Laine Norton

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Best Strength Training Books – 17 Essential Reads for Gym Goers

The internet is an amazing resource for gaining knowledge and information. But is does have its downfall:

Information online is often broken down into single pages or topics, which makes learning a large amount of information on a single subject rather time-consuming.

If you ever want a deep-dive into a topic, reading a book by experts in the field is still the way to go. That's why I have created my ultimate list of the best strength training books available.

They say knowledge is power. Well, in this case its strength and power!

Best strength training books featured image

Below is a series of what I feel are essential books for different aspects of strength training. 

I have broken them down into categories for easy navigation but many books overlap and could have gone into multiple categories.

In all honesty, you will learn something from any book on this list, no matter what type of training you are involved with.

Best Weight Lifting Books for Beginners

Startin​g Strength – Mark Rippetoe

An absolute classic! I don't think any strength training book list would dare to miss this one.

Starting strength is the ultimate guide to simple barbell lifting techniques and training methods.

Easy Strength - Dan John & Pavel

An interesting dialogue format between that offers perspectives from two legends in the industry. Easy strength offers a huge amount of very practical information.

Also contains programs and routines that you can implement right away.

Practical Programming for Strength Training - Mark Rippetoe & Andy Baker

One of the most comprehensive books on the theory and application of designing a strength training program.

This will take you from merely "working out" to actually training. Couple this with Starting Strength and you'll have a great foundation of knowledge.

Best Powerlifting Books

Powerlifting - Dan Austin & Bryan Mann

The title of this one says it all; it takes a much more specific look at programming and preparing yourself for powerlifting competition.

Written by a multiple powerlifting champion, this book is great for learning how to train effectively with the 3 "power lifts" in mind.

Westside Barbell Book of Methods - Louie Simmons

Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell brand is a huge name in powerlifting. His methods are somewhat divisive but they have certainly made an impact on the powerlifting world.

The writing is pretty sporadic but there is a lot of information to give you some different views and methods of training.

Westside barbell book of methods cover image

Best Bodybuilding Books

New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold's huge book has gained a reputation for being the "bible" of bodybuilding.

There is an absolute ton of detailed information inside this book.

While I think some of the methods are a bit "bro-sciencey" and the routines are not the best for your average lifter, it is definitely worth reading.

Strength Training Anatomy - Frederic Delavier

This is a great visual guide for learning how the body works while applying it to strength training principles.

The detailed illustrations are supremely detailed and show you exactly how everything is working during each exercise.

Best Olympic Weightlifting Books

Olympic Weightlifting - Gregg Everett

This book is the ultimate resource for learning the Olympic lifts and their progressions. Gregg rreally takes a deep-dive into details of the snatch and clean & jerk.

If you coach or practice Olympic lifting, this will be a book you constantly refer back to.

The Weightlifting Encyclopedia - Arthur Drechsler

Written by somebody who has been a high level coach, athlete and judge, this book brings a wealth of information to the table.

It features a lot of detail and Drechsler's enthusiasm for the sport is clear as he projects years of wisdom on to the reader.

Best Books for Strength Coaches and Advanced Lifters

Scientific principles of strength – Dr. Mike Israetel, James Hoffman and Chad Wesley-Smith

As the title suggests, this book provides an in-depth look at the science and principles behind programming for short and long-term strength gain.

Definitely not for the beginner lifter but coaches and individuals who are looking to learn about proper program design will benefit from this one.

Scientific principles of strength training cover

The Science and Practice of Strength Training – Vladimir Zatoriorsky and William Kraemer

I would deem this to be almost essential reading for anybody involved with strength training.

Divided into 3 parts, the book covers a wide variety of practical information as it relates to strength training.

There is a lot of scientific information and it is rather textbook-like but is still readable and digestible for anybody.

Essentials of Strength and Conditioning - Gregory Haff and Travis Triplett

This book is recommended as the number 1 resource for the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam.

It is probably the most comprehensive overall text for exploring the principles and theories of strength training and nutrition. 

Best Movement and Mobility Books

Becoming a Supple Leopard - Dr. Kelly Starrett

This is a truly awesome book for learning how to optimize human movement as it relates performance and strength training.

Filled with images and in-depth guides, you will learn how to get your body into the best positions to reduce injury and improve performance.

Movement - Gray Cook

Gray's book outlines the importance of assessing and fixing dysfunctional movement patterns to improve performance and reduce injury occurrence.

The book is a textbook style book and is certainly not light reading. However, it provides a great deal of important information for serious lifters, athletes and coaches.

Best Calisthenics and Bodyweight Training Books

Never Gymless - Ross Enamait

This is a 230 page book that covers a wide range of exercises and their progressions for a number of different training goals.

The book also features information on programming and periodization for bodyweight exercises as well as sample routines.

Note: purchase this from Ross's website (; it's way cheaper than Amazon!

never gymless cover image

Overcoming Gravity - Steven Low

This book is for those who wish to develop a deeper understanding of programming and periodizing calisthenics/bodyweight exercises.

It covers everything from exercise technique, progressions, injury awareness and building workout programs.

Other Great Books for Strength Enthusiasts and Lifters

This section is for books that I love but don't necessarily fit into the categories above. However, I think lifters will get a lot out of reading them. I imagine this section will be added to and updated the most over time.

Never Let Go: A philosophy of lifting, living and learning - Dan John

I actually suggest reading all of Dan John's books but I remember really enjoying this when I first read it.

Chapter by chapter, and in an entertaining writing style, Dan imparts endless wisdom on strength training, fitness and life in general.

Anybody reading this list should read this book!

For now, that concludes my list. I know there are plenty of others great books that could have gone into the list.

However, if you just read the books listed here to start with, you will gain more knowledge than you know what to do with.

Let me know what you think of my list in the comments and suggest some of your own for me to read myself.

Improve your Deadlift – 3 Simple Deadlift Cues to Lift More Weight

I’m sure you will agree that for such a simple movement at its core, the deadlift can become very technical. With so many little nuances and teaching points, it can be hard to think straight and remember them all during the lift.

When I first learned to deadlift, I would just go up to the bar, get in the correct starting position and then pull. My start position was good but after that, my technique would always look and feel different.

That was until I came up with a small, rememberable sequence of coaching points or cues that I could run through during my deadlift set up…

During this article, I will explain each of them.

deadlift cues featured image

Learn How to Deadlift First

Sure, these cues will help your deadlift technique. However, you must actually have some form of a deadlift technique first. What I mean is that you need to know what a good start position looks like, feels like and how to perform the lift first.

My deadlift form guide article will give you all the info you need for this.

To help you quickly with your start position, I will give you 2 rules to follow:

  • The bar must be directly over your mid-foot
  • The bar must be aligned with your shoulder blades
deadlift form start position image

As long as you adhere to those rules and your start position resembles something like the picture above, the following cues will help to reinforce your technique.

3 Simple and Effective Deadlift Cues

Trying to remember too many teaching points for the deadlift at once is likely to confuse matters further. So, after getting into a strong start position, I have a simple sequence of just 3 cues that I like to go through.

Here they are in the exact order that I think about them:

1. Bend the Bar

After not using this cue for years, it has become one of my favourites.

The purpose of the “bend the bar” cue is to get your upper back tight before you even lift the bar from the ground. This will help you to maintain a flatter back and neutral spine position.

This is a cue that I have only started using quite recently; I used to make sure my back position wouldn’t change during the lift, but I would begin the pull with my upper back rounded.

Pulling with a rounded upper back is a technique used by some great lifters, but I think the majority should aim to pull with a flatter back.

The rounded upper back start position usually helps with a faster pull from the floor. However, I have seen and experienced it have detrimental effects at lockout.

Lifting with a flatter back overall from start to finish tends to make it much easier to finish the lift. You may just have to be a bit more patient as you weight for the bar to break the ground if you are switching from a more rounded upper back technique.

The execution of this cue is simple:

Once you are in your desired start position for the deadlift, simply rotate your arm outwards as if you are trying to bend the bar around your shins.

Another way to think about this is to “point your elbows backwards”.

You should instantly feel your lats engage and your chest will puff out slightly.

2. Buddha Belly

Correct and strong abdominal bracing is absolutely crucial for holding a solid, safe spine position throughout the deadlift.

Too many people completely ignore abdominal bracing before a lift or they simply don’t know how to do it correctly.

A common misconception is that you need to draw your stomach inwards to brace your abs. In fact, it is the opposite.

Right before you lift, as you suck in your big breath of air, you should be expanding your stomach to increase what is known as “intra-abdominal pressure”

This video from Brian Alsruhe explains it all in detail:

This cue is essentially the Valsalva manoeuvre, here’s how to use it:

Before lifting, you should be taking a big breath. It is up to you when you take this breath, but I like to do it after I set up, right before I pull. Some people take their breath while they are standing before setting up to the bar, but I prefer not to hold my breath any longer than necessary.

As you draw this breath in, you should expand your stomach, so it makes a little pot belly, like a buddha.

When you have sucked in all the air you can and extended your stomach, now you need to brace your stomach hard as if you are about to take a punch to the gut.

Keep the belly extended and abs tensed throughout the lift. This will help stabilise your spine and minimise flexion, which could cause injury.

3. Leg Press

This final cue should help you to initiate the lift with the correct muscles, which are the big, powerful muscles of your thighs.

People often think of the deadlift as “pulling the weight from the floor”. Of course, it is a pull, but it should begin with a forceful push from your legs.

By starting the lift by pushing with your legs, instead of pulling with your back, you stand a better chance holding a stronger position for the lockout.

If you initiate the lift with your legs, you can then use your glutes and spinal erector muscles to power your hips through as the bar passes your knees.

This cue is a simple one:

You should have completed all the steps in your deadlift set up and used the previous two cues to get yourself as tight as possible.

Once you are tight and ready to go, think of the initial movement as a leg press. You are pressing the floor away from you just as you would if your feet were on the platform of a leg press machine.

Once the bar reaches your knees, you will then be in a strong position to drive your hips through and finish the lift.

Deadlift Cues Conclusion

Once you have a basic understanding of how to properly perform the lift, the coaching points above can be used to give you a memorable, repeatable routine.

Try them out and see how they work for you.

You may even have your own little sequence of cues, in which case, I would love to hear how your mind works when you're about to rip a heavy weight from the floor. Let me know in the comments section!

What Supplements Should I Take? – 5 Supplements That Actually Work

Most lifters have asked the question, “what supplements should I take?” at some point. I mean, if you train, it’s hard to get away from talk about pills, powders and bars; the supplement industry is booming!

Booming with bullshit and products that do nothing but burn a hole in your pocket. With that said, there are a select few supplements that may be worth your while and can enhance your training.

What supplements should I take featured image

The trouble is you must dig through mountains of absurd claims, marketing hype and poorly controlled, often biased studies if you want to find the supplements that work.

To help you find the best supplements from the get-go, I have done a bit of research and used my experience of taking various supplements (many an absolute waste of time) to come up with a list of my top 5 supplements that actually work.

1. Whey Protein

This is quite possibly the easiest to add to the list due to its’ popularity and the importance of protein for building muscle. However, you need to be aware that there is no special muscle-building secret in the whey protein; it is just a very good way of increasing your total protein intake.

If you are already getting enough high-quality protein from sources with a complete amino acid profile, you may not need to take a whey protein supplement.

On the other hand, whey is a quickly absorbed and highly bioavailable source of protein. A good whey supplement will also contain few calories from carbs or fat, so it can help to keep protein high without bumping total calorie intake up too much.

Benefits of Whey Protein

Triggers muscle protein synthesis to repair and build muscle.

Improved physical performance and body composition - Study and another one.

Appetite suppression, leading to easier weight management. As shown by a study comparing four protein meals.

What is whey protein?

