My Best Deadlift Cycle Ever

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Team Juggernaut is home to some of the World’s best deadlifters. With 7 athletes having pulled over 750 in a meet, we know what it takes to build a huge pull. Check out some of our favorite deadlift training cycles that helped us build PR pulls…

The Basics for Big Deadlifts

by Brandon Lilly

Here is a 10 week pre meet deadlift cycle. I did not include accessory work as this is the basis of my rotation every cycle. I repeat, every cycle, but the accessories change. It’s nothing fancy but it keeps working.

Week 1

Max Effort

Work Up to 85% x 2 reps w/Weight on 3-4″ mat. This will be done in non competition stance.

Sumo Grip no Belt 45% x 20 reps (Use straps)

Week 2

Block Pull Reps

75% x 3 x 5 sets
82.5% x 3

Week 3

Deadlift Speed

65% x 1 rep x 10 sets
70% x 1
75% x 1

Week 4

Max Effort Dead

Max Single Up to 92.5% standing on a 1″ block.

Brandon pulling a massive 755 deadlift, totally raw in the Animal Cage at the 2013 Arnold…

Week 5

6 inch Block Conventional Snatch Grip

75% x 5 x 5 sets

Week 6

Speed Deads Comp Stance

70% x 1 x 8 sets
80% x 1 x 2 sets

Week 7

Max Effort Single w/Weight on 2″ Blocks

Try to work up to at least 101% of previous PR

Week 8

Deadlift Reps

4″ Block Pulls
85% x 2 x 3 sets

Week 9

Speed Pulls Full Gear

75% x 1 x 5 sets
80% x 1
85% x 1

Week 10

Meet Week

Mon and Tues

Full body workout, one set of 20 reps per body part.


This cycle has proven itself over and over, and PR after PR. This is the basic starting point, and this got me to my Deadlifts of 765, and 771 in just 3 months from barely getting 725. I made some slight changes due to weak points to get over 800, but the percentages, and rep ranges stay roughly the same, I just switched to more pulls from a 1″ deficit, and the floor.

Brandon Lilly is very well traveled, Elite powerlifter. He has trained at Guerrilla Squad Barbell, Westside Barbell, Lexen  Xtreme, and is now home at Berea Barbell. In his strength journey he has competed in bodybuilding, strongman, and powerlifting. Brandon is one of only 19 men to ever total over 2200 raw, having 2204 which ties him for 16th all time (826.5 squat, 573 bench, 804.5 Deadlift).Brandon amassed a 2530 total in Multi-Ply, and has best lifts of 1005 squat, 820 bench press, and 765 Deadlift. Brandon is the author of The Cube Method and is aiming to create a paradigm shift in the Powerlifting world.

Building the Deadlift

By Greg Panora

So, Chad asked me to write an article on my favorite cycle. I sat there for a while and realized I don’t and haven’t ever done any type of cycle for any lift. Now I know a lot of you guys sit up and make an 8 week spreadsheet and Iphone app about your training cycles and that’s awesome. Here is how I plan a workout. I walk into the gym and look around for something that looks fun and challenging and go with it. I do my first lift with a rep scheme of 1-5, my second lift 8-15, then hit accessory work.  I switch around bars, add bands or chain, and add speed work when I feel slow or beat up. That’s it, don’t over think it!
I decided to write down my top 5 favorite deadlift exercises and why they work well for me.
1.Deficit Deadlifts- I live on these despite having a good, fast start. I have trouble engaging my glutes at the top of the lift and moving the bar farther forces me to squeeze my ass. Plus, I’m a fan of anything that is going to mess with your leverages.
2.Deadlifts With a Bench Bar-It makes everything fun about deadlifts no longer fun. Make stuff harder in training! It’s a little thicker and has absolutely no whip.
3.Sumo Pulls-I pull sumo about 40% of the time in training for hip development and hopes that someday I can be Dan Green. So far only one of those things has happened, Ill let you guys guess which one.
4. Pin 2 Deadlifts Against Quaded Light Bands-I usually do these for 3 or 5 reps. Nothing will bring up those spinal erectors faster than these bad boys. I also use them to think while I strain. I have watched numerous lifters fall apart when stuff gets tough. My normal amount of time per heavy lift is roughly the same time as a fast runners mile time. However, I can push through because I can think while my eyes are bleeding.
5. Heavy Abs-Abdominal strength is a huge part of deadlifting. If you have weak abs and attempt to pull a big weight, your S-1 is going to be your V-3. Your going to get F ed up. Look at Dan Green and Pete Rubish. They have huge, well defined midsections and 800+ pound deadlifts. I suggest weighted sit ups and heavy standing abs. I also occasionally do weighted leg lifts and the Insanity videos when Chad is in town.  He loves them.
A lot of lifters are cool with hitting the basic 3 lifts. I get bored as hell. I need to use a conjugate style training approach. Is it best? I don’t really know or care. Is it the most fun for me? Absolutely. Until I suck or I’m offered a 7 figure contract to switch it up, I’m sticking with it.

Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.


Embrace the Pain

By Chad Wesley Smith

I have a relatively short deadlifting career. I began deadlifting when I began training for my first powerlifting meet, in July 2010. Prior to that I was throwing the shot put and my lifting was lots of squatting, the occasional speed deads and a few years had gone by since I had done much Olympic weightlifting, though I did do lots of GHRs. From July 2010 to October 2010, when I did my first meet, I raised my deadlift 100 pounds through using the Juggernaut Method. The Juggernaut Method is a high volume program, utilizing relatively low intensity, it definitely helped me hone my technique and build muscle throughout my body. Even with 100 pounds that I had just added to my pull, I knew that if I wanted to be a GREAT deadlifter, I needed help. I was fortunate to come in contact with Josh Bryant, through his brother, who I had competed against in the shot put.

At this point, I totally handed my deadlift (and bench) training over to Josh and just told him that I would do whatever I needed to get better. When Josh sent me my first week of the program, my jaw dropped and I responded to him “Is this a f’ing joke?!” I know I had told him that I would do whatever it takes but this workload was shocking to see written out. His response, “That’s the plan. Embrace the pain”

This program is not for the faint of heart. It is some of the hardest work that you will ever do. You will hurt, but you will grow, My back blew up adding thickness and width after only a few weeks. Hamstrings, glutes, traps, lats, erectors and forearms all exploded from the workload and most importantly so did my deadlift. This program took my deadlift from 700 (what the initial numbers in the program are based off of) to 785 and I BARELY missed 800 pounds…

Week 1

1)   Deadlift-Up to 615×3

2)   CAT Deads-495x6x4, 1 min rest

3)   Deficit Deads from 3”-455x2x6

4)   Bentover Rows-275x3x8

5)   GHR-3×15

6a) Chinups-5×5

6b) BB Shrugs-5×15

7)   Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 10 behind head


Week 2

1)   Deadlift-Up to 630×3

2)   CAT Deads-495x8x4, 1 min rest

3)   Deficit Deads from 3”-470x2x6

4)   Bentover Rows-290x3x8

5)   GHR-3×15 w/ 10

6a) Chinups-5×5 w/ 5

6b) BB Shrugs-5×15

7) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 10 behind head


Week 3

1)   Deadlift-Up to 645×3

2)   CAT Deads-495x10x4, 1 min rest

3)   Deficit Deads from 3”-485x2x6

4)   Bentover Rows-305x3x8

5)   GHR-3×15 w/ 15

6a) Chinups-5×5 w/ 10

6b) GHR-5×15

7) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 10 behind head


Week 4 (Deload)

1)   Deadlift-405x3x3

2)   GHR-3×10

3)   Wide Leg Situps-3×8


Week 5

1)   Deadlift-Up to 665×2

2)   CAT Deads-535x6x3, 90 sec rest

3)   Deficit Deads-505x2x5

4)   Bentover Rows-320x3x6

5)   GHR-3×12 w/ 25

6a) Chinups-4×5 w/ 15

6b) Shrugs-4×12

7) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 15 behind head


Week 6

1)   Deadlift-Up to 680×2

2)   CAT Deads-560x5x3, 90 sec rest

3)   Deficit Deads-520x2x5

4)   Bentover Rows-335x3x6

5)   GHR-3×12 w/ 35

6a) Chinups-4×5 w/ 20

6b) Shrugs-4×12

7) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 15 behind head


Week 7

1)   Deadlift-Up to 700×2

2)   Reverse Band Deadlift-800×1

3)   CAT Deads-585x4x3, 90 sec rest

4)   Deficit Deads-535x2x5

5)   Bentover Rows-350x3x6

6)   GHR-3×12 w/ 45

7a) Chinups-4×5 w/ 25

7b) Shrugs-4×12

7) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 15 behind head


Week 8 (Deload)

