Dead-On Power

Deadlift your way to knockout strength

Your full-body explosive strength is fueled by a group of muscles that run down the back of your body from your neck to your ankles, collectively known as the posterior chain. When your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and spinal erector muscles are powerful, so is your entire body.

However, weakness in the posterior chain can diminish how hard you punch, kick, throw, or shoot, because powerful athletic moves require a strong foundation of support. This is where the deadlift comes in.

With all other factors being equal, the guy with the bigger deadlift for three repetitions will usually punch, kick, and throw harder than the other guy. Not only does the deadlift quickly pack muscle and power on your posterior chain, but it also strengthens your grip, lats, upper back, and traps. It’s more than just a posterior chain exercise—it’s a full-body strength builder.

How much should you be able to deadlift? Twice your fighting body weight. So if you cut to 185 pounds to make weight, your one-repetition maximum deadlift should be at least 370 pounds without the assistance of straps, wraps, or a lifting belt—a raw deadlift, in other words. The deadlift is also commonly performed incorrectly. Here’s
how to make it carryover into the cage.

Avoid Weightlifting Belts
Research shows that a belt will do more harm than good. Having a big leather belt cinched around your waist decreases muscle activity throughout your core. Ditch the weightlifting belt and you will strengthen your core muscles.

Deadlift Barefoot
Tennis shoes elevate your heels, which can cause knee injuries. In addition, the lateral support that tennis shoes provide diminish the work your ankle muscles have to do when you are barefoot. By lifting barefoot, you can activate receptors on the bottom of your feet that allow your hips and glutes to contract harder. Another option is to wear Vibram Five Fingers shoes.

Use an Unmixed Grip
It is common to see gym rats grip the barbell with one palm up and the other palm down (mixed grip) to keep the barbell from slipping out of their hands. This is hard on your shoulders and elbows, and it makes you susceptible to bicep tears. Use an unmixed grip and you will build stronger, healthier joints.

Determining Your 3RM
Now that you know the importance of the deadlift, it’s time to determine your current three repetition maximum (3RM). Only perform a one-rep max for testing purposes. Warm-up by jumping rope for three minutes to activate your nervous system and prepare your muscles and joints for activity. Next, perform two sprints of 30-40 yards with 30 seconds of rest between each.

Load an Olympic barbell with a 45-pound plate on each side (135 pounds). Stand with the barbell in front of your shins, and your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed straight ahead. Squat down and grab the bar with an overhand, unmixed grip with your hands just outside of your legs. Drop your hips as far as possible while keeping your heels on the ground. Your lower back should be arched and your eyes should focus on the ground a few feet in front of you.

Take a deep breath, brace your abs as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach, and lift the barbell straight up from the floor with your arms hanging down in front. Pull until your hips and knees are completely straight, with your shoulders pulled back. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top. Exhale.

Inhale, brace your abs, and then push your hips back while keeping your back fl at. Lower the bar to the floor as quickly as possible without dropping it. Repeat for two more reps.

After finishing your first set of three reps, add a 10-pound plate to each side or a 25-pound plate if the load felt very light. Keep adding weight in 10- or 25-pound increments until you reach a load that’s very challenging by the third rep. You should not push yourself too far if you’re new to the exercise. As soon as you can’t maintain an arch in your lower back while lifting, it’s time to stop. It’s better to err on the lighter side when determining your initial 3RM.

Perform the deadlift twice each week, evenly spaced (Monday/Thursday, Tuesday/Friday, or Wednesday/Saturday). Do three sets of three reps (3×3) for each workout. Your first set should be around 80% of your 3RM. If your 3RM is 200 pounds, do your first set with 160 pounds. Your second set is 90% of your original 3RM (180 pounds, in this case). For the third set, add 5 or 10 pounds to your original 200-pound 3RM for each workout. The third set of Monday’s deadlift workout should be with 210 pounds. The third set of Thursday’s workout should be three reps with 220 pounds. As soon as you can’t keep adding 10 pounds to the third set, start adding five pounds each workout (just to the third set).

FREQUENCY: twice each week, evenly spaced
Sets: 3
Reps: 3
Load: 80% of 3RM for set 1. 90% of 3RM for set 2. Original 3RM plus 10 or 20 extra pounds
for set 3.
Rest: 90 seconds between each set
Continue this sequence for four weeks, and then take a full week off from training the deadlift. After a week break, retest your 3RM, and repeat the entire four-week cycle until you reach a double-bodyweight deadlift. You’ll be amazed how much stronger your fighting techniques will become after the first month.

For more information visit or Chad’s book, Huge in a Hurry, which can be found on Amazon or at any major bookstore.

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