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Deadlift Setup – Creating a Powerful First Repetition

Deadlift is the easiest exercise there is, right? Bend down, grab the bar and pick it up.

Have you ever noticed how your second repetition in a heavy set of deadlifts is often easier than your first? How you set up and grab the bar can make a huge difference in powerful your first repetition is as well.

The Stretch Reflex: If a muscle is stretched rapidly, a contraction is triggered within that muscle. You use this reflex when you perform many of your exercises. During the eccentric, or lowering of the bar during the bench press for example, the pecs are stretched. This stretch, and the corresponding Stretch Reflex, assists you in driving the bar powerfully off your chest.

When deadlifting, there is no eccentric component to the first repetition. Just grab the bar and pick it up, right? On your second repetition as you lower the bar to the floor, your glutes and hamstrings are stretched, creating a stretch reflex that assists with the second and subsequent repetitions. How can you create a Stretch Reflex on your first repetition? Let’s start by walking through a typical deadlift. I refer to this as the Two Count Deadlift.

The Two Count Deadlift

  • Squat down to the bar
  • Grip the bar and pull

In trying to figure out why my own second repetitions were easier that the first, I came across a method of setting up for your deadlift that creates a pseudo eccentric component to your first repetition. I try to create the Stretch Reflex using a Three Count Deadlift.

The Three Count Deadlift

  • Rotate forward at the hips, bending to grab the bar
  • Rock back quickly, rotating at the knee to bring the hips down and chest up
  • As soon as your hips hit the bottom of the lift drive up explosively, bringing the bar,  your hips and shoulders up at the same rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

For both approaches, the concentric motion of the lift should be completed in one smooth motion.

As a competitive powerlifter, I focus on resetting after every rep using the Three Count Deadlift for all repetitions. In a competition, there is only one repetition, so I train for a powerful single repetition. However, although using the Three Count Deadlift may make your first repetition more powerful, you may find that using the Two Count Deadlift for the eccentric portion at the end of your first rep can make the rest of your reps easier. If you’re not training for competition, a hybrid approach (Three Count first rep, Two Count for subsequent reps) may allow you to pull greater weight and volume.

In the video demonstration, notice the transition to the Two Count Deadlift on the third repetition.

Try taking advantage of your body’s own reflexes for stronger pulls!




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