Deadlifts from the top

Discussion in 'General Training' started by Totentanz, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I have been doing deadlifts in the rack starting from the top for about six months now and have found my deadlift from the floor has made dramatic increases since then. Basically, I set the hooks to hold the bar at the level I would use if doing rack pulls. I always use straps when doing deadlifts from the top. Strap up, lift the bar and take a couple steps backward, tighten up your core then slowly lower down to the floor, allow the stretch reflex to assist you in pulling the weight back up.

    This can effectively work as a sort of negative version of deads because you can use loads greater than your 1 RM off the floor and still complete a full rep. As a side effect, I've found greater growth in my erectors and traps than I have experienced in quite a while.

    I recommend everyone who likes to deadlift to try this out. I alternate between these, standard deadlifts from the floor and throw in some rack pull training in there too. As a result, I'm getting close to hitting a 600 lb deadlift quite soon. A few months back, I pulled 545 from the floor. Just recently, using top down deads, I was able to do 545 for three full reps, which I doubt I could do from the floor at this point in time.

    I plan to attempt a 600 lb deadlift from the top very soon and if I get it, I know that 600 from the floor will be right around the corner. Anyone else willing to try these out? I can record and post a video this weekend if my description is not clear enough.
  2. grunt11

    grunt11 New Member

    Thanks for sharing this. I feel like I might need something to jumpstart my Dead Lifts since their gains don’t seem to be keeping up with my Squat and Bench gains.
  3. whistledixie

    whistledixie New Member

    Dude, it's crazy you bring this up this week because my trainer was going over this exact thing yesterday. I'm a day behind, so I wasn't doing leg day with everyone else, but the group was doing deadlifts and he was showing everyone the exact thing you are talking about - strapping up, dropping down, explosively coming back up. I tried it once at the end of my session and feel it so much more intensely in my traps and spinal erectors than I normally do. He said we'd work deads traditionally during the first phase because he's coaching us on form right now and explosive movements are harder to critique - but during the next phase, we'll have 1 day a week where we start doing explosive deads from the top.

    Seriously, what a coincidence - I was going to post something about this today before I read your post
  4. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    That's cool. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have been enjoying them. I wouldn't be surprised if you were able to deadlift 300 from the top very quickly here.
  5. grunt11

    grunt11 New Member

    I did a Google search for “top down deadlift” and this thread came up on the first page so I figure I might as well ask here since you’ve gotten such good results.

    Could you explain in more detail how you have been alternating them into your workouts, and at what point do you think someone would start to benefit using them over traditional deadlifting. More specifically do you think I would benefit much being only about 7 months in and still making 5-10% gains each cycle in my deadlifts and squats. For reference I just ended the last cycle at as BW of 166 lbs. with a 330lb deadlift and 285lb squat. Also, if I would benefit how would you see someone at my level incorporating them.
  6. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I deadlift on saturdays every week. I only do deadlifts from the floor once a month, deadlifts from the top the other three weeks on deadlift day, and I like to add in rack pulls on the opposite side of the week every other week so I usually end up rack pulling on every other Monday. So depending on your schedule, you just want to make sure if you are doing rack pulls to put some distance between them and your deadlift day, or else just replace deadlifts that week with rack pulls entirely. However, I also only hit the legs one day a week aside from deadlift day, as squatting more than once a week compromises my deadlift day usually. The other thing I do differently with deads on Saturday is that I do not apply the same progression to them as I do with other lifts. I only deadlift in the 1 to 5 rep range on Saturdays. When I do rack pulls I just fit them in to my progression just like all my other lifts, the saturday deadlifts are the only lift I don't do standard progression with. I still progress though, and every few months I'll try for a new one rep max, sometimes sooner if I am feeling particularly strong on a particular saturday, and if I hit a new max then I drop back to 85% or so of my 1 RM and start building back up.

