It's debateable whether the deadlift or the squat is the number one total-body strength training exercise. Regardless of which side you're on, they're both essential for stimulating massive amounts of muscle fibers. And there's no better feeling that loading up the bar and ripping a few clean reps from the floor.
However, like anything else, eventually you'll hit your plateau if you just keep training the same way. That's your indicator that take some focus away from the deadlift itself, and place more on some of the supplementary work on closely related areas. Before you know it, that's 400-pound lift won't be as intimidating anymore. Then you can move into squatting 300 pounds.
1. Strengthen your hamstrings, hips, and butt
There's a direct correlation between the strength of your posterior chain and the strength of your deadlift. What this mean is: you need to strengthen your hips, hamstrings, and your glutes. Here's here how to do it: After your deadlifts, perform 3 sets of each of the following for 8-10 reps: Swiss ball leg curls, barbell hip thrust and single-leg glute bridges.
Here's how to do Swiss ball leg curls:
- Brace your abs and raise your hips into the air but keep your knees straight and heels on stability ball.
- From there, bend your knees and roll the ball back toward you.
- Keep your hips elevated throughout the set.
Here's how to do a barbell hip thrust:
- Rest your upper back on a bench and sit on the floor with legs extended.
- Roll a loaded barbell up your thighs until the bar sits on your lap (you may want to place a towel or mat on your hips or attach a pad to the bar for comfort).
- Brace your abs and drive your heels into the floor to extend your hips, raising them until your thighs and upper body are parallel to the floor.
Here's how to do a single-leg glute bridge:
- Lie on your back on the floor and bend both knees so that your feet rest on the floor close to your butt.
- Brace your abs and raise one leg up and bring the knee toward your chest.
- Drive the heel of the other foot into the floor.
- Bridge up until your body is in a straight line.
2. Strengthen your grip
No matter how strong you are, if you can't hold on to the weight you won't complete the lift. There's nothing more annoying than being able to pull the weight with your legs and back, but having your hands keep slipping. Straps can help, but they take away from the functionality of the movement.
Here's how to do it: Start training your grip twice a week. On the first day you will perform "weighted holds" with dumbbells for as long as possible. Keep track of your time, it should increase weekly. The second day you will perform "farmers walks" with dumbbells. You should walk with them for about 40 yards. This is also a great total body exercise that will carry over to all of your lifts.
Here's how to do a farmer's walk:
And for visual learners, here's how to properly perform a deadlift: