Posts Tagged ‘deadlift’


The squat and deadlift are the foundational movement for strength. If you want to dominate the Sport of Fitness, you need to be proficient in both. With that being said, CrossFit athletes have been presented with lots of misinformation in regards to training these lifts. Strength in the both of these exercises must be developed over a wide range of rep ranges and as you strive to develop this strength, you must do it within the context of a program that develops many other, sometimes competing skills.

Before we get into my ideas about how to best train these lifts for CrossFit, let’s get a couple things straight…


CrossFit incorporates much more Olympic lifting than it does powerlifting and for this reason, among others, you need to make your squat look like an Olympic lifters. Whether you want to call it an Olympic squat, high bar squat, close stance squat, ATG squat or any other name, what matters is that you squat with a nearly vertical torso, stance that resembles your feet during the catch of a clean or snatch and you are squatting deep and explosively.

The face that Olympic lifting is a bigger part of CF than powerlifting isn’t the only reason you should focus on the HBBS over the LBBS. The low bar back squat is a detriment to the development of your Olympic lifting technique, ingraining a forward torso angle that will carryover to your snatch and clean catch position and lead to missed lifts.

Olympic lifters don’t box squat, the overwhelming majority of top raw powerlifters don’t box squat, you shouldn’t box squat (as your primary squat exercise) if you want to squat huge weights and aren’t wearing a multiply powerlifting suit. With that being said, the box squat is a good tool to use to teach the squat and can have its place as a supplementary movement, but cannot be the basis of your squat training.


The first pull of a clean or snatch and a deadlift are very different movements and should not be taught as the same thing. Treating them as the same thing will make you worse at both of them.

Snatches and cleans will make your deadlift go up, but the vice versa is not necessarily true. Of course, for the beginner trainee improvement in general exercises, whether it is deadlift or squat variations, will improve your Olympic lifts but the point of diminishing returns there for the deadlift will be quickly reached. To be a good CrossFit competitor you need to be a good, not great, deadlifter in the grand scheme of strength (500-550 range at 190ish bodyweight is very good and enough for CrossFit but isn’t making any waves in powerlifting with 181 and 198 lifters pulling well over 700 pounds). Squatting and Olympic lifting with very little deadlift practice will make you a good deadlifter.

Now that we have those two issues out of the way, lets talk about how to get strong in these lifts to have great success in CrossFit. To be successful in CrossFit you must have maximal strength, explosive strength and strength endurance. None of these qualities need to be developed to the utmost elite levels, so we should use a balanced approach to improve them, while also keeping in mind the other dozens of things you must train.

When structuring the strength component of your CrossFit training, you should prioritize the primary exercises as…

  1. Squat-This is HBBS. Squatting more will make you snatch, clean, press, jerk, and deadlift more. It is the exercise with the highest transfer of training and until you are a national level or better weightlifter, putting 10kg on your squat is going to have a direct carryover to your snatch and clean.
  2. Snatch-The snatch takes precedent over here because it is more technical than the clean and someone who can snatch and squat, will more than likely be pretty good in the clean.
  3. Cleans-Cleans take practice of course and give you extra work in the front squat, but because squats + cleans don’t necessarily equal a good snatch, it gets the 3rd spot.
  4. Front Squats-The front squat is important to clean technique and will improve many other exercises, but since it can’t be loaded like the squat it gets the lower billing.
  5. Deadlift-All the way down here at number 5 is the deadlift. Why? Because all the things listed above will make the deadlift go up, but the deadlift won’t necessarily make them go up. Plus, the deadlift is highly stressful to the CNS and when you have so many things you need to train for, you can fill up your CNS cup so much with one exercise.

Let’s take a look at my favorite ways to train the squat and deadlift as it pertains to developing the wide array of strength qualities you need for CrossFit.

SUBMAXIMAL LOADS FOR MODERATE REPS-You don’t need to do work over 90% every week to squat and deadlift more! There I said it, hate to break it to you all but almost no top level raw powerlifters are working up to max singles on a weekly basis. Not only does the CrossFitter not need to do this, they shouldn’t do it. If you want to get better at squatting, you need to squat more, you need to practice and doing multiple sets at slightly lower percentages will give you this opportunity. For example, instead of working up to a max set of 3 (usually about 92.5%), do 3×3 at 85%. Focus the bulk of your maximal strength training in the squat, press and dead on sets of 3-8 reps at between 65-85% of your 1 rep max. The Olympic lifts will still necessitate going above 90% frequently.

