Why Your Deadlift Is Still Weak

Welcome to the 3rd installment of the Deadlift series. If you missed the first two articles where we discussed the benefits and importance of Deadlift and the main Deadlift Variations, you can go back and read them:

The importance of Deadlift for strength and muscle building

What is the best Deadlift variation for you

Today, we will be talking about the reasons why you can’t add weight despiting doing everything right. Well, truth is, there is a lot more to incorporating Deadlifts into your routine than pulling some heavyweight every week. You actually need to consider a lot of factors regarding intensity, volume, and recovery.

So, in this article, we will go through the main reasons that you are not adding weight to the bar.

First of all, the first question to answer is what is considered a strong Deadlift?
It is fairly accepted around the weightlifting community that 2xBodyweight Deadlift is fairly strong for most Natural Lifters. 3xBodyweight Deadlift is considered very impressive.
So, If you have been training for over a year, you should be able to pull twice your bodyweight on the Deadlift. If not, then maybe one of the following Reasons is holding you back.

1-Weak Grip:

grip strength

This is the most common issue for most people, myself included. I would lift the bar explosively off the ground, pulling it with my lats while keeping my back straight, everything is going fine until the weight falls from my hands. It is frustrating. Trust me.

The reason for that is a weakness in grip and fingers strength. To pull a big Deadlift you need strong hands. And while it is true that using an alternate (under/over) grip can help you hold to heavier weights. at a certain point, you will not be able to hold on into the bar.

The quick fix to this is to train your grip strength. Here are my best methods to quickly bring up a weak grip:

1.1-Farmer’s walk:


Those are my personal favorite exercise to increase grip strength. They will also work your core and traps as a bonus. So it’s a double win.
Simply grab a moderately heavy pair of dumbbells. While keeping your upper back tight and your shoulders externally rotated, walk the recommended distance in a slow and controlled manner.
Remember to stay upright, this will take the tension off your lower back and work your core. Also, don’t try to go fast. The goal is to hold heavier loads for a longer Time Under Tension.
When I am trying to build grip strength, I would limit the distance for no more than 50 meters, 30 meters would be optimal.
In Farmer’s walk, you can count every 10 meters as 1 rep. So, for strength gains, your goal should be to perform between 1 and 5 reps.
Note: If you have access to a trap bar, you can perform the Farmer’s Walk using it. It will allow the use of greater poundages and more leverage in general.

1.2-Plate Pinches:

plate pinches

Simply grab the outside part of two weight plates with your fingers while your thumb is holding the plates together. Try to hold the plates as long as possible while squeezing them with your fingers and thumb. After you reach failure, switch to the other arm.
This will build strength and endurance in your finger flexors and it will help you to grab the bar hard so it doesn’t slip from your hands.

1.3-Thick-Grip training:

thick grip training for grip strength

This is an easy and quick way to gain grip strength without doing any additional volume. Using Thick-grip equipment or Fat-Gripz when doing your curls will greatly improve your grip strength and Forearm size.
You can even use this approach with Deadlifts. You would perform your lighter sets with Fat-Gripz, then when the load gets too heavy you can switch to the regular bar.

1.4-Chin-up Holds:

Whenever I want to improve my grip strength fast, this is my go-to method. It only takes 90 sec to complete and it can be done multiple times a week.
After you finish your workouts, simply hold the pull-up bar into a chin-up position for 90 sec. at first, it will take you 6 or more sets to reach the recommended time but eventually, you will be able to perform them in one set.

2-Weak Posterior Chain Muscles:

posterior Chain weakness

 The posterior chain consists of hamstring, glutes and back muscles.
The most common weakness is a weak Upper Back. A weak Upper Back will limit your ability to stabilize the posterior chain. This is one of the reasons that some people can’t lockout at the deadlift.
So, building your upper back musculature will help you to pull bigger weights in the deadlift. I personally never seen someone with a big Deadlift and weak upper back.

If your goal is to build a stronger back, choose exercises that allow for the use of maximal progressive overload. I personally like weighted Chin-ups and Pendally Rows.
Note: Barbell Rows are a great exercise but I prefer the Pendally Row because of the explosive component of the move. This will help tremendously when pulling the weight from the ground.

Another common weakness is weak hamstrings and glutes.
For bringing up this weakness, my favorite two exercises are the stiff leg deadlift and the Barbell Good-Mornings. Those two lifts will help you to build a transferable strength that you can carry to your deadlift. A great way to improve your Hamstrings strength and power is by doing Stiff Leg Deadlifts from a Deficit. ( use only a 45 lbs weight plate as a deficit, no need for 6” blocks).

3-Overtraining Your Spinal Erectors:

Spinal erectors training

This is one of the most common mistakes among trainees, even the most dedicated ones.

Spinal erectors are the slowest muscle to recover in the entire body. So, if you are maxing out at the deadlift every week you are doing yourself a disservice.

You need to keep in mind that it might take your body up to two weeks to recover from a heavy Deadlifting session. So, don’t try to chase new PR’s every week.

Instead, Try to use moderately heavyweights that you can easily manage for 5 reps ( around 70-75% of your max) and perform multiple sets of that. That will help you to optimize your technique, position and bracing.

4-Don’t Copy Genetically Gifted Deadlifters:

gifted deadlifter

In the new age of social media, it is very tempting to copy your favorite Instagram Model or youtuber.
This is could steal your gains like nothing else. Especially with the Deadlift. If you are someone who isn’t genetically built for deadlift and you have T-Rex arms, you have no business copying someone who is built to deadlift. That will get you nowhere.

You have to understand that an inch or two in the Deadlift’s range of motion makes a huge difference. It is much easier for the guy who locks up right above his knees than the guy who locks up at his hips. So, stop copying that guy who has mile-long arms and pulling maxes every week on Social media. He is not the one to seek for improving your Deadlift.

That is it for today guys. I hope you by now you already got a clear idea on which reason is holding you back from lifting some heavy as* weights from the ground. In the last installment, we will give you some practical ways to quickly add weight to the bar.

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