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10 Week Deadlift Domination

10 Week Deadlift Domination

The deadlift, undoubtedly the king of all exercises, will either be your favorite thing to do or the bane of your existence. For many people who get stuck at plateaus or just generally don’t like deadlifting, most issues come down to one of three problems:



  • You don’t know how to hinge properly
  • You have an imbalance in strength between thoracic erectors and hamstrings
  • You just aren’t very strong

While there can be other issues which are going on, it will usually be a combination of the above three that cause most people grief.

Issues around deadlifting are something I discuss with members and people often, and this article is an attempt to put all my thoughts around them down on paper. While it’s nowhere an exhaustive list or a complete how to do everything, I hope it can give you a bit more of an understanding about common issues that may impact you, and some strategies you might try to help you get past them.

Part 1 – The Hip Hinge

The hip hinge is one of the five basic movement patterns – squat, hinge, upper body push, upper body pull and carry. Forming the basis for the deadlift (and anything related to it), the hip hinge consists of two phases – hip flexion with a posterior weight shift while retaining a completely neutral lumbar spine, followed by complete hip extension via the hamstrings/glutes and ending up in a neutral but ‘stacked’ position – neutral pelvis, slight extension in the lumbar spine, rib cage tucked down and shoulders directly over the middle of the foot. This movement pattern performed correctly ensures that the abdominal muscles are being used to stabilise and brace the lumbar spine, and the hamstrings are being used for the majority of hip extension, finished off with the glutes.

The large majority of people I see with issues deadlifting comes down not being able to hinge properly. It will lead to poor lockout from underuse of the hip extensors (glutes, hamstrings), can lead to overactivity of the spinal erectors as well as unintentional movement through the lumbar spine, which can contribute to lower back issues.

To resolve this, I like to include calf-supported RDL’s as an activation exercise prior to training, but these can also be done any time you go into the gym. 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps should do the trick – quality over quantity.

Takeaway points:

  • ensure you feel your weight shifting slightly backwards before your torso hinges over – this will ensure your body is moving in the correct manner
  • get to know the sensation of reaching your end of ROM at the point where your lumbar spine starts to flex – avoid this happening with pattering worn.
  • always picture tucking your hips slightly forward to engage your glutes, especially at the locked position
  • maintain your knees being slightly unlocked, but try to reduce just flexing the knees

Part 2 – Imbalance of Strength Between Thoracic Erectors and Hamstrings

The thoracic erectors and hamstrings play a huge role in the success of your deadlift. As most people will know, the hamstrings role is to extend the hips when you pull, allowing your torso to move towards a vertical position. While your hamstrings are applying torque to extend the hips, all of this effort has to be transferred through the torso, down the arms and into the bar. It’s the job of the thoracic erectors (along with a few others) to help maintain a neutral or slightly flexed thoracic spine, which allows you to move properly all the way through to lockout without your upper back excessively rounding.

Note – some slight rounding is absolutely normal, and actually preferable and this is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is those people who start to pull, and immediately look like a fish hook.

What’s happening is this – as your upper back rounds, you effectively shorten the lever arm from your hips to the shoulders. What this does is ‘artificially’ increase the amount of torque your hamstrings can apply to the hips, which may or may not allow you to get the weight from the ground. If this does arbitrarily make you ‘strong’ enough to get the bar from the ground, then when you get to just before lockout you may not have the upper back strength to extend your thoracic erectors – meaning you get stuck, and miss your lifts.

A helpful analogy is thinking of trying to turn a bolt with a spanner. If the bolt is really tight, you’ll want to get a much longer handled spanner to be able to push down on the end of to turn the nut. In this situation however, your hamstrings are the bolt, which is trying to turn the spanner with a weight hanging off the end. The shorter the spanner (your back) gets, the less force it needs to be able to turn.

Ideally, your thoracic erectors will as strong, or stronger, than the amount of effort required by your hamstrings to be able to get the bar through to lockout. Where this is the situation and you can move well, some intentional thoracic rounding can be used to make your hamstrings ‘stronger’, and allows for a little bit more speed off the ground while being able to extend the thoracic spine at the top for a proper lockout.

