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Deadlift 5 Plates Like a Champion

There arent many things you can do in the gym that are manlier than
deadlifting a heavy barbell loaded with five plates per side. Its the ultimate cool
factor, the one movement everyone stops to watch (plus it means youre strong
as hell).
I remember reading a passage from Brawn, a book by Stuart McRobert, that said
with a few years of smart training, any average Joe should be able to bench 300
pounds, squat 400 pounds, and deadlift 500 pounds. (1) Thats a good goal for
sure, but not one that many guys are hitting.
In my experience as a lifter, strength coach, and personal trainer, Ive found its
pretty easy for a typical male to reach a 400-pound deadlift with proper training.
But a 495-pound deadlift is much more rare, something thats attainable only
with hard work, proper technique, and focus on assistance exercises for the
supporting muscles. At commercial gyms, Ive only seen a small handful of guys
pull over 495 pounds (and Ive only seen one guy pull 600).
There have been many amazing articles written about the proper way to perform
a deadlift, but very few of them focus on the assistance exercises that truly make
the 500-pound deadlift achievable. You can have the best form in the world, but
without a strong body and supporting muscles, the bar is going to stay on the
floor.
Getting strong on the assistance exercises will go a long way in helping you to
achieve the coveted 500-pound deadlift, but before we address the exercises,
lets talk about your weak points (dont worryeveryone has them!).
Find the Weak Link and Fix it!
Your deadlift will always be limited by a particular weak link, but if youre able to
hone in on what that is, you can strengthen it and make it a strong link. A weak
link could be related to a weak muscle, immobility, or improper motor patterns. If
squatting and deadlifting were the end-all-be-all, there wouldnt be any weak
linksthe body would simply get stronger and more mobile in proper proportions.
This is rarely the case, which is why we need assistance exercises to shore up our
weak links.
But how do you determine what your weak link is? Ive got a cool list for you
below. Go through it and be honest with yourself its the only way to address
the problem and get you stronger.
You have weak glutes if you:

Round your low back during deadlifts to make the back conduct the lift
rather than the hips and legs.

Round your upper back during deadlifts. This can be acceptable, though
many strong powerlifters do this because they cant push their
conventional deadlift max up further if they kept their upper back arched.)

Let your hips rise first in the squat thereby turning the lift into a squat
morning.

Suck at locking out your deadlifts.

Stop short or hyperextend the low back during the deadlift lockout.

Dont have much power out of the hole when squatting.

Let your knees cave inward during squats or sumo deads.

Suck at hip thrusts, glute bridges, and pull-throughs and feel them all in
the low back and hamstrings.

Have minimal glute hypertrophy.

Never feel your glutes turn on or dont feel soreness in them from squats
or lunges.

You have weak hamstrings if you:

Have trouble sitting back in a squat.

Dont have good starting strength in the deadlift, where the most difficult
part is getting it off the floor.

Suck at arched back good mornings, RDLs, back extensions, 45-degree


hypers, and reverse hypers.

Sink like a ship during Russian leg curls and find yourself cheating like
crazy during glute ham raises.

Try to squat the weight up when doing rack pulls rather than stiff leg
deadlifting the weight up.

Are much better at trap bar deadlifts than conventional deadlifts.

Can raw squat more than you can conventional deadlift.

Can sumo deadlift way more than you can conventional deadlift.

You have weak quads if you:

Turn every squat into a squat morning, especially as the weight gets
heavy (this could also be due to weak glutes and/or weak thoracic
extensors).

Suck at front squats, Olympic high bar full squats, barbell Bulgarian squats,
barbell step-ups, and barbell lunges

Can stiff leg deadlift pretty much the same weight as you can conventional
deadlift.

Can conventional deadlift way more than you can squat.

You have weak thoracic extensors if you:

Have trouble keeping the chest up during squats and good mornings.

Suck at thoracic extensions.

Kick ass at movements that isolate the hips and legs, such as belt squats
or hip thrusts, but suck ass when the bar is on your back or in your hands.

You have weak abdominals if you:

Round your low back during deadlifts (this could also be weak glutes and
poor hamstring flexibility).

Experience your abs literally caving in when you deadlift heavy (which can
be seen when you deadlift with your shirt off).

