The DEADLIFT…should it stay or should it go?

I used to be an 800meter runner for 11 years or so, till I was 40; then i decided to turn to sprints. I’m 42yrs now and this year ran 7.4; 11.7 and 23.3 for 60/100/200m.
My main focus for 2004 are the World Masters Indoor Champs in Germany in March (60metres) and European Champs in Denmark in August (100m and poss 200m). Targets are to run 7.0/7.2 for 60m and 11.2/11.4 for 100m.
I Love gym work, my ‘core’ exercises being squats and power cleans; high sets and low reps for max strength and low hypertrophy. As the Indoor season approaches I’ll will maintain/increase my max strength but also target Power/Speed/RFD and Quickness i.e. my gym work leading to functional improvements on the track. I personally find that if I increase my VHJ and SLJ aswell as 10 hops…I run faster. I run faster when I feel bouncy, reactive and psychologically agressive and explosive.
I have a sports science degree and read everything I can on speed training, acceleration and power. U know, the more I read the more contadictory advice seems to be…in this instance the Deadlift. My Glutes are crap (pardon the expression!) i.e. small and my hamstrings are practically non-existent. At 1.73m tall my SLJ is 2.85m and VHJ is 62cm…I feel they should increased, especially the VHJ.
For the over 40’s I am in the top three fastest over 20m in the country…but I don’t care!! I’ve got to accelerate at a higher rate, for longer and reach a higher top speed!!
Should I do Deadlift and should it be from the floor or hang style. I read a lot of pro’s and cons.

Who has the definitive answer? Is there a definitive answer?
I know that squats and cleans also work glutes, hams and erector muscles so is the deadlift necessary?
I’d really appreciate some advice from you knowledgeable guys/girls out there.


That’s a good question. What exactly do deadlifts do?

You are probably like me in that you can’t do glute-ham raises just yet. Recently I started doing goodmornings, both single leg and double leg, and I have not encountered an exercise so punishing to the hamstrings and lower back. I’d highly recommend them - I’ve found the soreness astonishing.

Anyway, after several weeks of this I tried a platform deadlift for the first time in months. Literally I haven’t deadlifted one time since my ACL surgery five months ago. With the extra power in my hamstrings and back it felt like I’d never left. My poundages were way up, etc.

Perhaps you would benefit from direct ham/lower back work right now rather than deads.

Experience shows DLs to be particulaly punishing on the CNS. The induced fatigue often negatively impacts on subsequent sessions. Even elite powerlifters limit the number of high intensity pulling sessions they perform.

My advice, providing your form is solid, would be to stick with cleans. They permit sufficiently high loads to improve maximum force of knee/hip extensors without the same magnitude of CNS stress. Additionally, research by Kraemer and Fry suggested that overtraining in heavy resistance exercises manifests itself first as a decrease in RFD. The importance of speed in Olympic lift derivatives means overtraining can be more easily monitored.

BTW, MikeH: Don’t use muscle soreness as a measure of an exercise’s effectiveness.

David W,

What is your power clean and clean form is poor (i.e. mine)??


Good luck with your training for the masters.

I too compete in masters athletics and am trying to get back to sub-24 seconds for the 40-44 group. My best standing long jump is 2.86m when I was running high 22’s and low 23s some ten years ago. Now I struggle to get 2.70m although I am determined to get back to 2.80+.

My friend recently won the Australian over 40s in 23.6 electric. He had declined to 24 seconds three years ago. However, once his standing long jump returned to 2.80 from 2.60m he again ran 22.9 at 39 years of age in 2001.

I saw one 55 year old about six years ago jump 2.79m and run 11.6 for the 100m soon after.

Thanks everyone

I think I’ll leave the d/lift for the time being…as well as knackering the CNS, the potential for lower back injury is everpresent when doing low heavy reps (with dodgey technique!). I know David that you’re not a particular fan of the d/lift so I’ll go with your comments, thanks.

Spartacus, good luck with your efforts. You can definitely get back to your performance of ten years ago. One’s standing long jump and Vert. can’t really be compared to another’s, but if you improve yours, you should run faster (everything else being equal…which it rarely is!!).
Train intelligently and specifically all year, never stray too far from speed and power training, don’t overtrain, eat well, take supplements, sleep well, keep body fat down and keep positive! (mix with positive people).
My aim is to SLJ 2.90 - 3.00m within two years. Just between me and you, my 100m target is to run 10.9e ahhh…heavenly dream!

BTW the world record for a 60year old for the 100m is 11.6, not bad!

I tried to post a response to this last night but it wouldnt go through…

First off congrats on your times, they are impressive! I am training for Submasters (30-34) for indoors this year. (50 meter and 200)

Another option to the regular deadlift that is less CNS intensive is the snatch grip deadlift. Allows lighter weight to be used while also involving more ham and glute than the standard deadlift (Due to the lower starting position). It is a great exercise.

Also another great exercise for the pos chain is the reverse leg press.

Best of luck with your training and meets!


“For the over 40’s I am in the top three fastest over 20m in the country…”

What is your 20m time?(hand timed and FAT) and also explain how you time it!