This is a better situation to be in than weak thoracic erectors and strong hamstrings as there is a higher likelihood you’ll be able to lock deadlifts out regardless of how ‘bad’ they look, so I like to include some extra thoracic erector work for everybody – most people will (or should) be putting some real work in on their hamstrings already, so no extra focus is needed.

Seated SSB Thoracic Extensions are a great way of getting your thoracic erectors fired up, which can help you use these muscles in many different movements and get them much stronger. 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps is a good start – quality over quantity.

Takeaway points:

  • ensure you’re tucking your hips forward slightly preventing the movement from originating in your lumbar spine
  • think about ‘crumpling’ forward through your upper back, keeping your neck neutral
  • once all the way flexed, imagine driving through the backs of your shoulders, lifting your elbows slightly and trying to flare the bottom of your ribcage out
  • once you’ve reached as much extension as you have, hold for a second and repeat

Part 3 – You’re Just Not Very Strong

Assuming that you can hinge properly, and you have a relative balance between your hamstring and thoracic erector strength, there’s a final issue which many people struggle with – they’re just not that strong.

Deadlifts require a lot of time, effort, and preferably winning the genetic lottery to quickly get very good at them. They require the coordination of many muscle groups and systems through the body and a large degree of CNS excitation. You cannot ‘fake’ being strong at deadlifts – you just have to be strong.

Many people I see asking why they aren’t very good at deadlifting don’t need to change their stance, add in straps or belts, do any ridiculous programs or anything of the sort – they just need to continue to train sensibly over a long period of time, and deal with any issues they face as they occur.

The Ideal Deadlift Setup

Once you know how to hinge and activate your thoracic erectors, setting up for a deadlift correctly is very easy. Keep in mind this is an ‘ideal’ setup – it’s meant as a good starting point for the majority of people, but may need some changes to best apply to you.

  • Stand under the middle of the bar, with your feet roughly shoulder width apart and turned out slightly, and the bar over your mid foot
  • Rotate your pelvis slightly forward to a more neutral position, and engage your thoracic erectors to ‘lock’ your upper body in.
  • Take a big breath in, and brace your abs (a topic which needs a whole article on itself).
  • Hinge by pushing your hips backwards, which should bring your center of gravity backwards slightly.
  • Once you reach the point where you’ve hinged as far as you can without rounding your lumbar, bend your knees until you’re at a point where you can grab onto the bar but still feel the tightness in your hamstrings.
  • Using your thoracic erectors, ‘take the slack’ out of the barbell by lifting up on it slightly. This should shift your center of gravity right into the middle of your foot again, and get you into a pretty good start position.
  • Holding the position you’re in, you’re trying to do three things at the same time – driving through your feet to activate your quads, use the hamstrings to start extending the hips with the hinge movement, and using your glutes to maintain external rotation, prevent knee valgus and help finish off the hinge.
  • Finish by standing ‘tall’, and focus on squeezing the quads to prevent soft knees and glutes to prevent soft hips.
  • Do the exact opposite series of events to get the bar back to the ground – hinge backwards until you feel tension on the hamstrings, then bend the knees to lower the bar. You don’t have to ‘undeadlift’ it, but you do want to be practicing both the eccentric and concentric portion of the movement.

As this will be very different to how most people commonly set up, I prefer to treat each rep like a single, fully standing up and resetting between each rep.  This will definitely make your sets take much longer, but you’ll have more chances to practice good quality movement.

Deadlifting Myths

There are a whole bunch of myths around progressing your deadlift, and a whole bunch of (often conflicting) information out there from various sources. While most of the information has a chance of being applicable except for the absolute worst of it, I do get frustrated at what gets repeated ad nauseam without the advisee thinking critically about what they’re saying. Let’s talk about some of the most common pieces of deadlift advice:

“You should try to get your hips lower when you deadlift to protect your back”

The absolute bane of any good coach’s existence. 99% of people who repeat this don’t understand the simple mechanics of how deadlifts work.

