Workout Tips

The Deadlift Encyclopedia

Everything you need to know about tugging heavy iron.

The Deadlift Encyclopedia

It’s safe to assume the deadlift is the oldest strength-training maneuver in existence. There’s no real documentation to back this up, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Benching and squatting took our forefathers some ingenuity to contrive, but picking something up? Putting it down and picking it up again? That’s instinct.

A caveman points at a rock. He tells another to pick it up. If the guy can, he gets to eat a raw woolly mammoth steak. If he can’t, he’s clubbed over the head. Those were the stakes in the world’s first powerlifting meet—and not much has changed since then. Deadlift training technique and programming have been refined, but the main objective remains the same: You pick things up and put them down. Here’s an exhaustive analysis of the most magnificent move in all of resistance training and how you can start moving some heavier metal in eight weeks.


Ripping a heavy barbell off the floor requires a serious commitment. To get stronger, the idea is to develop the confidence to know a lift is complete before you even wrap your hands around the barbell, every time you deadlift. Come hell or high water, you have to keep pulling.

Though deadlifting seems simple, the lift has several technical aspects you’ll need to master to make progress. By learning to use your body’s natural leverages and finding your groove, you’ll both lift heavier weights and prevent injuries. Work to perfect your form with every rep of every set.

The Technique

Proper technique starts with your stance. To find yours, perform a standing vertical jump, noting the width of your feet at the start. This foot position, with your toes pointed out slightly, is your new deadlift stance. From here, descend into a half squat with the barbell—which sits over the centers of your feet—touching your shins and your arms fully extended.

Your workouts for this strength cycle are designed to develop two cornerstones of correct deadlifting technique. First, you’ll be using compensatory acceleration training (CAT) every time you perform a deadlift. This means every rep will be done as fast and explosively as possible—even your warm-up sets. Next, with every rep, focus on pushing your heels through the ground while making sure your hips don’t rise faster than your shoulders. Keeping your hips down will prevent your legs from locking out before your hips—a mistake that will take away significant amounts of power and leave your hamstrings and lower back vulnerable to injury.

The workout template provided is an eight-week cycle designed to increase your deadlift max by as much as 10%. On Day 1, you’ll deadlift. On Day 2, you’ll perform a series of accessory squat variations with direct carryover to your deadlift strength.

Once your technical proficiency impproves and you’re adding more weight to the bar, you’ll notice that deadlifting works virtually every muscle in your body, with an emphasis on the muscles of your posterior chain: your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Working these muscle groups independently with your assistance exercises is crucial to developing the lower-body strength you’ll need for a powerful pull.

Shrugs, barbell rows, and weighted chinups will add mass to your upper back and allow you to pull heavier weight to the standing, locked-out top position of the deadlift. Rows and chins also provide your workouts with hamstrings, there’s no better movement than the glute-ham raise, a movement requiring a powerful co-contraction of these two massive muscle groups.