Last updated on November 1st, 2022 at 04:04 pm
Who’s asked, “Why Isn’t My Deadlift Going Up?”
Deadlifts are typically viewed as one of the “Big 3” lifts, along with squats and bench press.
Basically, if you want to get bigger and stronger you’ll typically perform these lifts on a regular basis.
And realistically it’s the deadlift that allows you to lift the most weight.
So, the more weight you can lift the bigger and stronger you can expect to get.
However, there’s nothing more frustrating than hitting a sticking point in your deadlifts.
No matter how hard you try you simply can’t seem to add any more weight.
So, what exactly is going on here, and how can you fix it?
Why Isn’t My Deadlift Going Up?
The main reason your deadlift isn’t going up will typically be a form issue. You should use the “wedge” method to correctly set yourself up prior to deadlifting. In effect, you are using the barbell as a counterbalance to stop you from falling backwards. This will ensure that your chest is up and your hips are down, thus engaging the hamstrings and glutes to greater effect. Additionally, you want to push through the feet, as opposed to pulling with the arms, to get the load off the floor.
1. Set Up Your Deadlift With The “Wedge” Method
The biggest factor when it comes to increasing your deadlift is to make sure your form is on-point.
Even if you’ve been deadlifting for years it’s not unheard-of to allow bad habits to creep in.
And there are even those of us who feel we are doing everything perfectly in terms of form, but in reality we could do a lot to improve our technique.
For me, I feel it’s best to go back to basics and start from the very beginning.
And this will involve getting your setup absolutely perfect before you even think about lifting a loaded bar off the floor.
The best setup method to use is the “wedge”.
Basically, you are setting yourself in the perfect deadlift position, while protecting your lower back.
And this is the key to deadlifting more weight.
When you first approach and place your hands on the barbell you want to think of the load as a way to counterbalance your own weight.
It’s almost as though you are falling backwards and the only thing stopping you is a loaded barbell.
So, in effect, you want to pull your chest up and sink your hips back and down.
What you’re doing here is “wedging yourself between the barbell and the floor.
From this position your armpits should be directly over the bar and you should feel maximal tension in your hamstrings.
If you’ve hit all of these points you’re now set up correctly and ready to deadlift.
The Deadlift “Wedge”
2. The Deadlift is a “Push” Not a “Pull”
Once you’ve correctly set yourself up in the wedge you are in the perfect position to deadlift.
And yet, many people make a terrible mistake straight afterwards.
There’s the age-old argument about whether deadlifts are a leg or a back exercise (it’s a leg exercise, no arguments please).
However, no-one’s ever had an issue with the fact that deadlifts are a pull exercise.
Well, I’m here to tell you that even that’s wrong.
Okay, I think we all know that the main muscles used during deadlifts will be the glutes and hamstrings.
This makes perfect sense.
You are typically lifting the heaviest load with a barbell, so you should realistically be using the largest muscles in the body.
We are even aware that various muscles in the upper body play a huge role during deadlifts.
For me, the main one of these is that your lats and upper back perform an isometric contraction to ensure that your arms don’t get ripped out of your shoulder sockets.
However, there is no actual “pull” required with the arms to get the load off the floor.
If there was then you’ve basically turned the deadlift into some type of hybrid barbell row.
Your hands are little more than hooks wrapped around the bar.
Your whole upper body contracts and keeps tight to provide additional leverage.
But still, there is no “pulling” involved.
The way I like to view deadlifts is that I am leg pressing the floor.
So, I am literally trying to push my feet straight through the floor.
If you do this you’ll ensure that the largest muscles in the legs are doing all the “lifting” work.
And it won’t be long before you bust out of a plateau and are deadlifting more weight.
Deadlift – Push Not Pull
3. Keep An Eye on Food and Sleep
Food and sleep are probably more important than actually lifting when it comes to increasing your deadlift.
In fact, this is true about getting bigger and stronger in general.
Much the same as bad form and incorrect habits going unnoticed, you could say the same about what you put into your body and how much rest you’re getting.
Firstly, it should go without saying that if you’re looking to increase the amount you deadlift, that you should keep your calories slightly above maintenance levels.
Pure and simple, you could already be lifting the maximum load that your current weight allows for.
I’m talking on a personal level about YOU now, as I’m sure we all know someone who’s probably half our weight who deadlifts double our amount.
However, you still need to ensure that you’re eating well and at a level that will also allow you to increase your own body weight at a healthy pace.
Additionally, you need to ensure you’re getting adequate rest and that you’re sleeping well.
Basically, the more volume or the more intensity with which you workout, the more sleep you’ll require.
So, if you’ve suddenly decided to up your game in the gym, but are still sleeping for the same amount of hours as you always have, this may cause an issue.
Furthermore, the quality of your sleep also makes a huge difference.
You can check out Dresdin Archibald’s article, “The Importance of Sleep For Weight Lifters and Other Athletes” for further details.
4. Deadlift More Often
Now you’ll often hear people stating that certain muscle weaknesses or imbalances are what’s holding your deadlift back.
Then you’ll be prescribed a list of exercises to perform in order to strengthen these lagging body parts.
So, you’ll find that your week is taken up doing rack pulls, hyperextensions, hamstring curls, hip thrusts, etc.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are all fantastic exercises in their own right.
Plus, they will definitely help to strengthen your “deadlift muscles”.
However, for me, it’s always been a case of, “If you want to get better at a specific skill, practice that skill more often”.
You may even have people tell you to deload and cut back for a week or two if you’ve hit a plateau in your deadlifts.
Now, this could hold true if you’re deadlifting huge amounts.
But, for most of us mere mortals, this probably won’t make that much of a difference.
So, you may want to try deadlifting more often.
Most people will typically never deadlift more than once a week.
However, based on your levels of recovery, I see nothing wrong with deadlifting 2-3 times a week (and sometimes more).
You don’t always have to go at full intensity.
Plus, you can play around with reps, sets, rest periods, etc. on each deadlift day.
But, as long as you’re getting ample rest, you’re recovering and eating well, deadlifting more often should see you out of that slump.
So, I hope you have a clearer idea of why your deadlift isn’t going up.
The main issue will typically be your form and the possibility that you’ve taken on a few bad habits.
It’s best to go back to basics and start from the very beginning.
So, try the “wedge” method to ensure that you’re set up correctly to deadlift.
Additionally, you should view the deadlift as a push exercise and really try to literally push your feet through the floor as you lift.
This will ensure that the correct muscles get activated during deadlifts.
Plus, keep an eye on what you eat, and how much sleep you’re getting, and you can also try deadlifting more often.
Next, make sure you check out my personal review of the Off the Floor deadlift-specific workout program.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.