June 14, 2024 5 min read

By Shane Robert

I recall reading a principle that states the first type of pizza that you ate as a child is the type of pizza that you prefer as an adult. I’m sure that this is a bad paraphrasing of a thoughtful, eloquent statement that reveals much about human nature, but I think the sentiment is correct and probably holds true for a lot of things in life. The things that we are first exposed to, often repeatedly, become the things that we fall back to. They feel safe and right, whether that’s true or not. For instance, Chicago-style deep dish is an abomination that shouldn't even be considered pizza, at best it’s a pizza-flavored casserole, yet many people would list it as their favorite style.  

My transformation from skinny bro obsessed with having abs to serious, heavy training came as a result of deadlifts. Specifically, seeing big strong people lifting ground-shaking weights. Perhaps if I had been in a gym where heavy squats imprinted on my impressionable mind, I wouldn't be writing about deadlifts; alas, it was deadlifts that left their mark on my mind and it is deadlifts that I love. For me, there is little else in the gym that compares to the feeling of a hard deadlift workout. Few exercises can leave you feeling like you had a hard workout from one top set. It truly is glorious. 

Putting aside my likely masochistic love for deadlifts, I still think they don’t get the glory that they deserve. For a long time, they have been the bastard stepchild of the lifting world. Bodybuilders don’t really do them because they don’t easily fit into a body part split. Weightlifters don’t often do them for fear that it will “slow them down.” Powerlifters do them but only because they have to as part of their sport; the squat still gets all the love despite the rise of raw lifting and new records being broken all the time. In my opinion, if you want to get big, strong, and capable, you should do some form of deadlifting. Despite bodybuildings shunning them, deadlifts build a ton of muscle and give you the kind of look that exudes strength and power. Just look at Strongman Sport athletes if you don’t believe me.    

There are a million and one ways to go about lifting. There is no real right or wrong, just better or worse for you. With that idea in mind, I want to share a few of my favorite deadlifting programs that I have used to great success for myself and/or clients.


This routine comes from the very weird book Rock, Iron, Steel by the even weirder Steve Justa. It works wonders for dialing in form and getting a ton of technical practice. You will be lifting 7 days per week. Yes, every day.

Day 1:  3 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 2:  5 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 3:  7 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 4:  9 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 5: 11 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 6: 13 single reps with 70% of your max
Day 7: 15 single reps with 70% of your max

At the start of the next week, add 10-20 pounds and repeat for 3-6 weeks. Take a few days off and test for a new max. Keep rest low but not so low that your reps are sloppy and grindy. 


I first read about this program from a Michigan powerlifter named Craig Terry, then heard Dan Green at a seminar talk about a variation of it that he does.

  1. Deadlift using your competition stance: work up to a set of 6 reps with around 75% of your max. You will add weight to this each week, eventually dropping to 4’s and 2’s as the weights get heavier over the weeks.
  2. Block Deadlift (4” for sumo, 6” for conventional): add around 50 pounds to the bar and do a max rep set
  3. Deficit Deadlift: Remove 90-100 pounds from your first set weight and do either a set of max reps, or 2-3 sets of 4-6


I was inspired to do this program from a combo of the Terry/Green program and something the Chinese weightlifters do with their pulls. It is 3 days per week and a lot of fun for those who get easily bored with set routines. You pick 3 variations of the deadlift from the floor, often it would be stiff leg, sumo and conventional. 

Each day looks like this:  

  1. Deadlift variation from the floor – work up to a speedy single @9 with perfect technique.
  2. Block Pull w/same variation: Add 25-50 pounds and put the bar on 6” blocks for max reps, but stopping if the bar becomes grindy or your back rounds
  3. Deficit Pull w/same variation: Stand on 4” blocks and do 3x3 deficit pulls with 50-100 pounds less than your first movement 


This is a routine that I like to use with clients who need to build some serious mass while getting stronger at the same time. The idea is simple. You do regular deadlifts, followed by snatch grip deficit deadlifts as an assistance.

  • Week 1 & 2: Deadlift 2x8, then Snatch Grip deficit deadlift 2x12
  • Week 3 & 4: Deadlift 2x5, then Snatch Grip deficit deadlift 2x8
  • Week 5 & 6: Deadlift 3x3, then Snatch Grip deficit deadlift 2x5

After week 6, start over 10-20 pounds heavier than you started the cycle last time.


This is a variation of the famous “Finnish Deadlift Routine” and a routine from the late, great strength coach Charles Poliquin, who was a big advocate of the snatch grip deficit deadlift for building a ton of mass fast. This training is hard, so make sure you are not doing this while on a cut. 

Perform all sets with a wide snatch grip while standing on a 5” box. All percents are based on your regular deadlift max

Week 1: 40% 6x10
Week 2: 42.5% 6x10
Week 3: 45% 6x10
Week 4: 47.5% 6x10

Remove the box but keep snatch grip deadlifts

Week 5: 60% 8x5
Week 6: 62.5% 8x5
Week 7: 65% 8x5
Week 8: 67.5% 8x5

Regular Stance 

Week 9: 80% 10x3
Week 10: 85% 6x3
Week 11: 90% 3x3
Week 12: 95% x3
Week 13: max


This is the routine I outlined in my Old School Training Cycle and I stand by it. We are slowly trying to increase the amount of work in the 80% zone while working a pendulum wave in the 90%. Since this uses a 90% training max, this is very doable.  
  1. 80x3 85x3 90x2
  2. 80x4 85x3 92.5x2 
  3. 80x5 85x3 95x2 
  4. 80x6 85x3 97.5x2 
  5. 80x6 85x4 100x2
  6. 80x6 85x5 90x3
  7. 80x6 85x5 92.5x3 
  8. 80x6 85x5 95x3 
  9. 80x6 85x5 97.5x3 
  10. 80x6 85x5 100x3 
  11. Test new max
This should arm you with a lot of new programs to try, or ideas to formulate your own. I have many more of these in my library and am happy to share if people like them.

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