Programming the deadlift – simplified waves and peaking

This post on the deadlift resulted in some more questions on the deadlift. While meditating over these questions, I realized that I’ll be deadlifting for my club at a meet in seven weeks. Soooooo, two birds with one stone and all that, I sat down with paper a pencil and drew up a program for myself to follow the next six weeks in training. Though I’ve only made a plan for the deadlift, my other lifts will be programmed along the way. This is not meant for a beginner. This is for the advanced intermediate trainer.

Taking just one lift out of a program is pretty weird I admit that, as it’s a matter of fitting many pieces into a puzzle. The idea of this post is just to give an example of how I would set up a single lift – you can fit the other lifts into the plan afterwards and create an entire training program.

I’ve programmed two lifts per week – the first one is my competition lift (the sumo deadlift) and the other one is a support lift – this’ll either be sumo deadlift from a deficit or conventional deadlift. This could be any lift, that you know compliments your deadlift well, or simply the same lift. Remember to base percentages off of your 1RM in the lift used). The comments are only based on the main lift – the support work is low intensity and low/medium volume throughout). I’ll score the volume based on Prilepin’s recommendations, if the chart has 12-24 reps, 24 would mean a score of 1, and 12 a score of 0.5. I’ll get back to this scoring system and how it can be used to program a training day/week – for now we’ll just see it as a marker of how hard you work a lift in a workout, where around 0.5 is the minimum required stimulus and 1 is considered the maximum for a workout.


I currently train ~3 times a week and have as you’ll see, decided to stay with the lowest reps recommended. For a peaking cycle I prefer lower reps. Reps could be kept a little higher for longer cycles.

Week 1: 8x3x75% // 5x2x80%. Volume buildup at a low intensity. Score: 1 // 0.5

Week 2 10x2x80% // 5x2x80%. More volume, slightly higher intensity, things are starting to get serious here. Score: 1 // 0.5

Week 3: 8x2x85% // 6x3x75%. Volume down slightly and intensity up some. This week will be hard work. Score: 0.8 // 0.75

Week 4: 4x1x90% // 6x3x75%. Heaviest week of the cycle and only time I get to handle some really interesting poundages. Low volume to make up for it. Score: 0.4 // 0.75 This week is the end of the first wave.

Week 5: 5x3x75% // 6x3x70%. Adjusting intensity down a fair bit and volume up with it. Keeping volume in the medium range. Score: 0.725 // 0.75

Week 6: 8x1x70% // 4x3x70%. This workout is done in the week leading up to the meet. Low intensity and low volume. So low it doesn’t fit in the table. Score: 0.33 // 0.5. The final three weeks make up the peaking wave.

By the end of week 6 I should be ready to pull some serious weight.

Columbo pulling big

Columbo pulling big weight

If you want to draw up a longer program, the base idea is the same. Start out with low intensity/high volume, and decrease volume as you increase intensity. The 6-week program I’ve outlined can be stretched by inserting additional weeks after 1, 2 and 3 respectively. The new week 1 and 2 would then start a little lower volumewise (0.9 for example) – same goes for week 3 where intensity will be brought up and volume down over two weeks instead of one.

If you really wanted to (and think you’re at a level where 12-week planning is necessary) each of the first three weeks I’ve detailed could be stretched into three weeks. The first three weeks would then look like this:

Wave 1 (weeks 1-3): 4x5x75% (0.80) // 5x4x75% (1) // 5x5x75% (1.04)

Wave 2 (weeks 4-6): 6x3x80% (0.90) // 5x4x80% (1) // 4x5x80% (1)

Wave 3: (weeks 7-9): 5x3x85% (0.75) // 6x2x85% (0.6) // 6x3x85% (0.9)

This is just a simple layout where intensities are kept the same throughout each block. This is basically just a stretched version of the first part of the original 6 week cycle. If you wanted to complicate matters even more, You could draw up light, medium and heavy weeks within light medium and heavy waves. The combinations are endless really and the key is keeping it as simple as possible while still getting stronger.

You don’t have to peak and go for a new 1RM at all – if you don’t just do the 3, 6 or 9 week foundation, add 2,5 or 5kg to the figure you based the percentages off of, take a weeks deload and start over.

Don't do this!

Don’t do this!

Final note: base your cycle off of a lift you can always hit with near perfect technique. Save the grinders for the platform and lift pretty in training.