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On a 1800 calorie cut, deadlift is failing, what do?

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Hi guys, starting this year I went on my second cut ever, a 1800 calorie cut after 8 months of eating whatever, a crash diet that undid 2 weeks of progress and then 4 months of bulking with about 25% body fat. I began this second cut on New Year thinking about doing a careful, controlled cut and so far I've lost 1.5 kg, at an average rate of half a kilogram per week. I currently weigh 85.5 kg (measure taking every morning after evacuating).


Now, starting this year my deadlift/squat/bench/OHP were at 285/225/135/105 pounds, and for the first half of the month I managed to make some progress and managed to add 30 lb to deadlift, 20 to squat and bench, and 10 to my OHP. My reps of course suffered at first, but I use rep-driven progression (where you alternate between adding weight and adding reps) and I might be ready to add another 10 lb to my squat and bench.


However... the last time I deadlifted I could do three reps of 315 and one of 295, but today I could only pull 315 twice, with not one but two reps of 295 with a total of 4 reps.


Running through my recent developments I'm thinking about the following:

  1. I deadlift 315 because right after reaching 285 I got impatient for reaching the coveted 3 plate deadlift milestone and suddenly added 20 lb, then I added another 10 on my next deadlift day. Maybe I cranked up the weight too suddenly and now I have to deload?
  2. I'm on a cut, which obviously means my lifts are going to suffer, but so far I've been able to make some gains on 1800 calories. My practical knowledge says I should eat more and I don't want to lose strength and muscle mass, but I'm afraid of botching my cut if I eat more. Is it time to bulk again? Will eating at maintenance keep the gains rolling in?
  3. I'm very careful with not failing a bench or squat rep because failing a rep on these exercises will generate a lot of shameful attention towards myself. This doesn't happens with OHP and deadlift (if you fail an OHP you just put the bar back on the squat rack, if you fail a deadlift the bar just won't budge) and as a result I tend to push myself extremely hard on these lifts. Maybe I should deload a bit or do some drop sets?

My routine is AxBxAxxB... with squats 3x5, OHP 3x5 and Pendlay rows 3x5 on day A, and squats 3x5@75% working weight, deadlift 1x5 and bench 3x5 on day B. Before reaching working weight I warm up with one set of 50% and another set of 75%. (Basically, Madcow's exercises with Rippetoe's 3x5 reps).


(Just to clarify: I mix kilograms for body weight with pounds for lifted weight, because in Mexico we use American weights measured in pounds).

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Pick what you care about most. If you want to cut weight then ignore the weight on the bar and deload as needed to keep your reps. If you want to get stronger then drop the cut and get back to eating enough to support your goals. You are at a point where you aren't going to get stronger in the deadlift without eating like you mean it for both recovery and hypertrophy.

My training log




Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (USS), April 16th Contest report


Hudson Valley Strongman presents Lift for Autism (NAS), April 18th Contest report

Eighth Annual Vis Vires Outdoor Strongman Competition (Unsanctioned), August 1st Contest report


"What's the difference between an injury that you train around and an injury that you train through?"

"A trip to the hospital"

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Deadlifts are the most difficult lift in terms of recovery and you are hindering your recovery by cutting. So, it's perfectly normal what is happening. If you really want to cut, then I would switch to an intermediate program of some sort that aims at progress on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. My own program is a bi-weekly progression scheme that has a volume week followed by intensity week over a 4-day split. It looks a lot like Texas Method stretched over two weeks. That's just one example, but I would try to do something intermediate. Slow down your progress and you might just avoid moving backwards.

The iron never lies.


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As a general rule, I wouldn't put too much stock into a single training session.  Wait until there is an observable trend.

Long Term Goals:                                                                                                              



200# 245# Snatch                                                                                                             

300# Clean and Jerk                                                                                                         

380# 465# Back Squat

450# 500# Deadlift


Human Flag

Front Lever

285# Log Clean and Press

1k Row under 3:20

Back Flip

Bodyweight Turkish Get-up


For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

Never compromise.

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Lotta good advice here, but when I recently switched to a cut I went to 5x3 on everything that's detailed in this thread.


Like you, I saw DL as the first to go so I switched from a 5rm to a 2x3 for DL to keep volume up, but still keep the weight on the bar. I was at 275x5 at the end of my bulk and my last pull was 295x3. So the weight is still right where it needs to be. I wouldn't plan on huge gains when on a cut but I might think about getting away from the 5 rep range and keep the intensity up towards a 3rm. You should theoretically be able to put weight on the bar if you drop weight.


Also I was stalled at 100 for my OHP for reps, and last time I was in the gym I pushed 110 for 3x3 and that was encouraging. Just food for thought. But also as Why Not? said...don't let one crappy training session derail you. You might come back just fine.

"I've torn a hamstring tendon and re-injured my knee, lower back, and upper back while doing yoga. Don't get me started on shin splints. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't, so might as well be strong." - Some guy on the SS forums.

"Heavy is dangerous, but light is no fun." - Mark Rippetoe

"Squats are a good assistance to bring up your curl, as a bonus you can do your squats while your are still in the curl rack." - SJB


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I was thinking the same thing as Why not? A single training session isn't evidence of much of anything. 


That said, your progress is probably going to stall out while you cut. That's just the unfortunate trade off, but it's not permanent. Lose what you want to lose for this cut, then cycle back to focusing on gains. Consider taking advantage of this time by really focusing on form and technique, trying a new movement variation, etc. 

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