1)   Deadlift-405x3x3

2)   GHR-3×10

3)   Wide Leg Situps-3×8


Week 9

1)   Deadlift-Up to 715×1

2)   CAT Deads-605x4x2, 120 sec rest

3)   Lightening Deads-315x4x2

4)   6 sec Isometric Deads-405x3x1 2” off floor, 405x3x1 2” from lockout

5)   Bentover Rows-365x3x5

6)   GHR-3×10 w/ 55

7a) Chinups-3×5 w/ 30

7b) Shrugs-3×10

8) Wide Leg Situps-3×8 w/ 20 behind head


Week 10

1)   Deadlift-Up to 730×1

2)   CAT Deads-620x3x2, 150 sec rest

3)   Lightening Deads-315x4x2

4)   6 Sec Isometric Deads-405x3x1 2” off floor, 405x3x1 2” from lockout

5)   Bentover Rows-375x3x5

6)   GHR-3×8 w/ 65

7a) Chinups-3×4 w/ 35

7b) Shrugs-3×8

8) Wide Leg Situps-3×7 w/ 25 behind head


Week 11

1)   Deadlift-Up to 745×1

2)   CAT Deads-635x2x2, rest as needed

3)   Lightening Deads-315x4x2

4)   6 Sec Isometric Deads-405x3x1, 2” off floor, 405x3x1 2” from lockout

5)   Bentover Rows-385x3x5

6)   GHR-3×6 w/ 75

7a) Chinups-3×3 w/ 40

7b) Shrugs-3×8

8) Wide Leg Situps


Week 12 (Deload)

1)   Deadlift-405x3x3

2)   GHR-3×10

3)   Wide Leg Situps-3×8


Week 13 (Meet)


Here is the meet that this deadlift cycle culminated at…

Chad Wesley Smith is the founder and head physical preparation coach at Juggernaut Training Systems. Chad has a diverse athletic background, winning two national championships in the shot put, setting the American Record in the squat (905 in the 308 class, raw w/ wraps) and most recently winning the 2012 North American Strongman championship, where he earned his pro card. In addition to his athletic exploits, Chad has helped over 50 athletes earn Division 1 athletic scholarships since 2009 and worked with many NFL Players and Olympians. Chad is the author of The Juggernaut Method and The Juggernaut Method 2.0.
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Deadlift Party

by Dan Green

The best deadlift I’ve completed in a meet, the best gym deadlift and the biggest weight I nearly pulled in a meet all occurred within two months of each other last fall. In my training leading up to the Clash 4 Cash last September I pulled an 845 gym deadlift. At C4$ I narrowly missed pulling 855 and then pulled 821 at the USPA deadlift only invitational at last October’s Olympia.

This streak of high numbers came as a result of the Deadlift Party. The Deadlift Party is basically a single workout that starts with a top set of deadlifts pulled from the floor for anywhere from 2-6 reps followed by a set of block pulls where the weight is pulled from 4” blocks for 2-4 reps, a set of conventional pulls pulled from the floor or a deficit (I stand on a 3.5” box) for 2-6 reps, and then finished with stiff leg deadlifts from a deficit (same 3.5” box) for a set of 5-8 reps.

When I had first begun pulling sumo with this method I had great results focusing on more the higher end of the rep ranges. But as my skill and hip strength specific to the sumo pull increased, I had better success focusing on the lower end of the rep ranges.

For this particular stretch, I had initially made an adjustment after missing a few reps due to balance issues not strength. Not to be deterred, I came back and repeated those sets so I could feel satisfied that I was in fact partying sufficiently. But what happened was really a nice little blessing in disguise–because I had performed multiple sets from the floor at the top weight and not to a rep max, I noticed that performing multiple heavy doubles or triples allowed me to feel stronger AND fresher. I was amassing much more volume of pulling from the floor at heavy weights and it was starting to improve in quality as well.

So the takeaway message became multiple top sets at the same top weight but not to failure. This is a great way to train.

 Dan Green pulling 790 at 220 to finish off his 1st World Record total…

I was doing a little less work off the blocks but every one of the other lifts would be two or more sets.

