In this article, we are going to talk about one of the most over used, and most butchered movements I see powerlifters do; The deficit deadlift.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love deficit deadlifts, and I actually attribute a lot of my deadlift strength to them.
Done well, I think they are a powerful assistance exercise, and can help gain bucket loads of strength.
The fact is though, most people do them incorrectly, and it can have a massive detrimental effect on their regular deadlift, and I’ve seen it happen far too many times. 

The purpose of deficit deadlifts should be to train at a mechanical disadvantage, but it still has to be completely specific and relevant to the way you deadlift from competition height….. And if its not, well, not only are you not going to get the perceived gains you were hoping for, you can potentially lose kilos off your 1rm, and ruin your motor patterning in the process.

To be able to assess the relevance and effectiveness of your deficit training, we need to look at your start position to begin.  
Pay particular attention to the angle of the back, and the amount of flexion at the hip, knee and ankle. 

When moving to a deficit, the bar will obviously be further away, which will require you to get into a deeper starting position.

This is where most people make their mistake.

Instead of getting into a deeper position, they generally just create more flexion at the hip (bend over more to reach the bar), which is just going to load the lower back harder, not train the muscles that are (should) be responsible for breaking the weight from the floor. One of the biggest restrictors I see for achieving this position is a lack of dorsi-flexion, which is the ability to get the knees past the toes. If you have limited flexibility here, deficits are not for you.  
This is probably a slightly over exaggerated picture, but you get my point.

 

Being in this position is not training your deadlift from a mechanical disadvantage, rather just training a variation…… One that’s less specific, and one that may not help you as much as you’d hoped for. 

When getting into a good start position for a deficit deadlift, we want to spread the extra flexion required out across all 3 joints; the ankle, the knee and the hip. 
The knee travels a little more out over the bar, the crease of the hip gets a little lower into the squat, and the torso leans slightly more forward….. This is now an extension of the movement you already do, and are now we are training with purpose and with a clear benefit in mind. 

You can see now Alex’s deadlift off a deficit is now much closer to that of his regular deadlift, and we could expect to get some good carry over. 

So who should be doing deficits? And how high should they be? 

I primarily use deficits to:
A) Make a block of training harder without having to increase volume or absolute intensity.
B) Build more speed and strength off the floor.

In my opinion, the deficit should be anywhere above 25mm (1 inch) and never be more then 75mm (3 inches).
Personally I’ve had my best results from 60mm, and most of my clients from 40mm to 50mm.  

If deficit deadlifts are something you are going to incorporate into your training, I’d recommend you still hit some heavy BB rows, SLDL’s and all of the other upper back work you can fit in, just to make sure those area’s don’t become an apparent weakness in your deadlift. 

Remember, doing these incorrectly can not only increase your risk of injury to the lower back, but will almost certainly have negative effects on your competition deadlift. 
If there is a reputable coach in your area, I suggest going to see them first, just to make sure you get the most out of your training! 

Until next time,

Stay Strong.

Scott Wasson
Valhalla Strength – Brisbane
www.valhallastrength.com.au