How to deadlift 405 lbs?

December 31st 2018

It is almost the end of 2018. I had just finished deadlifting 405 lbs in November 2018 and I'm wondering to myself, how can other people deadlift 405 lbs?

Deadlifting 405 lbs is no easy feat. After recently doing a 405 pound deadlift and a little bit of research, I want to share my insight. You need to work on your weakness, train hard, train consistently, and prioritize your recovery. You need to make sure you're doing everything right outside the gym as well as inside the gym.


So, without further ado, we need to start from the beginning. Before you even begin to deadlift 405 lbs, you need to press start to deadlift 135 lbs. 225 lbs. 315lbs. And then finally, 405 lbs.

How I started to deadlift 135 lbs

I was very active in my life. I enjoyed running and play basketball. I also did a lot of push-ups and pull-ups. I thoroughly enjoyed P.E. class and looked at it as an opportunity to get stronger.


Prior to going to a gym, I did not really workout with machines or weights. I just did push-ups at home or in the park. I did pull-ups and chin-ups whenever I had the chance.


When I first deadlifted any weight, I was in high school. I was getting introduced to lifting weights and I was following a bodybuilding split my friend recommended to me.


It was a Monday, Wednesday, Friday split. We did chest/ triceps on Mondays, back/biceps on Wednesdays and legs on Friday.


I was going to a free gym at the time and it was always packed after-school. There was no option to use a straight bar to deadlift. So, I used a trap bar to deadlift.


We loaded up 135lbs because the 45lb plates were standard. I will admit I did have a little ego problem back then, but who didn’t back in the day? I did not want to use 25lbs or 35lbs in front of my friends. I wanted to use the big boy weights.


And when I picked up 135lbs off the floor, it was not easy but not too difficult. I remembered I was able to do 8-10 reps my very first time deadlifting.


How I started to deadlift 225 lbs

I got to a 225 lbs deadlift relatively quickly. It probably took a few months.


I just continued program my friend was doing and continued to work on my strength. Though at the time, it was just fun to go to the gym.


I started to get a little bored. I was wondering if what I was doing was optimal. Why? Because I was doing a lot of assistance exercises and not a lot of big compound movements. I was wondering if our training program was optimal.


Then I found this video from Elliot Hulse. I have attached it down below for your interest.

Summary of the Elliot Hulse video

The four exercises to include in your training program are:

  • Front squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull-ups
  • Dips


And with this new knowledge, I just added these exercises into the program we were following. I took out accessory lifts so that I could do more front squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and dips.


Based off my training log, in about 11 months of training, I stopped at a 235 lbs deadlift for 1 set of 5 repetitions.


How I started to deadlift 315 lbs


I ran Starting Strength first for about five months and got up to a 280 lbs deadlift for 3 reps. In fact, here is a video of me deadlifting 265 lbs, for 1 set of 5 repetitions.


Looking back, that set looked pretty horrible. But I was lifting weights for about a year and I was enjoying the process. So, what happened with Starting Strength? I strained my back doing a set of squats, which forced me to rest for 3 months.


Afterward, I did Greyskull LP for about seven months and got up to a 260 lbs deadlift for 3 reps. Then, according to the Greyskull LP guidelines, I was suppose to reset. And I was unhappy about that.


I wanted to do better. I was tired of not having my deadlift numbers improving. However, I am to blame for that. I was trying to strengthen my grip as well - by doing double overhand grip for all my deadlift sets. Without doing any reset. Meaning if I lose the grip on one of my deadlift sets, my set was over.


So, with this strict criterion, it is no wonder my deadlift did not improve as much… on paper.


So, I began to think about why my deadlift numbers were not improving. At the time, I thought about two possible reasons:

  1. Lack of Volume - Both Greyskull LP and Starting Strength only had me doing one set of deadlifts for my working set. I felt like I needed to do more volume if I wanted to have a massive deadlift.
  2. Recovery - This was my second concern as I thought I may not be resting enough. I was sleeping 7-9 hours on most days and have been slowly gaining weight.


