The Deadlift Experiment - Part One


If you are a busy guy like me, time is very valuable. How would you like to make strength gains on one or more of your major lifts by putting in the absolute minimal amount of time and work? Well that is what I have been working on.

Prilepin's Chart is a time tested method of prescribing volumes and intensities to bring about the desired strength adaptations an athlete may be searching for. Typically When writing a program for myself, or another athlete, I would work in the mid to upper ranges of volume for any given intensity unless an athlete is in-season. Take 80% for example. 5 sets of 4 at 80% is in no way a walk in the park but a pretty typical rep scheme for that intensity. A fairly common rest period would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 minutes between sets. So lets subtract the amount of time it would take to complete any warmup sets and it would still take somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes to finish up just the 1 exercise. How can we save time and effort and still get the results we are looking for?

So as an experiment I have taken the Prilepin Chart and used the very low end of the volume recommendations for each percentage to plan my progressions for the Deadlift. 

I began week 1 with 80%. The chart tells us that we can get results with 10 reps being the minimum for that intensity. I have ignored the recommendations for sets and reps and essentially did just 1 set of 12 (with some time in between reps of course). Now one of the arguments I had in my own mind was that this may not be enough stimulus to get the desired adaptations I am looking for. So to hopefully solve that problem I used a stop watch and recorded the length of time it took me to complete all 12 reps. I went as fast as possible but slow enough to maintain good form throughout. The 12 reps took me a very taxing 2 minutes and 40 seconds. I went with 12 reps instead of 10 just simply because it worked better for my progression.

The workouts are not necessarily "for time" because I could shave seconds off of the total time by letting my form falter and just gutting it out but that is not my intention. I still want good form and good bar speed for all of the reps.

Now my plan was to do exactly the same 12 reps at 80% for the following week. Week 2 my time dropped down to 1 minute and 14 seconds. That was a significant improvement. I am currently on week six and have had similar results every week leading up to the current intensity of 90%. My hope is that this decrease in time each week is the result in strength gains and it is not just a result of increased work capacity for that specific task.

So here is the plan so far...

Weeks 1 and 2:

12 reps at 80% (2:40 and 1:14)

Weeks 3 and 4:

10 reps at 85% (2:30 and 1:11)

Weeks 5 and 6:

8 reps at 90% (0:59 and TBA)

Weeks 7 and 8:

6 reps at 95% (TBA and TBA)

Weeks 9 and 10:

Max (TBA and TBA)

If similar strength gains can be had from 3 minutes of work, or less, compared to 10-15 minutes - that will be a huge success. 5 more weeks until the truth is revealed so make sure to check back next week for Deadlift Experiment - Part Two!

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