Along with this same idea, you want to attempt very few maxes and avoid missing lifts. Missing lifts doesn’t build strength, making them does. Max outs are very taxing to the body and central nervous system and is an unnecessary stress to the body of a CrossFitter. Build your strength, don’t always worry about testing it and understand that PRs can come in many forms, weight, reps, speed and quality of the lift, so spend more tips focusing on the latter 3.

TIMED WORK-Of course, you need to do a lot of timed work in CrossFit but I mean something a little different here. Work on max rep in a given short time frame sets and short rest periods. For example, try doing max reps in the squat in 10 seconds with 50 seconds rest. Power is Work divided by time, so if you want to become more powerful you either can increase the work (weight or reps) or decrease the time. So if you can squat 300×6 reps in 10 seconds and then train to be able to squat 300×8 in 10 seconds, you have become more powerful. Working  with timed sets, whether it is timed work or timed rest, will help to improve your special work capacity.

ROTATING METHODS ON THE DEADLIFT-As I mentioned earlier, the deadlift is highly stressful to the CNS and because of that, we don’t want to pull heavy very often. The most frequently I would advocate pulling a heavy set of 1-3 in the dead from the floor would be every 3 weeks, but ideally every 6 weeks. Using a rotation between heavy, explosive and rep deadlift days, like Brandon Lilly discusses in The Cube Method, is a great way to go for CrossFit.

I would make a few adjustments though from what Brandon does for competitive powerlifting, because there is more emphasis on the higher rep ranges for CrossFit. A 6 week modified Cube approach on your deadlifts could be the following…

Week 1 (Speed)-15 sets of 2 reps at 60%, rest no longer than 10 seconds b/t sets

Week 2 (Reps)-Snatch Grip Pulls from 4” Blocks at 60% for 1xRest Pause (I’ll explain what that means in a bit)

Week 3 (Heavy)-Work up to 85%x3x3 from 2” Blocks

Week 4 (Speed)-10 sets of 2 reps at 65%, rest no longer than 10 seconds b/t sets

Week 5 (Reps)-Deadlift from Progressively Higher Blocks at 60% for 1xMechanical Drop Set

Week 6 (Heavy)-Work up to a nearly maximal set of 1-3 reps.

BODYBUILDING REP STRATEGIES-Gasp! Bodybuilding for CrossFit, yes. Bodybuilding rep strategies like rest pause sets and drop sets, both mechanical and weight, are some of the best ways to build strength endurance and lactic tolerance.

For those of you not familiar, a rest pause set is a combination of 3 small sets into one giant set.  Perform a rest pause set by performing reps (60% is a good starting point) until you are 1-2 reps shy of failure, rack the weight and rest for 20-40 seconds, perform another set just shy of failure, rest for 20-40 seconds, perform a 3rd sets to failure. This is a great way to exceed your rep capacity and build endurance and can be used with basically any exercise.

Drop sets can be done by either reducing the weight through a set or by improving your mechanical advantage as the set progresses. For a weight drop set, simply start performing reps and have your training partners pull off weights as you go. For example, set up in the squat with 45s and 3 25s on each side of the bar and try performing a set number of reps at each weight, having your training partner pull off 25s as you go until you are down to the 45s and rep out there. Using chains and progressively removing sets from the bar as you go is also a great way to performed weight drop sets.

A mechanical drop set is done by improving your mechanical advantage throughout a set so you can continue doing reps with the same weight, despite fatigue. Try out these mechanical drop sets. 1-Overhead Mechancial Drop Set-Load the bar with 70% of your strict press max, begin performing strict press reps, when you feel like you like you can only do 1-2 more reps, immediately start doing push presses, when you feel like you can only do 1-2 more reps, immediately start doing push jerks until failure. 2-Deadlift Drop Set-Load the bar with 60-70% of your 1rm, begin performing as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, add 3” blocks under the weights and continue to rep out for another 30 seconds, add another set of 3” blocks and perform reps for a final 30 seconds. 3-Clean or Snatch Drop Set-Begin by performing muscle variations of the lift until you are 1-2 shy of failure, then progress to power varaitions until just shy of failure and finally the full version of the lift-this same concept could work with Hang-Power to Hang-Full to Full or anything that progresses your ability to continue doing reps.

