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For about 2.5 weeks, I have noticed a significant decrease in my deadlift performance, while my other lifts (squat & bench press) have remained somewhat constant. I used to be able to deadlift 180 kgs for two sets of 6 reps at a moderate to high intensity (RPE 8-9), but I never had to grind to finish my lift. I have previously maintained this load for app. 10 weeks, but the last deadlift workouts were a RPE 10 grinder and then being completely unable to lift the weight entirely (not being able to break it off thew floor), with anything above 70 kg feeling 'heavy'. I am in my mid 20's.

I have been following Jonny Candito's Linear Program for quite a while (> 2 years).

I follow the 'Strength & Control' template:

Monday - Heavy Lower Day

  • Squat 3 sets x 6 reps
  • Deadlift 2 sets x 6 reps
  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

Tuesday - Heavy Upper Day

  • Bench Press 3 sets x 6 reps
  • Primary Upper Back Exercise 3 sets x 6 reps
  • Shoulder Exercise 1 set x 6
  • Upper Back Exercise #2 1 set x 6
  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps
  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

Thursday - Control Lower Day

  • Pause Squat 6 sets x 4 reps

  • Pause Deadlifts (pause right after weight comes off floor) 3 sets x 4 reps

  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

Friday Control Upper Day

  • Spoto Press 6 sets x 4 reps

  • Pause Primary Upper Back Exercise (pause at full contraction) 6 sets x 4 reps

  • Shoulder Exercise 1 set x 10

  • Upper Back Exercise #2 (not paused) 1 set x 10

  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

  • Optional Exercise 3 sets x 8-12 reps

Things I have taken into account:

  1. I did not change my workout routine
  2. I have not made any changes to my diet / caloric intake
  3. I do not experience more stress in my life than usual
  4. I do not feel any pain in my posterior chain or somewhere else in my body.

Things I tried:

In my recent workouts, I dropped the weight to a manageable load (~100 kg) and focussed on variations to let my posterior chain rest a little. Instead, I focussed on stretching, foam rolling and core stability to 'fix' any weaknesses I may have stumbled into.

The only thing I do notice is that my hip and glutes (laterally) feel somewhat weak and stiff, but not sore or agitated / painful. My lower back feels completely fine. To put it bluntly: I simply feel weak and I am starting to feel annoyed.

Has anyone experienced something similar or knows what might be the underlying issue here? Should I consider resting for an extended period of time or should I focus on doing exactly the opposite (i.e. trying to rebuild)?

I'd be grateful for any advice / input.

Edit: I do lift with a conventional stance, if that's somehow relevant.

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    I know it says that you haven't changed anything recently, but maybe should you? What's rest looking like? Running a program at an RPE9 for an extended period of time can wear you down. Do you have planned deload weeks?
    – C. Lange
    Aug 9 at 18:54
  • I do schedule deloads whenever needed. Regarding rest I focus on active recovery a lot (other low intensity sports), sleeping enough and consuming enough calories (and enough protein). My routine is far from optimal but it has been working for me reasonably well. For know I'd like to get to the bottom of this issue before changing something.
    – code-lukas
    Aug 9 at 19:18
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    Any injuries or heavy strains outside of your training recently? I ask because I know my lifts were affected heavily during the winter when I was shovelling out a blizzard every other day, for example.
    – C. Lange
    Aug 9 at 20:04
  • Not at all, really. General fatigue or increased physical activity would explain a decrease, but also one as big as mine recently? Right now it's not a matter of 'This is heavier than usual' and more like 'this isn't moving at all'. Such a drastic decrease leads me to belief that it has to be something more ... significant.
    – code-lukas
    Aug 9 at 20:18
  • @code-lukas A recent episode of the Barbell Medicine podcast goes into much greater depth about the principles motivating my answer. Aug 11 at 18:35

2 Answers 2

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Increase volume and decrease intensity.

As I was reading your question I felt like I was reading a description of my deadlift training from September of 2021 to April of 2022. I've felt it many times. You had an okay first set, you rest up, and approach the bar...and then it's just stuck on the floor with no explanation.

My deadlift work during this period was pretty similar to what you are running. You've got 2x6@8 and then one day with 3x4 of a variation deadlift, and I was doing 2x5@8 plus maybe one more rep of a third set that I couldn't squeeze out, as well as 3 sets of paused deads another day. This is not much in terms of volume, but the intensity is high enough that it could be driving excessive fatigue if you are also squatting in the RPE 8-9 range. Only two working sets with the movement and three sets of a variation is just not a lot of work, even if it is at a high intensity.

As I worked my way through listening to the Barbell Medicine podcast, they started talking about their Low Fatigue Strength template and how Dr. Baraki has been doing all his work sets at RPE 7 or below for over a year now. I decided to give it a shot using the "Low Intraset Fatigue" template, and the deadlift work is closer to 10-12 sets per week between the main lift and your variation of choice, in the RPE 5-7 range, rather than 8 or 9. After stagnating at 207 kg for 8 months, I pulled 220 kg at the end of my first 12 week block of keeping my deadlift work in the RPE 5-7 range.

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  • What do you think about swapping squats and deadlifts in terms of workout order too, Thomas? I think a lot of people stick with squats first and deadlift second for powerlifting since that's the SBD order anyways... but if you do both on the same day it always means your squats are fresh and deads are fatigued.
    – C. Lange
    Aug 9 at 21:02
  • @C.Lange Yeah, that’s probably a good idea too. I’ve always done my deadlift variation after my main squat, and done my main deadlift first on a different day. Aug 9 at 21:12
  • Something like Squats and Paused Deads on Day 1 and then Deads and Paused Squats on Day 3?
    – C. Lange
    Aug 10 at 3:59
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My guess, and I am only guessing, is that this is actually a grip issue.

Sometimes it feels like, yep, my hands sure are tired, but other times it doesn't feel like that at all -- it just feels like I can't break the bar off the floor for no good reason.

Diagnostically, I would suggest trying a plain old dead static hang from a pullup bar for as long as you can, and see just how long that is, and try to remember if it's a lot less than what you normally do.

Or it might be something else entirely!

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    I feel like if the issue was grip OP would have already resolved it by just using straps. Aug 9 at 23:24
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    @ThomasMarkov there's no indication that OP has already tried straps, so I'd say this is a very good answer. Aug 10 at 4:01
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    @ThomasMarkov is right, I would've used straps if it was a grip issue. Unfortunately, it's not a grip issue
    – code-lukas
    Aug 10 at 8:21
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    @code-lukas but how do you know it's not a grip issue if you haven't tried straps? Grip issues aren't always obvious, and very often your posterior chain muscles just won't sufficiently engage if your body can sense that your grip is going to give out. It's well worth trying straps if you haven't already. Aug 11 at 6:53
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    I tried with and without straps to double check, however, that was not the culprit
    – code-lukas
    Aug 11 at 9:30

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