As most people try to arbitrarily drop their hips lower, they’re going to round through their lumbar. This directly impacts the ability of the glutes and hamstrings to do their job and move properly. This occurs simultaneously with the knees ending right up over the toes and in front of the shoulders. This combination of events finished with the fact most people aren’t going to be strong enough to front raise their max deadlift means the hips are going to shoot up first. As the hips shoot up, they’re going to turn what should be a smooth movement from the start position to lockout into a two or three stage movement, which leads to a lot of inefficiencies and wasted energy trying to get back into position.

If you’re deadlifting and your hips fire up before the bar moves, a good rule of thumb is to try and start with your hips around that point. It should be ballpark of the ‘ideal’ position for you to be in.

Here’s something I see repeated ad nauseum, generally by people who have no idea what they’re saying – regardless of the…

Posted by Valhalla Strength – South Brisbane on Monday, April 3, 2017

“Weak at lockout? Just do lots of rack pulls”

Knowing the deadlift is a hinge movement, and that many lockout issues are occurring because the athlete is bad at hinging, wrecking your body and CNS on movements which don’t actually emphasize a full ROM hinge makes absolutely no sense! As well as contributing to poor motor learning, the fact many people just throw on a tonne of weight and aim to shift it fast means they’re more likely to be using valuable training time and effort on something which isn’t going to solve their problems whatsoever

Rack pulls most certainly have their place – they are a great tool used for hypertrophy in the off-season, and vital for anybody training strongman who has an event from a raised height coming up.

If you suck at locking your deadlift out, the first step should be teaching yourself how to hinge properly, and assessing whether weak hamstrings or weak glutes are causing your issues. Once you’ve got that solved, working your way down to a 1-3” deficit and focusing on movement quality is a great way to work towards improving your lockout and overall strength – not only do deficits put more of an emphasis on hamstring strength, but done properly they are great for reinforcing a good hinge movement with a necessary reduction in load.

“Strongmen and strongwomen should never sumo deadlift as it’s pointless”

I’ve covered this before in my ‘5 Reasons Strongmen Should Sumo Deadlift’ article, so I’ll just gloss over the points again here. Some variant of sumo deads are an incredibly useful training tool, and can do a lot to improve your conventional pull; which most of us are interested in.

Common reasons people use against sumo deadlifting in training, and why they’re wrong:

  • “It’s cheating” – cheating is breaking the rules. There are no rules that say you can’t pull sumo in training
  • “It’s easier” – while this may be true of doing some variants of pulls from a non-standard height, I’m yet to see anybody making this claim who is better at pulling sumo off the ground than pulling conventional
  • “It’s only for women” – weird flex, but ok. Tell that to all of the ridiculous male sumo pullers who can pull more than most of the people making these claims can total.

5 reasons you should sumo deadlift:

  • Increased hip strength – you want to be good at events like stones, you’re going to need strong hips. Sumo deads are a great way to get you there.
  • Increased upper back training volume – taking the leverage advantage from pulling from raised heights, you can overload sumo block pulls considerably for extra upper back volume, without contributing to poor hinge patterning (which are more pronounced with block or rack pulls)
  • Decreased lumbar shear forces – it’s no mystery that many events are particularly tough on the lower back. Being able to reduce these forces can contribute to being able to do a larger volume of training and gain more muscle/strength with a reduced chance of lower back issues.
  • Teaches patience – a good sumo deadlift will always be slow off the ground, then speed up considerably when it gets moving. Teaching you to be patient instead of sacrificing positioning speed is a great skill to learn which directly applies to conventional deadlifting.

If you don’t have the required mobility to be able to pull proper sumo (not just wide stance conventional), then starting off high blocks and working your way down to the floor is what I would recommend most lifters do.