Whey is an animal source of protein and a by-product of the curd and cheese manufacturing process and was originally thought of as a simple waste product. Whey has a very high protein content and makes up around 20% of the protein found in milk, the other type of milk protein is casein, which I will touch upon later.

There are two common types of whey protein that are found in supplement form: whey concentrate and whey isolate.

Whey concentrate – this is the most widely available and economical way to consume whey protein. The protein is very pure but still contains a certain amount of carbohydrates and fat, which means the total protein content of whey concentrate is usually around 80%.

Whey isolate – isolate whey protein goes through further filtration processes, which means it is usually more expensive to produce and purchase. The benefits of isolate protein are that many of the carbohydrates, in the form of lactose, and fats have been removed.

This leaves a powder with around a 90% protein content.

Whey protein concentrate vs isolate – which is best?

Whey protein image

In all honesty, most people will do just fine with the cheaper concentrate version.

Whey isolate may be a better option for individuals with an intolerance to lactose.

It may also suit those who need to be very careful with total calorie or carbohydrate intake. For example, later stage contest-prep bodybuilders.

Best time to take whey protein

Whey protein can be taken at any time to increase total daily protein intake. I look at it mainly as a quick and convenient way to ingest more protein.

It may be beneficial to take whey post-workout as opposed to slower digesting sources. Taking whey after a workout has been observed to have a positive effect on muscle protein synthesis.

However, you don’t need to rush to consume your protein as soon as you re-rack the bar for your last set. The old myth of an “anabolic window” of 60 minutes may not be as important as people once believed. This post from does a good job of summarising some of the science.

Whey vs Casein Protein

Whey and casein are different types of high-quality protein and the debate on which is better is ongoing. The difference between the two probably isn’t worth worrying about for most people.

There has been a couple of studies (effects of whey and casein after exercise and ingestion of whey and casein protein in a meal) that suggest combining whey protein and casein protein after a workout may be beneficial. The idea is that the faster-digesting whey helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, while the casein is digested more slowly and prevents the breakdown of muscle tissue.

Whey vs Casein Study Screenshot

Instead of buying both types, mixing whey protein with milk should be sufficient due to milk’s high casein protein content.

Recommended Whey Protein Supplement

2. Vitamin D3

I could have selected a whole bunch of different vitamin and mineral supplements to be included here. Generally, vitamin and mineral supplements do work as intended but are only usually necessary where there is a deficiency.

This is the very reason that I chose to focus on vitamin D3; it has been observed that vitamin D deficiency is common, particularly in cooler, darker climates.

On top of that, increasing vitamin D3 intake has been linked to a whole range of benefits that could have some very positive effects on your health and performance.

Vitamin D3 Benefits

Stronger bones and teeth. Along with calcium, it is widely known that vitamin D is responsible for improving bone density and reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Improved immune function and lower risk of developing a range of conditions from heart disease to multiple sclerosis. A study from 2010 even highlights how vitamin D can prevent you from getting the flu.

Weight loss. It is thought vitamin D can help with weight management; it may have some appetite suppressant and metabolic effects that could boost weight loss.

Which Type of Vitamin D is Best?

The are several types of vitamin D. The most important for your health and the types you will most likely come across are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.

Vitamin D2 can be ingested via your diet by eating various plant and animal sources since the vitamin occurs naturally in plants.

Vitamin D sources graphic

Vitamin D3, on the other hand, is synthesised by your body after you have exposed yourself to ultraviolet rays, usually from the sun. Therefore, deficiency is prevalent in colder countries and civilisations where people spend large chunks of the day working inside.

It is generally accepted that vitamin D3 is likely the most important to supplement for the health benefits.

Recommended Vitamin D3 Supplement

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There is a wealth of studies and information proving the benefits of increasing your omega-3 fatty acid intake. The types of omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA are known to be especially beneficial to health.

Another type of omega-3 oil found in some supplements is ALA. However, this is usually less crucial since it is found in many plant sources. On the other hand, EPA and DHA are found primarily in marine animal, which we tend to eat less of.

Omega-3 Benefits

Lower risk factors associated with strokes and heart disease. Omega-3 fats have been observed to have numerous benefits for heart health, as shown by this study.

Decrease inflammation in the body. Studies like this have continuously linked omega-3 supplementation with lower levels of inflammation.

Stronger, healthier joints and bones. By increasing the amount of calcium available in the bones, omega-3s can lead to stronger bones and less risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis.

Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil and Krill Oil

As two of the most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids, there is often much debate about which source is superior.

Omega 3 sources graphic

Of course, if you are vegan or have a seafood allergy, flaxseed oil wins right away. For everybody else, you may be wondering which is the best omega-3 source.

Both sources can increase your intake of the important EPA and DHA fats, but they do so in diverse ways.

Fish and krill oils contain EPA and DHA in relatively large quantities, so you get an instant boost from supplementing with them.

On the other hand, flaxseed oil contains the other type of omega-3 fat: ALA. By using ALA, your body is able to synthesise EPA and DHA but it only happens when your body already has enough ALA to fulfil its primary functions.

The bottom line is that you are going to need to consume more flaxseed oil than fish or krill oil if you want to boost your EPA and DHA intake. Therefore, I prefer to go with a marine source like fish oil or krill oil.

Recommended Omega-3 Supplement

4. Creatine

A bodybuilding favourite and one of the most studied supplements around. Unlike most supplements that claim to boost muscle growth and performance, creatine does actually have the research to back it up.

By aiding in the regeneration of your muscles primary fuel source: adenosine triphosphate or “ATP”, creatine can help to boost power output as well as endurance in the muscles.

Benefits of Creatine

More energy during workouts. As well as helping with the chemical reactions involved in the synthesis of ATP, creatine itself can be used as an energy source. During fast, explosive movements like weightlifting, your body turns to its creatine phosphate stores for energy.

Hydrates the muscles and could lead to an increase in protein synthesis as a result.

Bigger, fuller looking muscles. Another benefit of creatine effectively “pulling” water into the muscle cells is that they can appear fuller and look bigger.

Should you Cycle Creatine?

Creatine cycling is not necessary since your body will not build up a tolerance to it like it does with other substances like caffeine. There was also a study on the long-term creatine supplementation in 2003 that showed no adverse effects from 21 consecutive months of taking creatine.

how does creatine work infographic

Do you Need to Load Creatine?

A loading phase of around one week where you take a higher daily dose of around 20g per day of creatine to saturate the muscles cells more quickly is often suggested.

However, this protocol is not needed. While there may be a quicker response from the creatine thanks to the loading phase, the long-term results will be the same as taking 5g each day on a consistent basis.

The possibility of stomach cramping, which some people complain of, is likely going to be higher if you go with the loading method.

Recommended Creatine Supplement

5. Pre-Workout Supplements – Caffeine & Citrulline Malate

There are a ridiculous number of “specialised” pre-workout supplements available that contain all manner of different ingredients. The trouble with these type of supplements is they can include ingredients that are unnecessary hence, making them quite costly but ineffective.

I have taken pre-workout supplements before and I do like them since I certainly enjoy the extra energy. The likelihood is only a very small number of the ingredients in a pre-workout help you in the gym.

For this reason, I have picked the two ingredients that I feel really can benefit you when taken pre-workout: caffeine and citrulline malate. I guess this really makes it my top 6 supplements that actually work.

Why Take Caffeine Before a Workout?

I feel like this question is self-explanatory; caffeine is one of the most commonly used drugs on earth and is well known for increasing energy levels.

It has also been shown to increase power output while suppressing pain and fatigue. A study of the effects of caffeine on rugby players so how it can improve performance, even in a sleep-deprived state.

Benefits of Caffeine

Increased power and total training volume output

Suppression of fatigue and pain, which allows longer and harder training sessions.

Burn more calories. It has been observed that caffeine can increase energy expenditure by around 100 calories when ingesting 600mg of caffeine. To note, 600mg is probably too much for most people so I would not suggest taking this much. However, you are still going to burn more calories than normal when taking less than 600mg.

Should you Cycle Caffeine?

Unlike creatine, your body will build up a tolerance to caffeine after a while. As a result, the effects will diminish and taking a larger dose is not recommended and it may not even work.

Therefore, going through periods without caffeine is a good idea to allow your body to become sensitive to it again. Taking a few days or even a week off after every couple of months of supplementing it should help.

How Much Caffeine Should You Take Before Training?

Most pre-made pre-workout supplements contain around 200mg of caffeine per serving. The amount you should take will depend on individual factors like body weight and your personal tolerance.

Between 200mg and 400mg is the general recommendation before a workout. I would certainly try to keep total intake below 500mg in a single day.

Recommended Caffeine Supplement

Citrulline Malate as a Pre-Workout Supplement

Citrulline malate may be known as a “pump product” since it influences the blood vessels in a way that increases the tight, pumped feeling of your muscles when you train them.

When ingested, citrulline is converted into arginine and stimulates the production of nitric oxide, which acts as a vasodilator and relaxes the muscles of the blood vessels. This increases blood flow and gives that pumped feeling.

Although the pump feels nice and could be a psychological factor in a training session, that by itself probably isn’t enough to make citrulline worthwhile.

Fortunately, citrulline malate has been shown to have some positive effects on athletic performance. Taking around 5-10 grams of citrulline malate 30-60 minutes before a workout should be sufficient.

Benefits of Citrulline

Improved blood flow and greater muscle pump.

Enhanced performance and increased training volume.

Better recovery and less muscle soreness post-workout.

Recommended Citrulline Malate Supplement:

Best Pre-Workout Supplement

If you do like to take an all-in-one pre-workout supplement or you don’t want to worry about dosing caffeine and citrulline separately, I have found a very good pre-workout that contains both.

Altius from JackedFactory is a solid pre-workout supplement that contains both caffeine and citrulline in good dosages. If you are set on taking an actual pre-workout supplement and have the budget, this would be my recommendation.


Adding supplements to an already healthy diet can be an effective way to improve health and performance. However, they should not be seen as a miracle cure or something to be relied upon.

For the most part, if you are able to reach your nutritional requirements from proper food, you should go down that route first.

As with any dietary changes, you should always consult with your GP or a registered medical professional. This info is just my opinion and isn't meant to be medical advice, be sure to do as much research as possible before adding new supplements to your routine.

Powerlifting VS Bodybuilding – The key training and nutrition differences

Powerlifting vs bodybuilding, what are the main differences between the two? Honestly, they are completely different sports but they do both require you to get in the gym and lift some iron.

However, the way you approach your lifting and nutrition will have a few key differences depending on whether you are a powerlifter or a bodybuilder.

This article will outline the main variances between each sport so you can tailor your own training approach depending on where your goals lie.

Even if you aren’t seeking to compete in either sport, this article can still help you out. After all, you are likely to be drawn more towards either a strength goal or an aesthetics one so your training needs to match.

What is powerlifting?

Ed Coan deadlift image

Powerlifting is a strength sport that focuses around three barbell movements: The squat, bench press and deadlift. The idea is to master each of those three lifts to lift the most weight possible across all of them.

To even up the playing field, competitions are divided into different weight classes and even age classes as well. The weight classes vary among the different federations within powerlifting.

The rules for a successful rep on each lift may also vary slightly between different federations, as do the rules on equipment and drug testing.

One of the most well-known federations is the international powerlifting federation (IPF), which does drug test its’ competitors and holds itself to some fairly high standards for the what constitutes a passing attempt on each lift.

In powerlifting, every single lift is judged by three judges who award either a red (fail) or a white (pass) light. A lifter needs 2 out of 3 white lights for a lift to count.

A lifter gets three attempts at each lift with their highest weight recorded on each to give them what is known as their “total”, the sum of their highest weight in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

For a more detailed look at all the rules of powerlifting, you can check out the IPF’s rule book. Please note, as I mentioned earlier, these are the rules for that federation and some things may vary in the other organisations.

What is bodybuilding?

