A Long Way To Pull: The Deficit Deadlift

At my height, 6’9″, I’m already at a disadvantage and the deficit makes it that much harder. Is there a benefit to it or am I just a sucker for punishment? Let me share some insight not only into why I personally find them to be my favorite assistance movement for the deadlift but how they can benefit you as well.

WHAT IS IT?

In the simplest terms a deficit deadlift is when you place yourself into a position that moves the bar’s starting position further away from you (vertically). That object you stand on can be a box or a weightlifting plate typically ranging from 1-4″ inches. I personally have found that at my gym the 35lbs bumper plates suit me well and they are around 2.5″ thick.

Getting ready to grip and rip while standing on the 35lbs bumper plate

WHY DO IT?

The reason why we do most assistance movements is to try and work on the weaknesses that are lagging on the main movement. You may have heard the phrase that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link? The deficit deadlift tackles the weakness associated with the start of the deadlift: floor speed. The is the amount of inertia you need to initially break the bar off of the ground and begun its traveling motion upwards towards lockout. If you are weak/slow in the starting position you may sometimes find yourself stalling out halfway through the lift or compensating via poor form with hitching or crutching of the bar onto the quads. The deficit deadlift will help you build strength which will correlate into speed when breaking off the floor due to increased range of motion and, as a bonus, you’ll also be recruiting more of your posterior chain and quadriceps into the movement compared to the deadlift alone.

Just like you would do floor presses or board presses to improve lockout strength in a benchpress the deficit deadlift will help with only a portion of the movement involved in the deadlift! When I want to pull big weight I need to ensure that each aspect of the lift involved (breaking the floor, bar speed, lockout) is the strongest it can be!

Those toothpick legs tho… do I even lift?

Setting up for the deficit deadlift starts you off at a mechanical disadvantage but because you are putting yourself through an increased range of motion for the whole lift (thanks to those extra 1-2-3-4″) you’ll get stronger at it which will translate into faster speed off the floor when you go back to a just pulling from the floor. Before I started rotating this assistance movement into my routine my floor speed with anything 85%+ was crap. After doing months of incorporating deficits into my routine my bar speed has shown vast amounts of improvement and I highly suggest performing this lift!

MY SETUP

For my deficit deadlift setup I always end up using a 35lbs bumper plate which is roughly 2.5″ as this is what I have found to work best for me. I’m still able to get into my correct deadlift stance while still managing to have a starting position that gets the bar under mid-foot. One thing you will notice that changes is the bar will start further out from your leg then you may be accustom to. When I perform from-the-floor deadlifts I’m always scraping up against my shin. With deficits I don’t feel the bar rub until its at or above my knee. I place my feet and arms the same width apart as I normally do with a conventional setup and begin the routine with whatever weight is programmed for that day. If this is new to you I suggest starting off with a 1″ deficit and make sure you can still get into a comfortable stance/position and perform some sets here before trying to add more height. Mobility will be a factor here for those that find it difficult to get into the starting position. Otherwise you just pull as you normally would with the exception that you are standing on a plate instead of the floor!

-DJ

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