The Program

The program is structured to cover all areas – explosiveness (broad jumps and CAT deadlifts), posterior chain strength (deficit SLDL and sumo block pulls) and upper back/torso strength (paused front squats and power shrugs). These are done at a relatively low percentage, but for high volume. This is combined with a big volume of upper body pulling and posterior chain accessory work (to be done in a superset manner), which should ensure all of these weak points are taken care of. Finally, the last cycle is a highly specific, highly intensive block of competition deadlifts, focusing on honing your technique (Monday), ensuring explosiveness (Wednesday) and ensuring good positioning throughout the lift (Friday). If at any point you find yourself struggling with reps, drop 5% off your deadlift max and continue running.

A bit more specific information on the movements involved:

  • CAT deadlifts – using the Compensatory Acceleration Training principles, these are done as explosively as possible WITHOUT SACRIFICING FORM. This is your ‘skills’ practice for the deadlift.
  • Sumo block pulls – lots of lifters, strongmen in particular, avoid the sumo deadlift but it is a great way to bring your posterior chain up to scratch. Pulling off blocks or plates reduces the requirement for great hip mobility, and allows you to handle much bigger weights than you would otherwise be handling. If you’re already used to sumo deadlifting, feel free to increase the load by 10% from the beginning.
  • Paused front squats – one of my favourite deadlift accessory exercises. It will quickly show up any weaknesses in anterior core musculature or upper back, and teach you to stay tight while in the deadlift starting position. Depth isn’t as important as being really solid in your pause, and driving up as fast as you can.
  • Power shrug – let’s face it; who doesn’t want massive traps?! These are a great exercise for developing a strong upper back and explosiveness through the hips.

Now, the program. Fill out your deadlift and front squat maxes up the top right, and then it will auto-calculate everything for you.

Click here to get a copy of the program

Notes on the Program

  • Week 5 should be a legitimate deload week – no main lifts, no high volume of accessory work. Light conditioning, general cardio and patterning work is perfectly fine. You want your body as fresh as possible going into the peaking block as it will be a LOT of work.
  • Week 10 should also be a legitimate deload week, as you want to be as fresh as possible coming in to retest your max.
  • DO NOT start the program if you haven’t already been lifting for a few years, as you won’t get the benefits out of it that people with a solid training history will already get.
  • DO NOT do any other lower body work on the days where you are training. You’re here to focus on your deadlift and nothing else. Upper body work is fine. Your squat should come close to maintaining if not improve from the large amount of posterior chain work you’ll be doing.
  • DO NOT start the program if you have any lower back issues. While the program isn’t dangerous (and I have even used the program myself while recovering from a double lumbar bulge), there will be a lot asked of the lumbar spine and the risk of further injuring yourself isn’t worth it if you don’t know EXACTLY what you are doing.

Happy deadlifting!

Drew Spriggs is the owner of Valhalla Strength – South Brisbane, as well as one of the founders of the Australian Strongman Alliance, Australia’s first strongman federation. You can sign up for Online Coaching with Drew HERE

You can also pick up his UPPER BODY MOBILITY MANUAL E-BOOK here

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Memorial Day Sale!

Thanks for being a reader of Starting Strongman we have marked down all ebooks/programs 20% this weekend along with other sales such as on grip shirts and truck pull simulators



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News Strongman Records

Kristin Rhodes Breaks Circus Dumbbell World Record 175lbs/79.6kg

Kristin Rhodes and Liefia Ingalls made history earlier this year at the Arnold Classic in Columbus Ohio by jointly setting the Circus Dumbbell record for Strongwomen by pressing a 165lb dumbbell for 2 reps. This weekend as a part of the Rogue invitational they attempted to break that by first pressing a 170lb dumbbell which Liefia narrowly missed. Kristin was successful so moved onto the 175lb attempt. After a close miss she recouped to successfully lock out the nearly 80kg dumbbell overhead pushing the record even higher.