Arnold bodybuilding pose image

Bodybuilding is all about sculpting the most appealing looking physique as it is judged purely on aesthetic appearance. The winner should be the competitor who has ticked the most boxes when it comes to building and then showing off their physique.

Like powerlifting, bodybuilding incorporates the use of judges who mark each competitor on a list of criteria that includes muscle mass, body proportions, body fat levels, skin tone and their posing. As you can see, bodybuilding isn’t just about getting as big as possible; there are several different factors that must be acknowledged.

As is the case with powerlifting, there are several different bodybuilding federations so some rules will vary within each. Typically, a bodybuilding show will be split into two parts: pre-judging and the finals show. These may be held in the morning and then the evening or all in one go.

During pre-judging, all competitors in a weight class or category will be judged alongside each other through a series of standard poses.

During the finals show or “evening show”, competitors have the chance to show off their physique and impress the judges further by going through their own choreographed posing routine.

After the judge’s scores have been totalled from both portions of the competition, the winners are announced on stage.

Training for powerlifting

image of weights on a barbell

If you are a powerlifter, the end goal of your training is to increase your squat, bench press and deadlift numbers. There may be times where you focus on a sub-goal like building leg size but your reason for doing so should always relate back to the three competition lifts.

The actual training for powerlifters is going to vary a lot based on your current level and the amount of time you have been training for.

As an example, somebody completely new to the powerlifting movements will be able to make vast improvements relatively quickly with a very basic program. On the other hand, a more advanced lifter may need to break his/her training down into multiple phases in order to make small gains over the course of an entire year.

As you have probably guessed, there are almost endless methods and programs out there to help you become a stronger powerlifter. Instead of going through all the individual programs and the nuances of each, I have listed a set of guidelines that you can put into consideration when selecting a powerlifting training program.

Powerlifting Program Considerations

Your Training Level and Experience

I have already covered this briefly but if you have been training for powerlifting for a long time, you are going to do more work if you want your body to adapt further.

Beginners are in the enviable position of being able to make strength gains on almost weekly basis without the need for complicated programs. Simply performing the main lifts a few sets and looking to progress from workout to workout is likely to be enough for a novice.

As you advance through your training life, gains will become harder to come by since you need to find ways to push your body further and force it to adapt. This is where you may have to get more creative with your programming and possibly even have phases of training with more specific goals.

Check out this guide on how to pick a program If you want a bit more detail and some recommendations on selecting a program by training level.


The goal of powerlifting is to perform heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts. Therefore, your program should include heavy squats, bench presses and deadlifts if you want to get better at them.

On top of that, the rest of your training needs to be focused on improving those three lifts. If anything is in your program for any reason other than making you better at the competition lifts, take it out.

Progressive Overload

Your body gets stronger because it adapts to the demands you put it under so it can cope better with them in the future. The absolute key to any powerlifting program is progression over time; you need to be training and forcing your body to make adaptations.

This overload can come be the result of several factors: lifting more weight, performing more reps or sets and reducing rest times are just a few ways in which you can force progression over time.

Any good program will have some form of progression already built into it, you just need to decide if a given progression scheme matches your current goals and training level.

Personal preference/circumstance

Although general guidelines can be used to get a rough idea of the best program for you, there are always going to be some individual factors to consider. If a program doesn’t cater to your own personal set of circumstances, you will not follow through with it.

This is a big reason that online coaching has become so popular; people have realised that customised programming is likely to yield better results. In my opinion, most beginner level trainees can get away with a generalised program but may want to seek additional help and personalisation once a more advanced stage is reached.

How to design your own powerlifting program

Most people should not be designing their own program until they have gained enough knowledge to do so. If you have no desire to learn about proper programming for lifting, you will fare better by sticking to pre-made, expertly designed programs or hiring a coach.

On the other hand, if you want to start gaining the know-how behind the principles of program design, a good place to start is the book “practical programming” by Mark Rippetoe.

practical programming for strength training cover

Training for bodybuilding

image of bodybuilder training in the gym

You know that the goals of powerlifting and bodybuilding building are very different, so surely the training must be wildly different as well, right?

In fact, the principles spoke about in the powerlifting training section above still hold true for bodybuilding. The only difference would be that less focus should be placed on maximal strength in the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Performing those three lifts with as much weight for a single rep is not going to be of great use to a bodybuilder. However, progression in those exercises, as well as other movements should still be a focus.

There are many bodybuilders that put their efforts into just destroying a muscle group by splitting their training into weekly session for each body part. The reality is, training a muscle just once per week is sub-optimal.

The recovery cycle after a training session will last a maximum of 2-3 days, which means the muscle is ready to be trained again after that period of time. If your training volume is properly managed, you shouldn’t feel too sore and should be able to train a muscle group every 2-3 days.

how often should you train a muscle group? SRA curve

For more info on this, go to this post: How often should you train a muscle group?

The body-part split method, where you have a separate day for each muscle, was popularised by professional bodybuilders. This isn’t a problem but you must realise that these guys are seriously advanced and likely to be using performance-enhancing drugs, which do change the rules of training recovery.

The best bodybuilding program

I must apologise in advance for the somewhat misleading title; there really isn’t one “best” program. There are way too many individual differences for there to be one program that will be optimal for everybody.

What I can offer you are some general rules and an example of what should be a very solid bodybuilding routine.

General rules for bodybuilding programs:

  • Volume should be divided throughout the week to allow for proper recovery
  • Exercises should cover the entire body throughout the week
  • A clear progression scheme must be put in place (this detail is key; if you progress over time, you will build muscle)
  • Example bodybuilding program

    The following program is a very simple, yet effective program that trains the entire body. I would consider these to be a very general routine that will build a good base of muscle for most people.

    The workout is broken down into two upper body workouts and two lower body workouts each week. To take advantage of the benefits of heavier training as well as higher rep training, there is a heavier and lighter day for each workout.

    The workouts

    Lower 1


    Sets X Reps

    Squat (M)

    4 x 6

    Deadlift (M)

    2 x 6

    Leg press

    3 x 8-12

    Hyper extensions

    3 x 8-12

    Kneeling cable crunch

    3 x 8-12

    Upper 1


    Sets X Reps

    Bench press (M)

    4 x 6

    Bent over row (M)

    4 x 6

    Overhead press (M)

    2 x 6

    Weighted chin-ups (M)

    2 x 6

    Incline dumbbell curls

    3 x 8-12

    Tricep pushdowns

    3 x 8-12

    Lower 2


    Sets X Reps

    Front squat (M)

    3 x 10

    Romanian deadlift (M)

    3 x 10

    Leg press

    3 x 8-12​​​​​​​

    Hamstring curl

    3 x 8-12

    Kneeling cable crunch

    3 x 8-12

    Upper 2


    Sets X Reps

    Incline Bench Press (M)

    3 x 10

    Bent over row (M)

    3 x 10

    Seated dumbbell press

    3 x 10

    Lat pulldown

    3 x 10

    Barbell curl

    3 x 8-12

    Close grip bench press

    3 x 8-12

    * Sets and reps listed are main working sets. They do not include warm-up sets.

    How to progress

    The exercises labelled "(M)" are your "main" movements and should be your primary focus of progression.

    For the first week, start with a weight that you are confident you can do the required amount of sets and reps with.

    Start relatively light and then progress from there. If you can complete the required seats and reps, add weight to that exercise next time.

    Only add weight once you can perform the target sets and reps with good technique. You may not be able to increase every single week.

    You should still aim to increase the weight on the other exercises over time but progression will likely be a bit slower on these.

    For example, leg press is 3 sets of 8-12 reps. Start with a weight that you can get 3 sets of 8 with and build up from there.

    Once you have reached 3 sets of 12 with a weight, add weight next time and build back up to 3 sets of 12 again.

    Powerlifting vs bodybuilding nutrition

    The nutrition side is probably where the most extreme differences are going to be seen between powerlifters and bodybuilders.

    During the off-season, which is when competitors are not getting prepared for a competition, both groups may follow a relatively similar diet.

    In general, the off-season diets will consist of quite a large amount of protein, higher carbs and a moderate amount of fat. This is to ensure that powerlifters are getting enough fuel to build strength and bodybuilders are getting enough to gain muscle mass.

    The run-up to a competition is where things are really going to be different between competitors of the two sports.

    image of bodybuilder eating

    A bodybuilder needs to be extremely lean to make all his/her muscles as visible as possible. To get to such low levels of body fat, an incredibly strict diet needs to be followed leading up to competition day.

    The number of calories being consumed by a bodybuilder during the latter stages of a contest preparation phase is much lower than their body needs. Usually, this has a negative effect on strength and energy levels.

    Of course, a powerlifter cannot afford to follow any type of diet that hampers their strength or energy for competition day. So, most competitive powerlifters won’t change too much in the run-up to a competition.

    The only time nutrition may be altered is if a powerlifter needs to drop a small amount of weight to stay in their desired weight class. Often, a water cut will be done to achieve this weight loss instead of a calorie-restrictive diet.


    I hope this has given you a much clearer understanding of the differences between powerlifting and bodybuilding. As you can see, the requirements, particularly on the nutrition side, for each sport are quite different.

     Because of the differences, successfully competing in both sports at the same time is tremendously difficult. If you do want to take part in both powerlifting and bodybuilding, you really need to focus on one at a time as your primary goal.

    100 High Protein Foods – Ultimate List of the Best Protein Sources

    Anytime I sit down to write an article, I try to think of things that I have searched for in the past in an effort to produce content that is actually useful to lifters. I thought a massive list of high protein foods covering a number of different categories would be useful to almost anybody that lifts weights. So, here it is! A giant list of 100 protein sources (along with a few other helpful nuggets about protein).

    Protein FAQs

    1. What is a complete protein?

    A protein source that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids is known as a complete protein. Animal sources and dairy are usually complete protein sources.

    All proteins are made of varying amounts of amino acids, which are used for a number of functions within your body. 9 of these amino acids are known as "essential amino acids", which means your body cannot synthesize them by itself so you must acquire them from your diet. 

    Many plant sources are incomplete since they may only contain a few of the essential amino acids. Therefore, plant sources must be combined to ensure you are eating all of the amino acids your body needs.

    Essential amino acids diagram

    2. How many calories are in protein?

    Protein is known as a type of macronutrient and is one of the four sources of energy (calories) for your body. Protein contains 4 calories per gram.

    The other sources of energy or "macronutrients" are carbohydrates and fat. Carbs contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram.

    Alcohol is also technically a macronutrient and contains 7 calories per gram.

    3. How much protein do you need?

    This amount is going to vary slightly depending on some individual factors including body weight and activity level. However, most experts agree that your protein intake should be in the range of 1.2 - 1.8 grams per KG of body weight if you are lifting weights regularly.

    For most people, somewhere around the middle of that range will be sufficient.

    Whey protein image

    4. Is too much protein harmful?

    Too much of anything is usually going to have adverse effects at some point. Unless you have a pre-existing condition, even the upper end of the above guidelines should not cause you any trouble.

    5. What is the best source of protein?

    This is a very difficult question to answer since there are many factors at play and "best" can be very subjective. One way in which protein quality can be judged is by ranking different sources based on their "biological value" (BV).

    This rating method has its' limitations but, essentially, compares proteins against each other depending how much of each source is absorbed and used inside the body.

    In all honesty, if you are eating a variety of protein sources, you don't need to worry much about the biological value but it is interesting information.

    High protein foods like whey protein, eggs and soy beans all have very high BVs. If you want info and to find out the values for more foods, check out this biological value article.

    100 High Protein Foods List

    Meat and Poultry


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    1. Steak (top/bottom round)



    2. Ground/mince beef



    3. Pork chop



    4. Chicken breast



    5. Turkey breast



    6. Corned beef



    7. Sliced deli beef



    8. Canadian style bacon



    9. Bison steak



    10. Kangaroo steak

    1 steak


    11. Horse steak



    12. Ostrich steak



    13. Crocodile meat



    14. Chorizo



    15. Pepperoni



    16. Turkey breast deli slices



    Protein Tip!​​​​​​​​​​

    If selecting protein for weight loss goals, select sources with lower fat content. These leaner sources can help cut down your total calorie intake.