Hopefully this has given you some new perspective on effectively and efficiently developing strength to improve your abilities in CrossFit. It won’t be easy, but it isn’t particularly complicated either; squat heavy, for speed and reps, let your deadlift be built with other exercises and focus on building instead of always testing your strength and watch your strength skyrocket!

by Bret Contreras (web)

Over the past few years, I’ve delved heavily into the field of biomechanics, which has helped me achieve a much greater understanding of resistance training. I’ve worked my way through biomechanics textbooks, conducted hundreds of hours of experiments via EMG and force plate, and spent hundreds more hours consulting the literature. There’s another thing I like to do, and this is something that’s free and readily available to everyone. I often pull up YouTube and analyze video footage of the strongest lifters on the planet. The combination of learning scientific principles, lifting heavy weights, training other lifters, talking shop with fellow powerlifters, reading research, conducting experiments, and analyzing other powerlifters’ form makes for the ultimate combination of knowledge.

Regarding the deadlift, the most difficult position is right off the floor, at least in terms of joint torque magnitudes. Furthermore, your positioning and explosiveness off the floor play a large role in determining how hard the lockout will be. Therefore, proper lift-off position is crucial for successful deadlift performance.

In this article, I have freeze-framed and snipped pictures of bar lift-off positions from twenty-five of some of the strongest heavy conventional deadlift videos available on the internet. Though the list is dominated by powerlifters, I was sure to represent strongmen, Olympic lifters, and bodybuilders too. I stuck to heavier weight classes and ignored sumo pulling as that’s a different animal. Of course I could have posted pictures of Coan’s monumental 901 at 220 lbs, as well as Andrei Belyaev, Lamar Gant, Dan Green, etc., but I had to draw the line somewhere so I stuck to conventional deadlifts and the heaviest lifts. Let’s see what common trends are apparent with the strongest pullers on the planet.

Please examine the following kinematic aspects of the deadlift in each picture below: shin angle relative to the floor, hip height, torso angle, degree and location of spinal flexion, level of scapular protraction, shoulder position relative to bar, bar proximity to the shins, stance and grip widths, foot flare, and head-neck position.

Benedikt Magnusson: 1,015 lbs

Benedikt Magnusson

Andy Bolton: 1,008 lbs

Andy Bolton

Andy Bolton: 1,003 lbs

Andy Bolton 2

Zydrunas Savickas: 948 lbs

Zydrunas Savickas

Konstantin Konstantinovs: 939 lbs

Konstantin Konstantinovs

Marc Henry: 935 lbs

Marc Henry

Gary Frank: 931 lbs

Gary Frank

Vlad Alhazov: 925 lbs

Vlad Alhazov

Kevin Nee: 925 lbs

Kevin Nee

Mikhail Koklyaev: 920 lbs

Mikhail Koklyaev

Vince Urbank: 906 lbs

Vince Urbank

Brian Shaw: 905 lbs x 2

Brian Shaw

Doyle Kenady: 903 lbs

Doyle Kenady

Chuck Fought: 900 lbs

Chuck Fought

Steve Goggins: 900 lbs

Steve Goggins

Ed Coan: 887 lbs

Ed Coan

Stan Efferding: 837 lbs

Stan Efferding

Tibor Meszaros: 837 lbs

Tibor Meszaros

Mike Tuscherer: 832 lbs

Mike Tuscherer

Nick Best: 815 lbs

Nick Best

Vince Anello: 810 lbs

Vince Anello

Derrick Poundstone: 800 lbs x 9

Derrick Poundstone

Ronnie Coleman: 800 lbs x 2

Ronnie Coleman

Vytautas Lalas: 792 lbs x 5

Vytautas Lalas

Pat Mendes: 728 lbs x 4

Pat Mendes

What did you observe? Here’s what I see:

  • Shins are extremely vertical – this was the biggest eye-opener for me
  • Hips are high, but never higher than the shoulders – getting the hammies into the lift is absolutely paramount
  • Spines are flexed, but not too flexed, and more so in the upper back compared to the low back
  • Shoulders are rounded forward – scaps are never retracted
  • Bar skims the shins – it never drifts away from the lifter
  • Torso angle varies – some are more vertical while others are more horizontal, but it appears to stay between 10 and 50 degrees relative to the horizontal, so this is likely dependent on the individual
  • Stance and grip width varies – some lifters take a wider stance and some take a narrower stance, so this is likely dependent on the individual
  • Foot flare varies – some lifters point their feet straight ahead and some turn their feet out, so this is likely dependent on the individual
  • Shoulder position relative to the bar varies – some lifters have their shoulders in front of the bar and some have the shoulders directly above the bar, so this is likely dependent on the individual
  • Head-neck position varies – some lifters look down, some look forward, and some look up, so this is likely dependent on the individual