Some of the best sets I’d hit off the floor this training cycle were:

725×5 745×5 7652x2x3 775×3 785x2x2 795x2x2 800x2x2 805×2 815×2 and maxes of 830 835 and 845 in training

From blocks I’d lifted:

765x2x5 785x2x3 800x2x2 825×2 as I said not as many lifts here this time through the program whereas during other cycles I’d pulled 865 and 890 and nearly 905.

For conventional (always after the sumo pulls) I’d lifted:

625×7 635×7 655×5 675×4 and 705×3 pulling from deficit, along with

675×5 705×4 725×3 and 765×2 from the floor. Again these always followed sumos and were never done with any extra warmup sets.

Pulling stiff legged from a deficit was primarily done earlier in the cycle and topped out around:

515x2x7 525x2x7 545×6 555×5 (also from a 3.5” deficit)

What I really took away from this cycle the most was that whereas in the past I’d lockout nearly everything I could get to my knees, this time around I got absolutely every pull up to my knees but frequently missed at that point due to balance issues and improperly dealing with the friction my arms and the bar up my thighs.

Going forward, I’ve realized that I will need to continue pulling more volume off the floor, refining my technique and probably overloading the top a bit less as the carryover becomes less and the risk becomes higher.

Dan Green is one of the top names in powerlifting today. The Raw Total World Record Holder with 2030 (belt and sleeves) and 242 (raw w/ wraps) division at 2171. Dan is the dominant force in Raw Powerlifting today. Dan is the founder of Boss Barbell Club in Mountain View, CA where he trains team sport and strength athletes.

Low Frequency for Big Pulls

By Pete Rubish

I deadlifted 800 pounds back in March of 2012 and struggled over the next year to get past that mark.  I tried high volume approaches and got in the bad habit of trying to go as heavy as possible on my deadlift week after week.  All this did was run me into the ground, burn out my CNS, and lead to month after month of no progress.  It wasn’t until I began training my pulls with the Lilliebridges using their method that I eventually broke past that 800 pound barrier.  It might have been more of a mental barrier than anything, but on March 30, 2013, I doubled 815 easily, leaving a rep or two in the tank.  Not only was the 815 easy and relatively smooth, I felt nearly superhuman that day and believe 855 might have been in the cards had I chosen to work up to it.

So the big question is what did I change?  The first aspect was that Ernie Sr. hammered home the point to me week after week that I needed to focus on keeping the bar closer to my shins and focus on pulling back.  One of the big reasons I stalled for so long was because the bar was always drifting out in front of me and pulling all my weight forward off my heals.  This simply goes against psychics and is not an effective way to pull.  Lockout problems will be inevitable if you have the bar too far out in front and don’t think about pulling back.  You should always have it in your head that you’re actually pulling backwards rather than up.

The second big change was the frequency I trained my pulls.  Using their program we would alternate heavy squats and heavy pulls.  So we were only deadlifting a total of once every fourteen days.  Some people might freak out and say that’s not sufficient but doing this over a period of six weeks led to new personal records for me of a 670 pound squat with no wraps, and an 815 pound double on deadlift.  Assistance work on our squat and deadlift days was always four heavy sets of barbell rows, four sets of upright cable rows, and then some leg extensions and seated leg curls thrown in for a pump at the end.  In total, we were only hitting lower body once per week, which allowed for maximum recovery and allowed us to go heavy each week.

Here’s the basic layout over that six week period:

Bodyweight:  242 Pounds

Week 1) March 2:   780×1 Deadlift

Week 2) March 9:   600×5 Squats

Week 3) March 16: 800×1 Deadlift

Week 4) March 23: 630×4 Squats

Week 5) March 30: 815×1 Deadlift

Week 6) April 6:     660×3 Squats

Accessory work every time:

4 sets of 12 Barbell Rows

4 sets of 20 Cable Upright Rows

4 Sets of Light Leg Extensions

4 Sets of Light Leg Curls

Transitioning from his early days of running marathons, Pete Rubish is an up and coming star in powerlifting at only 21 years old. He competes in the 242 lb. class where he has squatted 661 lbs. with no knee wraps and deadlifted 777 lbs. His best raw total is 1763 lbs. with no wraps. Pete is currently attending school in Madison, WI.


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