don’t have adequate flexibility to assume a good start position from a deficit when deadlifting, stick with the conventional deadlifts with no deficit until you can achieve this. It’s not a safe idea to pull without the necessary tightness.

Reverse Lunges from Deficit

Reverse lunges on their own help the posterior chain to fire first since the first movement is initiated by the glutes and hamstrings to step backward, rather than the hips and quads to step forward. You can add to the glute involvement by adding a deficit—starting by standing on a low box. Use dumbbells, and ensure that your working leg has the heel firmly planted on the box. Aim for a full depth with the trailing knee so that it reaches the floor. The glutes and hamstrings have to work overtime to overcome the deficit and climb the body back up to the box.