So, with these two thoughts, I decided to tackle the “lack of volume” problem. I wanted to find a great deadlifter who I could learn from.


And I found someone who I thought had the perfect deadlift form.


Richard “The Ant” Hawthorne.


He weighs weighs about 132 lbs and deadlift over 600 lbs. Here is one of his amazing deadlifting exhibitions. Here, he is in the Animal Cage deadlifting 600 lbs for 5 repetitions. At around 132 lbs bodyweight…



That is right. He is deadlifting over 4.5 times his bodyweight. And once I saw his deadlifting gift, I knew he was someone I could look up to in the deadlift.


So, I also looked for his programming. He addressed this in a video, which I also linked down below:


Summary of Richard Hawthorne’s programming


Week 1


Week 2


Week 3


Week 4


Week 5


Week 6


Week 7


Week 8


1-2 Weeks Rest

Meet Day


At the time, I was not going to do any meets because my lifting numbers were not competitive. So, I decided to just repeat the program after I finished week 7.


And even though my other lifts, the squat, bench press, and overhead press, were going up with Greyskull LP and Starting Strength, I decided to risk it and move all my lifts under this programming.


With this new program, I decided to squat three times a week, bench twice a week, overhead press once a week and deadlift twice a week.


After one cycle, I strained my lower back again… while squatting. Only this time, it was not too major and I was able to still bend down and do my other lifts.


Still though, I was disappointed but determined to not let that stop me. I did not finish my working set and just mobilized the remainder of the day. I was still able to do the other lifts, which was good. And in a few days, my back felt okay enough to squat again.


And with this program I customized for myself, I hit the following personal records for those few months:


  • 255 lbs deadlift for 1 set of 8 repetitions
  • 270 lbs deadlift for 3 sets of 3 repetitions
  • 285 lbs deadlift for 1 set of 3 repetitions
  • 295 lbs deadlift for 1 set of 1 repetition


Of course, all with a double overhand grip. So, I was happy that I could hit the 295 lbs deadlift. But I was thinking about hitting 315 lbs for a long time. Around this time, I was about 2 years into lifting weights.


Then, I was involved in a car accident… coming home from a night with friends. I was diagnosed with a lung contusion and a fractured right wrist. With follow-ups, it turned out that it was not a fracture but the tendon chipped a small piece of my bone off my wrist. So, I just had a severe wrist sprain. Regardless, I had to take time off the gym.


So, after 3 months, I felt ready to come back and accomplish my goals. When I first came back to the gym, I lost about 20 lbs, down to about 154 lbs. I was also re-testing all my lifts. I was able to deadlift 215 lbs. When I tried to deadlift 235 lbs, it was slightly difficult. So, I stopped there and left that as my bench mark.


For the next eight months, I just had fun with my training. I did not have a strict program, but I combined a lot of the stuff I liked from Richard Hawthorne’s program, Greyskull LP and Starting Strength.


I did not have a prescribed rep, set or weight to hit. As long as I was doing something more than last week or the last session, I was satisfied. Around this time, I began to understand a lot about Mark Bell’s ideologies about training. He was very practical and it resonated with me.


“I did not have to be so analytic and precise. I could have fun with my training and just do my best. Hey, and maybe if I am feeling really good that day, I could push it. But for right now, just put in the work. Try new things out and see if it works or not. See if a new position or new accessory makes my main lifts easier.”


His advice was very helpful and I am very grateful I found his content. With peace of mind, I was able to train comfortably.


I experimented with straps. I experimented with hook grip. I did different sets and reps. I tried different accessories.


And after eight months, I hit a 315 lbs deadlift. I hit 315 lbs for 1 repetition, double overhand grip. Then, I used straps and hit 315 lbs deadlift for 1 set of 3 repetitions.