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Arnold Classic News Videos

Arnold South Africa Recap & Results 2019

The Arnold South Africa wrapped up this weekend and the young Oleskii Novikov continues to impress winning yet again with Matuesz Kieliszkowski placing second and qualifying for the Arnold Classic in Columbus Ohio in 2020



Watch the video Below for a more in depth recap

Final Results

1. Novikov

2. Kieliszkowski

3. Pritchett

4. Shivlyakov

5. Singleton

6. Etzapour

7. Kramer

8. Belsak

9. Heinla

10. Faires

11. Furhman

12. Reynolds

13. O’Dwyer

Qualified for the Arnold Ohio

Hafthor Bjornsson winner of Arnold World Championship

Robert Thompson winner of Amateur Arnold World Championship

Robert Kearney winner of Arnold Australia

Oleksii Novikov winner of Arnold South America

Mateusz Kieliszkowski runner up of Arnold Africa

Arnold World Series Points

Mikhail Shivlyakov – 25

Matjaz Belsak – 24

Rauno Heinla – 22

Jerry Pritchett – 20

Martins Licis – 9

Eddie Williams – 8

Jimmy Paquet – 7

Evan Singleton – 6

Jitse Kramer – 6

Mohammed Etzapour – 5

Dylan Lockard – 3

Brian Shaw – 3

Rongo Keane – 1

Jean-Francois Caron – 1

Tiago Aparecido – 1

Kevin Faires – 1

Anthony Furhman – 0

Luke Reynolds – 0

Pa O’Dwyer – 0

Matthew Selves – 0

Jean Stephen “Coco” Coraboeuf – 0

Thanks to @craigpfisterer for help with the info

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Articles Josh Thigpen

Top 5 Assistance Movements for Strongman

By Josh Thigpen



Most of us know the main lifts in the gym that help with strongman. Deadlifts obviously, overhead presses, and squats are always a must for leg power. But what about assistance work? Some scoff at certain assistance exercises, but certain movements can really be helpful in strongman.

Some movements can hit muscles at a different angle than say, a regular squat can. Sometimes if a weakness is identified a muscle can be isolated with a specific assistance exercise. This could include any and all machines where appropriate. 


There is no quicker way to show your lack of true strength training knowledge than to show disdain for an assistance movement because you think that it is not hardcore enough. Usually the only people who do this are people relatively new to the game and want to prove they are “in” with the strength world. They then proceed to make fun of any number of exercises like leg extensions, etc. Perhaps the best example of this hubris is when Zydrunas Zavickas started posting videos of himself doing shoulder presses using a Smith machine. You could almost hear the confusion of the lifting world. Brains malfunctioned, feelings were hurt, and some were downright scared.

The strongest presser of all time was using a smith machine? The smith machine is of course the holy grail of mockery when it comes to equipment. Then zydrunas went even further and said it is the best exercise for shoulder strength. Some people never recovered from that statement. It was the greatest lesson ever that anything can be used as a tool to get better. The best are willing to do whatever it is to get better. Needless to say, many people now use a smith machine to build pressing power. 


So here are 5 of my favorite assistance movements for strongman.

I have left squats off the list even though I consider them an assistance movement for strongman. Most people utilize squats in training and sometimes it actually is an event. So, in no particular order they are as follows. 


Leg press- of course it’s always annoying when someone tries to impress you with leg press numbers rather than squat. And when they load it up with too much weight and do 2 inch reps, its equally annoying. Nevertheless, the leg press can be of great benefit to a strongman. It can really develop leg power without using the back. But perhaps the best benefit from leg press is that it can really help build your deadlift power, particularly off the floor. When you leg press it puts you in a similar position as a deadlift start. Still not convinced? Eddie Hall, Brian Shaw, Zydrunas Zavickas, Mariusz Pudzianowski and Jouko Ahola are just a small list of top strongmen who have utilized the leg press in training. The first man to ever pull 1,000 pounds, Andy Bolton, also heavily utilized leg press. 


