Saturday, October 24, 2015

Deadlift Assistance Work - John Kuc (1984)

Here is the companion Bench Press Assistance Article from John Kuc:

Deadlift Assistance Work
John Kuc (PLUSA May 1984)

Assistance work can be extremely beneficial to a lifer. At times it is the only way to get over a sticking point and begin making progress again. One of the major faults I have found with many assistance programs is that the lifter does not use the correct ones. An individual hears that one of the top lifters uses a certain type of assistance exercise, so he begins to use it. What this individual fails to see is that assistance exercises should be tailored to his own weak points. Different exercises affect different areas of a lift.

Before adopting an assistance exercise program you must honestly evaluate your individual strong and weak points. It is not always easy to be objective about yourself. Consult your training partners and coach to help you with this evaluation.

In this narrative we well review deadlift assistance work. Deadlift assistance exercises are always worked with your deadlift routine. Your deadlift routine may hit a brick wall during the months you devote to assistance work. This is normal. You cannot work two heavy deadlift programs at the same time and make progress. The only way you could do that is if you were heavy into drugs, and I am 100% opposed to that.

Assistance work is temporary and it is done to improve your deadlift, not as a lift in itself. Lighten up on your regular deadlifts. For now put your assistance work first and regular deadlifts second.

After you complete your deadlift warmup routine warmup with the assistance work; then go into the exercises heavy. Assistance work takes time to show results. Do not expect instant results; they don't happen. Assistance work is long term. When you schedule assistance work give yourself six months from the day of your first assistance exercise to any contest you want to enter. You will need three solid months of assistance work and three good months to get your deadlift in order without the assistance work.

As I stated before you must evaluate your individual needs before adopting an assistance program. Te deadlift can be divided into three parts and one intangible.

1) The start off the floor to just below the knees.

2) The transition or mid point - just below the knees to slightly above.

3) The finish - above the knees to lockout.

4) The grip - if you cannot hold the weight you are not going to complete the lift.

Break your deadlift into three parts and decide where you have your problem. Once you have determined this you can apply the necessary assistance exercises to improve your weak points.

The following are the assistance exercises you can use and the parts of the deadlift they work.

Power Rack:

Applies to items 1, 2, 3, 4. The nice feature of the power rack is that any portion of the deadlift can be worked. Set your bar at the desired location and begin.

Recommended Reps - 5 warmup; 4 warmup; 3 sets of 3 heavy.


Applies to items 2, 3, 4. Done in the power rack or off the blocks. Lockouts can be done from any point in the deadlift to lockout. They are mostly done from just below the knee to lockout and from just above the knee to lockout. Lockouts help any sticking points in the second and third parts of the deadlift. This is one of the most popular and effective assistance exercises for the deadlift. 

Recommended Reps - 5 warmup; 4 warmup; 3 heavy; 3 heavy; 3 heavy.

Isometric Pulls:

Applies to items 2 and 3. Done in the power rack. Any part of the deadlift can be worked with isometric pulls. 

Recommended Reps - 2 pulls of 10 seconds duration. DO NOT hold your breath during the entire 10 seconds of each pull.

Complete Stop Deadlifts:

Applies to items 1, 2, 3, 4. These are nothing more than repetition deadlifts. The only difference comes in completely letting go of the bar between each repetition. This is one of the toughest assistance exercises for the deadlift. Complete stop deadlifts work every part of the deadlift and develop a vice like grip. 

Recommended Reps - 3 sets of 3 or 3 sets of 4.


Applies to items 3 and 4. Shrugs are done in the power rack or off the end of a bench. The assist in the third part of the deadlift, especially the last few inches of movement before lockout. Shrugs improve grip strength too. 

Recommended Reps - 4 sets of 6 reps twice a week.

Upright Rows:

Applies to items 3 and 4. These improve the medium and upper range of the third part of the deadlift. This exercise is also a good grip builder.

Recommended Reps - 4 sets of 6 - 8 reps twice a week.

Good Mornings

Applies to items 1, 2, 3. This is a good exercise for increasing power throughout the entire range of the deadlift. This exercise is not for everyone. In some people the good morning will cause back pain and lead to lower back injury. The best way to do good mornings is to start very light and work up very slowly. Be aware of any soreness which might develop. If the good morning is compatible with you, there is the potential of gradually handling very heavy weights and substantially increasing your lower back power. In other words, it's a good exercise for the right people.

Recommended Reps -
Initial Program: 10 warmup; 8 warmup; 5 sets of 8
Heavy Program: 10 warmup; 8 warmup; 5 sets of 5

Power Clean:

Applies to items 1 and 4. The power clean is a good movement for developing a powerful start and strong gripping power. The power clean has more applications in Olympic lifting than in powerlifting, however. There are exercises giving a better return of strength in relation to the amount of time, energy and number of repetitions put in.

Recommended Reps - 10 warmup; 8 warmup; 5 warmup; 5 warmup; 3 warmup; 3 warmup; 3 sets of 3 reps.

Bentover Rows:

Applies to items 1 and 4. This is a lat building exercise that develops god off-the-floor power. Bentover rows also build gripping power and help prevent lat injuries caused by deadlifting.

Recommended Reps - 4 sets of 6.

Lat Bar Rows:

Applies to items 1 and 4. These rows are a lat building movement having the same effect as bentover rows. You can handle heavier weight with lat bar rows, though.

Recommended Reps - 4 sets of 6.

Dumbbell Rows:

Applies to items 1, 2, and 4. This is the best of the rowing movements for helping the deadlift. Dumbbell rows develop good initial pull and off-the-floor power. Dumbbell rows are useful in the transition part of the deadlift and develop strong gripping power.

Recommended Reps - 6 sets of 8.

Pulldowns and Pullups:

Applies to items 1 and 4. Both of these are similar in movement and function. These exercises help the initial pull of the deadlift. This exercise is not, however, a very effective power builder because heavy weights cannot be managed in either lift.

Recommended Reps - 3 x 8.

Curling Movement:

Applies to items 1, 3, and 4. This exercise builds a stronger link between the weight and the body. Strong arms add confidence to a lifter by giving a solid feeling of legs, arms, and body being one. Strong biceps enhance the pulling power of your lats, increased strength in the biceps assists the first and third part of the deadlift pull. The best reason for bicep work is to decrease the possibility of strain to the bicep, or the chance the bicep might tear off the bone during a deadlift.

Recommended Reps - 6 sets of 6, heavy.

Stiff-Legged Deadlift:

Applies to items 1, 2, 3, and 4. This exercise is a tough one to stick out. The reason is probably that they make us deadlift without the use of our legs. A feeling of frustration builds when the pain and seemingly slow progress are inevitably encountered. The stiff-legged deadlift is one of the best deadlift assistance exercises. It works the entire range of the deadlift equally from power starts to positive lockouts.

Recommended Reps - 10 warmup; 8 warmup; 6 warmup; 6 sets of 5 reps.

Deadlifts Off the Blocks (deficit deadlifts):

Applies to item 1. This is a tremendous method of improving the start off the floor. Stand on a block that is high enough to bring the top of your feet within an inch-and-a-half of the bar. Do not do stiff-legged deadlifts here. Perform the regular deadlift and use your regular stance. This is an effective exercise but it is easy to burn out on.

Recommended Reps - 4 sets of 5 once a week.

The number of assistance exercises you use will be determined by your needs and the type you pick. Doing lockouts and complete stop deadlifts at the same time would be too much. Lockouts and a rowing movement could be handled, however.

Carefully evaluate your needs and choose the exercises best suited to your needs.  



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