Dead On

By Chris Mason

In Powerlifting

April 28, 2011

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Chris Mason offers a program designed for CrossFitters who want to improve their deadlifts without compromising overall fitness.

CrossFit and a big deadlift … .

Thus far, we have not seen too many competitive CrossFit athletes with a big pull. I firmly believe this relates to how CrossFitters normally attempt to integrate strength training with their CrossFit programming. The purpose of this article is to provide an effective alternative that will both build your deadlift and improve your overall CrossFit performance.

I suppose one’s interpretation of a “big pull” can vary quite significantly. I come from a powerlifting background, but I am not expecting CrossFitters to become the record-holding deadlifters in their respective weight classes. It’s obviously not realistic to expect a good CrossFitter to pull 800-plus lb., but I do think it’s realistic that we should see a lot more 550-plus-lb. pulls from the men and 350-plus-lb. pulls from the women.

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21 Comments on “Dead On ”


Craig Hysell wrote …

Awesome, Chris. I read Louie's seminal book back in January and started integrating a basic CV system in our box. I'm in the third month of both programming and practice and have had some questions arise that I have noticed both as a coach and an athlete.

Your article just answered about 90% of 'em. Thanks!

Looking forward to a triple bodyweight dead (510#) by the end of the year!

Craig Hysell
CrossFit Hilton Head


wrote …

Thank you Craig! Anyone who reads the article and has questions feel free to ask. I will be watching this space.



wrote …


Thank you for your articles on optimally integrating Westside with CrossFit. Really appreciate your willingness to answer questions people have had following your articles. My question (1st maybe of many) is about band usage. In your article you recommend using Strong Bands (2 1/2") for DE work. Would you say to lower the weight percentages if speed is lost or use lesser bands and keep the same weight percentages?

Thanks again for the article. The deadlift is one of my biggest weaknesses so I felt like this article was written just for me! Like Craig, I'm hoping to hit a 500#+ dead in the next year or so.


David Cornthwaite
CrossFit Valley Park


replied to comment from David Cornthwaite

David, thanks for the kind comments! :)

Good question on the bands. You know something, I goofed when I said strong... We usually use the strong bands in our training, but I think the average bands would be more appropriate in the beginning.

With that said, whatever band you use, if the speed becomes too slow then a lowering of the bar weight is required. Don't go too crazy obsessing over the speed. So long as the speed of movement is pretty good then the goal will still be accomplished.

Oh, and that video of speed squats is old... My technique sucked in that I did not pause on the box sufficiently. If you watch my training partner he does a much better job in that video.


wrote …


Thanks for the article. I'm 190 with a 1RM DL of 425. I can't wait to try this out. I'd like to see my numbers in the 500's. As this is geared to get ones DL up, will I also possibly see a strength increase my Squat? (Which is very very weak)

Or, is that in your next article?

Thanks again,



wrote …


Nice article! Just making sure on the MA days, do we attempt a 1RM or 3RM? Noticed on other articles done by Westside that MA days were 3RM. Thanks!



replied to comment from Trevor Baxter

Sorry ME not MA. Typo!


replied to comment from Andrew Durham

Andrew, depending upon some individuals factors it will very likely help your squat as well.


replied to comment from Trevor Baxter


I think you may be confusing ME and DE days. The only ME days where more than a 1RM is attempted at least in terms of an exercise may be with good mornings. Suffice it to say that 99% of all ME work is to a 1RM attempt.

Actually, this brings up a very interesting point I think gets lost in the shuffle. The ME day 1RM attempt is NOT necessarily an all-time best lift. It is the best you can muster that day in a relatively calm state. In other words, there is a difference between a training and contest max. If you get all fired up every time you attempt a max in training and you do it with regularity as with Westside you will likely burn yourself out quickly. Most training ME 1RM attempts at Westside are done without excessive excitation and the same should be done in your training.


replied to comment from Chris Mason

Chris - your second paragraph is probably the most important point I've ever read!

I take it the ME 'do your best in a calm state for that day' approach is equally applicable to your Conjugate CrossFit training article?

Many thanks!



replied to comment from Peter Evans

Peter, yes, that is correct. In addition, as most CrossFitters are going to be competing in a powerlifting meet, they can just pick times when they want to go for an elevated, or emotionally excited PR vs. normal training.