How I started deadlifting 405 lbs

In the same month I hit a 315 lbs deadlift, I had to go get a root canal. So, I took around 1-2 weeks off.


Talk about a not having things go your way…. But it was fine. I was at peace at the time and I really enjoyed this new approach of training.


So, I continued to listen to my body for about four more months. Then, I decided to do Starting Strength again, only this time I will list the RPE felt using the set. If you do not know what RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) is, here is the guide I followed, from 0-10.


I knew why I chose Starting Strength again for the second time. It felt me get results. Fast. It was a linear progression program that was very simple and basic to follow.

  • Complete the workout? Move up in weight.
  • Failed a workout? You get three strikes until you deload.


There was no gray area, which I loved. You either make it or you do not. Also at this time, I was tired that my deadlift was progressing so slowly. So, I allowed myself to do mixed grip if I needed to.


In about four months, these were my deadlift numbers. In fact, here were my last Starting Strength deadlift workouts:


  • 360 lbs deadlift, 1 set of 5 reps, mixed grip RPE 9.5
  • 365 lbs deadlift, 1 set of 3 reps,  mixed grip RPE 9
  • 365 lbs deadlift, 1 set of 3 reps,  mixed grip RPE 9
  • 365 lbs deadlift, 1 set of 1 rep, mixed grip, RPE 10
  • 325 lbs deadlift, 1 set of 5 reps, mixed grip RPE 9.5


I knew something was wrong when I deloaded in weight and I felt just as heavy. I was not sure why it felt so terrible but I decided to switch programs again.


But I did not know what to switch to. But I knew I wanted to “take it a bit slow.” So, I decided to listen to my body again for four months. Why?


I was going on two vacations in the next couple of weeks. I knew there was not going to be a gym available to be consistent. So, in the end, I decided to have fun until I was able to get a structured routine again. Which was four months later.


And I was on the move again. Only this time, I knew there was going to be a gym available. I was going to stay 8 weeks in Ohio. So, I had about two months to strength train. A friend recommended that I should try MadCow 5x5, which I was open to try.


After those eight weeks, I was back to deadlifting 335 lbs for 1 set of 5 repetitions. It was my working set and it felt alright.


I did not really enjoy the program since it did not make my deadlift explode. So, I was looking for another program. I found an interesting one created by Silent Mike, Bart Kwan and Omar Isuf. And most importantly, it was FREE!


It decided to run their Kizen Off Season Powerlifting Program. It is a 5 week program, 4x a week where it dedicates each day to a main compound lift. So, one day specifically for squats, one day specifically for deadlifts, one day specifically for bench press and one day specifically for overhead press. If you are interested in their program, you can check them out here.

After running the program twice, I tested my deadlift max. Here were the results:


  • 365 lbs deadlift - Good
  • 405 lbs deadlift - Failed
  • 405 lbs deadlift - Failed
  • 385 lbs deadlift - Good!!!


I was working at the time and there was a possibility that my work schedule would change. So, I wanted to test my PRs since I have not done so for a long time.


Afterward, I decided to do my own thing… again. But I was using the parts of the Kizen Offseason Powerlifting Program I enjoyed. I just did whatever I wanted to do for about eight months.


Then, I decided to text my max again, since I was going to go on vacation. Here were the results from this PR test:


  • 335 lbs deadlift - Good
  • 365 lbs deadlift - Good
  • 395 lbs deadlift - Failed


From my notes, I did not even break the 395 lbs deadlift off the floor. I was pretty disappointed at myself. I really let myself go and decided not focus on my goals.


After that failed attempt, my attitude towards lifting changed drastically. I decided that I wanted to get to higher numbers. And I would do that by focusing on my weaknesses.


One of my weaknesses for my conventional deadlift is breaking the weight off the floor. In my last failed attempt to break my PR, I did not even break the floor. I knew I needed to deadlift twice a week, but also add in one deadlift accessory in order to help train the my deadlift. So, I chose to do deficit deadlifts.


