Do Not Deadlift!

Posted on 02 Jul 2015 16:24

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I am a big deadlift enthusiast. When someone says that they had a “hard time going up in the deadlift” and therefore YOU shouldn't work the deadlift directly, it irks me to no end. Anecdotal evidence used to make concrete set-in-stone rules about training is silly.

Before anybody attacks me for being weak on my deadlift, let me assure you that I will never be a top level deadlifter like Benni. I will be the best deadlifter that I can ever be. Keep in mind that I have pulled my max 38 times in just the last 19 months alone – so I do know a thing or two about deadlifts, okay? I am starting off defensively because the person whose article I am going to refute is someone a lot of people have great deal of faith in and he’s been called the grandfather of powerlifting in the United States of America. While I love the hardcore-ness of Westside, my views do not line up with Louie’s.

Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell has written and published an article called “Don’t Deadlift!”.

I am very familiar with Westside Barbell and their inclination towards doing a LOT of squat and good morning work versus training the deadlift directly. I’ve always pegged this partial treatment of the deadlift to their use of powerlifting gear. I don’t care much about powerlifting gear usage but Westside is almost full of geared lifters and you will never get as much out of your gear on the deadlift as you will on the squat or bench press.

Powerlifting is about competition and using strategies to get you out in front of the pack. Relying on a lift that has the least carry over to suited work is a waste of your time and energy. So I can understand why Westside Barbell would train the squat and bench press a lot harder than the deadlift.

Lack of Details and Anecdotal Evidence

However, I disagree with this notion of “don’t deadlift” to build a big deadlift. In the article, Louie has used his own anecdotal experience. Also, he has failed to mention the exact problem with his deadlift. He doesn’t say that he stalled or hit a plateau or got bored or anything of the sort. The only details he provided are very ambiguous:

"It was 1970 and I was having a hard time going up in the deadlift. The more I deadlifted, the more backward was my progress."

What does “hard time going up in the deadlift” mean? Does that mean he wasn’t making personal records as often as he used to? What does “more” deadlifting actually mean? Doing more reps, more sets, more frequency? What does backward progress entail? Did he regress and lose strength? These are unanswered questions and no information has been provided on this topic.

Even if you take Louie's advice to heart and you drop the deadlift and replace it with good mornings or box squats or whatever else, the end goal is to be able to deadlift heavy. If you are focusing your efforts on a lift that isn't resulting in improving your deadlift then it is a waste of your time because the deadlift is a competition lift and that is the lift you need to bring up. Infact, I would go so far as to say that "don't deadlift" implies that "don't train hard" because training the deadlift is too difficult.

Practice What You Preach

At the same time, this is not what Louie actually practices. See, Louie specifically states that he doesn’t like to pull from the floor very often. But, he still busts his butt doing deadlift variations, especially banded deadlifts, which are brutal. Trust me, I have done them and I love doing them. You double loop some #2’s bands from APT Pro Wrist Straps and you pull against those bands and they will rock your boat like none other. If you watch the Westside speed day videos where they use bands you will notice that after a while the bands come off and the lifter pulls some seriously heavy singles or doubles off the floor. That’s not the same as “don’t deadlift”.

At the end of the day there is no lift that can replace the deadlift. You may say that all these variations like box squats, good mornings, deadlift variations all help the deadlift because you are attacking the movement from different “angles”, but you will never be able to quantify just how much or how efficient each of these movements are. The one inalienable undeniable truth is that nothing improves the deadlift like the deadlift. If you want to improve your deadlift the bare minimal exercise you absolutely must perform is the DEADLIFT!

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