If you’ve ever discussed fitness with me, or known me for more than a week, you know that I love the deadlift. It’s easily my favorite exercise to perform, to recommend, to learn about, and to dream about at night. Alright, that’s not true…
It’s an important exercise because of the high level of muscle recruitment, the demands it places on the central nervous system, and the importance of training the hip extensors. If you do it right, you’ll develop a rock solid back, strong glutes, and thick hamstrings. It’s important for everyone to use, but you don’t need to grind through heavy reps all the time; just slowly get better. For almost 6 months now, my deadlift has been pretty stagnant; I was stuck at 355lb, and every attempt at 365lb ended in failure. As much as I love to pull, this drove me crazy, especially because that’s a weak lift. I hover between 185-190lbs, so I should be pulling well more weight than this.
Thanks to some new found intensity and program design, I’ve finally been able to raise my deadlift numbers. This past Sunday, I pulled 415lb from the high handles on my trap bar, after pulling 405lbs the week before. This new jump in deadlift strength can be attributed to a few things. The most obvious one is the use of a trap bar, which has slightly higher handles, that reduce the range of motion. Other than that though, I believe that it’s related to some of the other exercises I’ve been using to grow stronger. One of the best ones, I’ve found, has been the band-resisted deadlift.
Not many people use accommodating resistance, but the principle is rather simple: as joint angles become more favorable, the bar weight increases; which essentially eliminates the biomechanical benefits. I’ve found that the band resisted work has helped me learn to generate more force as the bar picks up speed, and has contributed to my recent PR’s. If you’d like to give this exercise a try, here’s how:
The easiest bands to use are flat ones; round tubing has the tendency to role and slide. I’ve used two different Superbands from Perform Better, and will be picking up some short bands from EliteFTS shortly, to see what a heavier band feels like. There are a number of ways to secure the band around the bar. You could simply wrap the band around your barbell, then stand on it; however, this will probably be pretty uncomfortable for your feet. I’ve tried using a 45lb plate to hold the band down, but they’re not large enough to a proper stance. The solution I’ve liked the best is to use a balance board that is at my gym. Flipping the board upside provides a sturdy surface to deadlift off of, and the ‘deficit’ created by the board is no more than an inch. I simply drape the band oer the barbell, slide the board in, and make sure everything is symmetrical. Below is a picture, where you can not only see the band/board/barbell set up, but also my obnoxiously bright Vibram Bikilas.
The band tensions as the bar moves further from the ground, meaning that the lockout is the most difficult part of the exercise, to prevent yourself from stalling, you need to generate enough force early on in the lift to carry you through this ‘sticking point’. I’ve found that the added requirement of initial speed helps teach you a proper starting position, and how to generate tension in the hamstrings and glutes prior to creating force.
At least, that’s what I feel. I had my training partner take a video of my last rep yesterday, at 225lbs plus the 1 inch SuperBand. This is when the bar started to slow down, and I wanted to move on to good mornings. As much as I love to deadlift, I’m not an expert, and would love feedback on set-up and technique through the set. If you have any thoughts or comments about my deadlift, certainly let me know. If you’d like to try the exercise, let me suggest becoming comfortable with your traditional deadlift first. Then you can reduce the bar weight, and start experimenting with bands. It works very well for powerlifters, it seems to be working very well for me, and it may work for you as well.