    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    17. Tuna



    18. Halibut



    19. Octopus



    20. Salmon



    21. Tilapia



    22. Anchovies



    23. Sardines



    24. Mackerel fillet

    1 cooked fillet


    25. Shrimp/prawns



    26. Cod



    27. Swordfish



    Protein Tip!​​​​​​​​​​

    Protein requires other vitamins and minerals such as calcium so that it can be absorbed and utilized properly. Do not neglect these nutrients in your diet if you are consuming high protein foods.

    Protein Bars and Snacks


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    28. Beef jerky



    29. Peanut butter

    2 tbsp.


    30. Ready-made smoothies

    1 cup


    31. ​​​​Quest bars

    1 bar


    32. Lenny and Larry’s cookies

    1 cookie


    33. Bacon jerky

    1 oz.


    34. Clif builder’s bars

    1 bar


    35. Nature valley protein granola bar

    1 bar


    36. Ezekiel bread

    1 slice


    37. Sprouted wholegrain bread

    1 slice


    Eggs and dairy


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    38. Greek yoghurt



    39. Cottage cheese

    ½ cup


    40. Swiss cheese



    41. Eggs

    1 large


    42. Milk (2% fat)

    1 cup


    43. Whey protein powder

    Per average scoop


    44. Kefir



    45. Gruyere cheese



    46. Quark



    47. Edam cheese



    48. Feta cheese



    Vegetarian Protein Sources

    Protein Tip!​​​​​​​​​​

    Many plant-based protein sources are incomplete. Eating a variety of these sources and pairing complimenting sources together can help achieve a more complete amino acid profile.

    Beans, legumes and lentils


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    49. Navy beans

    1 cup


    50. Dried lentils

    ¼ cup


    51. Edamame beans

    ½ cup


    52. Tofu

    1 cup


    53. Tempeh

    1 cup


    54. Split peas

    1 cup


    55. Black beans

    1 cup


    56. Kidney beans

    1 cup


    57. Pinto beans

    1 cup


    58. Miso (paste)

    1 cup


    Nuts and Seeds


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    59. Almonds



    60. Pumpkin seeds



    61. Peanuts



    62. Chia seeds



    63. Cashew nuts



    64. Pistachios



    65. Sunflower seeds



    66. Flax seeds

    1 tbsp.


    67. Walnuts



    68. Pine nuts



    69. Coconut



    Protein Tip!​​​​​​​​​​

    There is research to suggest that distributing protein throughout the day is beneficial for muscle gain (study). Around 40g per meal seems to be most effective.

    High protein fruits and vegetables


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    70. Green peas

    1 cup


    71. Broccoli

    1 cup


    72. Brussels Sprouts

    ½ cup


    73. Spinach

    1 cup


    74. Sun-dried tomatoes

    1 cup


    75. Guava

    1 cup


    76. Artichokes

    1 medium


    77. Kale

    1 cup


    78. Mushrooms

    1 cup sliced


    79. Mange tout

    1 cup


    80. Sweet corn

    1 cup


    81. Asparagus

    ½ cup chopped


    82. Cauliflower

    1 cup


    83. Pak-choi

    1 cup


    84. Mulberries

    1 cup


    85. Blackberries

    1 cup


    86. Passion fruit

    1 cup


    87. Pomegranate

    1 fruit


    88. Avocado

    1 avocado


    Protein Tip!​​​​​​​​​​

    If selecting high protein foods for weight loss goals, select sources with lower fat content. These leaner sources can help cut down your total calorie intake.

    High protein grains


    Serving Size

    Protein Grams

    89. Oat bran

    1 cup


    90. Wheat germ

    1 gram


    91. Buckwheat

    1 cup


    92. Quinoa

    1 cup


    93. Oats

    ½ cup


    94. Teff

    ¼ cup


    95. Triticale

    ¼ cup


    96. Soba noodles

    1 cup


    97. Wild rice

    1 cup


    98. Millet

    ½ cup


    99. Rye

    1 cup


    100. Spelt

    1 cup


    I hope this post has helped give you some extra ideas and information on protein intake. If you found it useful, please do hit one of the share buttons!

    For anybody that wants to get all sciencey about protein for lifters and athletes, take a look at this crazy-detailed protein article by Jorn Trommelen.

    How to Strengthen Your Core – 7 Best core strengthening exercises

    Core strength is a much talked about topic, both in fitness circles, athletic arenas and for the general population. In other words, it’s important for everyone! Whether your goal is aesthetics, strength or simply health, learning how to strengthen your core with effective core strengthening exercises will help you.

    A simple search over the internet can provide you with thousands of exercise plans and routines, which means it can be hard to find the most effective exercises. My hope with this post is to present you with what I have found to be the most effective core exercises and the reasons behind using them. You can then decide which ones may align with your goals.

    Before I get into it, I want to let you know that I’m a big fan of keeping things simple. You won’t find any crazy, faddy exercises or shortcuts to a 6-pack here. After all, the goal of this article is not a 6-pack, it is a strong core – there’s a difference.

    And that is the first little lesson: you are better off focusing your core training on strength and letting your diet do the work if you want a visible 6-pack.

    The Difference Between Core and Abs training

    Athlete training abs image

    Leading on from the previous point I made, I wanted to clarify that there is a big difference between training your core and abs despite the terms being used interchangeably quite often. I used to run a “core class” at a gym I worked in and some people were disappointed that it wasn’t focused around blasting their stomach muscles for half an hour.

    Training your abs will definitely perform part of a core training program but the abs are just one set of muscles that make up your entire core. Focusing heavily on just your abdominals leads to imbalances and to be honest, there are other core muscles that have a better carry over to athletic performance.

    Endless crunches may work your abdominals but they do very little for strengthening your core as an entire unit.

    Core training means that you focus on the entire set of muscles that make up your core and you train them to be strong together. Real strength and power comes when a large group of muscles work in unison with each other.

    Reasons to Strengthen Your Core

    Core strength has become a term that’s thrown around a lot nowadays. The reason is that people recognize just how important it is for daily life as well as performance.

     As the name suggests, your core is the center of all your movements and it supports you anytime you do anything other than lay down. These may be obvious to some of you but it is worth listing the benefits you can see from a good core strengthening routine. So, here they are:

    Core Strengthening Benefits

    • Lower injury risk, especially in the lower back
    • Improved balance and coordination
    • Better posture
    • More protection for the spine
    • Enhanced neuromuscular efficiency
    • Ability to generate more power
    • Increased strength potential
    • And Yes! It will help to build your ab muscles and make gaining a 6-pack easier

    What are the Core Muscles? 

    Primarily, the muscles we talk about when mention the core are focused all the way around your trunk. However, as you will see, it actually extends slightly beyond that and I bet there are more “core muscles” than you realized.

    Here is a list of the primary core muscle:

    • Rectus abdominis
    • Transverse abdominis
    • Internal and external obliques
    • Erector spinae
    • Multifidus
    • Gluteals
    • Adductors
    • Diaphragm
    • Pelvis floor muscles

    On top of that, Your latissimus dorsi and trapezius could also be consider as part of the core since they play a part in stabilizing your back.

    Core muscles diagram

    On top of that, Your latissimus dorsi and trapezius could also be consider as part of the core since they play a part in stabilizing your back.

    As you can see from the diagram, your core muscles are pretty much everything apart from your arms and legs.

    Some of your core muscles also wrap around your body in different layers, which is why it’s important to train them differently. For example, your rectus abdominis (6-pack muscles) are on the outer layer and can be worked with crunching movements, whereas your transverse abdominis sits beneath them in a deeper layer and functions as more of a stabiliser so is better trained with isometric holds.

    Measuring Core Strength

    Measuring core is a concern for some people but it can be fairly had to measure effectively since a lot of the common tests only really measure your ability to perform that specific exercise.

    In my opinion, a better way to judge your core strength is to analyse whether or not the training you are doing is having the expected carry over to your main goal. For example, has your vertical jump increased since starting a core program? Is your squat form better? Has your posture improved?

    Of course, I understand that some people like to have numbers and a set of objective results to look at for motivation. So, I have included some core strength tests below that you can do yourself.

    The tests could also be used to judge whether or not your core needs some extra attention. If you struggle with certain ones, it could be a sign of weakness in a specific area.

    1. Plank for time

    Get onto the prone position with elbows flexed up to 90 degrees and hold a standard plank for as long as you can with good posture. Record your time.

    Plank abs exercise image

    A time of below 60 seconds is a sign you need some work on your core. In particular your transverse abdominis and lower back muscles.

    2. Side planks for time

    Side planks is another variation on the plank test above. Assume and hold the side plank position and record your time for each side.

    Side plank abs exercise image

    Below 60 seconds points to a possible transverse abdominis or oblique weakness.

    3. Sit up and Reverse crunch progression tests

    These are two tests that are great for testing abdominal strength and control. There is already an excellent article with some great pictures so if you want to check out these test, click here to head over to this abs test article on T-nation.

    Core Strength Training Plan Principles

    Below, I have included an all-round core strengthening plan that features my favourite exercises for training your entire core. Feel free to pick the exercises that apply most to your particular sport or weaknesses.

    It is important to note that this is not a core strengthening routine that is supposed to be done by itself, although you could if your only focus for training was core strength. In reality, it is a list of exercises that are excellent for core strength and should be plugged into your current training program.

    You will find exercises that train each of the main functions for your core.

    Functions of the core:

    Flexion Bending forwards
    Extension Bending backwards
    Rotation Pivoting around the axis of your hips
    Lateral flexionBending your waist from side to side
    StabilizationMaintaining a neutral posture
    Anti-flexion, rotation and extensionResisting against flexion, rotation or extension

    A good core program will incorporate exercises that cover each of those functions. My preference is to use exercises that target more than one function at a time for example, the deadlift focuses on extension, anti-flexion and stabilization all at once.

    The Best Core Strengthening Exercises 

    Below is the list of my all-time favourite core strength exercises. There is no scheme for sets and reps since that will be largely determined by your individual training goals, recovery abilities and training phase, which could have separate articles all for themselves. Training frequency will also be dependent on a few different factors but I do have a post that covers that topic in more detail: How often should you train a muscle group?

    Anyway, on to the exercises. In no particular order, here they are:

    (click the exercise name to open a YouTube demo)

    1. Ab wheel rollouts

      What may look like a bit of a shopping channel gimmick is actually one of the most effective ab and core training tools around. These can be absolutely brutal but are awesome for training your core to stabilize your spine through movement.

    2. Pallof presses

      My very favourite exercise for training anti-rotation. It may look and feel a bit strange at first but you will soon start to feel your core muscles working hard. The key is to try and maintain good posture while keeping your trunk still during each rep.

    3. Hip Thrusts

      Extension and glute engagement is an often-overlooked area of core training, which is a big mistake because the muscles responsible for it are big, powerful and crucial for athletic performance. If you want to build a strong and powerful set of hips and glutes, hip thrusts are the way to go.

    4. Single arm carries

      Weighted carries are simply incredible for both conditioning and strength. Single arm carries get the benefits of traditional weighted carries with the added bonus of targeting anti-lateral flexion, which is one of the core’s functions that is easy to forget about.

    5. Standing cable crunches

      There is still a place for direct ab training in a program since it covers the flexion function of your core. I feel that standing flexion exercises are more likely to carry over to sports and daily life since you’re more likely to be using your abs from a standing position.

    6. Cable wood chops

      Wood chops are excellent for training rotation while integrating the rest of your body. Anybody that plays a sport which involves throwing, kicking or swinging a club, bat or racket will see some big benefits from these.

