If you’re in a dilemma about how to lower the weight after performing a deadlift, you’ve come to the right place. This article refers to two different lowering methods, dropping the weight fast or lowering it slowly, i.e. we are going to talk about deadlift descent!
Firstly, I have highlighted the main difference between the two, then go on to explain which method could be ‘better’ depending on your goals.
Following this, I have covered a basic guideline of the training intensities that may suit each lowering method.
Towards the end of the article, I explain in detail how to lower the weight. Finally, I have answered some frequently asked questions and a take home message.
So, let’s dive in into deadlift descent!
What Is the Difference?
There seems to be some confusion in the health and fitness realm, as to what is the proper way of bringing a barbell down after performing a deadlift. To answer this question, we need to highlight the benefits of both dropping the weight fast and lowering it slowly.
Assuming you understand how to set the deadlift up, during the concentric phase you would press against the ground from the midfoot. Then, extend at the knees and hips, and then retract the scapula (pin the shoulder blades back). In fact, this movement would induce muscle stimulation in the calves, quadriceps, glutes, and middle portion of the back (1).
Furthermore, dropping the bar will terminate any tension on these muscles. Whereas, slowly lowering the bar would keep the tension on.
So, without giving away too much, dropping the bar gives you the leeway to maximize deadlift strength, whilst lowering it slowly may aid glute muscle growth (1) .
Sounds Interesting right? Well stay tuned so I can explain with greater detail.
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Deadlift Descent: What’s Better for YOU?
Favoring one method over the other, depends entirely on your goals. That is, whether you want to focus on building more strength or muscle.
Dropping the Bar
In fact, dropping the bar allows you to concentrate all of your energy on the upwards phase of the deadlift. So, this enables you to take advantage of higher intensities.
Furthermore, it allows you to strengthen the kinetic chain of triple extension(angle, knee and hip) (2). In simple words, you may be able to get stronger by deadlifting with ‘heavy weights’ and dropping the barbell faster.
Let’s say that you’re attempting to hit your 5RM deadlift with the training session being focused around strength.
Lowering the weight slowly, would fatigue the muscle, drain your energy, and hinder the following reps.
These higher intensities with slow eccentrics, also come with an element of lower back injury risk. In fact, this is if appropriate form isn’t observed. Maintaining such form can become difficult as fatigue starts to set in.
I would certainly recommend dropping the barbell for competitive powerlifters of all levels, as it is sport specific and legal in powerlifting meets.
Just look at the way Ruono Heinla breaks the over 40s world deadlifting record of 1049 lbs (3). As you can see, the focus was solely on bringing the weight up. Which was followed by one of the world’s biggest deadlift drops.
Lowering the Bar Slowly
To lower the weight slowly you would have to hinge the hips back, bend at the knees and then place the barbell back onto the ground.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but engaging the flexor muscles via the slow lowering methods becomes squat-esque, especially if you don’t set the barbell back to the ground before starting the next rep.
For this reason, it could target the glutes to a greater extent compared to dropping the bar fast.
If you observe the slow lowering method, I would suggest moderate intensities and moderate reps, i.e.,12 reps x 300 lb = @70% intensity.
Deadlift Intensity and Lowering the Bar
Based on my opinion, an example where an average ‘gym goer’ in the pursuit of strength and muscle gains you may want to employ different lowering speeds within the following intensities.
Fast Deadlift Drop
- 1 x 308 lbs = @100% intensity
- 2 x 292 lbs = @95% intensity
- 3 x 286 lbs = @93% intensity
- 4 x 275 lbs = @90% intensity
- 5 x 270 lbs = @87% intensity
- 6 x 264 lb = @85% intensity
Controlled Negative Deadlift
- 7 x 253 lb = @83% intensity
- 8 x 242 lb = @80% intensity
- 9 x 236 lb = @77% intensity
- 10 x 231 lbs = @75% intensity
- 11 x 225 lb = @73% intensity
- 12 x 214 lb = @70% intensity
How to Lower the Weight When Deadlifting?
1. Dropping the Bar
If you are performing your 1RM, simply let go of the weight, ensuring the bar does not come into contact with any part of your body. This can be very noisy, so it isn’t ideal in commercial gyms.
As you need to perform more than 1 rep, you would drop down in the reverse motion of the upwards phase, ensuring that your core is braced.
2. Lowering the Bar Slowly
Deadlift controlled negatives are a little more complex than just dropping the weight, so I’ve put together a 4 step ‘How to’ guide.
STEP 1: At the top of the deadlift movement, take a deep breath. Continue to brace the core.
STEP 2: Hinge the hips backward. Slowly bend at the knees while lowering the bar (1 second).
STEP 3: Balance all of your weight onto the heel of the foot. Lower the bar past the mid-thigh position (1 second).
STEP 4: Gently place the weight back onto the ground. Now prepare for the next rep, if applicable (1 second).
So, what can we conclude about deadlift descent?
All in all, both lowering methods have their own benefits. Dropping the bar fast may allow you to build deadlift strength by ramping up the intensity and focusing on the upwards motion.
Whereas lowering it slowly may focus more on muscle growth from keeping tension for longer and focusing on the flexor muscle groups.
For bodybuilders and ‘gym goers’ trying to get stronger and more muscular, both lowering methods can be periodized.
However, for competitive powerlifters, I’d suggest sticking to dropping the weight fast, then work on barbell squats separately for hip flexor/glute strength.
Remember, if you decide to use the slower lowering method, you are better off choosing to moderate intensities (weight) to maintain good form to prevent spinal loading and the risk of injury.
So, that’s all you need to know about deadlift descent!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Lowering the bar slowly after performing the deadlift may target the glute muscles for growth, especially if you work within moderate intensities and rep ranges. Another benefit is that it may build eccentric strength, which is normally neglected if you drop the bar.
Without a shadow of a doubt, dropping the bar is better for powerlifters. I would only suggest strengthening the actual deadlift. This is because powerlifters are only judged for deadlifting the weight up, which is either given pass or fail. Rationally, there really is no need to be obsessing about lowering the weight with a slow eccentric.
It can be! A lot of the time you will find that heavy deadlifting can become very energy draining. It can hinder the form of the slow lowering phase. If proper hip flexion is not achieved there is an increased risk of spinal loading and lower back injury. Hence why I only suggest slow eccentric deadlifts with moderate or even low intensities.
- Martin-Fuentez, I., Oliva, J.M., Muyer, J.M. ‘Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review’ PLoS. 2020; 15(2):e0229407
- Shiba, J., Kuramochi, R., Tolutake, G., et al. ‘Comparison of the effects of deadlift versus back squat on jumping, acceleration, and change of direction’ Isokinetic And Exercise Science. 2022;pre-press: 1–9
- Lifters Club (2022) ’40 Year Old Lifter Won The World Deadlift Championship 2022′ Available at: https://youtu.be/349Qg0ChQbE (Accessed: 5/12/2022)