Q&D + Minimalist Deadlifts

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.”

Dan Wohleber and John Inzer deadlifts
More hip hinge dominant world record pulls: Dan Wohleber’s
and John Inzer’s.

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.[1] 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.”[2]

Click on image to enlarge.

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:

Click on image to enlarge.

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.[4] 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

[1] Makarova, 1958

[2] Yakovlev, 1974

[3] Yakovlev, 1983

[4] Vasilieva, 1949


The Quick and the Dead, by Pavel Tsatsouline

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

36 thoughts on “Q&D + Minimalist Deadlifts

  • Hello Pavel, first thank you for all your knowledge. Suffer a serious ankle injury about 4 years ago, which lead me to S&S. Due to this protocol I am now back at karate full time and feel great. I completed 3 months of Q&D and I feel great, my punching power and speed is well up. As well most dynamic movements. I swapped back to S&S after the 3 months. Think this time round I will flick between 6 weeks Q&D and 6 weeks A&A protocol. My question is could I do barbell power cleans instead of deadlifts on low volume days of Q&D. The reason for this is it is more of a power exercise and would compliment my karate.
    Respect and regards. Carlo

    • Michal, my advice is to focus on the DL plus doing S&S twice a week. When your DL is up to 200kg, come back to Q&D.

  • Pavel …

    My son is a Marine Captain with a hectic hit or miss schedule and is using Q&D snatch as a way to maintain … he wanted to know if the protocol you shared about Q&D+Deads could be applied to Q&D+Low Back Squat.

    Tom Grimes – SFG1
    … i’m tinkering with Q&D myself and like it. It seems to work for guys with gray hair & old bones.

    • Tom, yes—but high bar squats and very light. E.g., sprinters with a 2xBW 1RM would use only 50% BW or less. These are called “tempo squats.”

      Even better, since there is very little time in Q&D to get the bar placement right, goblet squats to parallel. Get a full hip extension and build up to max tempo.

      • Pavel, I think he thought about using Q&D like it is written and the squats instead of deadlifts after the Q&D session.

        Please correct me if I didn’t get it right @Tom Grimes

  • I guess combining the Q&D with Reg Parks 5×5 Deadlift programme would be too much volume…? Thanks

    • Thomas, it would.

      One option is, after a few months of Q&D and minimalist DLs switch to Q&D maintenance (1/week) plus 5×5 DL.

  • Exactly what I was looking for. I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate a minimalist deadlift approach to go with the 044/Q&D. Thank you Pavel! As a side note, some of the Army personnel I work with that are interested in your work are really enjoying the minimalist approach outlined in Q&D.

  • Pavel, how would you recommend combing daily S&S with deadlifts?

    I recently completed a 8-week deadlifts singles program before restarting S&S and achieved a 1RM of 425lbs. I’ve been a little worried that with my switch to S&S that I would loose some strength on my DL.

    I’d like to continue doing S&S daily if possible.

    Thanks for your contributions. You’ve been my teacher for many years now and I really value how you approach strength training.

    Congrats on your new book, Q&D!

    • Thank you, Pavel. One more question, if my main lift is deadlift and I would have the benefits from Q&D (I’m interested in swings and push-ups), should I stick to PTTP or skip to another Deadlift-focus program?

      Thank you in advance for your reply.

  • First I want to thank you that you started kettlebell revolution back then and changed lives of millions including mine.
    Currently I’m running snatch protocol of q&d and I decided to add 10-25 pushups with bands to gain strength to start swing version of this program later this year. I pressed 44kg earlier this year so I think I’m kinda strong enough, but lack of doing pushups makes me weak in that exercise. I use two different bands, on heavy day I’ll use band that allows me to do 5-7 pushups, I’ll try to build up to 2-3×5, on medium day I’ll use band that allows me to do 8-10 pushups, I’ll build up to 5×5, on easy days I’ll just do few sets of 5 without bands.
    Currently I’ll use 24kg for snatches, my pretest was 15 snatches each arm in 30 seconds so it’s bit too light, but I work with it to gain some confidence to move up to 32kg.
    I think my training plan sounds decent, but any words from master are naturally highly valued.
    My goal is to gain some power, conditioning, hypertrophy. All the good stuff.
    And thank you. 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words, Sauli.

      If you do not have much pushup experience, using bands is premature, even if you are obviously strong (a 44kg MP). I would do incline pushups for awhile (ROP type loading but with a lower volume), then switch to one-arm pushups.

      • Thank you sir. Building up to one arm pushups is very good idea. It gives much stronger base for future power pushups too.. and propably helps with pressing the beast too in future.

  • Wow, very elegant!
    Pavel, do you have a recommendation for the reversed case: How could one maintain the power/conditioning gains from attaining, say, the Simple standard when switching to a strength program such as PTTP?

    Thanks again for all your content!

  • Thank you for another great learning experience Pavel. How should one add the pull-ups to the Q&D program for the TSC?

    • Thank you, Steven! I suggest that you look up Senior SFG Derek Toshner’s articles and posts.

  • Funny this should come up now: Six weeks in on Q&D, I’m about to purchase a bar, some wheels and start deadlifting again after several years of kettlebells only. I plan to add presses too, from the ground not a bench. Would the same general guidelines outlined above apply to presses as well as deadlifts?
    Pavel, many thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience in strength training, physiology and health. It has been transformative for me.

    • SFSparky, do doubles and triples with ~75-85% 1RM after Q&D, totalling ~10 reps.

      Press improvement from such low volume training is less reliable than DL improvement.

  • Currently doing the vodka and pickles deadlift part with Q&D (feels like a great fit) – will switch for this one after some weeks. This will give back some resources!!

    Thank you sir!

  • Been doing low volume deadlift singles for years a few times a week alongside my religious adherence to S&S. I felt guilty that I wasn’t “programming” the deadlifts, just doing 3-5 singles, hahaha, exactly as outlined above.

    I guess my instincts weren’t wrong on this!

    More great stuff from Strong First! Thanks again!

      • Great article.
        Currently following PTTP with Q&D and up to three weighted pull-ups a week. Should I cut the number of DL sessions from 5 to 3 or would it be ok to remain the current?
        Thank you in advance.

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