    7. Standing compound movements

      Not strictly a single exercise but very important nonetheless. Any exercise where you are using multiple joints and muscles to move a weight is going to demand a lot of core strength. Deadlifts, overhead presses and squats are some of the very best exercises in this category.
    Add the above exercises into your training program, focus on getting stronger in each one over time and your core strength is sure to improve as a result. If you are sure to emphasize proper technique at all times and you are consistent, you will see the benefits and a transfer to your main training goals.

    Deadlift Shoes Guide – Best shoes for deadlifting in

    Are you looking for ways to increase your deadlift quickly? Usually, I would say there are no shortcuts and it takes time and consistency. However, finding the right pair of deadlift shoes is something that can have an almost instant benefit.

    Wearing a shoe that feels comfortable, stable and allows you to get in a good position for deadlifting can make a real difference.

    This article will give you an overview of the best shoes for deadlifting available and provide you with all the info to help you choose the right ones.

    powerlifter in good deadlift shoes

    Just like running, football, basketball and squatting, there is a whole range of footwear options. There are some great and not so great ones.

    Here is a quick list of my top picks for deadlift shoes, click on the links to be taken to their purchase pages. You can read an in-depth review on each further down the page.

    How to find the best deadlift shoes

    Here are, in my opinion, the key elements your deadlifting shoes should include:

    1. Flat and solid soles

    A completely flat sole means that you will have more surface area in contact with the ground, which allows you to feel more stable and in control during the lift. It should lead to greater force output against the resistance.

    2. Thin soles

    Ideally, you want to be as close to the ground as possible for a deadlift. The closer you are to the ground, the higher the bar will start on your shins.

    You won’t have to lift the bar as far, which should make things a lot easier. It's the reason many people like to lift barefoot or in just socks.

    However, some gyms might not like this and if you ever plan to compete in powerlifting, you will be forced to wear something on your feet.

    3. Traction and grip

    Your soles must offer you enough traction on the platform. Having your feet slip when you are half-way through a heavy lift is something that you certainly don’t want to experience.

    This one is especially true for cheaters. I mean sumo deadlifters (Only kidding! Can you tell I pull conventional?)

    Seriously though, sumo pullers will be pushing out with their feet so need to make sure there is sufficient grip to prevent a very painful attempt at doing the splits.

    4. Snug-fitting and supportive

    Finally, your shoes should feel nice and compact around your foot with very little movement inside them.

    Ankle support is also quite important, you don’t want your foot to be shifting from side to side inside of the shoe as you lift. High top shoes are quite a popular option for that very reason.

    A word of advice for wearing high tops. You need to make sure you still have enough mobility and range of motion at your ankles. If your shoe starts to limit ankle dorsiflexion (the ability to point your toes towards the ceiling), it could alter your leverages and technique.

    powerlifter wearing deadlift shoes

    A powerlifter lifting in a pair of SABO deadlift shoes.

    3 Signs of a bad deadlift shoe

    1. Spongey, air or gel-filled soles

    This pretty much disqualifies all running shoes. These types of soles are great for absorbing the impact from pounding the pavements on a run but they will not make for a good deadlifting trainer.

    As I stated earlier, you need maximum stability throughout your foot. The spongey soles of running shoes compress very easily, they are supposed to. Under a heavy load, more compression can cause uneven foot to ground contact and possibly lead to injury.

    2. Thick soled shoes

    Your shoes could tick the box of a flat, sturdy sole but if they too thick then you probably want to look elsewhere.

    Again, a thicker sole will mean you need to pull the bar further. You will essentially be doing a deficit deadlift all the time.

    Converse chuck Taylors are a popular deadlifting shoe and they have a 4mm thick sole. This is about the maximum thickness I would go for.

    3. Poor lateral support

    When you are performing the lift, especially in sumo again, there will be a lot of pressure on the outside of your shoes. The pressure should be there if you're using your glutes properly to prevent your knees from caving in.

    If your shoes aren’t strong enough or supportive enough to hold up to the constant pressure on their sidewall, they won’t be lasting long at all.

    Olympic weightlifting shoes for deadlifts?

    In case you aren’t sure what Olympic lifting shoes are, they look like this:

    Adipower weightlifting shoes

    One of my Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes. Slightly scuffed but they've held up well for 4 years worth of squatting

    They are a heeled shoe that artificially increase your range of motion at the ankles to help users stay upright at the bottom of a deep squat. Keeping very upright is important for Olympic weightlifters since they usually catch the bar in an extremely deep squat position.

    As far as using Olympic lifting shoes for deadlifts goes, I don’t like them and most people probably would do better with a completely flat shoe.

    However, there are a select few that may find they benefit from a bit of extra quad activation at the start of the lift due to slightly greater knee bend forced upon you by wearing the raised heel.

    All you can do to be certain, is to try deadlifting in Olympic shoes for yourself and see how you feel.

    You should be squatting regularly anyway. Since I recommend that most people use an Olympic weightlifting shoe for squats, you should already own a pair that you can try.

    In fact, I suggest sorting out your squat shoes before you think about deadlift shoes. I have a guide on the best lifting shoes for squats and oly lifting.

    I feel footwear is likely to play a much bigger part in your squat than deadlift.

    Best deadlift shoes reviews

    Ok, if you didn't skip straight here and read the guide above, you should now be fairly certain on what to look for in a good pair of deadlift shoes.

    In this section, I wanted to go through my picks for the best deadlift shoes in a bit more detail. To help you make a better informed decision, I have given a description and some reasons for and, in some cases, against each shoe.

    Chuck Taylors (great for a budget)

    Overall, these are kind of a “they will do” type of shoe. Meaning, if you are on a budget, “they will do”. If you already have a pair laying around, “they will do”. If you only other option is a running shoe, “they will do”.

    These are very cheap and not a bad all round weight training shoe. Probably not the best if you plan on doing any type of running or plyometric work, but this is about deadlifting so I will judge them on that.

    The sole is fairly solid and flat, although they can curl up a little at the toes over time. The canvas uppers on the shoe are flexible to allow good ankle mobility in the high-top versions.

    However, they can come away from the soles on the side of the shoe over time.

    These shoes really aren’t built to take the kind of wear and tear that weightlifting can cause to them.

    Generally, they are pretty comfortable. The flexible canvas versions can be pulled very tight with the laces so your foot will be snug in the shoe.

    As I already touched upon, the support of the canvas isn’t great though so your foot will still move from side to side, despite being tight inside the shoe itself.

    SABO deadlift (built for purpose). My winner.

    These are very good deadlift shoes. You would expect them to be, it’s what they were made for. Many people use wrestling shoes for deadlifts and you can see some similarities here.

    The soles are super thin at around 2.5mm, which is very close to deadlift slippers. These shoes are certainly going to be a better option than slippers for sumo pullers, due to the increased traction of the soles.

    The SABO shoe is pretty supportive on foot, more so than a wrestling shoe, as they do offer some extra support to the arch.

    The metatarsal strap across the forefoot of the shoe is an excellent addition. It means you can adjust the fit of the shoe to be as tight and snug as you like.

    Obviously, these are a higher-top shoe so the ankle support on offer is also very good while still being comfortable.

    For deadlifts, these are my winners. They beat the Metal deadlift shoes for me because they offer a bit more comfort and look better (I know that looks shouldn’t matter for deadlifting shoes, but it definitely does for many people).

    You could use them for your other lifts but I like a heeled shoe for squats personally. If you squat better in flat shoes, then you could very well wear these for those too.

    Pricing is actually really good on these. Much cheaper than you would normally expect to pay for a specialist kind of shoe.

    Update: Sabo have recently released a new pair of all-round powerlifting shoes called the "Sabo Goodlift". In the Sabo goodlift vs deadlift argument, I would still choose the deadlifts since I don't feel the difference in price makes the goodlifts worth it.

    Metal Deadlift shoes (built for purpose).

    These shoes are also purpose made for deadlifting in. The upper is strong leather so you don’t need to worry about driving your foot into the sides of them, they will certainly hold up to it.

    These are pretty comparable to the SABO shoes to be honest. I think they may mould around the foot better due to the leather upper which is made from two separate pieces.

    The Metal shoes also feature the strap across the forefoot for an extra tight fit and minimal foot movement during lifting.

    Two drawbacks of these shoes are the price, about double the cost of SABOs and the appearance.

    In my opinion, they look pretty ugly, too. Kind of like little elf boots.

    Reebok TR Lite (most versatile)

    Now these shoes are very similar to look at to the Converse shoes. They actually took some inspiration from the Chuck Taylors since so many people were already using them to lift weights in.

    However, they have some serious design improvements over the converse shoes.

    Don’t be fooled by the “crossfit” branding on them, these shoes were designed by very high level powerlifters.

    Where the converse shoes fall short, the Reebok Lite TRs shine. They basically take all of the bad points I made about the Chucks and improve on them one by one.

    The uppers of the shoes are much more sturdy, especially in the leather versions. They have a reinforced side wall that they call the “stability zone”. You can drive your feet out against the shoe without worrying about it breaking.

    The grip on the bottom of the shoes is very different to the Chuck Taylors. The Chucks aren’t too bad for grip, but again, the Reebok TRs take it to the next level. With a kind of mini suction cup design, these bad-boys stick to the floor like glue. They feel very solid indeed.

    The toe box on these is another differentiating feature. It is much wider than on the chucks.

    I have heard a few different reviews on the toe box, though. I really like the extra space and the extra ground contact you get as a result of it. But, I have heard people complain that there is too much movement within the shoe. I guess if you have narrow feet, this may be a drawback for you.

    Price-wise, I think these are pretty well priced. Especially when you consider that these can be used for pretty much all of your lifts if you wanted to.

    At a recent strongman event I attended, there were a whole bunch of competitors wearing the high-top version of the reebok Lite TRs.

    That shows you how versatile and rugged they can be, Strongmen go through so many different events and their shoes take almost as much of a beating as their bodies do.

    For an overall lifting shoe, these would be my winner. Of course, this is a deadlift shoe article so the purpose built SABOs have to win.

    Get the Reebok Lite TRs if you want a more versatile shoe.​

    Deadlift slippers (cheapest option)

    These are your cheap and cheerful option. You can pick these up for around $15, so they could be worth testing out either way.

    I think the very biggest advantage of the slippers, is that they are extremely thin soled. Around 1.5mm, which feels like you are pretty much barefoot. You will be very close to the ground in these.

    Obviously, they provide no ankle support and there isn’t anything to push your foot out against on the sides. For sumo deadlifters, I say to forget about these. It just feels to unstable and there isn’t enough grip.

    If you are a conventional puller and want to be very close to the ground, these could be an option.

    Keep in mind that you clearly have to change out of them once you are done deadlifting, they aren’t really useful for anything else.

    They also look a little silly in my personal opinion, not very stylish at all. But again, you don’t get any style points in lifting heavy weights.

    If you can’t justify spending much money on dedicated deadlift shoes, these could do the job for you.


    Budget conscious lifter go for the chuck Taylors but be aware performance and longevity will probably not be of the highest standard.

    Test out some Olympic shoes if you have them. If you haven’t got a pair for squats, then I highly advise getting some anyway.

    If you have the budget and want to get the most out of your deadlift, then opt for the SABOS. They are purpose-built for deadlifts so it stands to reason they would be the best deadlift shoes.

    The only drawback is that you can’t use them for too much else and the slight increase in performance may not be worth the higher price to you. That’s something you will have to decide for yourself.

    Hopefully, you find this guide useful. Here are a couple of other equipment guides that could help with your training: Best lifting belt, lifting straps guide, grip strength equipment.

    If you did like this article, be sure to share it and let your friends know about it so you can help them with their own deadlifting as well.

    I really wanted this to be the definitive guide, so if you feel there is anything that should be added, feel free to comment and let me know.

