Different Morphologies, Different Strengths

If you plan on staying sane in the iron game, you'd better have a sense of humor. For example, you might be built to excel at one particular lift and be the envy of all your peers. But just when you begin to feel pretty good about yourself, you get humbled by some lamppost who kicks your butt in another lift!

Don't be ashamed; you're not alone. Rare are those who excel at every single feat of strength. Simply put, different strength movements will suit different morphologies. For example, I have a relatively thick torso, short arms and short legs. Biomechanically, I'm built to bench press and squat. Sadly, I have probably the worst deadlift levers ever!

Some people have trouble believing that the deadlift is one of my problem areas. After all, I competed as an Olympic lifter and pulled every day for three years! This is true, but an Olympic pull (during a clean or snatch) is different than a deadlift. For one thing, an Olympic pull is all about being strong and powerful from the knee up. Strength from the floor isn't all that important since the loads used will rarely be above 70% of your max deadlift. Stubby guys like me are normally very strong from the knee. It's from the floor up to the knee that we have a problem.

Some lifters can build a huge bench, squat, or deadlift simply by practicing those lifts. When someone is able to increase a certain lift significantly without performing any assistance work, it generally means that he's built for that lift. For example, Bulgarian Olympic lifters perform only squats as their assistance exercises; the rest of their volume is spent on the competition lifts. This works for them because they select the lifters who are mechanically made to perform in the two competition lifts (snatch, clean & jerk).

However, such a minimalist approach doesn't work for people who are mechanically challenged in a certain exercise. Personally, if I only perform deadlifts in my training, my results in this lift will go nowhere fast. I need to use an approach that'll build up the movement piece by piece and strengthen the whole chain.

If you're a "stub" like me, then here's an eight week cycle that'll help you build a jaw-dropping deadlift. There are two weekly workouts for the squat and deadlift, and two for the bench press, similar to a Westside template. (Only the squat/deadlift workouts will be detailed in this article.)

The Program

Weeks 1 & 2

Day 1: Max Effort

A. Deadlift standing on an 8" platform
Work up to a 1RM for that day. Try to reach that maximum in 6-8 sets.
2 minutes of rest between sets

B. Front squat with a narrow stance
3/2/1 wave; perform 2 waves (1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1, 1 x 3, 1 x 2, 1 x 1)
2 minutes of rest between sets

C. Good morning with deadlift stance
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

D. Weighted back extension
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Day 2: Dynamic & Static Strength Day

A. Double start deadlift standing on an 8" platform*
8 x 1 using 60% of the 1RM established on Day 1
60 seconds of rest between sets
* On each rep you first bring the bar from the floor to the knees and hold two seconds, then lower the bar back to the floor and finally perform a complete rep.

B. Low box squat (use bands if available)
5 x 2 at 45-55%
45 seconds of rest between sets

C. Power clean from the hang
5 x 2 at 70-80%
90 seconds of rest between sets

D. Romanian deadlift with a 3 second pause in the low position
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Weeks 3 & 4

Day 1: Max Effort

A. Deadlift standing on a 6" platform
Work up to a 1RM for that day. Try to reach that maximum in 6-8 sets.
2 minutes of rest between sets

B. Low position front squat
6 x 1 with a load that's challenging but not a maximum.
Start from the low position (bar is set on the safety pins of the power rack)
2 minutes of rest between sets

C. Good morning with deadlift stance
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

D. Weighted back extension
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Day 2: Dynamic & Static Strength Day

A. Double start deadlift standing on a 6" platform
8 x 1 using 60% of the 1RM established on Day 1
60 seconds of rest between sets

B. Parallel box squat (use bands if available)
5 x 2 at 45-55%
45 seconds of rest between sets

C. Power clean from blocks
5 x 2 at 70-80%
90 seconds of rest between sets

D. Romanian deadlift with a 3 second pause in the low position
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Weeks 5 & 6

Day 1: Max effort

A. Deadlift standing on a 4" platform
Work up to a 1RM for that day. Try to reach that maximum in 6-8 sets.
2 minutes of rest between sets

B. Half deadlift in power rack
3/2/1 wave; perform 2 waves
Start the bar 1" above the knees.
2 minutes of rest between sets

C. Half deadlift from the floor
3/2/1 wave; perform 2 waves
Each rep is from the floor up to the knees.
90 seconds of rest between sets

D. Weighted back extension
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Day 2: Dynamic & Static Strength Day

A. Double start deadlift standing on a 4" platform
8 x 1 using 60% of the 1RM established on Day 1
60 seconds of rest between sets

B. High box squat (use bands if available)
5 x 2 at 45-55%
45 seconds of rest between sets

C. Romanian deadlift with a 3 second pause in the low position
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Weeks 7 & 8

Day 1: Max Effort

A. Deadlift from the floor
Work up to a 1RM for that day. Try to reach that maximum in 6-8 sets.
2 minutes of rest between sets

B. Half deadlift in power rack
3/2/1 wave; perform 2 waves
Start the bar 1" above the knees.
2 minutes of rest between sets

C. Weighted back extension
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

Day 2: Dynamic & Static Strength Day

A. Speed deadlift from the floor
8 x 1 using 60% of the 1RM established on Day 1
60 seconds of rest between sets

B. High box squat (use bands if available)
5 x 2 at 45-55%
45 seconds of rest between sets

C. Romanian deadlift with a 3 second pause in the low position
3 x 6-8 reps
90 seconds of rest between sets

50 Pounds in 8 Weeks

This training cycle should increase your deadlift by 30-50 pounds in eight weeks, maybe more. The weaker you are from the floor, the more you'll gain from this program. Try it and keep me updated on your progress!