    I am pretty sure you could handle a higher load with top deadlifting than you could from the floor, which will help you increase your floor deadlift faster (in my experience) since you will be getting more load on the eccentric if you are handling higher loads. You'll probably want to test your max on the top deadlift instead of just using your floor dead max. You may want to just do your deadlifts with standard progression to get accustomed to deadlifting from the top. I could see a whole cycle only doing them from the top being viable. You won't lose strength on your floor deadlifts during this time. I didn't train my floor deadlifts much at all when I was chasing 545, and it was only a while after I got 545 from the top that I decided to try it from the floor one day and it went up.
    So... I guess my recommendation for now would be to test your max on top deads before you start your next cycle then just lay out a standard progression for them. Then maybe at the end of that cycle take some time to test your max on floor deads and see if it went up.
    FWIW, top deads are actually great for doing negatives on deads since you can usually get 3-5 reps with your 1 rep floor dead max.
  7. grunt11

    grunt11 New Member

    Thanks for the explanation. Interesting that independent from what you just said I had concluded that dropping below 85% of my 1RM on the deadlift hasn’t felt productive. I’ve tried some rack pulls and while it feels nice picking up a heavier weight I haven’t felt that they’ve helped much since my sticking point is the floor not part way up. This time around I was planning on beginning a little lower than 85% and starting out with platform deadlifts to help with my sticking point. However, from the sound of it doing top down should also help with that since the stretch reflex should kick in right when I need it.

    My original plan for this next cycle was to switch to M/W/F full body routine. I feel I responded well to adding in SLDL and a second squat day with the primary deadlifts and squats being heavy singles and the secondary higher days in the 8-12 rep range. I was alternating them with primary deadlift Tuesday followed by higher rep squats, and primary squat Thursday followed by SLDL. It seemed to work well but I really want to try putting full days off between my workouts for a cycle to see if how that works for me, especially the tendonitis in my arms. Maybe I should only deadlift and squat on Monday and Wednesday and skip lower body work on Friday. I’ll also have to think about whether to start this cycle with top downs or end the cycle with them as negatives testing my 1RM and then starting the next cycle with them as my primary deadlift exercise.

    When doing the 1-5 rep range top downs how many sets are you doing?
  8. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I only do one top set, but I would do plenty of warmups. I always start with 225 x 5, 315 x 5, 405 x 3 then depending on how I feel I either go straight to 500 for a triple, then continue to my working load from there, or I do another warmup set somewhere between those two loads, so actually it can end up being 5-7 total sets depending how high a load I work up to that day, but only one top set with my max weight I'm using that day, and I try to get between 1 to 5 reps with that top set, again just depending on I feel.

    If the floor is your sticking point, you might want to contine to include those deficit deads in there. I wouldnt quit doing those if I were you. Re: rack pulls - I do rack pulls simply to get accustomed to handling higher loads. Also, I think rack pulls are one of the best lifts for overall back thickness, so I would include them just for back even if I wasn't trying to improve my deadlift.

    Dropping back on leg work is definitely worth checking out. You can do it for just a cycle or two in order to see how it works and if something horrible happens, like your legs start to shrink, you'll know by then and can correct. However, if you are like me and legs are a strong point for you, then you shouldn't have to worry about it. But if you don't feel like the other leg work is compromising your deadlift progress, then you don't have to drop back on it either. I would definitely recommend full days off between workouts if you are aggressively trying to push your deadlift, because it can be really taxing and sometimes you won't even realize how much it is draining you for a couple weeks when suddenly you are feeling run down. For me that is a huge concern. I always have to be very careful to manage fatigue and nutrition when I am really pushing hard on my deadlifts or else I will start getting insomnia or I will get colds/flu symptoms.

    If I were you, I'd continue this cycle as planned then use the top deadlifts at the end for negatives to attempt to progress beyond your max, or to test your new 1 RM with it, then replace floor deads next cycle.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2011
  9. grunt11

    grunt11 New Member

    Based on what you said about only pulling from the floor once a month I’m assuming your top down deadlift warm-ups are also top down. From the looks of it your total warm ups and working reps are about the same as except that I have less weight to increment so I usually end up with more reps at the working weight than warm-ups.

