I was wondering if you could offer any tips on how to improve my deadlift (i.e. get stronger to lift more weight) - I considered asking on bodybuilding.com but figured I'd get less abuse here. Basically I'm not a big guy, I'm 5'8" and 168lbs. I can squat (with good form) 300lb (135kg) but in terms of deadlift I can only lift around 155lb (70kg).
I feel like my hamstrings can probably take a bit more weight, but my forearms/hands seem to give up way before my legs do. I do hammer curls and the forearms can take all the weight I throw at them. I occasionally use grip strengtheners, and my forearms are the right size in proportion to my upper arms, but the grip just struggles on the deadlift. I'm a bit reluctant to use wrist straps as they would serve as kind of a crutch and not really address the issue.
So, any ideas for strengthening my grip to be able to hold a heavier bar, and also some tips for improving the hamstrings wouldn't go amiss either!
Are you using opposite grip? It's easier. For sets close to my max I use that grip, though I am always pushing that limit, as it's a great grip strengthener. So for warmup and sets in the 70 to 80% of your one rep max, use the same grip direction for each hand, and for your challenge sets switch to opposite. With time you will find your grip getting stronger. I still occasionally drop the thing, as I get a bit ambitious, but that's what the deadlift is all about.
I had someone who knew his stuff examine my technique last summer; I'll pass what he said to me:
Keep your ass down, first off pull hard with shoulders, then follow up with a strong thrust with the legs. Keep looking forward, and at the top of the movement don't bend over back too far. For the entire movement set your back in it's neutral position and never let it bend so that your shoulders slump ahead.
For more on deadlift than you'll want to know get a copy of Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe; it's for coaches and full of technical stuff, but it's great for really understanding the mechanics of what the lift is trying to achieve, and, more importantly, what NOT to do so you don't hurt yourself.
Good luck, and heavy lifting to you.
I agree with alternate grip. You can also try a hook grip, but that takes some pain tolerance. hook grip- wrap thumbs around bar, then wrap fingers around bar and over thumb. i can only hook grip about 60% of what i can deadlift before the pain is unbearable. good luck
Good advice Carl, thanks - yeah I do find that I can go a bit heavier with an alternate grip, don't worry I'll stick at it!
Do wrist curls both positive and negative (front and back) to build up your wrist to handle the weight of the bar.
Other than that the only thing that will make you stronger is to continue building with good form.
I do very little isolation work; even my assistance exercises involve multiple muscle groups. For forearms I do deadlifts as above, hanging leg raises (abs too) and reverse curls (biceps as well).
I like the reverse curls with the straight barbell, I can feel the forearm muscles burning. I've always been told to mix group exercise with isolation exercise as each has their advantages.
Reverse curls are excellent, especially supersetted with regular curls.
I do straight bar for both.
I've noticed behind the back barbell curls to be the best for me. High reps too.
Something along the line of farmers walks may help. Just basically pick up the heaviest dumbbells you can and walk/hold them as long as possible.
You may want to look into hook grip too. A method of putting your thumb under your fingers while holding. Most reviews I've read say it takes a while for the fingers to get used to it, but has added considerable weight to their lifts.
Think more along the lines of your hands/arms just being the hook for the pull. I find the less you think about grip and it being an issue, the less it becomes an issue.
Few tips with deads that you may find help. Tighten up all muscles and get tension in the bar before beginning. The best advice I've had given to me was to drive your heels through the ground. Switching stances seemed to help me a lot too. Changed to a sumo stance where arms are straight down from the shoulders and knees/legs just outside. Changing to this stance has helped my form as well as helped with the poundage I can lift. Going barefoot/sockfoot has helped too. All of the above are little things that you may want to try. Find what works for you best.
As far as hamstrings, the best way I've found is supersetting Romanian Deads and the seated curls together. Go slow on the Romanian DL's and get that good stretch in the hams with that good mind-muscle connection. You won't have to lift too heavy if you're doing these right.
thanks for the advice guys, much appreciated - might give that hook grip a try, never been afraid of a little pain!
It's your brain stopping you. You can dead lift at least as much as you can squat (don't try this yet b/c your form probably isn't ready for it). We see the bar on the ground and think about that time we had to move the fridge or hardwood furniture, but it's not the same experience.
It's an explosive lift. Jump up with your legs, which can already lift heavier evidenced by your squat, don't think about lifting with your arms/forearms, they just have to hold on. Don't try and be polite, quiet, slow, make all the noise you need and drop the bar if you have to, to get it down; the mats can take it and everyone else at the gym is too concerned with being noticed themselves to judge you.
Make sure you are using proper form, you don't use any back muscles to extended, your body straightens out b/c of your glutes tightening and you never bend your back to put the wieght down. Watch a video tonight, warm up with an empty bar at the gym in the mirror to make sure your form is good. Not implying you have bad form, but I don't want you pulling your back out b/c another lifter told you just yank the bar up.
Go to the gym tomorrow, start a set as you normally do, next set do your 155 x5, rest, do 180 x5 (don't think about it, don't try and feel it out just stand), rest, do 185 x5, rest do 190 x5, go home take your rest day. Next day at the gym 155 is your starting weight after your warm up and max out at 195 or do 3 more reps at 190.
Your goal every day at the gym is add more weight or more reps to your last set.
You should always use a spotter, but especially when trying new maxes.