It’s worth noting that a handful of these lifters bend over significantly and don’t appear to rely on any leg drive whatsoever to accomplish these pulls, and yet they’re some of the strongest deadlifters that the world has seen. If they were training in a commercial gym, a slew of pencil-neck lifters would surely scoff at their form. If these accomplished deadlifters could pull greater loads using more leg-drive, they would. But it doesn’t suit their strengths, so they naturally gravitate toward pulling in a manner than maximizes their poundages. Furthermore, the squat is unlikely to transfer very well to these lifters’ deadlifts and vice-versa. Take home point – learn how to work with your body to maximize your strength, but remember that the lifter who trains injury-free week in and week out makes greater gains than the lifter who is consistently riddled with pain and injuries.


So what are the keys to stronger deadlifts?

  1. Having rather vertical shins and high hips (but not too high) as soon as the bar leaves the ground in order to get full output of the hamstrings into the pull
  2. Skimming the body with the bar as it rises
  3. Limiting lumbar flexion but allowing for some thoracic flexion and scapular protraction

Your torso angle will vary but shouldn’t be too upright or too horizontal – keep it in between 10 and 50 degrees relative to the horizontal. Stance widths, grip widths, and foot flares will vary, just don’t stand too wide – slightly outside shoulder width is acceptable. Shoulder position will vary but should either be slightly in front of the bar or right above – never behind the bar. Finally, optimal head-neck position will vary as well according to individual preference, but it’s never cranked too far back or too far forward – keep the head-neck in mid-ranges.

Take some pictures of your heavy deadlift form and compare it to the pictures in this article. If something is off, then you might be leaving some room on the table for increased strength. Remember, it’s highly unusual to learn a new technique and immediately set a PR in the gym. If your form isn’t up to snuff, start working with your technique, and remember to gradually increase the loading. However tempting it may be, be patient and let form improvements “cement” so you don’t end up reverting to old habits. Hopefully I’ve helped arouse excitement for your next deadlift session. Train hard and train smart.


Posted: 20/02/2012 in English, WOD
Tags: , ,

Sumo DL 5×5 up to 120kg

Bench press up to 1RM 107,5kg

Push up 4×20

KB swing 4×20 24kg

For time: 4`39″

200 double-under


Posted: 13/02/2012 in English, WOD
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Suitcase deadlift 4×10/side, 18,22,24,24kg

Bench press up to 3RM 100kg

Push up 4×20

KB swing 3×20, 24kg

Pull up 4×13

For time:3`05″

50 sit ups

40 bend over row 20kg

30 squats

20 mountaineer

10 dips


Posted: 08/02/2012 in English, WOD
Tags: , ,

Sumo Deadlift up to 1RM, 140kg

Bench presses up to 5RM, 90kg

Push ups 4×20

KB swing 4×20, 18kg, 18, 24, 24

Inverted row on bar 4×15

For time: 5`50″

100 pull ups


Posted: 30/01/2012 in English, WOD
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Sumo DL  3RM up to 120kg

Floor press 4×10 up to 25kg/side

Push ups 4×20

American swing 4×20 24kg

Pull ups 4×10

For time: 10`18″

Burpee 10-9…..1

HSPU  1-2…….10


Posted: 31/12/2011 in English, WOD
Tags: , ,

For time: 8’40”

50 deadlift (60 kg)

50 dips

50 box jump (40 cm)

50 burpee


Posted: 26/11/2011 in English, WOD
Tags: , ,

For time: 29`13″

4 rounds

5 HSPU on paralette

10 Ring dips

15 Pull ups

20 SDLHP (sumo deadlift high pull), 24kg kettlebell

25 kettlebell presses, same arm/round

30 Sit ups

35 Push ups


Posted: 18/11/2011 in English, WOD
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Bench presses 5×3 up to 102,5kg

Straight-leg deadlift 5×8 up to 70kg

For time:  7`22″




Ring dip

Push up


Posted: 04/11/2011 in English, WOD
Tags: , , ,

Floor press with dumbbells

4×10 up to 32 kg/side

Sumo DL

4×3 up to 140kg

Accessory exercises:

KB swing (russian) 5×20 with 24kg, 32, 32, 50, 50

Push up variation, 4×20 on ring, fitball, paralette

Pull up up to 1RM 45kg

For time: my time: 11`14″

100 jumprope

50 squat

100 jumprope

50 sit up

100 jumprope

50 walking lunges

100 jumprope

50 sledgehammer

100 jumprope

50 pull up