While there are an infinite number of minute differences in programming from person to person, something I wanted to touch on is the most common difference I see in deadlift programming. In my experience, deadlifts seem to be the most drastically different person to person. Fairly universally, people tend to respond better to lower comparative intensities and volume on deadlifts than for squats and bench press. But within that I have found some major differences, and to get more precise, I find people fit into 1 of 3 categories when it comes to deadlifts.
1.) There is the average person that responds to middle of the road deadlift programming. Which for my programming style would be somewhere around twice a week frequency, one main day and one variation day, at reasonable volumes and relative intensities ranging from 4-8 RPE in the 70-85% range, with most of the work being done in the 5-7 RPE range. I’d say 70% fall into this category. The other 30% are complete opposites though.
2.) 20% will require extremely low intensities, doing most of the work in the 2-5 RPE range around 65-75% while handling fairly high volumes of work. They can handle the volume, they just can’t handle the intensity. You might ask, “Why not just decrease the volume and increase the intensity then?”, but for these people it doesn’t work like that. Any high relative or absolute intensity works just seems to beat them down. I fall into this category myself as well as one of my athletes Joe. Give us one week of heavy deadlift work, and the following week our 1RM goes down 40-50lbs., no exaggeration.
3.) The final 10% are the exact opposite. They get immediately beat down by any type of higher deadlift volumes, but give them a bunch of singles and doubles and they feel great. While I don’t have a great idea of the lifter prototype that fits into numbers 1 and 2, number 3 is typically short arm lifters who have to go through a significant range of motion. Which that makes sense. When you track total work completed, the true calculation would also include distance traveled, so a set of 5 for a short arm lifter is in reality more volume than for a long arm lifter due to more distance traveled.
So what I hope this information helps you with is if your deadlift is stalled and you are not sure why, take a look at your programming and possibly see if you may fall into a different category than you think. I can say in my experience I have never had someone with deadlift respond to high volume and high intensity, so most likely you are going to be in 1 of these 3 categories.