Very few realize that many of our ideas and beliefs are hollow concepts based on mind control and fear. That’s what you get for investing your faith in human beings. Humans can never be the ultimate authority. Our self-righteousness and minds susceptible to programming will never allow it.
The bodybuilding niche is also full of infatuated individuals who think that the gurus are always telling the truth. I am almost sorry to inform you, but many popular muscle scholars spread false ideas. One of them is the belief that there are exercises that you must do to be considered worthy of breathing. It’s true that certain movements are more effective than others, but using different tools to get the job done is not a crime.
I can tell you how 99% of the articles on squats and deadlifts start – “Squats and deadlifts are amazing compound exercises that pack on muscle mass like nothing else. To grow like a weed, you must do them. If you don’t, you are a pussy.”
As a person who’s done a fair amount of squatting and deadlifting, my instant response is: “Yeah, right!”
I am almost sorry to inform you, but the deadlift is just an exercise, nothing more. You can achieve similar results in terms of strength and muscle by implementing other movements.
Can you build a big back without deadlifts? Certainly.
Can you build a strong posterior chain with deadlifts? Certainly.
Can you build a strong lower back without deadlifts? Certainly.
Will the deadlift help you overcome the limitations of natural bodybuilding? No, unfortunately.
Why Do The Gurus Love The Deadlift?
The deadlift has three main benefits.
A. It teaches you how to lift heavy stuff properly.
B. It conditions your mind for hard tasks.
C. It is a highly effective and efficient exercise.
What if I tell you that one weekly set of heavy deadlifts can build just as much if not more back thickness than two classic back routines that do not include the exercise? I am not kidding. As long as you keep adding weight, even one set a week will make your back thicker. This is how efficient the lift is. It digs deep and hurts the inner layers.
On the other hand, the main downsides of the deadlift are:
A. Stressful on the central nervous system.
B. Long Recovery time.
A heavy pull requires at least 5 days to recover. If you are really strong, you may need 2 weeks to fully recuperate. I am not kidding.
The slow recovery time limits the training frequency significantly. This is why even some powerlifters avoid deadlifts and focus on squats and other forms of pulls. Since the deadlift is not a highly technical lift like the snatch, for example, you don’t have to practice it all the time to become proficient.
C. Too much ego.
The deadlift could easily turn into an ego lift. This can result in poor form and failure to get all the benefits of the exercise.
In conclusion, deadlifts are not obligatory. If you like them, do them. If you don’t, do other exercises. However, you will benefit greatly from learning how to deadlift properly. Nobody says that you should marry the lift, but knowing how to execute it correctly will be beneficial to your gym career. Don’t be scared and take the chance. Once you have a base, do whatever you want. As they say – “Learn the rules to break them properly.”
“A heavy pull requires at least 5 days to recover. If you are really strong, you may need 2 weeks to fully recuperate. I am not kidding.”
Very true. My best deadlift is 554 lb and whenever I use 500+ in training (once in a blue moon!) I spend the next week with reduced strength and explosiveness.
The stronger I get, the more I need to remember that being capable of doing a given session does NOT mean I should do it! Straight sets with only 365-385, or even a 4×5 at 405, eventually will get at me. Such sessions tend to leave my lower back sore for days.
I use bar speed as an indicator and a tool to avoid doing too much. If, on week 1, I work up to just one easy set of 5 at 405 lb, and come in the next week to find that 405 is even easier, it means I am now capable of generating more Force, because a greater force with same weight will produce a faster lift. This is efficiency: I gained something at the price of an easy effort!
I think using bar speed as a gauge, and adding weight to the top set while making sure to leave reps in the tank, is a good way to train once you are an advanced lifter. The lower back is not designed to tackle limit loads week in, week out. Deadlifts are so effective that for any decently strong lifter, doing one set of 4-5 reps at 70-75% while going full force on every rep (and starting each rep from a dead stop) is probably enough to get stronger — and it’s fun!
Reading about the training of guys who pull 900+ shows that most of these guys take great care when selecting their training weights and avoid going needlessly heavy. For them, 50-60% is still plenty of spine loading! Andy Bolton used to start his cycles by working to a set of 5 at 50%.
Better to err on the side of caution!