I’ve never been awesome at the deadlift. I have a skinny ectomorph frame, and to be honest, it took over a decade and many specialized powerlifting programs to get my bench press max to an impressive 380, squat to 475, and my deadlift has been stuck at 465-485 from the floor for years.
I’ve done high frequency deadlifting plans that locked my body up and put me in pain.
Whenever I started a new deadlifting plan, it wasn’t long in the weight progressions before my lower back irritation would amplify and I simply couldn’t keep up with the progressions. A tweak in my back would put me out long enough to ruin the program.
I should add that I am pretty flexible for my size and all my flexbility training coul not relieve my lower back pain for the deadlift.. I was so frustrated and thought I was just not built to do this lift that I loved so much.
Deadlifting has been a lift that I’ve always kept in every two to three weeks in some form, whether from the floor or rack, or the stiff legged variety.
I’ve actually fallen in love with the MANY other forms of deadlifting – suitcase, straddle, sumo kettlebell, rdl, etc. but that’s a blog for another day.
Now to how I actually got my body comfortable enough for send my deadlift numbers up to 500 and break the plateau I was stuck at for years…
I found a partner in my gym who is smaller than I, but has incredible deadlifting strength, much stronger than 1 with half the mass. As we trained together that day, he watched my form and said something that hit dead on…
“Josh, you’re strong enough to pull this weight, but the beginning of your movement looks like your body is in pain, more from the movement itself rather than your ability to lift the weight.”
That was totally true. I knew I could lift the numbers, but my body felt locked up and in pain when I did it..
A Staggered conventional stance. Yes, it’s weird but true. I first hear of this from an old time powerlifter in the book, “The Purposeful Primitive”. I can’t remember the athletes name, but he had a record breaking deadlift and he always lifting with one of his feet a inch back behind the other. Creating a slightly staggered stance.
Something about this imperfect alignment allowed my hips to comfortable lift in a way that took pressure off my lumbar spine. I was able to crouch to the bar without a rounded lower back and the transition was amazing.
The weight would shift from primarily in one leg during the first half of the lift, through the other on the lockout, this kept me pain free.
This is my new Conventional deadlifting stance from now on. I squeeze my glutes as I walk up to the bar, both shins touching the bar at hips width apart.
Then I step my left foot back by 1 inch (this varies but 1-2 inches is the sweat spot).
See how this feels for you if you have constant lower back tightness.
Sumo Deadlifting in the same workout as Conventional deadlifting
For whatever reason, this balance of a WAVE progression has helped kick my numbers up.
A WAVE is where you pyramid your weight and lower your reps, then go back down, to come up again… here is an example of my wave:
Staggered conventional stance- 405×5 reps, 445 x 3 reps, 475×2 reps
Sumo Stance Deadlift: 415×5 reps, 455×3 reps, 480×2 reps.
6 working sets of deads.
There you go, more deadlift volume, and finding a stance that was comfortable enough for my lower back.
I’ve been doing this for only 2 months and my deadlift has jumped 25 pounds. I’ll report back in a couple months to see where it’s at then!