Build Explosive Power—Lightning Deadlifts

by: Josh Bryant

Bob Peoples Deadlifting

The lightning deadlift was inspired by hillbilly deadlifting extraordinaire, Bob Peoples, of Tennessee, the first man to deadlift over 700 pounds. 

Bob would lift a weight out of a jack at lockout height. He would then lower the weight to the floor and lift it back up, taking advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle. I’m not sure if Bob knew why it worked, but he knew it did. 

Let’s take a look at what a lightning deadlift is. Over the past decade, I have implemented this method with some of my lifters. I am not claiming to have invented this technique, but I have never seen anyone else use this lift. 

A lightning deadlift is very similar to using a weight releaser (eccentric hooks) in the bench press or squat. Because of the increased weight on the eccentric, the concentric is effectively sped up. 

Now, you might be scratching your head thinking  there is no true eccentric phase in the deadlift and you are correct.

With lightning deadlifts, you can circumvent this hindrance and use the stretch-shortening cycle to develop maximum power and rate of force development on the deadlift platform, football field or putting some spice on that overhand right when a night of wine, women and song turns into fisticuff fury.  

Develop force production with the lightning deadlift. Everything athletically will be enhanced by an increased rate of force development! RFD is more important for the deadlift than the bench press or squat. Here is why both the squat and the bench press have a true eccentric phase and true concentric phase. Even with a one-second pause at the amortization phase, approximately half the original stored elastic energy is available to aid in the concentric portion of the lift. The deadlift, at best, has a pseudo-eccentric phase you have to choose to create. Some studies show eccentric contractions are able to handle as much as 160% the amount of weight as their concentric counterparts. Truly, your limiting factor in completing a lift is your level of concentric strength. Studies show that the force produced at the beginning of a concentric contraction that followed an eccentric contraction, is much greater than force at the beginning of a concentric contraction that was not preceded by an eccentric contraction.

Programming considerations. Lightning deadlifts are performed for doubles. The first rep is performed with a chain on the bar, generally for speed. These are done with 50–60% of your maximum deadlift, and the chains are an additional 10–20% added on the bar. The first rep is performed with the chains on the bar. Immediately, when the bar touches the ground, have the two competent spotters you trust with your life on the sides pull the chains off the bar. Then, pull the weight as explosively as possible to lockout without chains. This will be the most explosive deadlift you have ever pulled—you will literally feel like you are going to fall over backward. Why? Simple: because you have intensified the effect of elastic energy that aids you in the lift. You have created an eccentric portion to a lift that does not have one. Lightning deadlifts will teach you new meaning to pulling explosively—it will train your CNS to learn and adapt to that explosive motor pattern, resulting in bigger pulls and, if you’re a powerlifter, bigger totals!

Some guidelines to remember with lightning deadlifts:

  • Have two component helpers.
  • Do not pull the second rep until you hear “go” from the designated helper.
  • Pull each rep as explosively as possible.
  • Do three to six sets.
  • Do doubles—any more or any less will eliminate the benefits.

I have used this technique with both Steve Johnson, Brandon Cass and Orlando Green; those sources are much more powerful than anything on PubMed.   

Bottom line: Lightning deadlifts work!

Get Certified HERE