    Until next time, happy bar-bending.

    How to Lengthen Hip Flexors – Hip Mobility Guide

    Tight hip flexors are a common problem for many adults and they can have a big impact on your lifting technique and chances of injury. Personally, I have struggled with hip flexor trouble in the past and found that my squat form was severely affected. This article will explain how to lengthen hip flexors and improve your hip mobility by outlining the methods I have found helpful and used for myself.

    How to lengthen hip flexorsfeatured image

    Unlock Your Hip Flexors - Full Program

    For those of you that want a full, step-by-step program from an injury specialist, complete with videos, manuals and some added bonuses, you may want to have a look at the popular "Unlock Your Hip Flexors" Program from the guys at Critical Bench.

    It is very affordable and well worth it if you want a structured routine from an expert that takes away all of the guesswork.

    (its a long page with a lot of info so you have to scroll a bit to reach the program details)

    Often, problems with hip tightness are caused by the extended periods of sitting that many of us do during the day; driving, sitting in the office, watching T.V etc.

    Over time, the muscles in the front of your body can become tight as a result of being in constant flexion. Eventually, you will probably start to notice some little niggles or feelings of discomfort as the day goes on.

    These little episodes of discomfort can be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your muscles. Tightness and imbalances will make movements like squatting, and even climbing stairs more difficult.

    tight hips from sitting image

    Consistently sitting for long periods can play havoc with your hip flexibility

    If you feel like something is not quite right with your hip mobility, you should seek to address the problem right away before it becomes a real issue.

    Tight and shortened hip muscles are a prime culprit of lower back pain, psoas syndrome, and other musculoskeletal disorders. It isn’t only office workers who sit down all day that get tight hips; anybody who puts their hip flexors under load regularly, such as athletes and lifters, can eventually suffer with tightness too.

    When your hip flexors lack range of motion, they’ll start making the compensatory changes by altering the mechanics and involvement of other muscles. As a result, muscle imbalances will occur and your risk of injury is increased.

    So, to prevent the chances of injuries and to make sure you can perform your gym lifts properly, a routine of both stretching and strengthening the muscles that surround your hips would be a great place to start.

    As a side note, another cause of your hips feeling stiff and immobile can be that your core muscles aren’t functioning properly and, as a result, your hip flexor muscles are being put in a state of constant tension to “pick up the slack” from your core. If you have tried stretching your hips in the past and not seen results, check out this article on hip flexor stretching by Dean Somerset to see whether core dysfunction could be the issue.

    What do the Hip Flexors do?

    Hip flexor anatomy

    Your hip joint is surrounded by the group of flexor muscles: pectineus, Sartorius, quads, and tensor fasciae latae.  

    The powerful contraction and relaxation of these muscles provide mobility at your hip joint and stabilise your spine. The hip flexors run across the front of your hips and attach to the pelvis, femur, and spine. As well as facilitating hip flexion, these muscles are also responsible for keeping your hips and spine stable. You can see why hip flexors play such a big role in how your body moves and holds itself.

    What are the causes of limited Hip mobility?

    Firstly, it is commonly accepted that extended periods of sitting act like a slow poison to your body’s mobility. Sitting for too long and with poor posture has a seriously detrimental effect on hip function and mobility.

    Not only can it lead to shortened hip flexors, but a lot of sitting can cause your glutes to become less active and weak. A lack of glute activation then puts your hamstring under an added load and can lead to hamstring tightness; it’s all one big chain of dysfunction and compounding issues.      

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, overuse can be just as damning for your hip flexors. Dancers, runners, and most other athletes are at higher risk of iliopsoas injury. Just as with sitting for long periods, repeated hip flexion during activities like sprinting can make for tighter hip flexors. It would certainly be advisable for athletes to put some time into keeping their hips mobile in an effort to reduce injury risk and to enhance performance.

    Watch the video above for a quick test you can do to see if your hip flexors are indeed tight.

    Why Tight Hip flexors are a problem? 

    As I stated above, when your hip flexors aren’t working as they should be, it has a direct impact on how your body moves. Excess tightness in your hip muscles will pull your spine, knee, and pelvis out of their natural alignment. As a result, the chances of experiencing back and knee problems are increased. 

    According to the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute of Rehabilitation, the effects of the shortened hip muscles can become long-lasting if action isn’t taken.

    The hidden reason behind chronic low back pain, knee injuries, muscle strains, and ligament sprains could well be your shortened hip flexors. If this is the case, pain relief and rest will not be enough; you will need to address the problem by improving the mobility, strength and function of the muscles.

    The Benefits of Hip Flexor Stretches?

    Improved flexibility around your back and lower limbs

    Decreases chance of lower limb/back injury

    Improved posture

    Better transfer of power to muscles around the hips

    Less neuromuscular inhibition (greater range of motion)

    Better athletic performance

    Enhanced blood circulation

    Faster recovery and less muscles soreness

    Less restriction and more comfort during movements like squatting and deadlifting

    Before I get to the routine and exercise you can try, here is a quick snapshot of some of the benefits you could see as a result of bettering the way your hips move:

    How to Lengthen Hip Flexors - Sample Mobility Routine

    I struggled for a long time with a couple of very common issues that many gym-goers will be aware of: anterior pelvic tilt and “butt-wink” during squats. Both of these issues can be a result of poor hip function and the following routine, on top of my usual strength training, is what I followed and feel really helped with them.

    This routine is made up of 3 separate components:

    • Myofascial release
    • Stretching​​​​
    • Strengthening

    I recommend combining numbers 1 and 2 (stretching and myofascial release) into a routine that can be completed multiple times daily.

    The strengthening exercises can then be plugged into your current training program.

    Self-myofascial release

    Before stretching the muscles, I like to focus on massaging and releasing the muscles. I don’t really know if there is scientific evidence for performing the myofascial release before stretching but it makes sense to me that you should release tension and trigger points in the muscle before stretching it.

    In 2015, a study published in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy reported that the muscles lengthened dramatically in athletes when stretching is combined with myofascial release.

    foam rolling to lengthen hip flexors

    The simplest way for me to describe self-myofascial release is that it works very much like a sports massage but you can do it yourself with the aid of some simple pieces of equipment like a foam roller. It works as another form of stretch for the muscle but can target specific areas of tension and release them via a neuromuscular response.

    When I was really focusing on my hip mobility, I combined this foam rolling routine with the stretching routine in the next section and performed it in the morning, post-workout and before bed. Nowadays, I still try to do it post-workout and before bed as much as I can.

    Foam rollers and tennis or lacrosse balls are the most popular tools for self-myofascial release.

    Ideally, you will be performing a foam rolling or ball massage routine on most of your body’s muscles. However, for your hips in particular, I suggest rolling a foam roller over your glutes, hamstrings, the front of your hip joint into your abs and the full length of your quads.

    Mobility Routine Part 1: Myofascial Release

    Use the following foam rolling technique on the front of your hips, quads, hamstrings and glutes:

    Work one muscle or section of a muscle at a time.

    Begin at the top of the muscle and roll slowly down to the bottom.

    Find the most tender point within the muscle and hold the roller there.

    Put as much weight through that point as you can stand and hold for 15-20 seconds or until you feel a reduction in the tenderness.

    Slowly roll away from the point of tenderness and repeat the drill. You may find another tense spot or you may need to work the same spot again.

    I work in this way on each muscle for 1-2 minutes before finish with a few slow rolls through the entire length of that particular muscle.  

    Switch sides or move on to the next muscle group and repeat the process.

    Static Stretching

    Gentle, steady, and prolonged stretch is the way to go with this part; you will need to stretch each muscle a lot and for a long time if you want to see results.

    Perform the stretches several times a day if you can. I used to like to do them in the morning, post-workout and before bed.

    “Hang out” in each stretch for at least 2 minutes

    Apply heat before starting the stretching exercises. I’m not too sure if there is any real evidence for this but I always seem to feel better when stretching after a hot bath or shower.

    Breath deep and try to relax during each stretch.

    Stretching may be uncomfortable but do not allow it to become painful.

    Mobility Routine Part 2: Stretching

    Use the guidelines above and perform the following stretches after completing your myofascial release/foam rolling.

    1. Lying piriformis stretch 

    Get into the supine lying position. Flex your knees to 90 degrees and cross the right knee over left one. Pull the crossed right knee towards opposite shoulder.

    2.  Frog pose 

    Come into the prone position. Keep your arms flexed under your forehead and then, apart your legs as much as you can. Lastly, flex your knees to 90 degrees to get additional stretch.

    3. “Couch” Stretch 

    Made popular by Dr. Kelly Starrett, this is one of my favourites for hip flexor stretching. Assume the position in the photo below, either against a wall or the back of your sofa (hence the name).

    4. Pigeon stretch 

    Comfortably sit on the floor. Bend one knee to 90 degrees and take it out in front of you so that your calf runs parallel to you body. Keep you torso straight and extend your back on the floor behind you.

    5. Deep Squat Hold

    Bring yourself into a very deep squat and hold the bottom position. You can use your elbows to push out against the inside of your knees to really open up your hips. Aim to keep your chest up and facing forwards.

    Strengthening the muscles

    As discussed earlier, poor hip function can be a combination of both tight and weak muscles, which is why you need to stretch and strengthen them.

    It is likely to be your core and glutes that need the most work in order to enhance your hip mobility. The exercises below should most certainly be considered as part your training regime:

    1. Planks

    Get into the prone lying position. Keep your neck and back in a neutral position. Flex your elbows and rest your forearms on the floor. keep your knees extended with hips-width-apart. Brace your abs and tense your quads and glutes as hard as you can.

    2. Lunges 

    From a standing position, brace your abs and take a large step forward with one leg. Bend the stepping leg to around 90-degrees while your back leg should be hovering just above the ground. Push hard off your front leg and return to the start position. You can perform lunges with dumbbells or a barbell to increase the resistance.

    3. Squats 

    There are a variety of different squat variations and all of them can be used to strengthen the muscles around your hips and lower body. The barbell back squat is one of the very best exercises you can do and I highly recommend it for almost everybody. If you need help with your squats, check out my back squat technique article.

    4. Hip thrusts 

    Rest your upper back against a bench or box and sit with a barbell resting across your thighs. Using the bench for upper back support, thrust your hips by lifting them towards the ceiling. Pause and squeeze your glutes hard at the top of the movement before returning slowly to the start position.

    5. Dead bugs

    Grab a mat and follow the steps in the video below. The key to this movement is to keep your abs braced throughout. Straighten your left leg and lower it close to the ground while simultaneously extending your right arm out above your head. Hold this extended position for 5 seconds and switch sides.

    Final thoughts on hip flexor stretching

    It has probably taken a number of years and countless hours spent in poor positions to create the tightness and dysfunction that you are feeling in your hips. Therefore, you would be foolish to expect a quick, easy fix for them.

    It will take patience and consistency if you are to improve the situation. It’s hard to say how long it will take for you to see results but I would suggest sticking to the recommendations made above religiously for a period of at least 6-8 weeks before judging their effectiveness.

    Of course, these are just recommendations based on my own experiences and you should always consult with a registered medical professional before starting any type of new physical activity routine.

    If you are the kind of person that prefers an all-in-one, done for you routine with videos and manuals:

    Click here and check out the unlock your hip flexors program from critical bench.

    Let me know if you have found this useful in the comments below and post your favourite hip mobility exercise – I’m always up for trying new things to keep my hips mobile.

    Proper Way To Do Deadlifts – A guide to perfect deadlift form

    You need to learn the proper way to do deadlifts because they’re F***-ing awesome!

    Quite possibly the exercise that provides the most "bang for your buck", the deadlift is a raw strength and muscle-building powerhouse. Learning how to deadlift with good form is a must for every serious lifter.

    how to deadlift featured image

    As a quick note, so you don’t waste your time, this guide is based around the conventional deadlift only. I lift conventional and prefer if over sumo for the majority of people.

