As a lifter, breaking through personal records can be highly rewarding, and deadlifts can be an excellent way to test one's strength. However, hitting a plateau can be frustrating, making it seem impossible to reach your desired lift goal. When it comes to deadlifts, it’s essential to understand that it's not all about brute strength; several other factors affect your progress. To help you break through your deadlift plateau, here are seven effective tactics to add to your workout routine.
1. Set a lower weight and complete more reps
While lifting heavy weights for low reps is great for training your nervous system, it's not ideal for muscle growth. If you've been doing low reps with heavyweights in your workout routine, it might be time to switch it up. Try going lighter for a period of at least 4-6 weeks to give your muscles time to recover and grow. Aim for sets in the 6 to 10 rep range. When you go back to lifting heavier weights for lower repetitions in the future, you can make more rapid progress.
2. Focus on your weak points
If you struggle to get the bar off the ground, it's likely because your quads or lats are under-developed. Rows of any kind are great for building your lats, while squats (with a barbell, dumbbell, or machine) and leg presses will beef up your quads. Weak hamstrings may be the culprit if you find your muscles tend to give out when you stand up. Romanian or stiff-leg deadlifts are ideal for strengthening your hamstring muscles and preventing muscular inhibition. Hip thrusts, block deadlifts, good mornings, and back extensions can help if your deadlift problems are due to weak glutes or lower back.
3. Do your deadlifts FIRST!
Deadlifts are the most physically and psychologically exhausting lift you can do in the gym, so if you wait until the end or middle of your workout to do them, you'll be too tired to give them everything that you've got. Do them at the start of your workout when you're fresh. After a few difficult lifting sessions, it's natural that you may not want to do much physical work afterward. Consider dedicating a day of the week exclusively to heavy deadlifting or adding some lighter exercises to your workout routine that target muscles not involved in the exercise.
4. Do a "mini" deadlift day.
If you want to perfect your technique, I recommend adding a few mini deadlift sets to one of your non-deadlift days. For these sets, load up with 50% of your max on 3-5 reps and focus on getting the most out of each set. Doing a few mini sets each week that focus on lifting technique will help you get better at lifting and avoid injury. It also helps you develop better posture and strengthens certain muscles.
5. Take time to relax!
One of the most important things you can do for your body is to get enough sleep. Not only does sleep help your body rebuild after a workout, but it also makes you stronger. Most people need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you're not getting enough sleep, you could be hindering your potential to build muscle. Additionally, stress can have a negative impact on your body, increasing your cortisol levels which can inhibit muscle growth. To reduce stress, try meditating, planning your day, and spending time with loved ones.
6. Get your diet right.
Your body needs proper nutrients to build muscle. To do this, you need to be in a caloric surplus, eating more calories than your body burns. However, don't eat too many extra calories as it can lead to unwanted fat gain. It's also important to eat enough protein, roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight each day. You can get additional nutrients from fruits and vegetables, and consider taking a nutritional panel test to identify any deficiencies. Lastly, consider adding creatine to your diet for a natural strength boost.
7. Make sure you have the right gear.
Using weightlifting equipment like belts, straps, and chalk can help you get past your deadlift plateau. Lifting straps can help you maintain a secure grip, especially if your grip strength is weak. Using a belt can stabilize your midsection and prevent injury while lifting heavier weights. Chalk can also help improve your grip, which is especially important in powerlifting competitions where straps are not allowed.
In addition to these tips, you should also try lengthening the time between sets to improve muscle building and technique. You should also keep an eye on fatigue management and recognize when you need to take a break to recover. Finally, if you haven't made progress on any of your lifts for a while, it could be a sign you need to take some time off to recover.
In conclusion, breaking through a deadlift plateau can be frustrating, but it's not impossible. By following these tips, you can improve your muscle building and strength, and achieve new personal records in your weightlifting journey. Remember to take care of yourself outside of the gym, eat properly, and use weightlifting gear to help you reach your goals.