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I am 27, weigh 185 lbs (23% body fat, goal 15%), and my current deadlift is 215lbs. I have been working on deadlifts for last 6 months. My goal is to lift twice my body weight. If I have to set a goal right now, I would want to achieve 200% body weight deadlifts by a year from now. Is this reasonable goal setting or is it even the right way of measuring strength? Please advise. I do crossfit, and I deadlift my max once in 2 weeks.

  • How long have you been training for? Are you just starting at 185 or did it take you a while to get there? – Ryan Jun 12 '15 at 17:24
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A year is plenty of time to hit a double bodyweight deadlift if you're focused on strength.

It took me about a year and a half of squatting and deadlifting two to three times a week (alongside other sports and taking several week-or-longer breaks for vacation or injury) to achieve a double bodyweight deadlift at about your weight. So I was training for my goal several times a week, but I was also doing things that detracted from my goal. I was training for strength but I was not focused.

But you're not just not focused on the deadlift, you're not strength training much either, really. You're CrossFitting. You deadlift occasionally. Most of the time you're exercising in what is largely a random manner. (Maybe your box programs with an eye towards pulling strength--or maybe they don't. Maybe they don't have long-term goals at all.) CrossFit varies a lot, and frequently is more cardio than strength training. That means you're not necessarily putting in the stimulus to grow your deadlift. You might never get to double bodyweight with CrossFit plus deadlifting once every two weeks.

You're also apparently aiming to cut 8 percent body fat. That's not going to help your deadlift, to put it mildly. A novice can lose fat and gain strength at the same time...for a little while. I would expect that train to slow down and eventually stop. It might be hard for you to maintain a 15% bodyfat and gain strength in the near term.

A 215 deadlift at 185 is essentially just getting started. It's the easy gains. You could expect, with general training and occasional deadlifting and a focus on also reducing body fat, to eventually hit 250 or 275. (Maybe.) But 300 or more with good form will probably require more focus.

The fact that it took you six months to hit 215 is not a good sign. It makes me think that no amount of time spent on crossfit, fat loss, and once-every-two-weeks deadlifting is going to earn you a 2xBW deadlift. Most people who hit that achievement have to focus on strength (not crossfit and not fat loss) in order to achieve it. If it took you six months to reach 215, you're probably one of those people.

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    I weigh about the same as the question-asker, and getting my squat and deadlift north of 300 definitely took some time, and that was on a progressive overload program. Some people seem to respond well to even poorly laid out programming, but not me. – Eric Feb 10 '15 at 6:03
  • @EricKaufman True that. I still haven't squatted 300. – Dave Liepmann Feb 10 '15 at 6:06
  • Stop that Cross fit thing and start doing strength training, will improve faster in my opinion, also, i have not heard even 1 good thing about cross fit and i have seen the cross fit guys in my gym...just...no... – s3v3ns Feb 10 '15 at 6:21
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No reason to hate on CrossFit, guys. You just insult the questioner and make yourself look petty.

That said, CrossFit is a GPP program. While there are many ways to do CrossFit and bias it towards strength (or other fitness goals), it is always going to be a program that limits the gain in any one area of fitness in order to make the individual more well-rounded.

So, if you want to focus on strength, focus on strength. I would say you should do a strength program with accessory exercises that focus on strengthening your back and abs. And maybe, if you have time, do one metcon per week. The benefit is that focusing on strength (and mobility) will make you a better CrossFitter when you return to doing metcons full time. Also, adding muscle mass is a great first step in losing weight and changing your body composition.

Also, don't just do the max on your lifts every time. I promise it would benefit you to start back at about 65% of your max and work technique and find any positions you might lack in mobility. Then patiently increase the weight each week on the big lifts by 5 or ten pounds in a 5x5 set scheme.