Suck at ab-wheel rollouts, weighted planks, side planks, straight leg situps, side bends, landmines, and hanging leg raises.

Can squat way more when you wear a belt than when you dont wear one.

You have weak forearms if you:

Perform a heavy deadlift with sub-maximal acceleration because you know


it will slip out of your hands if you rise too fast.

Chalk up for every upper and lower body pulling exercise.

Can deadlift much more when you wear wrist straps than when you dont
wear them.

Suck at masturbating (ok, I made that one up).

Andy Bolton - the first to demonstrate a deadlift of over a thousand


pounds (1,009lbs)
I should mention that nearly every lifters form breaks down when going super
heavy. This is how you determine your weak link. Anyone can use perfect form
when going light (assuming they have appropriate levels of hip, ankle, and
thoracic mobility and sufficient levels of core stability), so rest assured that even
the strongest lifters have weak links.
Maximizing your deadlift has very much to do with achieving optimal strength
balances among all of the deadlifting muscles. That said, due to variations in
body segment lengths, sometimes a lifter will need exceptional strength in a
particular muscle. For example, a tall individual with a long torso and long legs
needs freakishly strong glutes in order to use proper deadlifting form because his
hips will be considerably further away from the bar than a shorter lifter.
Find the Lifts that Train Your Weak Link
For long-term strength development, its critical that you begin to learn the lifts
that improve your weak link. These lifts tend to be highly correlated with your

deadlift or squat. Below is a brief rundown of some of the lifts that powerlifters
have used to build big lifts. Note that these lifts can be very different from one
person to the next due to differences in body structure and weak individual
muscles.
Every expert has his own likes and dislikes when it comes to building the big lifts.
Mike Robertson raves about glute-ham raises. (2) Jim Wendler likes the power
squat machine, 45-degree back raise, and rack pull. (3) Dave Tate prefers the
good morning. (4) Michael Brugger performed Olympic squats, Eddie Coppin
preferred the front squat (which helped him keep his chest up during deadlifts),
while George Clark utilized the hack lift. (5) Vince Anello swore by the negative
accentuated deadlift. (6) Andy Bolton likes leg presses. (7) So did Steve Goggins.
(8) Brent Mikesell likes Smith machine squats. (9) Ed Coan performed mostly
pause squats and close-stance high bar squats and sometimes threw in Smith
machine squats and hack squats. (10) Fred Hatfield liked to perform thoracic
extensions off a glute-ham bench. (11) Leonid Taranenko preferred the barbell
step up over the squat to strengthen his Olympic lifts. (12) Louie Simmons is a
big believer in the box squat and good morning. (13) (14)
What gives? Well, in each of these cases, the lifters found assistance lifts that
strengthened a weak link. Weak links may change over time, requiring constant
evolution in training. Conversely, due to differences in body segments, a lifter
may train a certain muscle or lift indefinitely and never strengthen the weak link
to the point where it becomes a strong link. Thats just the way it goes
sometimes
Mind-Muscle Connection
Bodybuilders constantly use the term mind-muscle connection. Its imperative
that you feel the right muscles working during the deadlift. You should feel the
hamstrings activating down low, the glutes pushing the hips forward up top, the
lats and back muscles pulled taught, and the core braced (albeit with a belly of
air). If youre not feeling the right muscles working, then you need to learn how to
activate them by flexing them as hard as possible a few times throughout the day
(loadless training) and by going lighter and really feeling the muscles doing the
work (low-load training).
Sometimes taking a step back allows a lifter to then take two steps forward. If
you want to be a rockstar deadlifter, you should be able to squeeze your glutes
so damn hard they feel like theyre about to rip off the bone! In our industry, we
often hear the phrase, train movements, not muscles. In order to perform
perfect movements, we need perfect strength balances in the muscles, so a
better statement is train movements and muscles!

