Effective and consistent training is key to building strength. Here, Grant Lofthouse helps us uncover ways to build deadlift strength. 

How to build your deadlift strength - Women's Health and Fitness magazine



So you’ve been hitting the gym consistently, and you seem to be getting stronger and fitter each week. That is until you suddenly hit the dreaded plateau! You look in the mirror and nothing seems to be changing. Your gut instinct tells you that you’re to blame and you must be doing something wrong. Quick, you better start exercising more and make sure you eat less along the way. Right? Wrong! Think about it, neither are feasible. You can only restrict your calorie intake to a certain degree before you find that you’re not fuelling your body with enough food to sustain the training that you do. And you can’t really train more because there is only so much you can do until you run out of time or energy. While volume (more sets and reps) is capped, meaning that you’re limited as to how much you can do in one training session, strength is infinite. The stronger you are, the better your body is going to look and feel. So rather than stressing over volume, start focusing on consistent and effective strength training.

I’m going to reveal to you some of the tips and tricks of the trade that I used to help my client, Dragana, hit a 2.5 x bodyweight deadlift and achieve a strong yet lean physique with curves. 

Dedicate a day to your deadlift and a day to your squat

Now you’re probably thinking that in order to hit a 2.5 x bodyweight deadlift you need to train the deadlift every day. Not at all. As part of your overall weekly training program, you should incorporate a deadlift day and a squat day. For example, you could squat on Thursdays and deadlift on Sundays. Squats? How is this helping your deadlift? The squat complements the deadlift, meaning that the stronger your squat gets, the stronger your deadlift will be.

The 10 rep rule and long rest periods

In order to continue to progress, it is important that you follow a program that will ensure you not only get stronger, but more importantly, you remain injury free. When lifting heavy, it is vital to maintain perfect form. Your last rep should look like your first. This is why I like to use the 10-rep rule. For example, 2x5, 5x2, 3x3, which all add up to 10 reps (okay, one is nine).  Smart strength coaches like Dan John, Jim Wendler, Pavel Tsatsouline and Mark Rippetoe have their own variations of the 10-rep rule. There’s a reason they all have this in common, it works.

Another vital factor when programming is to incorporate adequate rest between sets. Often girls don’t give themselves enough rest between sets and find that their body does not recover enough in order to add weight to the next set. It’s hard to stay strong and get even stronger when you’re gassed out. Dragana rested anywhere between three to five minutes during her main sets. During this time while her body recovered, rather than standing around and waiting for the time to pass, she did some mobility or ab work that assisted her with her lift. Don’t be too eager to get straight into the next set - strength loves rest! Give your body the time to recover and reap the rewards.

Progressive Overload and Deload

One of the most important rules for strength training is known as progressive overload. Put simply, progressive overload means doing more over time. In this case, Dragana added 2.5kgs to her deadlift each week for three weeks. A 2.5kg jump was manageable and week by week, she got stronger and her deadlift got heavier. Remember to give yourself a running start; don’t start too close to your max, or there won’t be any room to improve. So what happened after 3 weeks? This is where deload week comes into play. Every fourth week, Dragana would drop her deadlift weight by 40%. This would give her body time to recover and she would come back the next week feeling energised and ready to do it all again. Strength training is a long game, not a short one. In order to get stronger and make long-term gains, you need to take three steps forward, and one step back.

Build a Strong Core

A heavy deadlift requires a strong core. You need to be able to stabilise the spine so that you can hold position and not collapse under the bar. There is so much more to building a strong core than simply performing crunches. Dragana did lots of ab work; she performed a variety of different heavy ab exercises in addition to high reps and static holds. So next time you’re in the gym, skip the crunches and try the ab rollout, or grab some heavy kettlebells and get into those farmer walks. Why not give hanging leg raises a go and mix it up with some planks? A strong core will ensure that you rock those abs next time you’re in a bikini, and it will also prevent you from getting injured.

Variety for Volume

After deadlifting, we did lots of other stuff in order to build her overall strength and GPP (General Physical Preparedness). While we specialised deadlifts on deadlift day, we included accessory exercises that increased her GPP while still focusing on strength. The main lift remained the same, the accessory exercises would change with each new program. What does all of this mean? To avoid getting bored in the gym, it is important to change your program periodically and include some variety.


The best program in the world is useless if it doesn’t incorporate and highlight the importance of recovery. Why? Because if you don’t give your body time to recover, not only will this hinder your progress, but it will also put you at a high risk of injury. Even worse, you could actually sustain an injury. If you’re injured, you can’t train. If you can’t train, you can’t get stronger. Makes sense, right? In order to make sure that Dragana recovered well we did a variety of things. She dedicated lots of time to stretching and rolling on the rumble roller. Another technique we often used is called ‘Body Tempering’ invented by Donnie Thompson. Body tempering involves rolling muscles with either a barbell or kettlebells for two minutes at a time. The areas being worked on are passive at the time and therefore release under tension. It’s often not pleasant at the time, but your muscles will thank you for it. You will find that once your body gets used to tempering, it will respond better each time. 

So remember, it’s not all just about training, recovery plays just as much of an important role as training does. Give your body time to recover and you will remain injury free.

So, now that you know the simple tips behind building a 2.5 x bodyweight deadlift, you’re probably wondering what the benefits are overall. Having a strong deadlift will give you incredible total body strength. The heavier the deadlift, the more dramatic effect it will have on your body. A 150kg deadlift will cause a bigger change in your body than a 50kg deadlift. Remember, it’s about breaking through that plateau, or better still, avoiding it all together in order to build and maintain that sexy physique you have been working hard towards. 

Grant Lofthouse helps women who lift to break through fat loss, muscle and strength plateaus without exercising more or eating less.