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.


Ronnie Coleman has a big back. Big enough for eight Mr. Olympia titles, big enough that calling it big qualifies as an understatement and big enough for you to pay close attention to how he built it. Brian Dobson, Coleman’s longtime trainer, attributes Big Ron’s massive back to one factor that’s remained con- stint in his training programs through the years. “Deadlifts,” says Dobson, “are the king.”

Deadlifting forces you to use virtually every muscle in your body to take the bar from the floor to waist height. In the chain of muscles involved in this process, nothing is left behind and everything kicks in eventually.

Everything starts with your lower back. Nothing builds your spinal erectors like the repetitive action of bearing and moving a massive load. The deadlift isn’t just a lower-back exercise, though. As you move through your range of motion and transition from the lower part of the lift to the upper lockout phase, your lats, traps, and other upper- back muscles take over. At the top of the movement, you’re holding a very heavy weight in a dead-hang position—which places immense pressure on your traps. This is a very efficient combination of movements for building thickness in your upper back and shoulders.

In the bottom position, proper deadlift technique entails pushing through your heels to move the bar out of a static position. By focusing on this leg drive, you’re applying a tremendous amount of force to your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Dropping your ass and pushing through your heels with every rep will add mass throughout your lower body.

At the top of the deadlift, when you lock out your hips, your glutes act as the movement’s agonist—its prime mover—while your hamstrings are targeted as the synergists, or assisters. When it comes to developing your glutes and hamstrings through the application of force, there’s no better exercise than the deadlift.

The benefits aren’t limited to your lower body. Your arms come into play throughout your range of motion. When you’re both trying to hang onto a heavy load and move it upward, all the muscles in your arms are forced to contract, in addition to the obvious necessity for grip and forearm strength and mass development.

The routine provided here targets muscular hypertrophy with reps in the 6–15 range, as opposed to our strength routine, which focuses more on heavier sets for lower reps. Re- search by Dr. Eric Serrano has shown the importance of prolonging the time muscles are under tension during a set. Keeping your time-under- tension to 30–60 seconds—especially in the deadlift, where so many muscle groups are in play—will elicit the greatest muscle-building response from your resistance training. Keep your rest periods at two minutes or less for your main exercises each day, and take full advantage of the incredible growth hormone response deadlifting can produce.