If you want to hit a deadlift PR, you need to build your training around it. The program I’ve written here is a ten-week cycle for an intermediate lifter who fails just below the knee. On most deadlift training days in this cycle, you will pull from the floor for triples, doubles, and eventually singles. After deadlifting from the floor, you will pull from six or four-inch blocks. The percentages will increase each week, except for deload weeks.

There are three deload weeks in this cycle. The first two (week three and week six), you will still deadlift but will stay at 60% and focus on speed and form. The final deload (week nine) will give you the opportunity to recover before the peak day on week ten. This week is extremely important if you want to hit a PR. If you push too hard on week nine, you will not be prepared to pull heavy on meet day.


It should be stressed that the prescribed percentages are meant for an intermediate lifter. If the lifter is more advanced, he should start at a lower percentage because he will need more time to acclimate to the really heavy loads. I find that intermediate guys (if they’ve been following a good off-season program) can jump right to higher percentages because the weights aren’t as heavy and don’t beat them up so badly. The heaviest movements (90 percent range) are all reduced range of motion.

When determining your numbers, base them off either your best lift in a meet or your best clean lift in the gym. Do not use the weight from a shitty grinder that you barely got and that would have been redlighted for three different reasons.



If you’re a sumo deadlifter, remember that setup is everything. You can see in my log the difference between a correct setup and a lazy approach to the bar. If you’re out of place before starting the pull, you will never finish the lift the way you want to. It works this way with conventional deadlifting as well, but some lifters can grind out bad positioning to get back into their groove. Proper setup makes the difference between a miss and an easy triple.

Setup matters just as much for the light pulls on weeks three and six. When you’re working at a lighter weight, you need to focus on your speed and form the same as if it’s a heavy pull. This will help build your technique for max attempts.

Accessory Exercises

Choose accessories based on your weaknesses. For my deadlift, I need to build my upper back, so I have been doing a lot of rows and dumbbell shrugs. If your weakness is in your hamstrings and glutes, it won’t do you any good to program rows and dumbbell shrugs. You need to pick accessory exercises that will help your deadlift. If your weakness is in your hamstrings and glutes, do glute ham raises. If your weakness is in your abs, do planks to the front and to both sides.

Train your traps to build a strong starting position. I also like to throw in reverse dumbbell curls from time to time to help the forearms and biceps tendons. These need to be strong to remain injury free when pulling heavy.

If you follow this outline and choose the right accessory exercises, you should hit a big PR on week ten. Send videos to the Q&A if you want technique advice or have other questions, and let us know in the comments how this training cycle works for you.