What is the most bang-for-your-buck exercise? That title belongs to the deficit snatch grip deadlift!
Many of you reading this have probably never seen someone else perform a snatch grip deadlift from a deficit, much less perform one yourself.
This is a shame, as it truly is the single most results-producing exercise that you can perform the gym. Nothing packs on strength or size like the snatch grip deadlift!
I have a lot to say about this under-rated exercise. The material for this article will be divided up as follows:
- Part 1: The King Of All Exercises?
- Part 2: Proper Exercise Technique
- Part 3: A Superior Exercise For Hypertrophy
- Part 4: Making The Snatch Grip Deadlift Even More Effective!
- Part 5: Sample Training Routines
- Part 6: Conclusion
This is cutting-edge information that you won’t find anywhere else!
Now let’s get down to business…
Part 1: The King Of All Exercises?
The snatch grip deadlift from a deficit is easily the king of all exercises. No other exercise even comes close!
But this isn’t just my opinion. Many of the world’s greatest strength coaches (past and present) including Pierre Roy, Charles Poliquin, Wolfgang Unsold, and Ian King use this exercise extensively with their athletes to produce superior results in record time!
So what makes the snatch grip deadlift so special? Before we can answer this question we have to talk about the unique advantages of both squats and deadlifts.
Advantages Of The Squat
The major advantage of the squat is it trains your lower extremities through a full range of motion. Of course this assumes you are squatting to proper depth and not doing some half-assed quarter squats!
There are many reasons why training the vastus medialis is important. The vastus medialis is the primary muscle responsible for stabilizing the knee joint during lower body exercises.
If you want to prevent or avoid injuries, increase your lower body strength or boost your quadriceps size then you MUST train the vastus medialis!
Advantages Of The Deadlift
When it comes to properly training the posterior chain absolutely nothing compares to deadlifts! Of course when I say the posterior chain I am talking about the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors.
These three muscle groups work together as a team during hip-extension exercises such as the deadlift.
Not only that, but deadlifts recruit more overall motor units in the body than squats do. This is likely due to the increased upper back muscular activity in deadlifts vs squats.
As you may already know, the effectiveness of an exercise is always a function of the number of motor units that it recruits. The more motor units an exercise recruits, the more effective the exercise is!
The Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift: The Best Of Both Worlds!
The snatch grip deadlift performed on a platform really is like a Frankenstein creation! It’s as if the creator mashed together the best aspects of squats and the best aspects of deadlifts to make a superior hybrid exercise!
The snatch grip deadlift actually combines the superior range of motion and quadriceps recruitment of a full squat with the superior posterior chain involvement and overall motor unit recruitment of the deadlift!
In fact, the snatch grip deadlift from a deficit recruits more motor units than any other exercise! This exercise really does deserve the nickname “the king of all exercises!”
Part 2: Proper Exercise Technique
The snatch grip deadlift performed from a deadlift is a very demanding and highly technical exercise.
I am sure you all have seen someone in the gym approach a traditional conventional deadlift with a “grip it and rip it” attitude. Well, you have to abandon that attitude with this exercise!
In reality you have to consciously think about many aspects of the exercise while you are doing it, from keeping your butt down and torso erect to tensing your lats and drawing the barbell close to your body.
Let’s take a look at a video example:
There are technical aspects of this exercise that immediately stand out to me:
- He is standing on 2 45 lb plates
- He is using a very wide grip
- The starting position resembles a full squat
- The lower and upper back are arched
- The butt stays down throughout the exercise
This exercise really is quite different from an old-school conventional deadlift! Let’s examine each of these points in a little more detail:
1. He is standing on 2 45 lb plates
The first thing you will notice the athlete is standing on a pair of rubber 45 lb plates. This increases the range of motion by an additional 2-4 inches, depending on the height of the plates.
If you do not have access to such a platform you can perform the exercise from ground-level. Just keep in mind that the overall training effect will not be as large without a platform.
2. He is using a very wide grip
This is why the call the exercise a “snatch grip deadlift” – it resembles the starting position of a snatch from the sport of Olympic Weightlifting!
The snatch grip accomplishes a few things: first of all it helps to increase the range of motion of the exercise. You have to squat down further to reach the bar vs deadlifting with a shoulder-width grip. Although this reduces the amount of weight you can lift, it increases the overall effectiveness of the exercise.
This wide grip also makes your upper back (including your lats and scapular retractors) work MUCH harder during the exercise! This is a good thing, so long as you are not afraid of a little pain!
3. The starting position resembles a full squat
Because of the platform and the ultra-wide grip the trainee has to squat down very low to achieve the appropriate starting position. In fact, his starting position practically resembles a full squat!
4. The lower and upper back are arched
Some powerlifters such as Konstantin Konstantinovs will round their back during deadlifts in order to lift more weight. This may be appropriate for a competition-style deadlift but it is not a good idea on this exercise!
