Elevated Variety

Just like in the world of personal training, being a strength coach requires you to make adjustments for the individual’s unique needs. The easy route is to create a cookie cutter program and just throw it at your athletes. You’ll still get the results you are looking for but did you really maximize each athletes unique potential?

My weightlifting program when I was a high school student consisted of circuit training. Thirty seconds of work on an exercise followed by thirty seconds of rest. High rep curls, high rep bench, high rep cleans all in the same workout. The only cueing came from coach telling us to hurry up and move.

One exercise that was missing from every program I went through in high school however was the deadlift. Even though we were doing high rep cleans, there was always an overwhelming sentiment that deadlifts were bad for you and would decimate your back.

Although the deadlift has made a major resurgence in the past few years, people are still hesitant to include them in their team strength and conditioning programs.


Unless you are a competitive powerlifter, there are no rules that say all of your deadlifting must take place from the floor. While I would still have my athlete’s deadlift from the floor, I must be conscious of the unique demands and restrictions of their bodies. Luckily there are some really easy adjustments that can be made to get all of your athletes picking up and dropping barbells.


 Taller athletes will give you the most the trouble because of their long reach and limbs. Without needing to adjust your percentages or load for their program, simply elevating the bar a few inches (depending on your athletes height) will give them a better starting position and decrease the distance the bar needs to travel. This new starting position will be stronger, allowing them to lift more weight, and the decreased distance will reduce strain on their backs.



 Of all the non-Olympic lifts, the deadlift is possibly the most skill intensive major lift. Combine the complexity with young athletes and you get a perfect brew of hunchbacks and blown out spines. In order to teach the new movement patterns and skills, hand your athletes an empty bar and have them stand about six inches facing away from a wall. For high reps, instruct the athletes to perform an RDL while attempting to touch their butt against the wall. I have them hold an empty bar to get used to the feel, but forcing them to touch the wall with their butts quickly teaches a proper hinge pattern.

All of these variations are easy to implement, help include deadlifting into your programming and will help save stave off injury. With the amount of posterior chain development deadlifts give your athletes it would be a huge disservice to not include them. Remember, they are not competitive powerlifters. There are no rules saying they must deadlift from the floor and no rules saying they must train within 90% of their max.

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