Monday, April 22, 2013

Deficit deads, block deads, straps, touch n go, and improving your dead

If you haven't been following my base building series then some of this might not make sense.  It behooves you to go back and read it, and ruminate on the things I wrote about in there before proceeding.

Deficit Deads and block/rack pulls - 

I've had a lot of doods ask me why I am doing deficit pulls in prep for this meet, and not block pulls like I have done in the past.

I like block pulls still, and think I have used them at very proper times in my training life.  I needed to get accustomed to pulling "heavier" weights.  From below the knee it allowed me to do that.  I think that anything higher than that (at knee height) is going to be a mixed bag for most people.  Pulling above the knee, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time that has no carryover to the floor for 99.99% of people.

In fact, let me add this about block pulls and partials.  If you can use more than 10% of your floor max on a partial pull, it's very likely that it's not going to do much for your pull from the floor.  That big of a difference generally means you've changed something mechanically to benefit your pulling that you can't do from the floor.

Guys don't want to get this through their heads.  Just because you're pulling 1,000 pounds from X height, if you're still pulling 600 from the floor, it isn't fucking working.  Give up your ego and find a new way to do things.  I found great carryover from pulling mid-shin to the floor, however I needed to pull far heavier than I wanted to pull in order to do that, and it beat me up pretty good.  I find that my dead moves pretty well IF I can train it each week, but not get crazy in terms of intensity (nothing over 85% or so, max).

Waste of time

So this leads me back to pulling from a deficit.  I like deficit pulls.  I do NOT like huge deficit pulls, i.e. pulling while standing on 4" blocks, unless it's stiff legs.  I did this before for an extended period and what I found was, the ROM was too great in order to give me carryover from the floor.  I got more legs involved in the pull for sure, but I wasn't able to transfer those same mechanics over to my regular pull.

My deficit is a 35 pound plate at the gym.  It's a bit thicker than the other plates.  If I had to guess 2" at the most.  If I am pulling at home, I will use a 45 and throw a couple of mats underneath it.

I am using the small deficit to do a few things....

1.  Force me to stay light
2.  Make it slightly harder to pull from the floor, so that when the meet rolls around, I have a little more "oompf" from there.

Mainly, it's to make sure I don't end up pulling too heavy.  I have really begun to see the benefits of stay well away from your ED max and higher percentages and it's paying huge dividends in my training.  The next two weeks I will push a little heavier than I have been, but if anything grinds I will be disappointed.  I absolutely believe now that the fastest way to GRIND progress to a to grind.  But that's a whole nuther article.

Straps and touch n go- 

I don't use straps to pull.  I've done it before but because I've pulled mixed grip for so long, it does not feel "natural".  Some guys can throw the straps on and pull more, and not just because of grip issues but because their body can be more mechanically efficient pulling that way.  Here is the rub with that.

If you aren't going to pull hook grip, you're probably not going to get the carryover when you return to mixed grip.  It's not the same.  That simple turning of the hand is really that big of a deal in terms of changing the mechanics of the movement.

Doing a piece on tugs isn't proper with a pic of KK
If you have grip problems, the LAST thing you need to be doing is using straps for the love of Dog.  I mean seriously, you've got grip problems and you're going to use straps?  Let's just slap some fast actin Tianctin on those dick herpes and call it good.

Stop fooling yourself.

If you can't hold on to a deadlift, then grip is the problem.  Strapping up and pulling even more isn't going to fix the weak link in the chain.  Stop trying to be a youtube champ and fix your shit.

Ok so how to fix the grip for deadlifts?  Let's return to that piece of shit above the knee rack pull.  Throw on your max pull, shimmy it up your legs like a fat ass trying on jeans that are way too small, and then hold it.  If you can, that is.  Do this for time.  I don't see as much value in things like plate pinches and such because it's not mimicking holding a bar.  You know, which is what you're doing when you pull.  This is the only thing that above the knee pulls are worth a shit for in my opinion.  Helping the grip is what it does best.

The other thing I notice about guys who use straps, is that they like to do a lot of touch n go reps.  That's fine.  Is it "cheating"?  I guess that depends on what you call cheating.  As far as I know there is nothing illegal about doing this in a gym.  I do think it inflates a guys ability in that a strapped up deadlift for touch n go reps is going to yield a greater number of reps than no straps with dead stop reps.

