The Johnnie Jackson Deadlift Program!


Johnnie Jackson is one of the most popular bodybuilders in the world. Johnnie has won many professional bodybuilding competitions including the 2017 Arnold Classic and the 2017 Toronto Pro. However, Johnnie Jackson is also an accomplished powerlifter.

In 2012 Johnnie deadlifted an unbelievable 832 pounds in the Raw Unity powerlifting competition. Check it out:

Now THAT is an impressive deadlift! It’s rare for a powerlifter to cross the 800 pound barrier in the deadlift but it’s almost unheard of for a bodybuilder to do it! So what does the Johnnie Jackson deadlift program look like?

The truth is Johnnie trains heavy year-round, even when he is preparing for a bodybuilding competition. Johnnie Jackson and his training partner Branch Warren are known for throwing around unbelievably heavy weights in their bodybuilding workouts. However, when Johnnie wants to put up a huge deadlift he calls his powerlifting coach Josh Bryant and gets on a deadlift peaking program.

In this guide I want to walk you through one of Johnnie Jackson’s favorite deadlift peaking programs. Johnnie used this program to put up a massive 700 pound deadlift in 2019 at nearly 50 years old.

Here is how Johnnie organized his deadlift peaking program:

Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Peaking Program

Training Block #1

  • Week #1: Heavy triples
  • Week #1: Heavy triples
  • Week #1: Heavy triples
  • Week #4: Deload

Training Block #2

  • Week #1: Heavy doubles
  • Week #1: Heavy doubles
  • Week #1: Heavy doubles
  • Week #8: Deload

Training Block #

  • Week #9: Competition day!

As you can see Johnnie divides his peaking program into three separate blocks of training. Johnnie performs 3 heavy weeks of training in a row. Then on the 4th week he performs a deload week where he reduces the volume and intensity of his workouts.

Johnnie’s deadlift coach Josh Bryant believes these deload weeks are absolutely essential for making long-term progress. Josh Bryant likes to call these “reload” weeks because you are recharging your body and preparing yourself for another 3 weeks of heavy training.

Now let’s talk about Johnnie’s actual deadlift workouts. Johnnie likes to structure his deadlift workouts a very specific way: he performs one heavy set of 2-3 reps on the deadlift, several speed sets, 1 supplementary deadlift exercise and several accessory exercises. 

Here is a basic template for Johnnie’s deadlift workouts:

  • Step #1: Perform 1 heavy set of 2-3 reps on the deadlift
  • Step #2: Perform 3-6 speed sets of 2-3 reps on the deadlift
  • Step #3: Perform 2 moderately heavy sets of deficit deadlifts
  • Step #4: Perform 2-4 accessory exercises for the deadlift

Here is a great video of Johnnie Jackson performing this type of workout:

This is an AWESOME way to structure your deadlift workouts. Each part of the workout is designed to make you as strong as possible on the competition deadlift.

Johnnie believes one of the keys to peaking your strength on the deadlift is to slowly increase your training weights throughout the training cycle. 

Here are the exact training percentages that Johnnie Jackson uses for all 9 of his workouts:

  • Workout #1: 75% x 3
  • Workout #2: 80% x 3
  • Workout #3: 86% x 3
  • Workout #4: 61% x 1
  • Workout #5: 89% x 2
  • Workout #6: 92% x 2
  • Workout #7: 95% x 2
  • Workout #8: 61% x 1
  • Workout #9: 100% x 1

Note: all of these percentages are based off of Johnnie’s target deadlift of 700 pounds at the end of the training cycle. As you can see Johnnie’s training percentages slowly increase as he gets closer to his “testing day.”

Ok, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here are the exact workouts that Johnnie Jackson used to deadlift 700 pounds at almost 50 years old. Check it out:

Week #1: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 3 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 8 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 2 sets of 3 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps
  • F1: Suitcase deadlift, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • G1: Pull ups (wide / neutral grip), 3 set of 8 reps

**Performed with 75% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 60% of your projected 1-rep max

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about an intense workout! You can just feel the energy that Johnnie Jackson brings to the gym. Johnnie says that this was a great first workout and he expects his strength to start climbing fast from here.

Week #2: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 3 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 8 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 2 sets of 3 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps
  • F1: Suitcase deadlift, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • G1: Pull ups (wide / neutral grip), 3 set of 8 reps

**Performed with 80% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 60% of your projected 1-rep max

Johnnie increases the weight on the bar by a massive 5% this week and makes it look easy. You can tell Johnnie is starting to get more explosive on all of his speed sets as well. If you are going to use speed sets in your training then you MUST explode all the way to lockout just like Johnnie Jackson. If you aren’t exploding the weight up then you aren’t training, you’re just pretending!