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  • No offense taken from Marten, but thanks! I understand your point of view. Crossfit is not a streamlined workout program, so if I have to build muscle mass, I have to work on my own in addition to crossfit. The reason I joined crossfit is 1) I need to improve my technique 2) I dont have to worry about high intensity cardio to keep the body fat to a lower percentage. Still thats an issue, more than strength training, my goal is to bring down my body fat percentage. – howtechstuffworks Feb 11 '15 at 0:51
  • I find fewer sets are often sufficient for deadlifts but good answer +1. Do you feel my answer is hating on CrossFit? – Dave Liepmann Feb 11 '15 at 8:40
  • Not at all, @DaveLiepmann. I felt a different comment was hating on CrossFit and serving no useful purpose. – CodenameCain Feb 11 '15 at 16:37
  • Yeah, I hear that. Cheers! – Dave Liepmann Feb 11 '15 at 16:42
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The Math:

When making goals it is best to look at the math to see objectively how realistic something is.

Target: 370 lbs
Current: 215 lbs
To Goal: 155 lbs
Timeline: 1 Year or 12 Months or 26 DL Workouts
Plan: Increase DL by 6 lbs every workout for 1 year

The Problems:

Now from doing the math we can spot a few fault lines in the plan. First off, you cannot increase weight in increments of 6. You can address this by buying fractional plates off Amazon and bringing them with you to the gym.

The second and more glaring issue that the math illustrates is how few workouts you have. Since you only exercise DL once every two weeks you only get 26 total chances to increase your workload. Because your target is so high and your workout frequency is so low, you are leaving yourself with absolutely zero leniency for failure, plateaus, and/or deloading.

Taking these problems into account, along with your already slow progression on DLs so far, added with the fact strength gains are exponentially harder to get as you progress further, and the answer to your question is that no, you cannot reach your goal using your current approach.

Next Steps:

The next step for you should be to prioritize all of your goals and weigh which ones you most want to focus on this year. As other responses already noted, having too many conflicting goals will only hurt your progress. If DLs are not your priority, then find a lower and more realistic goal to match your current workload. If however they are a priority then find a way to do them more frequently, as this will give you more chances to build your strength with it, along with more leniency for failures and plateaus when they arrive (and they will).

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How tall are you? Are you male or female?

Tall people generally have a harder time increasing their deadlift, so if you're tall, your current max makes sense, if you're not, I think you're still working with pre-good-technique-weight. Try out different ways of lifting, like looking up vs looking slightly down, pushing floor down vs lifting bar etc. Getting the right feel for it makes a big difference. Grip strength makes a big difference as well. Are you using mixed grip? Even mixed grip won't be enough if your grip strength is too low.

Speaking from my own experience, I used to lift ~my bodyweight for a while until the technique got better, then it quite quickly increased to 150% and then approaching 200%.

Aim for few, heavy reps with controlled motion. If you really want to lift 200% of your body weight, stop doing crossfit.

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  • I am male, 5'10", 27, east Indian by ethnicity. I am not that tall. I would have to agree that I might be on pre-good-technique-weight. But trainers seems to be okay with my deadlift technique. I am working on my cleans and snatch technique. But for deadlifts I think my technique is almost right if not right. I can do a max of 225 lbs instead of 215lbs if I really push myself and not fatigued from daily crossfit work out, not more than that. My grip strength is low, yes, I cannot do pull ups properly. I guess I have to work on that. – howtechstuffworks Feb 11 '15 at 0:40
  • Also, I hit my deadlifts on my own after crossfit workout. Same for pull ups, bench, core exercises etc, I understand your point that crossfit does not streamline a muscle group, but with out crossfit it is so hard for me to get a reasonable cardio without weights. – howtechstuffworks Feb 11 '15 at 0:40
  • There are two things I think you need to consider. The first is when you do deadlifts. As I've understood it, crossfit is pretty heavy in high volume, low weight olympic lifts, which will exhaust your deadlifting muscles, so doing them after crossfit might be a bad idea. Second, consider your recovery. Some people think doing heavy deadlifts more than once or twice per WEEK is too much to recover from. Strength is built during recovery after all. I think crossfit can be a good form of workout for general fitness but it seems hard to combine with a more pure strength workout routine. – Mårten Feb 11 '15 at 7:38
  • @Mårten I don't think deadlifts are going to be the limiting factor when it comes to recovery in this case. They're just not heavy enough yet. I agree with your caution regarding doing them after a WOD, though. Strength goes before the exhausting cardio workout for best safety and performance. – Dave Liepmann Feb 11 '15 at 8:39

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