    I may do one on the sumo deadlift at some point since it is a lift worth doing and it seems to be becoming ever more popular on the powerlifting platform too. Until then, you can check out this sumo deadlift tutorial by

    Click here for a nice conventional vs sumo form comparison from KateLiftFitness.​

    The benefits of deadlifts

    If you have already read my how to squat properly article, many of the benefits of squatting can be said about deadlifting as well. So, in an effort to avoid repeating myself, I will list a few of the top benefits that are more specific to the deadlift alone.

    Stronger core, legs and back

    Not only does the deadlift work a lot of muscles, the main muscles that it works are absolute powerhouses.

    Deadlifting puts a huge emphasis on your core muscles, upper/lower back muscles and your legs. All of those muscles are used heavily every single day and even more heavily in most sports.

    Every athlete would benefit from strengthening their core, back and legs. An exercise that can strengthen all three simultaneously cannot and should not be ignored.

    It also happens that weaknesses in those muscles, particularly the core and back, are very often a contributing factor to back pain and injuries.

    With back pain and back injuries being such common occurrences, it really makes sense for everybody to be performing some kind of deadlift in their training plans.

    Improved Posture

    poor posture

    The deadlift can strengthen postural muscles to help you stand straighter and taller

    Holding an effective, solid position for a deadlift demands good flexibility and a strong upper back.

    It kind of works in a two-fold manner. If you have developed a poor posture of your shoulders/upper back over time, the deadlift can be used to discover the areas where you are lacking in mobility and strength.

    For example, you will have a tough time keeping your shoulder blades tight and packed down if you have a rounder and hunched-shoulder posture.

    When you become aware of the issues you have, you can then use the deadlift, alongside some other mobility work, to help improve the problem areas.

    If you are able to build up enough flexibility and back strength to hold a solid spine position throughout a heavy deadlift, I have no doubt that your posture will improve as a result.

    Mental Toughness and grit

    To get yourself in better shape and to get strong takes hard work. At times, you are going to have to get uncomfortable and push past your current limits. Maybe even lift some weights that are a little scary.

    Learning how to push hard and not give up at the first sign of difficulty can be a skill that you can improve upon over time. Deadlifting is probably the best exercise to learn how to do that.

    Grinding through a hard set or rep and really pushing yourself from time to time is key to making progress. Sometimes, to conquer a barrier you are going to have to dig deep and grit your teeth.

    comfort zone

    Deadlifting can teach you how to do that in a much safer way than most other exercises.

    With the deadlift, you aren’t going to get stuck with the bar on your back or with the bar crashing down on your chest. If you try to push and can’t quite make it, you simply lower the bar back to the ground.

    I’m not talking about taking stupid risks here or lifting weights that are too heavy for you to handle safely. Your technique still needs to remain safe and pretty solid.

    What I’m saying is that you can use the deadlift to learn how to dig a little deeper and maybe take a few more calculated risks than you can with a squat.

    You also feel like an absolute king when you do finally stand tall, chest puffed out while holding the bending bar after grinding through a truly gut-busting personal best lift.

    Works more muscles than any other lift

    In my how to squat article, I said that a huge benefit of the squat was the sheer number of different muscles that are activated during the exercise.

    The deadlift is very much the same, if not better. It pretty much engages the muscles of every main muscle group in your body. The only group that probably doesn’t get a huge deal of work is your chest. Everything else is hit in some way or another.

    Muscles activated during a deadlift

    Of course, the more muscles that you work, the more muscle you have the potential of building.

    Learning the proper way to do deadlifts allows you to work large numbers of different muscle groups with heavy weight in a single exercise.

    Moving multiple muscles and joints in one exercise is an excellent way to get your body working as a single unit.

    During daily life and in sports, your body functions as an entire unit. It makes more sense to spend the majority of your time training movements that require total body activation in the gym.

    Muscles worked in a deadlift

    Honestly, there are so many muscles worked at some point in the deadlift that I probably couldn’t even list all of them properly if I tried.

    I am just going to stick to the main muscles worked. Those will be the ones that you are likely to care more about anyway.

    Of course, to target all the muscles effectively, it is important to learn and consistently practice the proper way to do deadlifts​ before piling the weight on the bar.

    Muscles worked in a deadlift

    As you can see, deadlifts work a ridiculously large amount of muscles!

    The main muscles targeted by the deadlift are going to be your glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors.

    Other muscles that support and work as synergists are the quads, calves, adductors, abductors, all of your upper back and shoulder girdle muscles and your core musculature.

    Your forearms and hand muscles will also be getting an extreme workout. Making the deadlift a great grip builder as well.

    Your pectorals (chest muscles) are one of the few muscles groups that don't get a whole lot of work in the deadlift. They may tense up and stabilize your shoulder slightly but there won’t be a whole lot of work being done by them.

    You have probably heard the term “most bang for your buck” mentioned when people talk about the best exercises to do in the gym. I think the deadlift probably wins that argument and, in my opinion, beats the squat for the title of the king of lifts.

    For a more in depth look at individual muscle involvement, check out this very helpful deadlift muscles article from

    Video guide for the proper way to do deadlifts

    Much like most of the exercise guides I post, this is a general guide on how to perform the deadlift properly and safely.

    I understand, and you should too, that everybody is built different and has individual strengths and weaknesses that will change how the deadlift looks from person to person.

    There is not one set-in-stone way to deadlift and this guide isn't trying to portray that. This is a guide for you to learn a solid, safe technique that you can tweak and optimize for yourself over time.

    Having said that, there are a small set of universal guidelines that all deadlifts should follow. This guide will cover those.

    Once your deadlift technique adheres to the main guidelines, you can then go on to more advanced methods and tweak your form to get more out of it.

    I have embedded a video version of the guide below to accommodate the more visual learners. It was originally made for my online coaching website, Online Strength Academy.

    Step-by-step guide to proper deadlift form

    1. Foot position and stance width.

    Stance width is one of those things that can vary quite a bit from person to person. I suggest beginning with your feet around hip-width apart and then adjusting based on your own preferences from there.

    One good little test to try and find a naturally powerful position for you is to perform a few standing vertical jumps and see how far apart you naturally position your feet before you jump. That width will likely be a nice starting point.

    Once you have your stance width, you then need to approach the bar with it. Position your feet in your chosen stance width underneath the bar. As look down on your feet, the bar should be cutting straight across your mid-foot.

    2. The start position of the pull.

    Take your grip right outside your legs. You should aim to grip as narrow as you can without your arms getting in the way of your legs.

    You can then focus on getting your torso set by bending your knees until your shins come into contact with the bar.

    proper way to do deadlifts start position

    The bar should be positioned directly below your shoulder blades.

    Common mistakes people make here are getting their shoulder too far in front of the bar or sitting down too low and starting with their shoulder way behind the bar. Both of these will have negative effects on your lift.

    2 Key Deadlift Technique Rules: The bar must be over your mid-foot. The bar must be directly below your shoulder blades.

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    3. Get you upper back set and tight!

    This one is commonly ignored or not thought about. Before you pull the weight from the floor, you need to get your upper back in a solid and tight position by engaging your lats properly.

    A good cue to get your lats and to pack your shoulders pack and down is to imagine you are trying to bend the bar around your body during the lift.

    Keeping this cue in mind throughout the whole lift will go a long way to preventing your upper back from rounding during the lift.

    A rounded upper back is used on purpose by some lifters as it can help them produce a bit more power during the initial part of the lift.

    However, this does tend to make the final stage of the lift (known as the lockout) harder. You also don’t want your back to round at all during the lift for safety reasons.

    4. Pulling the slack out.

    “Slack” in the bar, is that little bit of wiggle room and play that you have between the barbell and the plates. If you shake the bar when it’s loaded on the ground, you will feel and hear what I mean.

    Before you lift, you should already be pulling against the bar and removing that little bit of play or “slack”. If you are yanking on the bar and hearing that little clanging noise as you lift, you haven’t pulled the slack out properly.

    5. Start the pull, keep the bar close.

    The very last step before pulling is to take a big breath into your belly and tense your abs hard. Just like in the squat guide.

    You can then initiate the pull by driving your legs hard into the ground. Focus on keeping the bar extremely close to your body during the lift.

    As the bar starts to pass your knees, you can then begin the lockout by engaging your glutes forcing your hips forward to finish the lift.

    There’s no need to overextend your lower back or lean backwards at the top of the lift. Stand dead straight with your shoulders back and your glutes squeezed hard.

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    Deadlift Drills and Variations

    Block pulls

    Dan green deadlift from blocks

    If you lack the mobility to lift with good technique from the floor, you can start with the weights elevated on some blocks.

    Lifting the weight up means that there is less of a demand on your flexibility. You can work on your mobility limitations outside of the block pulls. Over time, the idea would be to gradually lower the blocks so that you get used to deadlifting from closer to the floor. Eventually, the block will be removed and you can deadlift with a full range of motion.

    Snatch-grip deadlifts

    These are an excellent tool for helping you to maintain a flat back position when deadlifting.

    It does require a bit of extra mobility but the idea is simple. Take a grip that resembles an Olympic lifter performing the snatch instead of your usual grip.

    You will be taking a much wider grip than normal, which forces you to engage your upper back. In turn, you will find it more difficult to round your back as you lift.

    Sumo deadlifts

    Jonnie Candito sumo deadlift

    Perhaps the most common deadlift variation outside of the conventional lift. Sumo deadlifts are sometimes used by competitors that benefit from the extra demand on the quads and the shorter range of motion for the lift.

    Of course, if you are a competitor then you want to use the style of lift that allows you to lift the most. You can only really find that out through trialing them both.

    I do think there is a place for training both types of deadlift since they do work different muscles in different ways. If you want to be a well-rounded lifter or athlete, then there is a case for training both styles.

    I actually used sumo deadlifts recently in an effort to help increase the mobility and strength of my hips. They definitely did the trick, in turn helping my squat technique quite a bit.

    Closing Thoughts and Summary

    Go and deadlift. A lot!

    Oh, and have a look at these other articles to help your deadlift training:

    Find the best shoes to deadlift in​.

    Improve your grip strength.

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    Best Weight Lifting Belt

    The hunt to find the best weight lifting belt is inevitable at some point in a lifter's quest for strength. Often, a belt will be one of the first purchases made when you decide you are getting serious about getting strong.

    This article will offer guidance and recommendations to help you choose the right belt from the very start.

    No messing around with flimsy, vinyl belts that do nothing but cut into your wallet and the flesh below your rib cage. You want to get the real deal from day one and keep it for years to come.

    Best Belts - Quick View

    For more information on how to choose the right bet for you, as well as reviews on other belts, read the full article. If you just came here for a strong recommendation on the best belt for powerlifting or weightlifting, here are my choices:

    Best Belts for Olympic Weightlifting

    Eleiko weightlifting belt

    The purpose of a weight lifting belt

    The main purpose of wearing a belt for weight lifting, powerlifting, strongman or any other type of strength training is two-fold.

    The first element is of course safety. The belt is there to provide extra stability around your trunk and lower back.

    However, the belt doesn’t just “prop” your lower back up and support it that way. It works alongside your breathing and bracing techniques, which I will cover later, to increase the amount of pressure around your mid-section.

    That extra pressure is what actually stabilizes your spine, not just the belt itself.

    The second purpose for wearing a belt is the boost in performance that you can gain out of it. Due to the increase in pressure around your trunk, also known as intra-abdominal pressure, your core is essentially stronger when wearing a belt. Since the belt is artificially making your core stronger, it should allow you to lift more weight than usual when you are wearing it.

    Who should wear a weight lifting belt?

    A tough question to answer indefinitely. There are quite a few individual nuances that come into play, so all I can give are some factors to take into account and my own suggestions.