Week #3: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 3 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 6 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 3 sets of 2 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps

**Performed with 86% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 60% of your projected 1-rep max

Here is the training video for this workout:

Johnnie took another big weight jump for this workout. He bumped up his main working set by a massive 6%! Unfortunately Johnnie tweaked his upper back on the last set of deficit deadlifts and had to cut out some of his accessory work. As you become more experienced it gets easier to make these decisions on when to push yourself and when to back off. Here is Josh Bryant talking about Johnnie’s decision to cut out some of the accessory work for this workout and the importance of listening to your body:

“Johnnie was supposed to do pull ups and suitcase deadlifts but that’s not going to feel right on his lat. As you gain experience you find the line between being a poodle dick and not finishing and then just being stupid.”

Week #4: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 6 sets of 1 rep
  • B1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps

**Performed with 61% of your projected 1-rep max

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is Johnnie’s first deload or “reload” workout of the training cycle. Johnnie performs some lighter speed deadlifts and some easy cable pull throughs and calls it a day. Johnnie isn’t slacking off on his training here – this was a planned deload session designed to help his body recover from the past 3 weeks of hard training. The truth is deloads are an essential part of almost any training program. To learn more about how to deload you can check out my article “5 Ways To Deload For Size And Strength!

Week #5: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 2 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 5 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 2 sets of 3 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps

**Performed with 89% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 70% of your projected 1-rep max

Here is the training video for this workout:

Now things are really starting to get heavy! Johnnie picks things up where he left off and performs his main working set with 89% of his projected 1-rep max for a hard set of 2 reps. This was slightly heavier than the 86% that he used in week #3 right before his deload week. At this point in the training cycle Johnnie is cutting back on some of his accessory exercises like pull ups and suitcase deadlifts. This is part of Josh Bryant’s strategy to peak Johnnie’s deadlifting strength at the end of the training cycle.

Week #6: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 2 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 4 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 2 sets of 3 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps

**Performed with 92% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 70% of your projected 1-rep max

Note: Johnnie Jackson did not post a training video for this workout. The weights keep getting heavier and the workouts keep getting shorter. For this workout Johnnie cuts out one of his sets of speed deadlifts to help his body recover. 

Week #7: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 1 set of 2 reps
  • B1: Speed deadlift***, 3 sets of 3 reps
  • C1: Deficit deadlift, 2 sets of 3 reps
  • D1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps
  • E1: Lying leg curls, 3 sets of 6 reps

**Performed with 95% of your projected 1-rep max

***Performed with 70% of your projected 1-rep max

Note: Johnnie Jackson did not post a training video for this workout. This is the last heavy deadlift before Johnnie’s testing day. Johnnie works up to a heavy set of 2 reps with 95% of his projected 1-rep max. Once again Johnnie eliminates one of his sets of speed deadlifts to help him recover and to peak his strength on week 9.

Week #8: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

  • A1: Conventional deadlift**, 6 sets of 1 rep
  • B1: Cable pull through, 3 sets of 12 reps

**Performed with 61% of your projected 1-rep max

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is the final workout before Johnnie tests his 1-rep max on the deadlift. Johnnie performs a deload workout that is almost identical to the one he performed on week 8. Johnnie knows that his deadlift strength isn’t going to get weaker after one deload workout. In fact it’s quite the opposite: the deload will help Johnnie to feel stronger than ever next week.

Week #9: Johnnie Jackson’s Deadlift Workout

Johnnie Jackson accomplishes his goal and deadlifts 700 pounds for 1 rep! Check it out:

Johnnie was so excited about reaching his goal that he immediately attempted a second rep with 700 pounds! This wasn’t part of the plan but 700 moved so fast that Johnnie just had to go for it. 

Conclusion

If you are looking for a great training program to boost your deadlift then I highly recommend you give the Johnnie Jackson deadlift program a shot. Johnnie uses some time-tested training strategies like linear periodization, speed sets and planned deload weeks to make massive progress in 8 short weeks. If you are truly determined to improve your deadlift then you MUST check out the following article:

In this article I cover exactly how Josh Bryant trains Johnnie Jackson and many other world-class deadlifts. I even cover some of Josh’s secret training techniques like powerlifting-style isometrics to blast through sticking points and training plateaus. So what’s it going to be? Are you going to piss and moan about your lack of progress on the deadlift? Or are you going to bring your deadlift back to life with Johnnie Jackson’s 9-week deadlift peaking program? The choice is yours!

“Sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream no one can see but you.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

Recent Posts