Barbell and dumbbell rows- I’m combining these two because the important thing is that you are rowing. Either one is of great benefit for strongman. Think of how many events you are rowing something off the ground, log, sandbag, stones etc.  Building the back is always going to strengthen the deadlift. Furthermore rows can help harness and arm over arm truck pulls alike. In my own experience dumbbell rows are great for building the rhomboids in particular. Bil Kazmaier was a fan of dumbbell rows to various positions on the chest and waist in order to hit the back in different ways. Always include some kind of rowing into your training!


Curls- The biceps and forearms going to be used extensively on almost every single event in strongman. The stronger they are the better strongman you will be. Some people try and take biceps out of the equation on strongman events. But they are going to work no matter how much you try and take them out. This is not Olympic weightlifting, you need your biceps in strongman. This does not mean I am implying to use biceps only on an event. The whole body should work together to lift implements, but that includes biceps. Biceps are a muscle, use them!! Hammer curls and heavy barbell curls are great for strongman and an added benefit is that your grip will get stronger as your forearms do. 

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Band tricep pushdowns- These have been crucial in building pressing power for me and anyone else I have taught them to. Just loop a band over a pull up bar or anything you can secure it to. The benefit of the band is that the tension increases as you lockout. When you hold the lockout for a two count you will really build lockout power as well. These also seem to build the triceps without putting alot of pressure on the elbows, which can really save some people wear and tear. I like to do 2 or 3 sets with a hammer fist grip and 2 or 3 palms facing the floor. You can always increase or decrease the tension on the band by moving your hands up or down on the band. These are always included in Cube for Strongman protocol, including Cyborg. Try them out, and  always be explosive.  Your triceps will blow up. 


Incline Press – Incline press can be crucial in building overhead power, particularly the log press. On a log you have to lean back, this causes the upper chest to come into play. The stronger your upper chest, the stronger your log will be. But incline press will help every other overhead as well, even circus  dumbbell. The reason for this is you can usually handle more weight on incline press than overhead and this will overload your triceps and force them to feel heavier weight. This will in turn build your pressing. In addition to regular barbell press, a variation I love to use is dumbbell incline Flye/press hybrid. I do these with palms facing each other and go not quite as wide as a fly, but wider than a press. Give them a shot and watch your log press go up.


There are of course, many more assistance movements that can benefit strongman but these are 5 of my favorites. Remember that everything has its place and can help you get better!  All of these can be found in my new Cube for Strongman CYBORG program. And dont forget all Cube books are on sale this month!!

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News Strongman News Strongman Records Upcoming Contests Videos

Strong(wo)man Records to be challenged at Rogue invitational

Rogue Fitness is hosting their first ever Rogue invitational this weekend which is a Crossfit sanctioned event the weekend of May 18th and 19th, 2019 at Rogue HQ in Columbus, Ohio along with the Crossfit competition there will be 4 Strongman records being contested as part of the event by Martins Licis, Liefia Ingalls & Kristin Rhodes.



The events include The Monster Dumbbell, Farmers Walk and Steinborn Squat

Liefia Ingalls and Kristin Rhodes will be aiming to break their own joint record on the Monster Dumbbell they set earlier this year at the Arnold Classic by lifting 165×2 the jumps will include 170 followed by a jump to 175lbs for as many reps as possible in 90 seconds. They will also be looking to establish a new world record in the farmers walk with who can do 115kg/258.29lbs the fastest over 20m/65.61 feet.

Martins Licis will be aiming to break his own Steinborn squat world record he set at The Arnold Classic in 2018 of 255kg/560lbs and Laurance Shahlaei’s Guinness world record he set in 2011 carrying in which Shahlaei carried 150kg/330lb farmers walks 20m in 6.71 seconds.

The record breakers will be live streamed on Rogue Fitness’s Youtube channel

Approximate times are 6:40-7:05PM Saturday for the Dumbbell and Steinborn and 1:40-2PM Sunday for the farmers walk CST

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Titan Fitness Eco HPND Unboxing

I have always wanted a Reverse Hyper but could never justify one when I saw the Economy Titan Fitness HPND come up for just $300 I decided to give it a shot. In this video I give it a first look while unboxing the product.



The Boxes how they arrived

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