How Can I Deadlift 500 Pounds?


By Mark Bell

Q: My goal is to deadlift 500 pounds by the end of summer. By deadlifting every other week, I’ve come pretty close. Yesterday, for example, I did 225 x 10, 315 x 8, 405 x 6, 425 x 3, and then two sets of 445 x 1—which felt pretty heavy. Is there too much warming up? Any tips on how to break on through to the other side?
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–Elijah Wheeler, Washington, DC

 Okay, your goal is 500, and you’re currently at about 450. Let’s attack this somabitch with everything we got. We’ll even use the fatty tissue between your ears for a change.

You’re lifting backward, son.

In your sample warm-up, you’re doing high reps followed by strength training. Elijah, do me a favor—go run 2 miles before you try and attempt the fastest 40-yard dash of your life, and let me know how it goes. Your high school football coach may have thought that was a great idea, but I’m here to tell you that he was not only wrong, but just plain dumb!

Running 2 miles is unrelated to running an optimal 40 time. You’ll pre-fatigue the muscles, and you won’t be able to sprint at maximal speeds. It’s better to do a few 100-meter sprints at 60 percent and maybe work on some starts. But you wouldn’t want to do anything too hard or challenging before the main event.

The same is true with any strength training protocol. After doing some short duration mobility work from Kelly Starrett’s, you’ll be ready to get yourself into optimal positions to start warming up. Here is a sample warm-up for someone in the 400-to-500-pound deadlift range. You’ll notice I like deadlifting with both Sumo and Conventional form in the warm up. They will allow you to hone your form from two directions and give your body a new stimulus:

  • Bar: 1 set of 10 reps
  • 135 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 3 reps
    Sumo: 1 set of 3 reps
  • 185 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 3 reps
    Sumo: 1 set of 3 reps
  • 225 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 3 reps
    Sumo: 1 set of 3 reps
  • 275 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 1 rep
    Sumo: 1 set of 1 rep
  • 315 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 1 rep
    Sumo: 1 set of 1 rep
  • 365 Pounds:
    Conventional: 1 set of 1 rep
    Sumo: 1 set of 1 rep
  • Stick with it for a max

From here on out, be cautious with the jumps in weight. When you’re at 90 to 95 percent of your max, a 50-pound jump can kill your progression and your ego. Make smaller jumps of 15 to 30 pounds to save some face, gauge your strength and form, and prepare yourself for the heavier attempts.

Let’s say your max is 445 pounds, it might go down like this: 385 lbs. x 1, 405 lbs. x 1, 425 lbs. x 1, then finishing with 450 lbs. x 1. Hell yeah, you just beat your 1RM by 5 lbs. and your street cred just went through the roof!
And if 450 felt a little too easy, try a harder weight. This is also the perfect time to do any extra rep work. Lower the weight to 315 and try 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps!

Dynamic Squats


Here are a few recommendations for improving your deadlift:

1. Only do a singular max deadlift from the floor every 6 to 8 weeks. Better yet, save the new record for your next power meet, and use variations to increase your deadlift. For more information, read some of the other deadlift stuff I wrote about on this site.

2. If you have limited access to great equipment, just establish rep records on your deadlifts.
 Record reps, weights, and stance for any set atthe following weights: 350, 315, and 275 (These are based on a 450 lift). Blow everything out and do as many reps as you can with only one of the chosen weights you selected for the day, write down your results, and then beat them on the next go-round.

3. Lift for results.
 This means selecting weights properly and not getting too fired by loading the weights up too heavy, too early. This also means not lifting at 100 percent of your max all the time. Great strength gains are obtained with lower percents too, so work smarter and not harder.

4. Don’t neglect form.
This is heavy weight, baby. If your back is rounding out, then give yourself time to adjust to heavier weights and focus on form. Don’t be a wimp, just make sure to lift heavy AND correctly.

5. Never bounce the weights off the floor.
 Everyone wants to look like a beast and celebrate after a serious feat of strength, but glorious lifts are always overshadowed by embarrassing accidents.

6. Train your entire backside.
 This means your entire back, glutes, and hamstrings. If these areas are weak, your deadlift is weak too.

7. Implement speed deadlifts. Use 65 to 75 percent of your max for 8 sets of 2 reps during the weeks you are NOT deadlifting heavy.

8. Train your abs with heavy weights.
 Try pull-down abs or heavy sit-ups.

9. Get my magazine called POWER.

Go to and get ready for some kick-ass reading on how to build strength.

Follow these instructions and you’ll kill 500 lbs. Shoot, you may even just put it up over your head, and your new goal might be 600!

You now have all the tools you need. You just need to follow through on your end and bust your ass. Give a key to the inner universe to a thousand men, only one will open the door. Be the one!

By: Mark Bell
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