Deadlift Deconstruction - The Basics [Part 1]

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The almighty deadlift - my favourite lift of all time.

The deadlift is easily my favourite lift of all time. A combination of technique, raw strength, and balls-to-the-wall motivation are a tasty combination of flavours that result in a heavy pull. It can get a bad rep for "hurting peoples back" but similar to squats "hurting knees", if performed responsibly (ego lifting is your fault, not the exercises) it is perfectly safe.

It isn't abs, shoulders and biceps that are the sign of a man with raw strength. No. Its the dude with a big ass, thick traps, and meaty fore arms. The mirror muscles are cool to have, but they are no substitute for a real strong functional physique...and the deadlift takes no prisoners in any of these areas.

Benefits of Deadlifts

  • Builds your entire back, most noticeably the traps.
  • Builds the glutes
  • Builds thick juicy hamstrings
  • Improves posture and overall stability
  • Builds raw strength
  • Increases manliness (or womanliness for all the strong females out there!)
  • Postive hormone production due to handling some heavy weight!

The Basics - How to perform the lift correctly.

In the video above, I break down how to perform a conventional deadlift (which the deadlift I will be writing about, sumo deadlifts will be covered in a later video and blog).

Take 5 minutes, and learn these 5 steps to pull correctly and consistently. Go through the steps in your head every time you're setting up, until you eventually go through all of them without thinking. It needs to be drilled in, and eventually will become instinctual. All the people I know that have hurt themselves deadlifting usually do it in the warm up sets, or the back down sets when they stop respecting the weight. They let their form go and take a trip to snap city. This seldom happens when hitting your working sets BECAUSE you stay conscious of what you're doing. Your light sets should look identical to your heavy sets.

Keys to success:

  • Start with the bar on the ground.
  • Stand with your shins 2-4cm away from the bar (looking down at the bar, the bar should "cut your feet in half")
  • Grab the bar without bending your knees...DO NOT MOVE THE BAR
  • Drop your shins into the bar by lowering your hips.
  • Squeeze chest up to flatten back
  • Push your feet into the floor and drive your hips forward to execute the lift, the bar should stay close to your body.
  • The lift is finished when you lock the hips out, standing nice and tall.

What weight should be a goal for me to be able to do?

Your deadlift should be the heaviest lift you are able to do in the  gym out of the traditional big three. If it is weaker than your squat or your bench press, you have some serious muscle imbalances going on (or you're built differently, such as having short arms and a long torso).

I truly believe that every male with a year of consistent training should be able to deadlift 180kg for a single. Most won't, but all should. If you are no where near that, I suggest you jump on my free novice strength plan. Download it here, and thank me later.

Girls should be deadlifting too, especially if you want to live in yoga pants like the vast majority of girls do these days. A great goal for a girl is a 100kg deadlift. Here's my partner in crime Sophie doing just that at just over 50kg body weight.

How many times a week should I perform the deadlift?

The deadlift is VERY taxing on your nervous system, especially as a beginner when using a moderate amount of volume. It is my professional judgement that most people can only handle one or two days of deadlifting a week.I hesitate to even say two days, because depending on the loads you're working with, this may even be to much. Your body will adapt to squatting and benching 3+ times a week, but the deadlift (through my experience) will break you before you can hit such frequency. That is why in my novice plan  referenced above works out to deadlifts 1.5x a week (every second week you'll be doing it twice). In order to handle more frequency, you have to drop the load, and in order to drop the load enough for it not to break you you'll find that you're not moving enough weight to still find it interesting.

You will see people on instagram and youtube that deadlift multiple times a week. They are usually competitive powerlifters, and have years of experience under their belt. If you're reading this that probably isn't you - hell it isn't even me. 


Okay, okay, I get it. It's a fun lift that you can really challenge yourself. You like the ability to move some heavy weight, and celebrate it by slamming the bar back down (well thats what I do, but perhaps don't do it in a commercial gym).

The main muscle group that usually take the brunt of excessive deadlifting is your lower back. So if you want to get more pull volume in then I suggest adding rack pulls or block pulls in on another day.

Note that these lifts still serve a purpose, so whether its strength or size that you're after, choose accordingly.

For strength and carry-over to the actual deadlift, set the bar up so it starts somewhere between your mid shin and below the knee. This will work the main movers of the deadlift, allowing more volume, but ultimately lessen the amount of stress on the lower back.

Here's an example of this :

If you are pulling ABOVE the knee, you can pull a hell of a lot of weight` for a whole heap of volume. However, this will take the posterior chain out of the movement (the main mover for the deadlift), but you'll still have the stretch on the traps and upper back. This is a very effective way of building muscle in this area.

Now go out and lift!

I'll leave it at that for this blog. The next blog will go into a bit more detail on weak point training, overloading, and other bits and pieces. If you have any questions about the deadlift, or training in general, feel free to message me on any of my social medias!

Here's one final video of me deadlift 200kg for 10 singles. I know, deadlifts are pretty cool right?