Do Speed Deadlifts Really Work?

by Chris on May 24, 2012

Today I have a guest post from coaches Todd Bumgardner and John Gaglione breaking down the use of the speed deadlift. I used to be very skeptical about the usefulness of speed work until I started implementing it regularly a few months ago and I can tell you from experience that it 100% works and the points they raise here are completely true. Enjoy.

Do Speed Deadlifts Really Work?

by Todd Bumgardner & John Gaglione

The deadlift is one of the best exercises to build size, strength and power throughout the entire posterior chain.  Deadlifting heavy is super important, but if you do it all the time you nervous system and lower back are going to HATE YOU!

To pull BIG you NEED to pull heavy, there is no question of that, but don’t underestimate the POWER of speed deadlifts, deadlifts with submaximal loads performed with maximum effort and velocity.

If you follow programs like 5/3/1 or Starting Strength you probably are thinking…

“I heard speed deads are worthless.”
         “I don’t have any bands or chains.”
         ”How are these going to get me stronger?”

We have heard all of these excuses and concerns before, but our confidence in speed deads didn’t waiver–we’d seen them work countless times.  We both routinely use them with our own programming as well as with our athletes that we train for sports performance.

Here are the three big reasons:

1) Movement Practice: Speed deads provide a great opportunity to master the deadlift–if the focus is on making every rep identical. Medium loads with high speed conjures a great nervous system response. Couple identical technique with a significant nervous system response and you’re going to get better at the deadlift.

2) Rate of Force Development: Strength is the king, but power makes it useful. Other than body weight jump training, there is no simpler way to develop power than speed deads. Bend over, grab a bar, tighten up and move it fast!

3) Violent Hip Extension: This point goes hand in hand with rate of force development–it’s just more specific. Most athletic movements–even if they are rotational–are predicated on violent hip extension. Training it basically with speed deads will carry over into more advanced power movements that require lateral or rotational movement.

Hopefully you’re already using speed deads in your programming. If not, I just gave you three great reasons to start!

John and Todd recently launched a new training manual called Supreme Strength. I got a chance to look it over (I’ll post a full review soon) and I was seriously impressed with it. The pack is huge and covers in depth strength training, power development, mobility and soft tissue work. It’s absolutely worth checking out.


steve June 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm


on the speed deadlifts are you talking 8-12 reps per set or a 3X5 or 5×5 set up at the lower weight (50%-60%)

Steve T

Chris June 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm


Speed work is typically done with ~50-70% of max for around 6-8 sets of 2-3 reps.

steve June 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

thanks for the response
good luck sunday
will try and make it…as a spectator
keep up the good work

Chris June 30, 2012 at 10:38 am

Thanks Steve. Hope to see you there.

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