Heavy Deadlift Training and Ramping
In the context of this post, very heavy deadlift training is 90% + and heavy deadlift training is 80% +.
Very heavy deadlift training requires a longer recovery period, generally two weeks (or more). Don't overkill 90%+ training.
When ramping for heavy singles, doubles and triples you have to keep 2 things in mind:
1) You are not just warming up muscles - you are also waking up your CNS (central nervous system). An aroused (you like that word, don't you) CNS allows you to recruit more muscle fibers, making a weight feel lighter. It will also lessen the likelihood of injury when ramming heavy weight.
2) You need to track your total reps over 80 and 90%, even if you don't consider them working sets. They are.
To prime the CNS properly, I recommend some form of ramping. My general guideline is to ramp by 30 pounds, maybe as high as 40 if you are a 600 + pound deadlifter. I am not so I stick to 30 pound ramps. If your deadlift is in the low to mid 200's, it's probably better to ramp by 20 pounds at a time.
If you don't ramp and take big jumps, your CNS isn't prepped (as good as it could be), your muscles are not locked and loaded to fire, and once again. it's a good recipe for injury. Not to mention a recipe for piss poor performance, which is all we care about anyway.
Let's say you are ramming up to a max double. Your current 1RM is 415 pounds on deadlift. Your warmup and ramp sets might look something like this:
Bar x 15
135 x 5-10
225 x 3-5
275 x 1-2 - Last "warm up"
315 x 2 (76% - first double)
340 x 2 (82%)
370 x 2 (91%)
400 x 2 (96% and new PR)
You have performed 4 reps at 90%+. This is where you stop, even if your brain is telling you to try 405 or 410. Don't. You might be tempted to count only the reps with 400 as working sets, but you would be wrong to look at things that way.
Dave Tate recommends that you make 4 reps your max volume at 90% + for a given workout, and I agree. Well, mine is actually lower (3 reps), but I am no Dave Tate. 4 does max sense when ramming doubles, but if doing singles it might be better to limit yourself to 3 reps. Younger lifters with a relatively weaker deadlift (in the 200's) can go as high as about 6 reps.
Nice post Steve... just a question. i have been doing a 3 x 5 scheme for my deads then just going for heavy singles for PB's afterwards, do you think i would get just as worked doing the deads the way you have perscribed and would it lead to faster gains in strength doing it that way rather than as a 3x5 ??? just curious as to whether i should change my set up to try to puch on to 4pps.
Curently i do 80kg x 5/100kg x 5/140kg x 3-4/then a heavy (for me) single at 150/ then another single for 160 last week (which was a pb).
Do you think i would be working smarter by changing it around to be more similar to what you have posted
Thats great thanks Steve!!
What will the ramping look like roughly if your doing a single?
Excellent thread Steve.
In general I think it's always best to stick with a simple form of progression for as long as possible. By simple I don't mean that it can't be devoid or periodization (like Wendler's). I just mean that if you are using a protocol (like the 3x5) and it is working, stick with it.
If you start to feel gassed or beat down because of heavy weight, it might be time to periodize that 3x5 into an HLM.
My best gains on deadlifts have never come from heavy single work. They have always come from the 2 to 5 rep range (sometimes higher up to 20), along with a focus on good mornings.
In the context of your workout I would stick with the 3x5. If you are doing that 3x a week and it gets to feel like a beat down, move to 1x a week. When that feels like a beat down, periodize HLM over 3 weeks.
It's certainly ok to add a few heavy singles after the 3x5, but I would limit that to every other week right now. Because you shouldn't do them every week, it places them as somewhat of a secondary tool or piece of the equation.
My main focus in writing this was to make sure lifters don't take big jumps or do too many heavy sets. Outside of that, if something is working, stick with it.
The only context that I personally like singles (outside of the occasional 1RM check) is in a cluster format, where you try to see how many you can do in, say, 10 minutes. But even in that context I am not using over 80%.
His warmup and ramp sets might look something like this:
Bar x 15
135 x 5-10
225 x 3-5
275 x 1-2 - Last "warm up"
315 x 1 (76% - first double)
340 x 1 (82%)
370 x 1 (91%)
400 x 1 (96%)
420 x 1 (100%+ New PR!)
420 felt light! He wants to try 425.
I personally would say no, don't make another attempt. I think 3 max singles is enough for one training day. Dave Tate says 4. Dave also says that most of the injuries he sees come from lifters who ram too many reps above 90%.
The choice is yours at this point. With a PR in hand I personally would chill. If you do go for another lift, don't add more than 10 pounds. In my experience with deadlifts, one weight can feel easy but 10 pounds more can feel like 100 pounds more. Take small PR steps. Unless you are competing and hunting for a specific total.
I ran a powerlifting cycle back in 2007 that involved going for a new PR every 4 weeks. It was one I created, and I would end up ramming too many reps about 90% when i did hit a new PR. It was a mistake. My back took a beating. Live to fight another day.
I have found larger jumps work better for me when warming up but I definitely agree on the 90% rule. This weekend I will be doing max effort sumo pulls where my PB is 210kg's x 1. I want 220kg's x 1 this time and here's how it will go down:
Empty bar squats x lots
DL 60kg's x a few (too light to really feel anything)
Empty bar squats x a few more
DL 80kg's x a few switching stances
100kg's x 1 Conv and 1 sumo
130kg's x 1 C and 1S
160kg's x 1 S
180kg's x 1 S from blocks
200kg's x 1 S from blocks
212.5kg's x 1 S from blocks (make sure I get at least a small PB)
220kg's x 1 S from blocks (would be a big PB and should have fried me out)
I like squats with an empty bar or 1pps to warm up my back and legs for DL's. I find it more effective than light DL's. Also I have to squat before I pull at a meet so it gets me in the mood.
Just my two cents worth. Make of it what you will.
I tend to work in half-plate and full-plate increments - they're easier to work with. Since I have found out that sumo tends to agree with me much more, I also tend to alternate between sumo on my warmups. For example I might do something along these lines the next time I go for a new 1RM:
135/3s+3c (minimal rest between the two)
405/1s (Still under 90% here, just)
455/1s (Previous 1RM)
And then go for a new 1RM. I 100% agree with you on the idea of limiting reps above 90% - hell, when I got my top set on deficits the other day, I could just *feel* the strength draining out of my arse and hamstrings. I figure I could have safely done another single or two at 95%, but I really wanted to get that 1RM on video. Oh, well.. the video attempt was a valiant effort.
Also, I believe that Dave Tate got the "No more than 4 reps at 90%+" from Louie Simmons, and Louie would say that once you've hit 4 reps at 90%+ you're done for the *day*. No assistance work, nothing else. Go home.
I'd also like to add in here that Louie also believes (and I tend to agree) that if you miss the same weight twice, you are done for that exercise and should move on rather than try again. I know some oly lifters go on 3 strikes and out but for PL stuff where it's less technique and more strength than oly, I think 2 fails is the end.
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