Deadlift – Drop or Lower?

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Dropping the weight on the deadlift has been a point of vehement contention in virtually every training discipline that incorporates the deadlift in its programming.  I’ve never really officially weighed in on this topic before, if asked I’ve expressed my distaste for dropping the weight but even then it wasn’t a very enthusiastic argument on my part, I’ve probably just mumbled something about “manning” up and lowering the bar.

This may come as a shock to most of you but I really don’t have a hard opinion for either side of the argument.  I’ll simply leave you with this and you can decide what side you’re on.

Some weightlifting movements (Squats, Bench Press) are made up of an eccentric (lowering of the weight) followed by a concentric (lifting of the weight).  Others, like the Deadlift, Press, and Pull-up work in the opposite manner with a strong concentric lift followed by an eccentric lowering.

When performing the deadlift you are essentially moving a bar that begins on the floor and ends in a locked out position with specific concentration placed on the concentric phase for building strength and explosiveness.  Placing too much emphasis on the eccentric phase will lower your overall output during the training cycle.  During the eccentric contraction of the deadlift you are essentially loading and stretching the glutes and hamstrings by creating and maintaining tension throughout the movement.  In this manner the muscles act as a force to decelerate the load on the joints in order to control repositioning the load for the next rep.  Concentrating on controlling the eccentric contraction (where muscles elongate under load) in any exercise carry a far greater benefit than just dropping the weight after the concentric contraction (shortening of the muscles).  Exercises that have a heavy eccentric load (deadlift, strict pull-ups) actually support more weight since muscle fibers are approximately 10% stronger during eccentric contractions but they also can contribute to a greater risk of muscle damage and delayed and prolonged muscle soreness.


A few random thoughts:

  • Have you ever witnessed anyone perform a pull-up (non-kipping) and simply let go of the bar at the top of the pull?
  • Have you ever witnessed anyone perform a press and then drop the weight from full lockout overhead?
  • How about training the Jerk?  People drop the load all the time after completing the concentric contraction; it’s why we have Jerk boxes. 

It really all revolves around what your training goals are and why you’re deadlifting.  If you want to work on the speed of the lift with a strong pull from the floor to lockout then there really is not a good reason for not dropping the bar after completing the concentric pull. Likewise for the last rep of a set in a WOD if the rules of the workout don’t mandate that you have to maintain control of the bar as it’s returned to the floor.  If you want to practice form and work on lifting the most weight in the deadlift then there’s really not a good reason for not maintaining your grip and completing the concentric and eccentric portion of the lift.  If your goal is to build total overall body strength across all lifts and adaptations then any lift that involves both a strong concentric and eccentric contraction will increase your muscular strength more than just training only concentric contractions.



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