How to Progressive Overload Deadlift

Performed across the globe, the deadlift is known by almost every lifter. While looking simple at first glance, progressive overloading deadlifts can require a bit more effort than you think.

You can improve your deadlifts by progressive overloading with the increase of weight, reps, and intensity. This will allow your muscle to break down and get stronger. You also need to lengthen your workouts to increase their duration and consume proper nutrition.

There are many moving parts to a deadlift and it’s vital to know how each is incorporated into your lift. Before beginning to progressive overload, be aware of the body parts being targeted.

  • Hamstring
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hip flexors
  • Lower back

Follow a good warmup routine and gradually move into progressive overloading. This includes doing reps of lower weight before jumping into heavy deadlifts.

Progressive Overload with Weight

Every deadlift over 70% of your 1RM will help build strength. If you can deadlift 240 lbs, then you can build more strength by performing reps with 168 lbs and above. Strengthen each area of your deadlift through progressive overloading these variations:

  • Rack Pulls
  • Hex Bar Deadlifts
  • Sumo Deadlifts

Rack Pulls

Designed to be a deadlift with a smaller range of motion, rack pulls look to strengthen hamstrings and lower back. These can be done by placing the bar about two feet above the ground on the squat rack and pulling up to complete the deadlift motion. By performing these, you will be better prepared and equipped for standard deadlifts.

Hex Bar Deadlift

Using a hex bar will force your body to push through your legs, rather than pulling through your back. This helps you practice proper form for standard deadlifts and keep an excellent center of gravity.

Sumo Deadlift

Sumo deadlifts are a mixed bag in the lifting community. There are a majority of people who prefer them when attempting PRs or heavy sets for the simple fact they can allow you to pull more weight. This is because they put less strain on your back and work the hip flexors more. For this reason, this may be the deadlift variation you wish to progressive overload with.

 Standard DeadliftSumo Deadlift
Set 18 x 2255 x 315
Set 28 x 2255 x 315
Set 36 x 2853 x 335
Set 46 x 2853 x 345

Progressive Overload with Reps

Progressive overloading deadlift requires much of your energy. This can persuade people to shoot for lower rep ranges, as higher reps of deadlifts can lead to fatigue. PRs are attempted quite frequently with deadlifts, but are they really necessary?

Knowing where your 1RM stands can help you determine the future weight range you want to attack, but implementing a high rep progressive overload plan can show fast results.

Beginners with deadlifts should look for weights they fail around 8-10 reps. This will show faster progress than completing only 5-10 reps in your whole workout. 10 reps with good form are better than 2 reps of problematic form.

 Beginner Deadlift Ex.Experienced Deadlift Ex.
Set 110 x 1355 x 315
Set 210 x 1855 x 315
Set 38 x 2253 x 365
Set 48 x 2253 x 365

Progressive Overload with Intensity

The main motion of the deadlift is pulling up, but what is often forgotten is lowering the bar. It’s tempting to drop the bar or slam it down after you bring it up, but not doing this can actually have some benefits.

Time Under Tension

Lowering the bar at a gradual pace will keep muscles activated and fired up to complete the lift. This can be especially beneficial for your hamstrings and lower back.

Eccentric Training

Eccentric strength allows you to control the weight and is often a forgotten movement in weight training. Try to count to a few seconds in your head as you lower the bar to the floor.


Dropping heavy weight always gives the opportunity for unexpected outcomes. In some instances, it may be safer to drop the weight if it’s for a PR or a heavy set, but make sure you have the space and landing area for the barbell. If you are unsure of how the weight will land, you have the option of controlling the weight to the ground.

Progressive overload deadlift to your preference and find out where you may be lagging. Being balanced and proportioned is key to finding your gains.

Get an Edge with Nutrition

Like all fitness goals, diet plays a large role in the progression of progressive overload. If you are looking to gain some size in yourself and your deadlift, then you will need to be putting the right things in your body.

Adequate protein amounts, vitamins, and greens are essential for heart and body health. Specific to progressive overloading deadlifts, you may need to engage in a calorie surplus. This entails providing your body with more calories than you will burn throughout the day.

Increasing your weight in the gym requires you to give your muscles the best opportunity to grow and also gain size with the foods you eat. Some healthy foods for a calorie surplus diet include:

  • Red Meat
  • Pork
  • Whole Milk
  • Salmon
  • Potatoes
  • Whole Grain Pasta
  • Peanut Butter

While progressive overloading for deadlift may require some extra calories for strength and size gains, endurance training for progressive overload doesn’t require as many calories for progression.

How to Deal with Lower Back Pain

Progressive overloading deadlifts is a great way to advance lower body and back strength. Different variations can more closely isolate a body part that can be strengthened in the process. Set an attainable goal for yourself that increases your deadlift and the correlating body parts.

Perhaps one of the biggest detriments to progressive overloading deadlifts is lower back pain. The standard deadlift has a simple motion, but it’s sometimes natural to pull using your back.

This causes you to curve your spine and leave it susceptible to pulled nerves and muscles. Keeping the bar close and pulling up through your legs will render the best results.

Should I Use Belt for Deadlifts?

Using a belt is common for deadlifts, but this can actually do more harm than good if it is used too much. Becoming reliant on a lifting belt can weaken the lower back and cause it to lag behind the other body parts involved. Instead, use a belt when you move to 3 or less reps or when you attempt a PR.