In order to get the most out of the snatch grip deadlift you should maintain an arch in your lower and upper back throughout the entire movement.
You should also seek to actively contract your lats prior to initiating the first rep.
5. The butt stays down throughout the exercise
This is another important point to understand. At no point during the exercise should you let your butt shoot up!
If your butt shoots up too quickly on the first rep, the weight that you have selected is too heavy. If your butt shoots up towards the end of your set, then you should immediately terminate the set. Not only will the training stimulus be sub-optimal, but you will increase your risk for injury.
You may need to drop your ego down a notch or two to complete this movement with the appropriate form and weight. So be it! Remember: garbage reps gives you garbage results!
Now that we’ve covered the technique required to perform this movement, let’s dive into three major advantages of the snatch grip deadlift performed from a deadlift.
Part 3: A Superior Exercise For Hypertrophy
No, this is not an exaggeration; the snatch grip deadlift from a deficit is one of the best exercises you can perform to rapidly increase your body composition. This is especially true during an accumulation phase.
In fact, one of the more remarkable benefits of this exercise is the ability to pack on slabs of muscle on a trainee in record time.
If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to perform 5 sets of 4-8 reps with this exercise on a 4/0/2/0 tempo and tell me your appetite isn’t completely out of control the next day!
There is a reason Charles Poliquin has said:
“If you told me you were going to jail and only had a barbell and didn’t want to get raped in the showers and could only do one exercise to put mass and strength on, then I’d tell you to do the snatch deadlift on a platform.”
If you need to gain functional muscle mass in record time, then you may want to make this exercise the cornerstone of your program.
Part 4: Making the Deficit SGDL Even More Effective
Because of the extremely large ROM inherent with this exercise, using chains and bands is especially useful with this exercise.
What a deadlift!!
So why are bands and chains a good idea on this exercise? The answer is that they work on the principle of accomodating resistance. You are much, much stronger at the top of this deadlift variation than you are at the start. This should be obvious, as you are practically squatting down to the barbell in the starting position!
The downside of this is that the top portion of the movement is rarely overloaded. You could of course perform partial deadlifts to work this range of motion, but overall I find bands and chains to be a superior option as you overload the entire strength curve with just one movement.
Performing the wide grip deadlift from a deficit with bands and chains tends to work best during intensification phases. For example, you may wish to utilize a wave loading protocol for rapid strength gains on this exercise.
If you don’t have access to bands or chains, don’t worry. This exercise will still prove highly effective without them.
I highly recommend that you add snatch grip deadlifts from a deadlift to your routine.
That is, unless you are afraid of a little hard work!
Part 5: Sample Training Routines
By now I am sure you are eager to add this exercise to your exercise library. But how would an exercise like this fit into a normal routine?
I am glad you asked!
Let’s go ahead and examine 2 incredible training routines featuring the snatch grip deadlift. The first routine will be a higher-rep accumulation phase workout while the second routine will be a lower-rep intensification phase workout.
Note: if you have any difficulty reading these workouts then check out my article “How To Read A Workout Routine!” It will answer all of your questions 🙂
Sample routine #1
- A1: Snatch Grip Deadlift (4 inch deficit), 4 x 10-12, 4/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: 45 degree back extension (barbell on back), 4 x 12-15, 2/0/1/2, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Rear foot elevated split squat (DBs), 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- B2: Side step up, 4 x 10-12, 2/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
This is an awesome accumulation-style workout. It utilizes supersets to create more muscular damage than would normally be possible using straight sets.
After 3-6 exposures to this routine you can expect to pack slabs of muscle onto your legs and back!
Lower Body Sample Intensification Workout
- A1: Snatch Grip Deadlift (2 inch deficit), 6 x 5,3,2,5,3,2, 3/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest
- B1: Drop lunge, 4 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- B2: Lying hamstring curl (feet pointed out / plantarflexed), 4 x 5-7, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
- C1: Reverse Hyperextension, 3 x 10-12, 1/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
This workout utilizes 5/3/2 wave loading to coax your body into making gains.
It is no surprise that I am a huge fan of wave loading protocols. I find they are one of the best ways to train for strength and functional hypertrophy.
Even many individuals have a hard time recovering from lots of lower-rep work seem to do AWESOME on a properly designed wave loading protocol.
This workout is much tougher than it looks. You’ve been warned!
The Deficit SGDL is perhaps the most important exercise that you have never tried in the gym.
Nothing beats the Deficit SGDL for developing the entire body, but especially the musculature on the backside of the body.
Give this exercise a try. I am quite confident you will be pleased with the results!
“All I know is that the first step is to create a vision, because when you see the vision – the beautiful vision – that creates the want power.”
Thank you for reading and best of luck on your strength training journey!
Chad Wesley Smith is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry today. Chad has competed at the absolute highest levels in three different sports: shot put, powerlifting and strongman....
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