Released in February 2018, this deadlift specific program is the latest in a long line of excellent powerlifting programs from Jonnie Candito.
This is an advanced deadlift program and should not be used by novice lifters. For the novice and intermediate lifter, check out Candito’s 6 Week Program or Linear Strength Programs.
The advanced deadlift program is structured as follows:
- 4 phases, with the 3rd phase operating as an optional “bridge” phase
- 10 or 14 week program
- Depending on if the optional bridge phase is used
- 2 training sessions per week, one for the competition deadlift and one for a deadlift variation
- The program was originally made for 50 lbs in the tank for a roughly 600 paused deadlift. To extrapolate a similar proportion to your close variation deadlift, Candito provides a guide.
Jump to the program FAQs or Jump to a video overview of the program.
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FAQ for Candito Deadlift Program
- How To Determine If I Do The Volume Phase (Bridge Phase)?
- If you can make stellar progress without the volume phase, do that first. The reason for the volume phase is just in case you either are too advanced to make progress with only moderate fatigue, or because the variation phase simply did not transfer well.
- Can I change the order of the phases to fit a meet?
- Yes, this program is built to build momentum, but not really carryover fatigue from one cycle to the next. So that means if you have a meet in 6 weeks, you can run phase 1 followed directly by phase 3. The only combination I recommend almost everyone avoids is doing phase 1, optional volume bridge, and then phase 3. That type of setup would be a bit intense in terms of emphasizing the same positions for 9 straight weeks, so I’d limit skipping the distant variation phase on plans exceeding 6 weeks. I’m not saying that lower variation deadlift programs are bad, but that’s not the “spirit” of this particular program.
- Why do the dates not perfectly fit into the week structure?
- This is intentional as the dates are an implied recommendation, but not restrictive. In an ideal world you can each workout across all phases on every 3rd day, with the only exception being the volume bridge (every 4th day). However I know that the overwhelming majority of people set their schedule by days of the week so it isn’t a big deal to round up or down for the sake of fitting it into your life.
- How Should I Train The Squat During This?
- First is to not approach the squat programming in the same manner as the deadlift. You will need longer phases and more volume, so if you try to fit the 3 week structure perfectly with squatting you’ll likely cut your squat progress short. An easy solution is to program squat volume high on weeks 1 and 2 while squatting right before pulling, then keep it moderate for week 3 with a lower volume squat early in the week (on the 3 x 1 deadlift day for phase 1, or 2 x 5 day for phase 2), and then the higher volume squat at the end of the week after testing. That way you aren’t fully peaked but also squeeze in the deadlift test at a more recovered time.
- Second general rule is that I don’t recommend squatting on the same day as you deadlift for the optional volume bridge specifically. If your work capacity is high and injury history is blank, then you might be able to deadlift 5 x 5 after squatting. However if you follow the every 4th day setup you can get the same weekly work in while squatting in between deadlift sessions, while still not needing to train lower body 2 days in a row. Squat – Rest Day – Deadlift – Rest Day – etc.
- After going through all the phases, do I have to switch up the accessories?
- Absolutely not. The way I approach it is to take what’s there. If you run snatch grip deadlift as your distant variation and hit the goal 5 RM at RPE 8 or better, then you certainly can revisit it with the exact same setup while going just 1 jump farther. However you should not be anxious about accessories. Anxiety in my opinion is the best guideline as you tend to intuitively know when there is some uncertainty ahead. It’s best to leave uncertainty to the competition lift as that part is inevitable. On the accessories you want to limit variation just enough to get a realistic measure of progressive overload, while also mixing it up just enough to avoid hitting a wall (via short term motor control progress/temporary break from repeated bout effect).
- I recommend setting goals for the year on a handful of lifts. Long term goal setting will hugely assist with being realistic in the short term. For example during 2018 I want to snatch grip 500 lbs x 5. Last time I ran the program I hit 455 lbs x 5. With the 500 goal in mind, I can be satisfied in targeting 480 lbs x 5 first, knowing I have plenty of time to then go up one more notch. I only recommend doing this AFTER you go through one run of the program as then you have something concrete to set your sights on. You also don’t have to do this on every single lift, but I’d at least have one close variation, one distant variation, and perhaps the 10 RM targets set. To put it simply, set goals for the lifts that you know are predictable. Until they are, rationally take in feedback from the workouts and adjust without excessive attachment to numbers. Pick and choose your spots.
- A useful tip is to use at least either the phase 1 or 3 accessory to be somewhat connected to the distant variation. For example, instead of doing a wide stance good morning and sumo SLDL for phase 1 and 3, I’ll pick a spot to involve the beltless snatch grip (it’d be slightly below on the transference hierarchy than belted snatch grip). You certainly do not want to get carried away with this as transference to the competition deadlift is always top priority, but keeping this in mind can help with cohesion from phase to phase.
- What about isolation?
- The only phase where I intentionally want you to avoid isolations is the optional volume phase. The most encouraged part to hit isolations is during phase 2 while focusing on the distant variation. A good way to break it up is doing any isolations the day after, so you deadlift – hit light isolations – rest – etc.
- I did not explicitly program isolations in this one because this program is made for you to be able to train your squat normally. There is too much uncertainty in recovery for me to give specific guidelines.
- The only very strong thought I have here is that if you are a sumo puller, and you have never consistently trained seated hip abduction + seated hip abduction, I cannot recommend it enough. 15-20 reps, mixed in with some slow eccentric lower rep work can massively improve how natural the sumo starting position feels. If you are a conventional puller I generally recommend hamstring curls + a lower back isometric (or even lat pushdown to cue in lat tightness).