Thor Falk wrote …

Awesome, and timely. I was looking for a 2 days / week program on deadlifts just now. A couple of questions for my personal implementation

(1) is there a sub for a glute-ham raise? I simply have no access to one of those machines, and chances are I wont have any time soon

(2) what strength is a "strong" band in pounds or kg's? I already some bands but they are not purchased from WSB (sorry ... my excuse is that I am living in Europe and purchasing stuff from WSB here is not too practical)

(3) any tricks for fixing the bands on the floor if your globo does not allow you to put rings in the floor?

Thanks a lot - I am looking forward to trying this program!


wrote …

Are chains an acceptable substitute for bands? I work out at a university gym and we don't have bands. If chains would work, how much weight in chains would you recommend? Also, I'm assuming that the speed pulls from the floor are intended to be done with bands?


replied to comment from Thor Falk

Thor, cool name :).

Ok, let's see:

1) You can do them on the floor with someone standing on your feet to anchor them. Simply start in a kneeling position and have a partner stand on the ends of your feet. You then try to lower yourself to the ground keeping everything from your knees up to your head on the same plane while doing so. Be sure to have your hands ready to catch you as if you do them properly you will not be able get all the way to the floor under control. Use your hands to also get you started back to the kneeling position.

2) I'm not sure. Use a mid grade resistance band and you will be fine.

3) Tricks for anchoring will depend upon the setup you have. What sort of rack do you have? Here is a WFS video of how we used to do it at our local Gold's:


replied to comment from Jonathan Pechette

If you don't have bands I suggest you invest in a few pairs. They are inexpensive and you can carry them in a bag to the gym.

Actually, no. The speed pulls from the floor were without bands, but you can use them if you like.



wrote …

Chris, I'm coming from a linear progression model and hoping for gains with this CV approach. Thanks for writing the article. I'd like to confirm an assumption I have around the accessory work. For example, on the 1st week where speed pulls are 1X15, I assume that the weight used in this case is an amount that suits 15 reps like say a 60% deadlift. Do I have it wrong?


wrote …


Actually, the speed pulls are 15 sets of 1 rep. The answer is more or less yes. You need a weight you can pull with speed for 15 singles.


wrote …

This article is greatly appreciated. I had just started incorporating conjugate variation to make some strength increases and I had so many questions. You answered almost all that I have so far. I am still a little confused on the best approach to combining CV with crossfit. You stated that we should stray from doing a heavy crossfit wod while doing CV. Would it be fine to do a lighter weight wod that still may burn up the posterior chain? And what about longer metcon type wod's that may last more than half an hour. Would this be detrimental to any big strength gains?


wrote …

Chris, Great article and looks like the info I needed to reach my 600 DL by the end of the year, I am at 555 right now. I just need to find bands now.


replied to comment from Chris Mason


I was wondering what is your take on the wendler 531 program comparative to the westside CV template?

is the volume to low to see appreciable gains and/or even so is it a false sense of gain because of the initial lowering of your calculated 1RM to 90 percent.

I like the idea of experimenting with different strength routines just to have a personal experience behind the knowledge.

I am 36 years old and have been doing crossfit for about 6 years now and have seen a relative plateau in strength (it is up and down 450-475 DL, 235-255 PC, 215-235 PP) at certain times in my training and would appreciate your opinion on how important you think strength is to crossfit or vice versa.


wrote …

Hi Chris,

I'm a little late on this article but hope you can answer a question for me.

You say that one must find their one-rep max in say a box squat in order to work on your percentages for your DE day in that movement which makes total sense. Now after the 3 weeks are over and you've completed the 60%, 65% and 70% in that box squat movement, are you saying you should retest your one rep box squat max and continue another 3 week cycle doing box squats with bands working off that new weight? Could you also change it up a bit and add more band tension or chains or even choose a new movement altogether to work on for the next 3 week DE day like sumo deadlifts with bands for instance?

Louie says that you will have maxes in many different variations of a movement (ie: rack pulls 2, 4 & 6 inches off the floor, deadlift close stance, straight leg, etc, etc) I guess what I'm wondering is how long should you stay with the same movement on your DE day until you change it up? And when you do change it up, is it just a matter of picking a new movement to go with working off the one-rep max of that particular movement again?

Thanks for any help you can on this Chris. I hope what I am saying makes sense.

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