The Deadlift Program for a friend

A friend of mine was looking for a new program for his deadlift. For the sake of this story let’s call him Tatanka. He is a solid deadlifter (has pulled over 600 at 198), with a good overall build for lifting, but not necessarily a deadlift specialist. Good work capacity and overall high motivation and intensity when training (only frequent lifter I know that literally never takes in caffeine). He also follows the 5/3/1 for his squat volume on Monday and pulls on Wednesday. This is important since the fatigue accumulated from lifting on Monday will affect his pulls on Wednesday, but we will program accordingly for that. The goal with the 5/3/1 on the squats is to follow a rotation where week 1 is 90% week, week 2 is 85%, week 3 is 95%, and week 4 is deload (Intensity rotation I picked up from Joe Kenn). So with that in mind here is the main movement programming I’m giving him for his heavy pull:

Week Style method Load reps sets Total reps
1 conventional DE >60% 3 10 to 12 30-36
2 conventional RE >70% 5+ 5 25-30
3 sumo DE >60% 3 10 to 12 30-36
4 sumo RE >70% 5+ 5 25-30


This is the general plan when outside of trying to hit a new 1RM or peaking for a meet. I cycle the two styles for him since he wants a different type of challenge, but still wants to have a solid base of strength. By hitting a speed week before a rep week you can work your technique and still not accumulate a huge amount of fatigue from this type of training. For the dynamic effort (DE) increase the load on your sets if your speed is good, or if you want to test yourself some. There is no point in turning this in to a true max testing session, instead aim to build both technique and power in it. For the repetition effort (RE) weeks build up in sets of 5 to a top set that you can take to failure (preferably only near failure) as both a test and indicator of progress. This rep plan is to get in the according amount of volume from the main movement, and after each month bump up your training maxes just like you would with Wendler’s 5/3/1 (I go 5 to 10 pounds a month).

If you want to peak some in general with your maximal strength this is the type of progression I will follow for two to three months before actually hunkering down and doing a true maximal strength month progression:

Week Style method Load reps sets Total reps
1 conventional DE >60% 3 10 to 12 30-36
2 conventional ME >75% 2 to 5 3 to 5 10-20
3 sumo DE >60% 3 10 to 12 30-36
4 sumo RE >70% 5+ 5 25-30


Assistance work

After the heavy work (which you can do some Olympic lifting beforehand if you want) I like doing Jim Wendler’s boring but big type programming where I take an assistance movement for the deadlift that is centered around your weak point. For Tatanka, I can’t think of a weak point other than tolerance of other people’s weakness (he doesn’t tolerate that well at all). So I would suggest deficit deadlifts for three months, RDLs for the next 3, and then snatch grips deads for the following three months all done for 5 sets of 10. Then picking a single joint or muscle group weakness exercise for another 5 sets of ten and ab work for 5 sets of 10. The full range of motion exercises are great due to less load needed to cause a hypertrophic response. Also, this large range will help with maintaining flexibility and mobility.


Really not a complicated program here, but it is what works well for me right now, and I think a few variations on this will help with his deadlift performance. At the end of the day his max strength is something that he always wants to have, but I like the ability to express that strength in more than one fixed motor pattern, so this is a way to set that up. Let me know if you have any questions and thanks for taking the time to read this.


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