Ask The Super Strong Guy: How Can I Deadlift 500 Pounds?

Pro powerlifter Mark Bell answers your questions about picking very, very heavy objects up off the floor and rack. In this case, it's the deadlift.


My goal is to deadlift 500 pounds by the end of summer. By deadlifting every other week, I've come pretty close. Yesterday, for example, I did 225 x 10, 315 x 8, 405 x 6, 425 x 3, and then two sets of 445 x 1—which felt pretty heavy. Is there too much warming up? Any tips on how to break on through to the other side?

Okay, your goal is 500, and you're currently at about 450. Let's attack this somabitch with everything we got. We'll even use the fatty tissue between your ears for a change.

You're lifting backward, son.

In your sample warm-up, you're doing high reps followed by strength training. Elijah, do me a favor—go run 2 miles before you try and attempt the fastest 40-yard dash of your life, and let me know how it goes. Your high school football coach may have thought that was a great idea, but I'm here to tell you that he was not only wrong, but just plain dumb!

Running 2 miles is unrelated to running an optimal 40 time. You'll pre-fatigue the muscles, and you won't be able to sprint at maximal speeds. It's better to do a few 100-meter sprints at 60 percent and maybe work on some starts. But you wouldn't want to do anything too hard or challenging before the main event.

And kudos to you IF you can deadlift 500 lbs. while wearing a badass skull hat!
"And kudos to you IF you can deadlift 500 lbs. while wearing a badass skull hat!"

The same is true with any strength training protocol. After doing some short duration mobility work from Kelly Starrett's, you'll be ready to get yourself into optimal positions to start warming up. Here is a sample warm-up for someone in the 400-to-500-pound deadlift range. You'll notice I like deadlifting with both Sumo and Conventional form in the warm up. They will allow you to hone your form from two directions and give your body a new stimulus:

Sample Deadlift Training Program
    1 warm up set w/bar only

    From here on out, be cautious with the jumps in weight. When you're at 90-to-95 percent of your max, a 50-pound jump can kill your progression and your ego. Make smaller jumps of 15-to-30 pounds to save some face, gauge your strength and form, and prepare yourself for the heavier attempts.

    Let's say your max is 445 pounds, it might go down like this: 385 lbs. x 1, 405 lbs. x 1, 425 lbs. x 1, then finishing with 450 lbs. x 1. Hell yeah, you just beat your 1RM by 5 lbs. and your street cred just went through the roof!

    And if 450 felt a little too easy, try a harder weight. This is also the perfect time to do any extra rep work. Lower the weight to 315 and try 3 sets of 4-to-6 reps!

    Improving your deadlift

    Only do a singular max deadlift from the floor every 6-to-8 weeks

    Better yet, save the new record for your next power meet, and use variations to increase your deadlift. For more information, read some of the other deadlift stuff I wrote about on this site.

    If you have limited access to equipment, just establish rep records on your deadlifts

    Record reps, weights, and stance for any set atthe following weights: 350, 315, and 275 (These are based on a 450 lift). Blow everything out and do as many reps as you can with only one of the chosen weights you selected for the day, write down your results, and then beat them on the next go-round.

    Lift for results

    This means selecting weights properly and not getting too fired by loading the weights up too heavy, too early. This also means not lifting at 100 percent of your max all the time. Great strength gains are obtained with lower percents too, so work smarter and not harder.

    Don't neglect form

    This is heavy weight, baby. If your back is rounding out, then give yourself time to adjust to heavier weights and focus on form. Don't be a wimp, just make sure to lift heavy AND correctly.

    Never bounce the weights

    Everyone wants to look like a beast and celebrate after a serious feat of strength, but glorious lifts are always overshadowed by embarrassing accidents.

    Train your entire backside

    This means your entire back, glutes and hamstrings. If these areas are weak, your deadlift is weak too.

    Nothing puts a smile on your face like some good ol' deadlifting
    "Nothing puts a smile on your face like some good ol' deadlifting"

    Implement speed deadlifts

    Use 65-to-75 percent of your max for 8 sets of 2 reps during the weeks you are NOT deadlifting heavy.

    Train your abs with heavy weights

    Try pull-down abs or heavy sit-ups.

    Get my magazine called POWER

    Go to and get ready for some kick-ass reading on how to build strength.

    Take Home Message

    Follow these instructions and you'll kill 500 pounds. Shoot, you may even just put it up over your head, and your new goal might be 600!

    You now have all the tools you need. You just need to follow through on your end and bust your ass. Give a key to the inner universe to a thousand men, only one will open the door. Be the one!