So please, Steve, tell us how you do it?
Well, I can say I am certainly not built for it. At least I don't think I am. I have very small hands that can't handle DOH grip. I also have short German arms and weak hamstrings.
The key has to be lower back strength for me. I pulled 2-3 inch deficits for 3 years straight. This was unknowingly, as I had no clue my generic Wal-mart purchased plates weren't proper size, but I believe it helped quite a bit.
I also really believe that upper back strength helps me. I am able to Pendlay 405 and one arm row 215 x 10 reps, and I think this upper back strength and ability to hold a better lat contraction while pulling allows me to focus on using the power muscles - my hips. I am no rocket surgeon when it comes to deadlifting though, so all this is merely speculation.
Here is my mental process when deadlifting for anyone that is interesting.
1) Rip the bar off the floor
. I think about violently pulling the bar off the floor. This takes practice, and shouldn't be attempted with heavy weight right out of the gate.
2) Power clean
. After that initial pull, I think about powercleaning the weight. This helps me deadlifting more naturally, leading with the head and maximizing power output.
. After the first two steps, completing the lift is easy. I think of two things that work hand in hand: f*ck the bar and lean back. Excuse the expletive but that is what I think. I throw my head back and pelvis forward.
The biggest problem I see with most deadlifters is that they don't generate power. I power the bar off the floor, power clean, and power the hips forward. This sequence when warming up feels so fluid and natural to me. It's almost like a rocking motion, but it's hard to describe. You know you have it when you have it
. It's something I could probably teach better in person.
Are you a natural deadlifter?
No, I had to work hard. I didn't deadlift until 2007. It took 90 days to work up to a max of 375. This sounds impressive, but remember I had been lifting for 20 years prior so I had a bit poundage/strength head start from lifts like squats.
Once I hit 375 I ran a 2 month powerlifting program I wrote which heavily focus on good mornings, front squats and deadlifts. It threw my back out, but I bumped my deadlift to 435.
From early 2008 to 2010 I simply trained consistently, once a week, and supplemented my training with rack pulls, power shrugs and a lot of upper back work.
I quickly learned that my lockout was weak, but the more high rack pulls and heavy back work I did, the more this improved. Now my lockout is much stronger than my pull off the floor. Quite a change for me.
During 2010 my deadlift stagnated a bit, hovering around a 565 max. In 2011 I set aside everything I had been doing and focused on:
1) 20 rep sumo deadlifts.
2) More heavy back work.
3) Power cleans and heavy high pulls.
4) Heavy power shrugs.
For about 4 to 6 months I did absolutely no conventional deadlifting. I started back with conventionals about 2 months before my first meet. Nothing crazy heavy though.
About July (3 weeks before my first meet) I decided to try for some PRs. I hit 3 deadlift PRs in 3 weeks, destroying my 565 1RM by 50 pounds. At the meet I hit a 622 deadlift.
This was a 57 pound PR gain in 6 months, and I rarely pulled conventional or heavy during this time. Interesting to say the least.
Most of this was due to my new found on power generation, and I believe some of it was from improved hip and glute strength from doing high rep sumos. They really make my glutes quiver.
This year I am trying frequent heavy deadlifts. It's challenging, but I think I will end 2012 with a 675 to 700 raw pull. I will be 45 this year, and hitting 700 at 45 is a major goal.
Long term I want 800 raw by age 50. And I will get it or die trying.