Pimp Your Pull

30 Apr

Are you stuck in plateau with your deadlift? If so, this post is for you.

I do not have EPIC numbers by any means. However, from August 2011 to March 31, 2012, I effectively put a 100lbs on my pull (425 -> 525).  My training numbers have continued to show progress, and I am willing to bet the farm that by July 2012 I will have put 150lbs on my pull in just under a year.

The following tips and guidelines are based on my experiences, not any kind of scientific research. If that doesn’t work for you, go read research papers and keep making no progress. (kidding, sort of.)

1. Do more HEAVY rowing, and horizontal rowing in general:

The addition of consistent barbell rowing has had tremendous transfer to my deadlift. So have one arm DB rows, chest supported rows, and dead stop rows. I have approached the barbell row as a monitored lift. I actually keep track of my numbers, base them off percentages, and do sets with rep prescriptions as low as 3. I highly recommend that if you want to increase your pull that you start getting after your rowing. No more going through the motions, load it up and put in some hard work.

My approach right now looks something like this:

Wednesday (Bench Focus) = Barbell Rows 5 (75%)/3 (85%)/1 (95%) approach with money sets, so top set is usually taken for about 10, 6, 3. I also include 1 Arm DB Rows in a 3-point stance heavy for 4-5 sets of 10-12.

Saturday (Press / Pull Up Focus) = One Arm Dumbell Rows (knee on bench), very heavy (160-180lbs) for 4 – 5 sets of 5 – 8 reps. I use a strap and allow for some body english.

2. Always include upper back work:

This will help all your lifts, but every training session I do includes upper back work. I rotate between half kneeling face pulls, prone raises, and kneeling cable reverse flyes. Not to mention, the added rowing on bench and press days is hitting the upper back as well. I set it up like this:

Monday (Squat Focus) = Half Kneeling Face Pulls – 4-5 set of 10 – 15 reps. This is a great place to stick this because the half kneeling position adds the benefit of getting some post squatting hip flexor stretching.

Wednesday (Bench Focus) = Prone Raises – 4 – 5 sets of 10 – 15 reps, usually one set to failure as well.

Friday (Deadlift Focus) = Kneeling Cable Reverse Flyes – 4 – 5 sets of 10 -15 reps, usually includes a set to failure as well.

Saturday (Press / Pull Up Focus) = Split Stance Face Pull with band 4 – 5 sets of 15 – 20 reps. More restorative, as I am already doing a lot of rowing on this day.

3. Get stronger, not faster:

I have seen little transfer from speed pulling. I know it works for A LOT of people, and maybe as I get stronger I will need to use it. That being said, putting in more hard work and volume on deadlift variations has worked much better. I cycle through a few supplementary lifts: Block Pulls (varying heights), Defecit Pulls, and RDL’s. I don’t rack pull. I will also note that if you want one lift to go up, you should not let others go by the way side. Low bar back squatting for instance, if you’re leveraging against the weight correctly, has tons of transfer to deadlifting. As it goes up, so will your pull. In fact, the gains I have made in the pull have been slightly less than the gains in the squat during the same period (325 -> 455). Here is a sample of how I put the supplementary exercises in.

Block one: Block pull (80, 90, 100% for sets of 1-3)

Block two: Block pull (lesser Height) (80, 90, 100% for set of 1-3)

Block three: Block pull (just off the ground) (80, 90, 100% for sets of 1-3)

How’s that for simple? Do more work, don’t get fancy.

Here is an option that uses all three supplementary lifts:

Block 1: Barbell RDL’s

Block 2: Defecit Pulls (chain option)

Block 3: Block Pulls (3in)

4. Release your hip flexors, activate your glutes, work your thoracic extension:

Basically, help put yourself in a more advantageous position to pull. My warm up on deadlift days includes quite a bit of work on the hips, glute activation, and upper back extension. Here are my favorite drills, thanks to those in the videos for opening my eyes to these great drills:

(I don’t hold these, I do reps of 6 – 8)

5. Jump on it:

I have found jumping to be an integral part of my strength gains. I am an advocate of jumps over dynamic effort work. Especially for raw lifters. Force is force, and learning to apply force into the ground quickly will transfer into applying force into the ground over a longer period of time in the deadlift (and the squat). I cycle through different jumps, and different amounts of them based on what block of training I am in. Here is an example of the 3 block set up I am in now:

Block 1 Block 2 Block 3
Squat Box Jump Weighted Box Jump Weighted Reactive Depth Box Jump
DL Static Seated Box Jump Dynamic        Seated Box Jump Weighted Reactive Seated Box Jump

Hope this helps and everyone is having a great start to the week!


3 Responses to “Pimp Your Pull”

  1. Ryan June 26, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Hi Greg,

    Saw your post over at EC’s blog and had some time to browse yours. Seriously, great stuff!

    I sit all day. What I love to do pretty much requires it. I know this post is kinda old, but I have two questions about the IT band/hip flexor wad stretch. First, why does he use the band? Second, I tried this stretch out last night (without a band), everything went fine until I activated my glute when I felt like my knee was going to explode. In fact, flexing my glute almost pulled my leg back to neutral and out of internal rotation. So, is this stretch something you need to work up to? That is, do I need to work up to about 45 degrees or so of internal rotation?

    Thanks and keep the quality posts coming!


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