Exercise Specificity For Improved Deadlift Strength
My intent for the following post, based on my experiences, is to concisely explain why I believe certain exercises will add to your deadlift (DL) strength.
Let me get one thing clear first. If you want to DL more, the best exercise is the DL. The title is “exercise specificity.” There is no exercise more specific to the DL than the DL. This will not be a post displaying a rudimentary level of common sense.
That statement is meant to include any typical DL variation: deficit, pause, SLDL, block, bands, chains, and so forth. If it is called a DL, and performed with a barbell, it is more specific than what we will discuss.
Last preface: RDL, Trap Bar, kettlebell, landmine, machine based, or any other exercise you have seen labeled a DL performed without a barbell held with two hands, on two feet, beginning on the ground, and situated length wise in front of the body is not a competition DL variation.
Typically a DL variation will be performed upfront in a training session. There may be as few as one, and as many as three close variations, used in a single training session. There is only one appropriate amount of loading volume for a training session on the DL. This volume can be executed completely in one DL variation, or distributed out over two to three variations.
Example: 30 – 35 Total Repetitions @ 60-65%, 3-5 Reps Per Set, 7 – 10 sets
Correct: Competition DL: 4 x 5 @ 65% (120sec – 180sec rest), Deficit DL (1.5″): 6 x 2 @ 60% (90sec Rest)
Incorrect: Competition DL: 6 x 5 @ 60% (120-180sec rest), Deficit DL (1.5″): 6 x 2 @ 60% (90 sec rest)
This principle must be adhered to in order to correctly manage the optimal training stress that can be recovered from within the program as a whole.
If our goal with training is to place an emphasis on the improvement of DL strength we can be more specific with our training stimulus by adjusting the volume of other competing lifts (i.e. the squat) to allow for more DL volume. We can also be more specific to our training goal by choosing secondary exercises that are more specific to aiding in DL strength. Lastly, and more likely most appropriate, we can do both; adjust the volume of competing lifts and choose more specific secondary exercises to the DL.
Secondary exercises for the DL should focus on meeting as many of the 5 criterion to “specific exercise” as possible. Meeting all 5 would mean the exercise is specific enough to be a competition DL variation, and therefore would need to be the primary focus of the training day as mentioned above.
Muscle groups involved in exercise
Range Of Motion (ROM) and Direction
Part Of Movement Amplitude
Character Of Force Effort Applying (CFE)
Regime Of Muscle Contraction (RMC)
(taken from: The Practical Paradigm: Specialized Exercise Explained)
Read Also: Special Strength Training Manual For Coaches, SuperTraining, Science And Practice Of Strength Training, Fundamentals Of Special Strength-Training In Sport, Programming and Organization of Training
Common secondary DL variations have become proven staples for a reason, they meet many of these criterion.
Barbell RDL: Very close in nature, with small differences in ROM, CFE, and RMC.
Good Mornings: Very close in nature, with slightly more differences in ROM, CFE, RMC.
Many other exercises come close, but mainly rely on meeting one or more of the first three criterion. There are however, from what I gather, two great ways to make the CFE and RMC more specific:
First, perform the exercise from a dead stop. Second, load exercises in front of the hips.
The DL is performed with no eccentric portion. The bar is loaded in front of the hips at all times.
If we can do one, or both of those things, we can improve the transfer of the exercise to deadlift strength. We can take exercises that aren’t specific enough to warrant a lot of volume consideration and effectively use them on top of the DL training volume to improve the overall specificity of the training stimulus.
Here are some of the exercises I have used:
SSB Squats From The Pins: (The small SSB camber will help shift the load in front of the hips) SSB Good Morning / From Pins:
Front Squat, Paused Front Squat, Front Squat Hold, Straight Arm Front Squat, Front Squat From Pins (Typically considered a secondary squat exercises, the anterior loading actually makes if more specific to the DL. the variations shown are simply ways to overload the benefit that the anterior loading provides):
Zercher Squat, Paused Zercher Squat, Zercher Hold, Zercher From Pins (Same reasons as the Front Squat, with even greater load shift in front of hips):
These are a few of my favorites. You can also get creative and simply shift more of your load placements on lunges, and carries to the front.
For more on programming, exercises technique, and all things squat, DL and bench press related please join us on August 14th for Optimizing The Big 3 at Cressey Sports Performance, Hudson MA. —> CLICK HERE