Is Ed Coan’s Deadlift Routine Good For Naturals? Yes, it can work for natural lifters too.

Not too long ago I was asked whether the popular deadlift routine of Ed Coan is good for natural lifters. While I have never done it in its full form, I am familiar with the linear peaking style it uses. {You can find the complete routine here.}

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I have done two linear peaking cycles for my deadlift with decent success. When I actually cared about putting more and more weight on the bar, I got to my best deadlift of 197,5 kg / 435 lbs for 2 reps at a bodyweight of  75 kg / 165 lbs. I increased my deadlift from 160 kg to 197.5 kg with those two linear peaking cycles.

Similar linear cycles work even for natural lifters, although you cannot expect the biggest gains in the world. Below is one of my deadlift cycles I did in similar fashion in the past.

When I was training this way I had a deadlift day when the only thing I would do was the deadlift. It was usually Friday or Saturday. The squat was done on Monday or Tuesday.

Here are the basic principles.

1. Pick a weight you can lift for 8-10 reps. In my case this was something like 120 kg / 264 lbs. At that time my best deadlift with good form was probably 160 – 165 kg.

Week 1: 120 kg – 10 sets of 3;

# Rest between sets should be around 5-7 minutes or less during the early weeks. I never timed it thought.

# I would add 5 kg / 11 lbs to my deadlift weight each week because the deadlift can handle big jumps.

Week 2: 125 kg – 10 sets of 3;

Week 3: 130 kg – 10 sets of 3;

Week 4: 135 kg – 10 sets of 3;

Week 5: 140 kg – 8 sets of 3;

# Note the reduced number of sets;

Week 6: 145 kg – 8 sets of 3;

Week 7: 150 kg – 6 sets of 3;

Week 8: 155 kg – 4-6 sets of 3;

Week 9: 160 kg – 3 sets of 3;

Week 10, 11, 12 are PR weeks

Week 10 – 165 – 1-2 sets of 3;

Week 11 – 170 – 1 set of 3;

Week 12 – 175 – 1 set of 2 or even 1. Don’t go all out.

Note: Those are not exact numbers I used but they are pretty close. I did this lifting a long time ago and I rarely use training logs.

End of cycle.

The next cycle begins the same way but with 130 – 135 kg, and you try to finish with something like 197.5 kg.

Why does this routine work?

Because it’s based on cycling. You build up to a PR and then go BACK. The reason you need to make a step backwards is to deload and allow your body, especially joints and mind, to recover. However, each new cycle starts heavier than the previous one and you set PRs at the end.

You can make the cycles shorter – 8 weeks. I think the less advanced you are, the shorter the cycles should be. Somebody who is just starting out doesn’t need to go back. Let’s say that your initial deadlift is 40 kg. You don’t need this routine. It’s for people who are already deadlifting at least a little over bodyweight.

I’ve written about how I got my deadlift from 40 kg to 180 kg in this post.

Note: Somewhat ironically, back in the day almost all American powerlifters used similar peaking cycles. One of the reasons was to time their steroid usage. Each week they would increase the dose as the weight goes up. Of course, they would deny, but it was a pretty common practice. However, this routine would works for naturals.

Can I use it on other exercises too?

Yes. It works for all barbell exercises. You can even use if for something like weighted pull-ups and dips, although I see no point in doing dips for sets of 2, but it will work. Cycling always works, although the PRs may not be as spectacular. One thing is for certain though – the deload reduces the risk of injuries tremendously.

What about the assistance exercises?

I never did assistance exercises such as stiff leg deadlifts and barbell rows. For me they would just tire my lower back and make me spend more time in the stupid gym I was training at. I think you can get a decent deadlift without doing assistance exercises, but it really depends on your particular situation.

In brief, I am not 100% sure Ed Coan’s deadlift routine is best for naturals in its pure form. You may find the overall assistance exercises too much. However, its main principles regarding the deadlift do work even for natties.

FAQ: Did you stop deadlifting?

Yes. The deadlift takes more from than it gives me back. Ironically, I consider myself I decent deadlifter. When I was able to deadlift 197.5 kg my bench was about 90 kg and my squat was 137.5 kg or so. I have very long arms and this is why the deadlift comes easy to me. However, I can get the same strength and physical benefits with other exercises without killing myself.

My deadlift gained me a lot of respect in the gym I was training back in the day. I’ve seen guys twice my size and 18 inch arms struggle with 160 kg deadlifts. They would wonder: “How in the HELL is this skinny bitch lifting more than me?”

They didn’t know my secret – long arms and strong hips. Also, the deadlift does not require you to have a ton of muscle mass because of its mechanics and short range of motion. Thus, it’s the lift that allows skinny/wiry guys to perform ego lifting rituals.

In the end of the day, I am still alive and maybe one day I will deadlift again. Who knows? With that said, I don’t want to discourage people from doing deadlifts. If you love the exercise, you should keep doing it.

What style of deadlifting do you recommend?

I’ve always used the conventional style, hook grip and narrow stance. This makes your arms even longer and you can deadlift more. I’ve done the sumo deadlift only once and it’s very uncomfortable because I don’t have flexible adductors. Usually, good squatters will have better success with the sumo because you can use more of your legs while the conventional version relies primarily on the back. Sumo is also good if your arms are too short and you cannot get into proper position. It’s a personal thing overall. However, I do think conventional deadlifts do look better. You mad?

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