I was watching Andy Bolton pull over 900 pounds from the back stage at the Arnold Classic. It struck me that his deadlift looked exactly like a hard style kettlebell swing. Afterwards, I asked Andy, “Correct me if I am wrong, it seems that you try to keep your shins vertical, don’t think about the leg drive, and snap your hips forward right from the start?” The man who would soon break the historic 1,000-pound barrier nodded, “Yes, you got it, that’s the way I pull. The hips go forward as soon as possible and as fast as possible and I don’t really think too much about the legs, they do their stuff without me thinking.”
Bolton, Thompson, Gillingham, and many other elite powerlifters have sung praises to the hard style kettlebell swing as a deadlift builder. But even if your kettlebell swing and deadlift look like twins, you need an occasional barbell pull to translate the gains made with the former to the latter. An obvious reason is specificity. A non-obvious one is a muscle protein called myostromin.
Myostromin content appears to be important for expressing high levels of absolute strength. It provides both strength and elasticity to what Prof. Nikolay Yakovlev called the muscle cell’s “carcass.” He stressed that: “Training with speed loads without significant strength tension has almost no effect on the myostromin content and, therefore, cannot fully replace strength training.”
A hard man with high mileage, Rif once posted: “I do not need more raw strength, it tends to get me injured. But the lighter, faster work seems to produce the best results: better technique, power, and conditioning. A few heavy workouts bring my “strength” back up quickly, if I need it.”
If you are an experienced hip hinge deadlifter, conventional or sumo, here is how you can maintain—and most likely improve—your pull with a minimalist addition to The Quick and the Dead swings or snatches.
Deadlift only after the Q&D sessions with lower volume, 40 or 60 reps of swings or snatches. That translates to an average of one deadlift practice per week if you are following the Q&D protocol twice a week. If you Q&D three time a week, you will average three DL sessions in two weeks.
Here is the plan:
E.g. a 500-pound puller might do on different days:
- 315, 365, 405
- 315, 405, 455, 475
- 315, 405, 315
- 315, 365, 315, 365, 315
- 315, 405, 405, 405
- 315, 405, 455, 475, 495
- 315, 315, 315
The above 3-5 singles ultralow volume is based on the experience of extreme minimalist lifters like John McKean who have shown that it can be enough.
Negatives are deemphasized because eccentric loading is not lacking in Q&D.
The rest periods are based on the Soviet discovery that CNS excitability rapidly declines after 2min. And since you will not burn much creatine phosphate or produce any lactic acid with explosive singles followed by a free fall negative, this is more than plenty of rest.
The 50-70% 1RM range for the first deadlift single is wide to fit individual preferences. After 40-60 powerful hip hinges of Q&D the last thing you need is a warm-up. Lighter deads are there only for your head. If you need a 50% 1RM pull for confidence, have at it. If you do not, even better, go straight to 70% and even higher.
To anticipate your question, there is no place for the popular 50-60% 1RM “speed pulls” in this plan. They would have been redundant after the swings or snatches. Now is time to feel the weight.
As an experienced lifter, you know the reasons for big jumps.
“Comfortably heavy” is purposefully vague. For an intense conventional puller it might be as low as 80%. For a calm sumoist, it could be 90%. And this percentage will vary from day to day.
Deadlift power to you!
Photos courtesy Powerlifting USA
 Makarova, 1958
 Yakovlev, 1974
 Yakovlev, 1983
 Vasilieva, 1949
The Quick and the Dead, by Pavel Tsatsouline