Franck, who lifts both because he enjoys it and because it improves his Judo performance, sent me three single lift deadlift videos a few days ago. He asked me what I thought about the lifts and if I could estimate the intensity of the lifts by anything visible on the video.

Being a strong supporter of the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, I told him to change exactly nothing on his execution. To the second question, I said that even though the last video showed a slight decrease, they were all at more or less constant velocity and powerful lockout.

Of the three lifts, the deadlift is the hardest to estimate intensity because the actual performance is a result of different factors:

-          Optimal coordination of the triple extension of lower limbs (hips, knees and ankles)

-          Grip strength

-          Relative strength of knee extension V hip extension

-          Isometric scapular adduction skill and strength

People who have a weak grip and/or small hands will lose performance on the deadlift in spite of the actual triple extension being far from an 80% of 1RM intensity, for example. The opposite  is also true: big men with an extremely strong grip may not be strong enough to fully pull a certain weight but will hold on to the weight until they spasm and fail.

With a little more data we established that the liftoff was the weak link on his deadlift: we’re good on knee pass and lockout. He also decided he’d like to periodize a grip training protocol. Unfortunately, as we were going back and forth with these emails, he injured his thumb during a Judo session.

Right now, this is what we will do:

Phase 1 (two weeks):

Day 1:

Snatch high pulls – 8 X 3 up to 60% (sets X reps)

Clean high pulls – 8 X 3 up to 60%

Scapular adduction-only rows:

-          Lat pulldowns

-          Seated rows

Bent rows holding the concentric peak for 2 seconds: 3 X 10

Hip thrust – 4 X 10 (~ 100kg)

Day 2:

Segmented clean deadlift – 8 X 3 at 60%

Liftoff only (he doesn’t have a power rack/cage, so isometric deadlifts are not an option but would be awesome) – 8 X 3 at 50%

Deficit deadlift – 3 X 50% / 3 X 65% / 2 X 75% / 5 X 1 X 80%

Day 1 and day 2 should be at least 3 days apart

We will decide both phase 2 and a grip recovery protocol after looking at the videos from these two weeks.


For evidence-based articles with lots of downloadable primary sources, click on "articles" on the author page

click on articles

books-ebooks home