Q: My squat is currently 235 (see form check video) but my deadlift is suffering badly. Before I went on a 2 week vacation at work (where my gym is) I was pulling 225 with pretty good form but now I’m struggling to pull 185 without a little rounding (form check video of 185, form check video of 205).
Is it normal for a deadlift to lag behind the squat like this and what are some ways that I can improve deadlift strength capability? In what way would I be weak that would cause my deadlift to suffer?
A: Here’s one thing that happened:
I went on a 2 week vacation
When you’re doing a novice progression, a 2-week break can set you way, way back. I think you should be working at around 175. Don’t try 205 again without working your way back up.
That said, there are some things. Your first squat rep was a tad high but the rest were okay. Good job! Yes, it’s weird for your deadlift to be so low compared to your squat. Why might that be?
Well, your setup for the deadlift is simply not correct.
- You have no good reason to alternate your grip. Use a double overhand hook grip with chalk.
- You are jerking the bar off the floor. That’s an advanced technique. Instead, squeeeeeeeze the bar off the floor after you’re already tight.
- You’re letting the bar get in your head. Walk up to it with PURPOSE. Get your feet set, your grip set, your back set, take a big breath, lock everything tight in place, and squeeze the bar up your legs. Accept no rounding.
If you fix those things, you might find yourself advancing normally with the deadlift. If you feel weird having a disproportionate squat:deadlift ratio, which you don’t need to feel, you could (if you want) stay at 230 for an extra couple sessions to make your form perfect. In particular, make sure you get all the way down below parallel in every rep.
Typically you should be able to deadlift more than you squat BUT there are many reasons why you wouldn’t be:
- Form – either a bad form in the deadlift where you’re not lifting what you could OR a bad squat form where you think you ARE lifting more than you actually are (how deep are you going, etc.). Be honest with both and provide video if you can.
- body shape – shorter/stout people squat better – we’re all shaped differently and have different benefits because of it
- length of training – it takes time and a good program to progress the way you should. If you’re randomly approaching your lift program, you’ll get random results
- past injuries – if you’ve been injured previously and favoring some part of your body you could be stunting your lifting ability – most times it’s more mental than physical
My suggested next steps:
- Get a knowledgeable trainer/friend to watch you squat/deadlift and critic your form (or provide video here)
- put a realistic plan together so you can see on-going gains (look into starting strength or 5/3/1 or madcow)