By Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman
Speaks 1,000-pound deadlifter Andy Bolton:
“The [kettlebell] swing is a great developer of the posterior chain and will teach you how to develop some awesome snap in your hips. For lifters, this makes them a useful assistance movement for the squat and deadlift.”
And if you have never deadlifted a barbell, but have been seriously swinging and snatching a kettlebell, you are already ahead in the deadlift game. Kettlebell pulls have “greased” the hip hinge pattern for the deadlift and strengthened your deadlift muscles.
Kettlebells and Deadlifts
There are a great many deadlift styles. A hip-dominant style such as Andy Bolton’s, rather than quad-dominant style, suits a girevik’s strength. Learn it from an experienced powerlifter.
Once your technique is passable, it is time to drill it with high frequency practice. Here is your plan based on an old Westside Barbell deadlift template. Use the max estimated by your powerlifting coach (you have no business maxing at this point).
- Workout 1: 65% x 1/15 (reps/sets)
- Workout 2: 70% x 1/15
- Workout 3: 75% x 1/12
- Workout 4: 80% x 1/8
- Workout 5: 85% x 1/6
- Workout 6: Add 10 pounds and start over
Do the above practice/workout three times a week. Rest for 30-40 seconds rest between sets. Stay on the program as long as you are not struggling. When the poundage in workout five takes 90% of your effort, take three to four days off and work up to what Master SFG Dan John calls a “sort of max.” For example, 50% x 5, 60% x 4, 70% x 3, 80% x 2, 90% x 1, 105% x 1, etc. Set a personal record, but keep perfect form and save something for another day.
The deadlift severely punishes those who overextend themselves—and rewards those who treat it as a practice, not a challenge. Consider the contrast between the following two statements by two strength authorities. Louie Simmons pointed out that heavy deadlifts take a lot more out of you than they give you. And Dan John observed that building strength with light “grease the groove” type deads is like “stealing.” Save the killer attitude for competition—when you are ready for it. Meanwhile, practice.
Start every deadlift practice with 3 sets of 3 prying light goblet squats and 3 sets of 10 hard style two-handed swings with 30% of your bodyweight (sweet spot for power production, according to research by Brandon Hetzler, SFG II, CK-FMS).
After your deads, alternate kettlebell pulls and squats from workout to workout:
- For your kettlebell pulls, you have multiple choices: swings (one-arm, two-arm, hand-to-hand), dead swings, double swings, double cleans, or snatches. Favor heavier weights and keep the volume in the 100-150 rep range.
- On the squat day, do goblet squats or double kettlebell front squats. Dan John recommends a squat volume of 15-25 reps.
You are on your own with your upper body work.
Once you have run through this cycle and “sort of maxed,” drop us a line on the StrongFirst forum and we will guide you to the next step. Double power to you—kettlebells and deadlifts!