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The 315 Deadlift Fiasco

Written on April 20, 2007 at 5:03 pm, by Eric Cressey

I see that my latest T-Nation article has caused quite a stir on the forums. Specifically, these two paragraphs got people all flustered:

“Sorry, folks, but I’m here to burst your bubble. A 315 deadlift is not inspirational ? at least not unless you’re a 110-pound female. 315 is speed weight ? or something you do for 87 reps on a whim after a dare (not that I’d know anything about stupid challenges like that).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: any healthy male under the age of 50 can deadlift 400 within two years of proper training ? and most can do it even faster than that.”

I thought I’d put this out there to – at the very least – put things in perspective.

You guys need to remember that sometimes, to make a point, you use a hyperbole. Why do marketers hire professional athletes to promote products to kids who will likely never become professional athletes? Why do cosmetics companies hire drop-dead gorgeous models to sell mascara to women who have been beaten with the ugly stick?

I have new clients who haven’t pulled 315 yet – and I might never even want to take them that far. Some don’t even deadlift. The deadlift is just a reference point for people to realize that they can do pretty amazing things if they stop selling themselves short. Consider these factors…

1. I haven’t missed a planned exercise session in seven years in spite of the fact that I’ve injuries here and there along the way. Consistency is the single-most important element of success in terms of strength gains. If you have competing demands (sports practices, endurance training, etc.), you need to be consistent with those as well in order to make progress – and they might interfere with you getting a big deadlift (again, not the point of the article).

2. To that end, give this article a read:

28 Syngergistic Factors for Success

Right now, you might only be covering a few of the 28 factors – and therefore have a tremendous window of adaptation.

3. In the 148-pound weight and 70-74 age class, the world record deadlift (WPC) is 440 pounds.

My point is that if you live your life thinking about limits, you’re condemned to find them prematurely. This world record holder probably trained a lot harder and more frequently than you and with better nutrition and recovery protocols in place; he wasn’t just a weekend warrior on an internet forum. So, in consideration of that, if you’re putting in, say, 25% of the effort they’re putting in, why should you EVER reach a limit?

The main problem I see with the overwhelming majority of people who get their information from the internet is that they’re convinced that they are in some way completely unique and immune to the laws of physiology because they have the curse of knowledge. It’s either because they played high school football 30 years ago, they’ve had four knee surgeries, they’re too old, or a host of other issues. When it really comes down to it, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of mediocrity that can only be remedied by getting out there, working hard and smart, being consistent and open-minded, and discovering that the sky really is the limit – especially when you get around people who can outperform you. As a kid, Pete Sampras used to lose matches in the 18-and-under division when he could have been winning tournaments in the U-12 ranks.

A 315 deadlift is a solid mental image that fits into everyone’s existing schemas, so it’s an easy frame of reference from which to elicit an emotional response. If I had said that everyone needed to deadlift 1.57x body weight and incorporated a multiplying factor for age, gender, limb length, amount of endurance activity per week, etc. – people would have missed the point.

My challenge to you is to see the benefit of an entire article rather than focusing on one sentence that was merely an example. And, once you’ve realized that benefit, act on it – regardless of your chosen endeavor.

Have a great weekend,


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4 Responses to “The 315 Deadlift Fiasco”

  1. Poul Hansen Says:

    So true. People need to shed the mental blocks that are haunting them.
    They need to see what strength athletes can do so they go for something realistic, instead of setting the bar incredibly low.

    400lbs is nothing.. And no I am no gentic freak, train inconsistently, eat like shit and i have still pulled close to 500lbs.
    Oh, and the girl in our gym with a slipped disk hit 160kg @ 65kg bw.
    She is easing back into it.

    My girlfriend hit 132lbs first time shepulled, BW 132lbs. She was kinda tired from running for two hours prior to her workout.
    Donøt tell me she wouldn’t hit 300-350lbs with 6-8months of dedicated strenght training..
    I know she will.

    Good thing I got her out of the gym and into a PL club

  2. Anonymous Says:

    EC, Your 52yr old DL form challenged buddy in MO. 315 is acceptable for 20 if needing some cardio. And please no straps. The faint at heart might try some rack pulls with much heavier than their used to doing from the floor, but please move the weight more than 6″. Shock the system. EC love the articles. See ya. BJ

  3. David M. Bowden Says:

    Best article I’ve read in a really long time. I got here from


    I work at a health and fitness center with a total of 8 45# plates. As you well know, people’s expectations of what is possible are entirely too low.

  4. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, David!

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