Deficit deadlifts and I have a love-hate relationship. They are difficult to do and they suck. I am always tired afterwards but it is one of the most powerful deadlift accessory movements in order help me break the weight off the floor. So, I sucked it up and decided to double down. I decided to commit to this new challenge - getting my lifting numbers higher.


Three months later, this was the result:


  • 365 lbs deadlift - Good
  • 405 lbs deadlift -GOOD!!!
  • 415 lbs deadlift - Failed


Here is a video of me hitting the 405 lbs deadlift. I weighed about 170 lbs that day:


405 deadlift finally. +20lb PR ??????

5 Likes, 1 Comments - Angell Chee (@strengthisfirst1) on Instagram: "405 deadlift finally. +20lb PR ??????"

It was awesome to hit that. It felt decent too.


And based off my notes, I was able to get the 415 lbs deadlift about ½ an inch off the ground, but there was no more follow through afterward.


It took me more than five years to get to a 405 lbs deadlift. It was a long journey but it was worth it every step of the way.


So, how to deadlift 405 lbs?

1. Work on your weakness


Around the second year of lifting weights, you can probably tell which lifts you are good at and which lifts you do not perform well on. For the deadlifts in particular, I had more trouble breaking the weight off the floor. And at the same time, I knew the deadlift accessory to address that issue too - deficit deadlifts. If you are having trouble with your lockout, I would recommend barbell shrugs.


In short, I was unmotivated to hit higher weights. In fact, you could say that the big weights intimidated me. So, progressing slowly was the way to go and it did not need to hurt my ego. Only until I experienced failure in multiple situations did it reignite the fire inside me. I needed to accomplish something big. And I did.


Right now, I am still doing deficit deadlifts. You will probably see them in my programming forever since I have neglected them for a long time. I will definitely be doing them a lot more and continuously.


2. Consistency with your programming


You can see that many times during my five years of strength training that I frequently took a lazier approach to my programming. Reflecting back, it was not the smartest thing to do if I was looking to gain strength in my deadlift.


If I was looking to find the perfect program to increase my deadlift, it would need to include the following, for me at least:


  • Deadlift twice a week, one heavy day and one light day
  • Includes at least one deadlift accessory. One that works on your weakness
  • Pull-ups and Rows as other back accessories


I found that this combination has worked very well for me. And is continuing to work for me. So, if it is not broken, why fix it?


3. Prioritize your recovery


Sleep and food, I worshipped them. You can really only train so hard if you allow your body the proper nutrition and rest.


So, for so many nights in the past five years, I was getting 8 hours of sleep. 9 hours of sleep. 10 hours of sleep. I was taking it seriously. I rarely slept less than 7 hours during the past five years.


And food? I was made sure I ate enough. I made sure I was not dehydrated. I made sure I ate a lot of high quality food almost everyday.

4. Hard work is not an option


Unless you were a beast deadlifting 405 lbs your first time touching the bar, chances are you will need to put in work. A lot of hard work.


For some people, it may take a few months to get up to 405 lbs. In two years, they may be deadlifting 600+ lbs.


For others, it will take some time. So, be patient! Put in the hard work and trust the process. Trust that you are putting in the necessary work in order to deadlift more in the future.


So, stay focused but also stay stoic. Have the courage to work hard and to give it everything you got. It is really for your own benefit.

When I had to take time off due to injury or illness, it really sucked. It definitely derailed me and I would be lying if I said that it did not have some mental impact on me. But at the same time, it was a blessing.


My body was showing me that something was wrong and that I needed to make a correction in my life. I needed to take a step back and analyze my lifestyle.


  • Was I stressed?
  • Did I get enough sleep?
  • Did I eat enough food?
  • Was I hydrated?
  • Did my body show any warning signs prior to injury or sickness?


You would be surprised how everything that happened to you today can be traceable through your past actions. So, be honest with yourself. Are you working as hard as you should be in order to get a higher deadlift?

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