Deadlifting multiple plates just looks goddamn impressive


Deadlifting Muscles
Although all of the muscles involved in deadlifting are generally active
throughout the full range of motion, certain muscles are more active during
different parts of the exercise. Its important to strengthen all of the deadlifting
muscles and in proper proportions with one another. The following is not a
ranking, just a list.
Erector spinae - The low back musculature needs massive amounts of isometric
strength in order to maintain an arch throughout the deadlift. Failure to possess
this strength will inevitably lead to low back injury. Depending on your form, the
thoracic extensors need considerable amounts of isometric or concentric strength
as well (upper back rounders use concentric strength while upper back archers
use isometric strength). In order to prevent injuries in the training process, the
low back also needs tremendous levels of stamina. My EMG experiments have
shown that the entire musculature of the back, including the erectors, lats,
rhomboids, and traps, are highly activated throughout the deadlift.
Hamstrings/Adductors - The hamstrings are the most important muscle group
down low. Strong hamstrings equal great starting strength and excellent
acceleration off the floor. Down low, the adductors serve as hip extensors and
contribute considerably to starting strength. The hamstring part of the adductor
magnus is a powerful hip extensor through a larger range of motion.
Glutes - The glutes are the most important muscle group up high. Strong glutes
equal great finishing strength and lockouts and are also the secret to great form.

Abs/Obliques - Strong abs and obliques brace the core to protect the low back
and help prevent the low back from caving in during the lift, which is highly
dangerous.
Forearms - Many great deadlifters have been limited by grip strength. Put simply,
you can only pull as much as you can grip. Having incredible grip strength aids in
acceleration as a weak grip will force a slow deadlift.
Quads - The quads are important for proper form because they help to ensure
that the knees move in synchronicity with the hips and shoulders.
Best Deadlift Assistance Exercises
Without further ado, lets list the best deadlift assistance exercises!
The Glutes
Best Exercises that Work the Glutes in a Stretched Position:
1. Full Squats
2. Front Squats
3. Zercher Squats
Best Exercises that Work the Glutes at End-Range Contraction:
1. Barbell Glute Bridges (see video)
2. Barbell Hip Thrusts (see video)
3. Pull-Throughs
Other Great Glute Exercises:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Pendulum Donkey Kicks (see video)


Seated Abduction (see video)
Band Hip Rotation (see video)
Weighted Bird Dogs (see video)
Elevated Lunges
Bottom Up Single Leg Hip Thrusts (see video)

The Hamstrings
Best Exercises that Work the Hamstrings in a Stretched Position:
1. Deficit Deadlifts
2. Good Mornings
3. Snatch Grip Deadlifts
Best Exercises that Work the Hamstrings at End-Range Contraction:
1. Weighted Back Extensions
2. Reverse Hypers (see video)
3. 45-Degree Back Raises (see video)
Other Great Hamstring Exercises:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Dimel Deadlifts (see video)


Glute-Ham Raises (see video)
Russian Leg Curls
Gliding Leg Curls (see video)
Standing Single Leg Pendulum Leg Curls (see video)
Rack Pulls

The Erector Spinae and Upper Back


1. Thoracic Extensions (see video)
2. Front Squats (possibly the best and most overlooked upper back
strengthener?)
3. Safety Bar Upper Back Good Mornings
4. Seated Good Mornings
5. Bent Over Rows
6. T-Bar Rows
7. Shrugs
8. One Arm Lever Rows (see video)
The Abs/Obliques
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Ab Wheel Rollouts (see video)


Straight Leg Sit Ups
Hanging Leg Raises
Side Bends
Weighted Front Planks (see video)
Suitcase Holds (see video)
Band Anti-Rotary Hold (see video)
The Grappler (see video)

The Quads
1. Leg Press (yes, the leg press is great for deadlifting & quad strength off the
floor)
2. Full Squat, Parallel Squat, Half Squat
3. Hack Lift
4. Bulgarian Split Squat
5. Forward Front Lunge
6. Low Barbell Step Up
7. Front Squat Harness Squat (see video)
8. Pendulum Donkey Kick
The Forearms
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Deficit Deadlift (longer TUT)


Rack Pull (heavier load)
Deadlifts against Bands (accommodating resistance)
Barbell Shrugs
One Arm Lever Rows
Mixed Grip Static Holds

Wrap-up
Dont worry about what program youre doing or how your sets and reps are set
up. Identify your weak links, fix them with the exercises I listed above, and then
come back to the deadlift. I think youll be very surprised with how much stronger
you are!