My favorite movement has always been the deadlift. It’s just a raw and brutally simple test of strength – You either pick up the barbell or you don’t.
I love weightlifting, but I still train my deadlift like I did during my competitive powerlifting days. One day of the week is for light speed pulls, while a second day is devoted to movements that can be loaded really heavy, like block pulls or reverse-band deadlifts.
This simple approach has kept me strong, even while training the Olympic lifts, gymnastics, and metcons all together. And not to mention, I am a 42-year old! I think that same basic strategy could also help you get much stronger.
Here’s how to do it.
These are the last 2 reps of my EMOM x 10 Deadlifts! This is 575lb and 635lb paused 4 inches off floor! Feeling very good! MashElite.com <link in profile> to sign up for the Free Newsletter because I am dropping an all new Free Program this week! @muscledriverusa @compedgeperformance @barbellbuddha @ajroberts
Two simple methods I think the best way to improve your pulling strength is with pause work. I use two simple methods. The first is to include a quick pause somewhere around the knees, which is usually very hard because of poor leverage at this part of the range of motion. This makes the movement MUCH harder, which is exactly what you want to get stronger overall. This is a great example of isometric work, where force is being produced, but there is no change in joint angle or muscle length. In my opinion, this method is incredibly underutilized by most athletes. I also like to pause the deadlift just a few inches from the floor, right at the very beginning of the pull. That’s very important because most of us miss our heaviest lifts right off the floor, usually due to compromised position or a movement error. However, if you can spend more time getting comfortable and practicing this position, your skill will rapidly improve. You will be able to begin lifts in a much better position, which will translate immediately into improve performance.
Don’t miss Travis Mash on Barbell Shrugged How to program the pause Here is a simple way to program your pause work. As a start in the deadlift…
- Load the barbell with 70% of your max, which is a great “speed” weight.
- Perform 8-10 sets of 1 repetition, with one hard pull every minute on the minute.
- On each rep, pause for 3-5 seconds right about two inches from the floor, or around the knee. I would spend more time on the position you struggle with more.
- Add weight to the barbell weekly, but only if you can maintain position and bar acceleration. Remember, you can make progress by adding load, but you can also get better weekly simply by pulling the same loads faster and with better technique.
Now, I told you earlier that I like to pull once fast and once heavy during the week. You can too, however, take your time. Try this simple speed approach first, without adding in too much other work. As you get stronger and pull better, you can start working up heavier more often. I allow will allow my lifters to increase the intensity of speed pulls if they are feeling great and moving well, so the work actually might look something like the following on paper:
- 70% x 4 sets of 1
- 75% x 2 sets of 1
- 80% for 2 sets of 1
- 85% 1×1
- 90% 1×1
Again, as you adapt to this style of training you will be able to handle more work and sessions. At that point I recommend including that second training day where you begin to learn and train heavier special movements, like block pulls or the reverse band deadlifts. Just don’t make the mistake of going heavy on both those days. You will always perform better if you keep your focus on the pause and acceleration effort.
A few more notes. Make sure to keep your pace. The EMOM approach is superior when training pulls simply because you can perform more quality repetitions with better technique and more force, which again, is exactly how you can get very strong, very quickly. Now, this doesn’t mean that I you shouldn’t do higher rep sets, like traditional 5*5 training for example. That is a tried and true way of building strength as well. However, it’s also far more taxing! If you are struggling to make progress in the pull, it could simply be that you’re beating up your back and failing to recover fully. If you switch to these EMOM style pulls – both heavy and for speed – you will feel much better, and much stronger, within just a few weeks.
@chuck_hendo finally getting past that 600lb barrier❗️just the first step! @thebarbelllife #MashMafia #TeamMashMafia @compedgeperformance A video posted by Mash Elite Performance (@masheliteperformance) on
Pause work isn’t just for building the deadlift.
I have had a lot of my weightlifters perform pauses in the clean pull with amazing success. And there’s a simple reason for that – Weightlifting is not all about the squat. Hell, if you can’t get that bar moving from the floor, you will never have the chance to use all that squatting strength anyway. You have to be strong in the pull.
As a rule of thumb, if your deadlift and back squat aren’t at least equal then you should focus more time building your pulling strength. Preferably, you should pull at least 50 pounds more than you back squat.
My hope is that these pauses will not only make you stronger, but keep you safer and feeling better as well. The deadlift has a bad reputation of hurting people, but that’s not fair. It’s never the lift that hurts people, it’s the way they perform the lift. Use pause work to boost your pulling strength and limit the wear on your back. You’ll thank me later.
Got any questions? Just leave them in the comments below. We’d love to help you train better.
Take your time, pause, and pull big!
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