Improving your deadlift doesn't necessarily mean upping the frequency. There are many top powerlifters who seldom deadlift competition-style in training, yet when it comes time to compete they have some of the biggest pulls in the world.
How? They spend the majority of their training bringing up the agonist muscle groups that assist in the deadlift. They also work on what's called "rate of force development" or RFD in order to be more explosive.
Here are some things that can help bring up your deadlift in as little as four weeks:
1 – Sled Pull
These are done in a power-walking manner with an aggressive heel-to-toe action and slight forward lean. The sled pull a great way to develop the posterior chain without even "lifting." And you can do it three times a week.
Here's one way of programming it:
- Monday: Load the sled with weight equivalent to your bodyweight. Attach the straps to your weight belt and go. Do 5 trips of 40-yard walks. Rest 60 seconds between trips.
- Wednesday: Do 5 trips of 40 yards with about three-fourths of your bodyweight loaded onto the sled. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- Friday: Do 200 meters with half of your bodyweight on the sled for a warm-up. Then do 800 meters at the end of your workout: 200 meters forward, 200 meters backward, and 200 meters laterally both directions.
2 – Wide-Stance Box Squat
Use a 13-15 inch box. Do your box squats with a wide stance (to make sure you're targeting the hips and hams) and by sitting back on the box to break up the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (lifting) phases of the lift.
The box squat will help you develop force out of the hole by using sub-maximal weights and moving with maximal velocity. Here's one way to program it:
- Week 1: 5 x 5 using 60% of 1RM back squat
- Week 2: 5 x 5 using 65% of 1RM back squat
- Week 3: 5 x 4 using 70% of 1RM back squat
Rest 60 seconds between each set for all three weeks.
3 – Zercher Squat
There are a ton of Zercher squat variations. It'll build your upper back and anterior core as well as isometrically taxing your biceps. Most people don't do this variation simply because they're unaware of how effective it is... or because it's painful. You can do these with or without a box, off pins, or performed as carries.
4 – Sumo Deadlift
Sumos build the posterior chain better than the conventional deadlift. Much like the box squat, getting wide allows you to direct the attention to your hips and hams. Use them for both max effort or speed work.
5 – Reverse Hyper
Do these twice a week. Unfortunately, this open-chain exercise doesn't have a comparable scaling option if you don't have access to the machine. But it's a game-changer for strength and spinal recovery because it requires tension from the spinal erectors too.
Here's an example of how to program it:
- Monday: 4 x 25 using 50% of back squat 1RM
- Friday: Strict no-swing, 3 x 20, 50% of back squat 1RM
Rest as needed between sets for both days.
6 – Weighted Core Work
You can do this at just about any gym even if you don't have access to a cable machine. Do 4 sets of 25-30 reps once or twice per week. Training the core with resistance has a huge carryover to your deadlift and will protect your lumbar when you're using maximal weights.
7 – Band Work
Building up tendons and ligaments can be done with high-volume band work. Doing 100 to 200 reps two or three times per week of banded leg curls from both a seated or prone position will do the trick. You can also perform prone lying leg curls with ankle weights for up to 200 reps per leg. This will not only strengthen ligaments and tendons (to keep you from pulling a hammy), but they're also great for active recovery.