    Besides the obvious unracking and racking of the bar what advantage do you feel you get from doing reps in the 85-90+% of your 1RM. I’ve been under the impression that over a certain weight, say 90% to be safe, all muscle fibers are recruited from the 1st rep. Going with that I’ve been doing singles at that range usually shooting for 10-20 single reps depending on the weight. In other words do you have an opinion on which is more effective both top down and bottom up strength-wise to do 1-5 reps in a single set at your working weight or do 10 to 15 single reps?

    Point taken on the rack pulls and getting use to handling heavier weights. Similarly I decide to try switching from shrugging the bar for Calf Raises to putting it on my back and doing walkouts for calf raises (safety bars set accordingly). I figured that would help me get use to the heavier weights and spare my forearms some of the strain of holding the bar since they’ll get plenty of that with the deads and shrugs. I’m also giving the Versa Grips a try this time around to also see if that lightens the strain on my forearm tendons.

    I also feel that my legs are my strong point, both genetically any because they never lost much of their previous size because I did a lot of hill running. I think your advice to continue as planned and add the top downs as negatives at the end is good. This is after all a marathon and not a sprint.
  10. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    To be honest, I stick to heavier loads and lower reps with deads just because I don't like doing higher reps on deads... I know, I'm a wuss. But I get wiped out just by what I'm doing on deads, I don't think I could handle more reps without destroying myself for a few days. Oh and yes I do all my warmups from the top but I don't start using straps until I get to 500 or higher.

    Since you are fairly accustomed to max-stim, I'm sure you get squeeze more reps out with higher % loads than I mentioned I do in my example, and I'm sure that would be much better overall for increasing your deadlift strength.
  11. grunt11

    grunt11 New Member

    Yeah I’m quite surprised at how well I’m tolerating doing deadlifts this time around vs last considering I’m 15 years older. I’m guessing the byproduct of spending the last 8 years running 25 miles a pop up and down South Mountain. Coming down some of those trails with 15lbs. of gear in my running pack is like being in 1000 little car wrecks. When I started it would waste me for the better part of a week. By the time I stopped running and started lifting about 7 months ago I could manage a short to medium run the next day. Probably why I haven’t been having any overuse problems with my legs like my arms since they are more conditioned to the abuse.

    I will probably stick with Max-Stim for the bottom up lifts since I’m used to it and have never been able to perform that many lifts with that high a % before. I also like the fact it prevents me from losing concentration and form since each lift is separate.

    Side note I just made a rudimentary platform for my Platform Deadlifts out of some spare 2x3s I had sitting around. Taking a full 10 days off lower body and 14 days off upper is eating at me right now.

    One more question. Since you’re not doing normal progression on your Deadlifts do you include them in your SD or just do a deload and press on?
  12. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I do still include them in my SD simply because I'm convinced the spike in satellite cells after 9 days off makes a difference in by progress.

    I'm going to be interested to see how incorporating these works for you. So far I don't have a whole lot of people I've been able to observe after adding these in yet.
    grunt11 likes this.
  13. Dvst8or

    Dvst8or New Member


    Can you recommend a site, reference, or provide a link on how to do deadlifts properly. And also something showing how to do these top down deadlifts as well would be awesome. I have been doing deads for quite some time now and I think I have some decent form but I have never been shown or seen anything official on how it should be done.

    I know I can do a google search but I was curious as to what you like/use since it seems to be working for you quite well. Nevermind the amount of mis-information that is out there.

    Thanks in advance,
  14. Bulldog

    Bulldog Active Member

    If you haven't read this article yet, it is a good place to start.

    A New, Rather Long Analysis of the Deadlift - By Mark Rippetoe
  15. TunnelRat

    TunnelRat Active Member

    Wow, what a treat! I've been away from the site for a few weeks, and my first day back I get a long thread about deadlifts. Life is good.
  16. RUSS

    RUSS Member

    Seems brilliant, I can't wait to give these a try.
  17. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I would be interested to see how you like them.
  18. Sci

    Sci Well-Known Member

    I have been struggling with how to fit the deadlift into my regular HST program, and I discovered this thread. I think I am going to follow this advice. Top down deadlifts, or at least similar load progression that he has here, on Saturdays, then legs training during the week, sounds like a brilliant program, and obviously has worked well for Totentanz. Thanks for the tip...I really want a 500 Deadlift one day.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2013

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