    Firstly, I will tackle the easy part. The easy part is giving advice to individuals that compete in a strength sport that allows the use of a weight lifting or powerlifting belt.

    To these guys, I say you should certainly be using a belt on competition day if it increases the amount of weight you can lift.

    In training, it’s a slightly different matter. I don’t think it’s a good idea to become dependent on the belt all of the time.

    You will need to wear it and practice using it but I feel that training belt-less for periods of time is a good idea. You can still be insanely strong without the belt, just ask Clarence Kennedy:

    Ditching the belt for a while and training belt-less is hard work but if you can get stronger without it, when you put it back on you are likely to even stronger than before.

    I don’t recommend too much belt-less training leading into a competition, though. You need to get used to wearing the belt and learning how to get the very most out of it.

    For the non-competitive trainee, I think the belt is a very useful tool to push yourself past your limits in training at time. Obviously, it has its safety benefits too so you may want to throw a belt on for your very heaviest sets.

    However, the guidelines are similar to the above. Be sure to train belt-less and get stronger without one for periods as well.

    Becoming over-reliant on any training tool is not good. You never know when you might forget it or not have access to it for whatever reason.

    You should also demonstrate solid technique before using training aids, like a belt, to increase your numbers. To make sure your squat is up to par, you can brush up on your technique by reading my squat guide.​

    My suggestions​

    For my own training, if anybody even cares, I tend to treat belted work almost like a variation of a movement. I feel that using the belt is a skill in itself.

    Wearing a belt, for me, changes the lift and the amount of weight I can handle enough to warrant treating it separately from the belt-less variations of a lift.

    So, I will have training phases of belted squats, for example, and then phases of non-belted squats.

    It's the same kind of principle people use for working with variations for phases of training, such as box squats or pause squats. That's how I see it in my mind anyway, feel free to disagree.

    How to use a belt properly for lifting

    I already alluded to this earlier, it isn’t enough to just chuck a belt on and expect it to magically support your back and increase your lifts. You need to know how to use one correctly.

    Here are the quick steps to using a weight lifting belt correctly:

    • Take a deep breath into your stomach. Your stomach should expand as you inhale and create a firm “belly”
    • Force your belly out hard against the belt.
    • Tense your abs as if something is about to hit you in the stomach.
    • Hold this pushing out and tensing of your stomach throughout the rep.
    • Exhale and reset at the start of each new rep. Do not hold your breath for more than a single rep.

    To illustrate these points further, here is a video that explains it by squat university. 

    Types of lifting belts

    I’m just going to cover what I feel are best variations of weight lifting belt for you to consider. Anything that I don’t cover here probably isn’t worth your while, unless there is an awesome type of belt that I haven’t even heard of yet.

    Firstly, avoid Velcro belts. In my opinion, it’s just too easy for them to rip open and come undone or loosen under the pressure you should be exerting into the belt.

    I used to use a Velcro belt and the little tearing noises I could here as I descended into a squat paranoid the heck out of me. I was too worried about the belt coming on to concentrate on a proper squat.

    velcro weight lifting belt

    If your belt resembles this one, it's time to throw it away and get a proper one.

    Some strongmen competitors may wear Velcro belts underneath their main belts just for some added support. But they still feel the need to wear a stronger belt on top.

    Now that's out of the way, on to the types of belts that you can consider.

    Powerlifting belts

    Powerlifter wearing singlet and belt

    Proper powerlifting belts follow pretty much the same styling throughout. They should be the same width all the way around, that will normally be 4 inches as that is the thickest allowable by most powerlifting federations. Have a thickness of either 10mm or 13mm and made from very stiff/rugged materials. Usually leather or suede coated leather.

    Powerlifting belts, in general are going to be the go-to belt style if you are looking the get the very most out of squats, deadlift, bench presses and overhead presses. If you want a belt for Olympic weightlifting, they are probably going to be too thick, uncomfortable and restrictive for you.

    There are then three main sub-sets of powerlifting belts.

    1. Single prong belts

    These are the standard kind of belt you are likely used to seeing. They feature a single prong, just like a regular dress belt, that you can use to tighten or loosen as you see fit.

    The single prong makes the fairly quick to take on and off. The only downside for some lifter is the fear that the single prong may break. This shouldn’t happen if you buy a quality belt but the worry is enough to steer people towards the next type of powerlifting belt.

    2. Double prong belts

    Exactly the same as the single prong in design. However, as you may have guessed, they have two prongs that slot into a double row of adjustment holes on the belt.

    The two prongs can be an absolute pain to get in and out of those holes properly. Especially if the belt is tight.

    I don’t really like using ta double-prong, I trust the strength of the single-prong enough to go with that instead.

    3. Lever belts

    Lever belts have no prongs for tightening and loosening the belt. Instead, they have a quick-release leaver. The lever does make them very quick and easy to get on and off.

    The lever is also fixed in the same place each time so you can set it to whatever level of tightness you want and have no trouble getting it on very quickly.

    There are some drawbacks to the lever belt design. firstly, is that there is always going to be a higher chance of something breaking when more individual parts are involved. I have seen a couple of videos of levers breaking during lifts but this isn’t a common occurrence.

    The second drawback is that you have to unscrew and move the entire lever if you want to adjust the size of the belt. Very annoying for individuals that use different levels of tightness for different lifts.

    SBD has recently released a very nice looking lever belt that combats that problem by allowing quick adjustment whenever you like. It looks like an awesome belt but is certainly at the higher end of the pricing spectrum.

    Olympic weightlifting belts

    Obviously, these belts are geared more towards those that compete or practice the Olympic lifts regularly.

    Oly lifter in a belt

    Original Picture source:

    The difference with these belts is that they feature a tapered design to allow for the extra mobility that the clean and jerk and snatch demands.

    These belts will also be made of a thinner and softer material. Again, in an effort to allow for higher degrees of mobility while still providing extra support for the lifts.

    There is a bit of a divide among lifter on whether a belt should be worn for Olympic weightlifting or not. Many will wear it for the clean and jerk but find that wearing a belt for the snatch inhibits their mobility and limits the amount of weight they can lift.

    You will have to find that out for yourself.

    In my opinion, the powerlifting and Olympic lifting belts are pretty much the only types of belt you should consider.

    Powerlifting belts should be looked at by everybody that isn’t performing Olympic lifts. Olympic lifting belts should be the go-to for individuals that are completing the Olympic lifts regularly.

    As a side note, crossfitters that wish to wear a belt will probably be better off looking at the Olympic weightlifting style belts. They provide much better and more reliable support than Velcro belts, which seem to be popular in crossfit, but they still allow for extra mobility that is usually required in crossfit workouts.

    What makes a good weight lifting belt?

    A good belt must be suited for the purpose you intend to use it for. You can use the information above to decide which kind of belt best suits your needs.

    You must then ensure that whatever belt you choose is allowable in any competition you may currently or wish to compete in down the line.

    For example, the IPF only allows belts up to 10mm thick in their classic powerlifting divisions. Check the rules of your federation.

    Weight lifting belt thickness

    10mm IPF approved thickness belt

    A belt should last you a very long time if you go for quality. High quality belts are going to cost you more but, like I said, they will last a very long time so the investment value is actually pretty good.

    All of the belts I have included in this article are of high quality and should certainly be with you for many workouts to come.

    The best weight lifting belt - Belt reviews

    I have decided to choose my favourite two belts from each of the categories. Two weightlifting style belts and two powerlifting ones. Out of my suggestions, pick the belt that you think looks best or fits better in your budget and you will be more than happy with it.

    Best powerlifting belt picks

    Winner: Texas Belts Longhorn and Toro Bravo Powerlifting belts

    The Longhorn is a 10mm belt that is available as either single prong, double prong or lever.

    Lever version

    Single prong version

    The leather on the Texas Belts does seem to be a bit more pliable but still just as supportive as other belts on the market.

    This is a bonus as it means that it shouldn’t take quite as long to break the belt in. So, you should be getting the most out of it a bit quicker than some of the stiffer belts.

    I would highly recommend the Longhorn belt if you have the budget for it. It is a very good belt and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

    If you do not quite have the budget for the Longhorn, Texas Belts cheaper alternative is the Toro Bravo belt. This is not quite as high quality as the Longhorn, as reflected in the lower price, but it still is an excellent belt.

    Toro bravo powerlifting belt

    In fact, the vast majority of people won’t notice the minor drop in overall quality. The Toro Bravo does only come with a year’s warranty but should still last many years.

    I feel the Longhorn is the best belt in terms of quality.

    But, due to the lower price yet still high quality, I have actually chosen the Toro Bravo for my top pick. Casual lifters and competitors that aren’t at the elite level will do just fine with this one.

    Inzer Advanced Designs Forever Belt

    A super popular belt from an extremely well-respected manufacturer. These belts also all come with lifetime guarantees, hence the “forever” in the name.

    red inzer belt

    You can buy the same belt in either a single prong or lever variations and in 10mm or 13mm. As with many lifting belts, they come very stiff and will require some time to “break in”.

    The 13mm versions will always take longer to break in than the 10mm but that’s all part of buying a thicker and more supportive belt. I would say that the majority of people should be going for a 10mm belt anyway.

    A 13mm should only be considered by competitive lifters in geared lifting federations for the most part.

    The Inzer belts are available from Inzer's website, click here to view Inzer's power belts.

    A huge choice of colours is available from Inzer. Although, certain colours can take a while to arrive.

    Which brings me on to my next point. I have heard that delivery times can be very long from Inzer and that their customer service isn’t always the best.

    Not something I have experienced but I thought it would be worthwhile to relay what I have heard from a few separate people.

    If you get the belt from Amazon, delivery should be fast but you don't have all of the colour options.

    Best Olympic weightlifting belts picks

    Winner: Eleiko Weightlifting Belt

    Eleiko are a huge name in weightlifting. They know how to construct equipment of the very highest quality. Usually Eleiko gear comes at a highly premium price point so I was surprised to see how cheap this belt is.

    The belt is made from leather and only comes in a white colour with the large Eleiko lettering on the back. There is a suede version available in blue but it is pretty much double the price. The suede version is padded in the back for some extra comfort during your lifts.

    Both versions are IWF approved so you have no worries for competition.

    These belts feature a double prong design. Great if you want some extra strength in the buckle but can be a slight pain to get on and off.

    The one thing that I think lets the white version of this belt down a bit is the thickness. It isn’t as thick and therefore not quite as supportive as it could be.

    If you want a perfectly good weight lifting belt at a very good price, then grab this one. If you want a bit more support and aren’t worried about paying for it, continue below.

    Rogue Olympic Ohio Belt

    Rogue are a giant in lifting equipment and have been cranking out some quality products in all areas of strength training over recent years. This belt is no exception.

    Rogue Oly lifting belt

    10mm thick, it is super supportive and durable.

    Made from vegetable-tanned leather and, this makes the leather firmer and, in my opinion, makes looks pretty nice too.

    The front of the belt tapers down to just 2 inches so there isn’t as much material for the bar to get caught on during the Olympic lifts. I also like the addition of the buckle guard, which is just an extra piece of leather that slides in front of the buckle to stop anything from hitting that.

    These extra features do make for a superb lifting belt. On the downside, you will have to pay for that quality. This one is more than double the price of the leather Eleiko belt.

    I have to say that this is my top pick for Olympic lifting belts if you have the budget.

    If you don’t have that kind of money to spend, then the choice is clearly to go for the Eleiko weightlifting belt.

    I know there are a bunch of good belts that probably could have been included on this list. I feel that the ones included really are the best to serve the vast majority of this site’s audience.

    There is a chance that I may have just completely missed an absolutely perfect belt, though.

    If you do feel that one of my picks could reasonably be replaced by a better belt, let me know in the comments and I will take a look at it.

    I want to keep all of my articles up to date with the latest and greatest training gear, so I’m always open to suggestions.