Thanks for your comments. I used the power snatch as part of my training last winter (shoulder width tho) and got up to my body weight…not particularly impressive; I also used squat and push press, however my shoulders starting giving me gip (probably due to the extra weight on the push press, plus I was doing it behind neck) so I dropped both. I think the snatch is a good exercise but now I only do OLY lift and power/RFD exercises below my head height so not knackering my shoulders.
VG… you’ve got me there; I do have HAND times over 20m however there are so many variables when hand timing, which become exaggerated in percentage terms for short distances that they are pretty meaningless. However I have raced against all the top guys in the country and I’m invariably first to 20m (unfortunately not necessarily the case at the finish line!!) Awright, awright…not very scientific I know!
I used to be a rubbish starter - my standing start was quicker than my block start initially, but with six months solid practice on this one aspect it improved markedly. Also the reaction and first step has improved not necessarily thru’ loads of power training but identifying the right technique and block positions for me (i,m sure I could still make adjustments though) and most importantly, ABSOLUTE FOCUS, CONFIDENCE and AGGRESSION at the start and not giving a damn what anyone else is doing. I used to be very nervous in sprint races however, thru’ plenty of self analysis, reading (sport psychology), trial and error, and plenty of competition I have over the past two years managed to identify a mental strategy which works for me. I tell you I was pretty demoralised at times, it seemed to be 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, I thought I was just a mental wimp…a choker…I could run so much faster in training than competition; but over time I have managed to ‘slay the dragon’ If I can do it , anyone can, believe me.
There are a few naturally fearless and competitive athletes out there but there are a small number. The rest of us must train our minds as we train our bodies. The mind can be trained in the same way as long as youre honest with yourself. Some Jurassic athletes/coaches who live under rocks say “just relax!”… ****ing idiots!! The problem is how to relax! “Leave the mind out of it, you think too much” and its “paralysis by analysis”. Don’t they know that the right thinking sets you free, it does’nt constrict! Athletes must be intelligent about themselves and their event. I see too many athletes, seniors and masters banging their heads against a brick wall again and again…like er, hello! you do the same things you get the same results.
Oh dear I’m on my soapbox, sorry I went off on a tangent!

You might think im some sort of nutter!


In snatch grip deadlift there is no overhead component. you just deadlift from the floor with a wide grip. (More in common with a high pull)


Sorry Chris
I didn’t read you properly…I think I need more sleep!

I think pulls are even better


Anyone feel they short change themselves not including deadlifts in the program? As there are better alternatives?.

What do you mean?

no doubt that over training can elicit undesirable effects however most studies by Kraemer used repeat 1 rep max work on consecutive days or 1rm work with limited rest days between sessions.

alternatively power cleans place excessive loads on the wrist and the AC joint, most sprinters have terrible execution of this lift. Snatch pulls or clean pulls can be a safer alternative.

I just got through reading Barry Ross’s e-book when I wrote that. He ain’t no Charlie Francis, but I do like basic lifts/exercises etc.

A few key points I took from it:

• The lift that helps the runner’s acceleration is the one that recruits the larger motor units: The DL.
• The lift that prolongs “speed endurance” is the one that recruits the larger motor units: The DL
• The deadlift works a significantly greater percentage of the muscles, motor units and involves multiple joints.

Basic Barry Ross template:

• Deadlift every session, 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps @ 85-95% 1RM, TIMED.
• Plyometrics at the end of each set, within 1 minute of set completion. The focus is on delivering maximum strength in minimum time.
• Plyos follow each set of deadlifts within 90 seconds. As our plyometric exercise we do 6 double leg box jumps to start with. As we progress we change to 6 to 10 stationary one leg jumps depending upon the athletes level of fitness. You can also use stationary rope jumping…double or single legs as a plyometric exercise.

EMG analysis study; Squat Vs Deadlift.

The study looked at eight different muscle sites calf, two quadriceps, two hamstrings, glutes, lower back and abs. Seven weightlifters took part in the study and where randomly assigned to either perform an olympic squat (full squat high bar position) or conventional deadlift first (3 reps of their 6 repetition maximum (R.M.)). After a five minuite rest they perfromed the protocol on the other exercise.

EMG data was collected during each exercise for all eight of the selected muscle groups.

What follows are graphs showing the magnitude in activation (using the root mean squared technique) comparing both exercises.

Click the link for full graph.

The deadlift showed a markedly greater level of activation in 5 out of the 8 muscles sampled. The deadlift also showed greater levels of activation in the VM which is counter-intuitive to say the least.

Conversely the squat showed higher levels of activation in the ST muscle which is also somewhat surprising since variations of the deadlift (namely stiff legged deadlifts have been shown to have up to 2x higher levels of activation in all hamstring musculature.).

These graphs are a better barometer of total EMG data and not a good indicator of the timing of motor unit firing.

If you look at the GN the reason it comes out with a much larger RMS value is due to a prolonged time under tension and since the level of activation in both exercises is almost identical.

As far as lower back and abs are concerned the deadlift blew away the squat in the lowerback and edged it out in the abs department. Prior EMG studies have shown that squats and deadlift are superior to conventional abs exercises and instability training for the activation of the mid-section musculature.

Cliff notes:

Deadlift superior in five out of eight muscles studied.

Calf muscles show higher levels of activation in the squat due to a higher time under tension.

Squat shows higher levels of activation in one quad and one hamstring studied and vice versa for the deadlift.

Deadlift shows far greater levels of activation in the glutes (3-4x plus). WTF?.

Deadlifts show higher levels of activation in the midsection.

The thing is, at the end of a deadlift, I squeeze the $hit out of my glutes.

The guy in that study can’t have squeezed his glutes at the top.

I’m not into all those damn studies but I will say I’m going back to my old school lifting this fall, deadlifts in gpp and snatch grip dl in spp.

I think there generally a safer exercise (especially with a trap bar). No need for spotters. Part of the thesis is that the deadlift is a better tool for knee rehab due to the ease of coaching and that the majority of force is born through the ankle.

They can murder your back though, if you don’t get your form down.

Yeah, take the studies with a pinch of salt.

Sumos show larger quad activity over conventional deads from 13 collegiate football players.