Here is the rub there though.  Some guys do gain in their pull from touch n go, and some don't.  In fact I see some guys pulling damn near their max for reps when they throw on the straps and go touch n go.  The problem is, if that is NOT building your deadlift when you have to pull without the straps then ditch the straps and the touch n go bullshit.

It's not that touch n go is bad, it's that it can be misleading for the lifter.  You need to be honest with yourself about whether or not it's improving your pull, or if it's just improving your "strapped up touch n go reps" style deadlift.  If your max pull is 530 and you go from pulling 475x5 to 500x5 strapped up touch n go, but you are still pulling didn't work.  It's simply that you got better from a mechanical standpoint at doing that kind of movement.  Throw it out if that is the case.  If your regular pull rises along with it, keep it in.  This isn't much different than a guy getting better at doing board humpers but his actual bench press doesn't improve.

It's that simple.

Improving your deadlift then.....

Outside of perfecting your technique a few things to recap........

1.  Don't pull from a height that isn't below the knee.  If you do and you're pulling more than 10% from that height be cognizant of how your floor pull is responding to it as well.  If you're pulling WAY more than said 10% then you are probably being put into a mechanical advantage that you DON'T have with your regular deadlift.  Don't expect any carryover if it's more than 10-12%.

2.  Use small deficits to stand on for the same reason.  You don't want to change your mechanics very much from how you pull regularly.  Again, once you do there is little benefit to the floor pull.

3.  If you're not pulling hook grip, then straps with double overhand are going are going to be different than how you pull with a mixed grip.  I wouldn't expect carryover (though it doesn't mean it can't happen).  If you're doing touch n go reps, but your max pull isn't moving, start pulling dead stop reps.

4.  If your grip sucks, use that piece of shit above the knee rack pull and do timed holds with a heavy weight from there.

5.  Essentially, make sure that if you are doing a variation of your competition pull, that the variation isn't so much that you are using far more/far less weight, and making mechanical changes that aren't in your regular pull.  Remember, a deadlift variation should help the regular deadlift.  It may take you some time to figure out what variation gives you a fair amount of carryover but that's all part of winning the war.


  1. Great article Paul, everything makes perfect sense.

  2. Your article reminds me of someone doing touch n go reps with straps in the gym a few weeks ago. He was literally bouncing the weight off the floor and catching it mid shin - funny and infuriating to watch.

  3. I stopped doing touch and go DL a few months ago because I noticed that the first pull was slow off the floor and the rest of the reps felt easier. In PL only one rep counts so I started doing dead stop deads and it improved floor speed tremendously. Mostly because I locked in my form which you cannot do with touch and go because you only get one chance to "set up". The deadlift is a fickle bitch.

  4. Something I hear about a lot from newbie types is the fear of some muscular imbalance and whatnot from mixed grip. Some strong guys, not wanting to get in an argument, said something like "if it bothers you that much just alternate hands every set". From there, I think it became holy doctrine of the iron and the boogie man. Other strong guys just say "F*ck it, I'm pulling the same way every time". I've become the second type as I've spent more time deadlifting.

    Nothing beats good consistency. I think that's what all your points boil down to. Do what's necessary to get stronger/better in the lift, and do it competition legal style.

    1. I change my grip on the lighter/work-up sets now because my left trap is *significantly* larger than my right, but still always revert to the standard/more comfortable grip every time it starts to get heavy. Whether changing it up is doing any good remains to be seen...

  5. I have always been weak of the floor with an awesome lock out, tried fucking around with all sorts to fix it,

    Then the penny dropped in my retarded mind, stop doing touch and go for rep sets, the last month has been humbling having to drop weight a little, but I am feeling alot better from the floor getting alot more practice at setting up for where I am weakest. Can not believe it took me so long to come to this simple conclusion.

    1. Yea, I had the same moment of clarity yesterday.

  6. I don't comment often (but read every post), but this article is so spot-on that I had to give props. Great advice and great point on the deficits changing mechanics.

  7. " If you're doing touch n go reps, but your max pull isn't moving, start pulling dead stop reps."

    I just ran into this last night. My working sets are moving fine, using touch n go (always did it this way, never knew better), but while testing for a new 1RM last night, I was just blown away at how impacting a few added pounds was.

    Anyhow, time to change.

