Deadlift: How much weight to start?
This article is part of a series to explain the deadlift in simple terms. I will outline how you can start, which program to use and how you will progress. You will also learn from my mistakes to avoid them. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gentlemen start with 60kg, while women tend to start with 40kg for a barbell deadlift.
Why should you care about starting correctly?
Once you go for the deadlift you should know your starting point. This highly depends on age, gender, training age and injury history. Generally, it is good to start with 60kg for men and 40kg for women. If I had to put a rule in a book, this would be it. Exceptions from the rule are described in this article.
Who is writing this?
I started out deadlifting 60kg. This is the recommendation on Stronglifts 5x5. A very good beginner program using linear progression. Another option is starting strength by Mark Rippetoe. At that time I weighed 85kg at 185cm height. I was familiar with strength training from my teenage years doing Judo. From 2014 I progressed to a deadlift of 190kg in 2016 within 2 years. In 2017 I got injured due to bad form on the deadlift and greediness. In 2018, I am working on the self-induced plateau using the juggernaut method. My goal is to break the 200kg barrier in 2018 and build up to 220kg for my first powerlifting meet.
How you avoid injury on the deadlift
The biggest enemy on the deadlift is greed. Many lifters just want to progress too quickly. This comes at the expense of health. If you do not care about health it also comes at the expense of strength. Progressing too fast leaves you with flaws in technique. Flaws in technique mean that you hit a plateau quicker. It also means that you need to put in more work to pull the same amount of weight than someone who has perfected their technique. Therefore, be humble and start slowly. I recommend anything that Chad Wesley Smith has on the deadlift to get proper instruction early on. Here are my tips which would have prevented me from getting the injury in 2017:
- Keep the bar close to your legs
- Activate your lats by protecting your armpits
- Pull from a dead stop
These three tips, If done correctly, will straighten your back during the deadlift. They will also prevent that form breaks down during a set. My lower back injury came from an AMRAP set on Jim Wendler 531. I pulled 150kg for eight with declining form over the set. Repetition seven was already a grind. Repetition 8 made my lower back snap. After that, I could not get 140kg off the ground for a single for half a year. Be smarter than me and be more patient.
Which weight you can start with
Start with 60kg as a man and 40kg as a woman. You can also use a trap bar or kettlebell. Especially if you are a recreational lifter who wants to keep fit this is a good option. The trap bar and kettlebell are more forgiving for beginners. Trap bars usually weigh in at 30kg. Keep this in mind when you load it. For kettlebell deadlifts use the sumo stance. In an average gym, you can usually pick up the heaviest kettlebell they have to do this exercise. This comes usually in at 24kg. I seldom see anything heavier than that.
When you decide to do the barbell deadlift try to start with 60kg/40kg. If your gym has bumper or competition plates use those. This relates to the height that you are pulling from. 20kg plates have the diameter which you will pull most with. The smaller plates in the 5 - 15kg range are too near to the ground. They put you in the wrong starting position. Competition and bumper plates all have the same diameter. This makes you practice with perfect form even if you start with less than 60kg. Also, avoid hex plates if you can. It is hard to set up close to them.
It is easy to start on the deadlift using 60kg or 40kg depending on your gender. If you can not lift this weight, do not be discouraged. Try the kettlebell deadlift instead. Use a program like Stronglifts 5x5 for the first year and you will be lifting heavier than most at the end of this process. Enjoy it, take your time and have fun while lifting. There is no need to be in a rush.
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