    1. Yup. I know a certain deadlifter that pulls about as much for reps as he does for a single. But he wont' stop using straps and doing touch n go reps.

    2. Thing of it is, people like myself who are still relatively new, have to sift through soo much information to find the gems. Then, you read these gems, and it hits you, hard, and it's soo obvious you almost feel foolish for doing things the way you had been.

      Oh the arguments and debates on straps.. or mixed grip.. or chalk.. alone can drive you mad. Am I going to tear my biceps off, is one lat getting bigger because of my mixed grip, are straps going to make my sex drive drop...

      Anyhoo... time to pause on my deads.. nuff said.

    3. First training day with all pause reps for deads was last night.

      It's a different exercise entirely. Doing 531 +BBB program, and my 555+ day I have been in the 8-10 rep range with my touch n go. Last night I got 5, may have been able to get 6, but I didn't want to miss it and felt 5 was fine. I still had another 50 reps to go....

      Much different. My lifting weight may get modified down a few lbs, for a few weeks, but in the end I'll be pulling much more from the floor, and I'll be ready for it, and used to it, and much more able to attack heavier loads.

      Left my ego at the door...

  8. Thanks, Paul. I love the deadlift.

  9. Haha!

    Man, you got some hatred towards partial deadlifts. But then again, I see your point. Personally, I am a big fan of singles and sometimes doubles in the deadlift. Always have been, and that has yielded me the most results so far. Like that one dude above said, only one rep counts in the meet. And it ain't no secret that I..or most human beings for that matter...can pull a shitload more doing partial range reps. I must've lucked out, because I like to pull right below my kneecap. Even then, its WAYYYY more than what my floor max is. Here's the thing though---I don't do it to in the hope of building my floor max, I do it it in terms of body building. I bodybuild the muscles to assist the main movement, the full range deadlift. Using the partial deadlift, right below the knee, I am able to pull much more reps, volume wise. That combined with rows is merely for the purpose of bodybuilding, In turn, bodybuilding the muscles involved in the main lift will do a body good. Sounds familiar don't it? :-)Otherwise, spot on.

    1. I don't hate partials at all. I just think a partial should still be as close to the main movement as possible. Below the knee is ok, but I think mid shin is better. Above the knee is for guys who knee their egos stroked.

  10. Agreed. long are your shins, Paul? (No, I am not asking for a literal measurement) Because with the bar just resting on the ground stacked with 45s, the bar is lined up to my mid-shin. Interesting.

    Hey, am I wrong---but I dont think I ever seen you use partial range reps for your squat or your benching. If so, why not? Im assuming you get the most benefit of partial reps in deadlifting, ehh? And if you're making solid progress on the squats n' the bench---then you probably feel there is no need to add partial reps for those movements? Especially considering the fact you lift with a lower intensity in your big lifts?

    1. When I speak of "mid shin" it usually means the plates are sitting on 4" blocks. For me, that isn't below the knee. It's a few inches below that. Thus mid shin.

      I have no idea what partial range benches or squats would serve. Your squat and bench are dictated by the amount of force you can create out of the bottom. I've done them before. They are compltely worthless IMO.

  11. Paul, what is ur opinion towards dead bench and anderson squat. Nay or yay?

    1. I don't like Anderson squats. Not sure what you mean by dead bench.

  12. Paul,

    Along the lines of your Raw Squat Series; my coaches have pointed out a "loading error" or "oysters." Heres a link to what they're talking about:

    Track up to 3:10 - he uses a PVC pipe to demonstrate.

    They also mention that I "live in extension" that in my squat, bench, rows from the floor, pulls, etc. I hyper extend/ excessively arch. My lumbar needs constant 'popping' and twisting & I get sciatic pains every now and then (sometimes I get stuck on the toilet). This is most likely due to this excess.

    They train athletes (not necessarily power-lifters). How do I interpret their observations/suggestions and lock down my core for big lifts? This plays into your 'Going Belt-less' article too. What mental/physical cues do you go through to get tight, lock it in and not live-in-extension?

  13. In that prior comment, when he said "dead bench", he meant having the bar on a rack touching your chest, and pressing up the weight (essentially taking away any eccentric portion).

    I also wanted to add that Pete Rubish has said EXACTLY the same thing about his deadlift; He's going to stop using straps, not because his grip weakens, but because it changes the mechanics of the lift.