9 CrossFit Deadlift WODs That Will Break You

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: April 30, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Any time I've joined a CrossFit session at my friend Ben's gym, I'm always impressed with the combinations he comes up with for a CrossFit deadlift workout.

It's one of those workouts that, when done the right way, can transform your body.

But Ben, who is a CrossFit coach, told me that so many people get the combinations wrong and end up focusing way too much on just doing lower body exercises with squats and leg extensions.

To help you better understand how best to plan a deadlift workout, Ben gave me his nine favorite combos.

Quick Summary

  • The nine CrossFit deadlift workouts designed to be challenging are "The Basic Routine," "The Fat Burner," "The Magnificent Seven," "Death By Deadlift," "Timed Deadlifts," "The Widow Maker," "The Tillman Routine," "The Fast AMRAP," and "The Rollercoaster."
  • These workouts cater to varying skill levels, offering a spectrum from beginner-friendly exercises to more intense challenges, tailored to enhance strength and endurance.
  • According to the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, proper CrossFit training aids in developing muscle memory and helps prevent common back injuries.
  • In my view, these workouts effectively combine intensity with variety, offering a well-rounded approach to improving fitness and deadlift skills.

9 CrossFit Deadlift Workouts To Bring On The Burn

Doing a deadlift with a barbell

Here are the nine deadlift workouts that Ben uses on a rotating basis for athletes of different skill levels.

1 - The "Basic" Routine

In my early coaching days, I found this 'Basic' Routine ideal for beginners. It's simple with just three exercises.

The goal is 5 rounds for time, but don't worry if you can't complete the full rounds/reps on your first attempt.

  • 15 deadlifts
  • 25 pull-ups
  • 25 box jumps

2 - The Fat Burner

In my training sessions, 'The Fat Burner' effectively keeps the heart rate up. I've seen many clients thrive by monitoring their heart rates during this workout.

The idea here is to do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes.

  • 15 deadlifts
  • 12 kettlebell swings
  • 12 Burpees
  • 200-meter sprint

3 - The Magnificent Seven

Yes, I love old Western movies, but this is one deadlift workout where the last thing you'll be thinking about is a movie.

Having coached 'The Magnificent Seven', I've observed it's key to track weight and time across the 7 rounds for optimal progress.

  • 7 deadlifts
  • 7 kettlebell swings
  • 7 weighted pull-ups
  • 7 spiderman planks
  • 7 thrusters
  • 7 deadlifts
  • 7 box jumps

4 - Death By Deadlift

Woman doing a deadlift

From my coaching experience, 'Death By Deadlift' starts by finding your max deadlift weight.

That's the amount you can handle to finish one full movement. From there, you reduce the weight to 60% of the maximum.

You then set a repeating 1-minute timer, and in the first minute, you complete one rep, the second minute 2 reps, etc. You keep going until you can't finish the goal for that minute.

Yes, this workout gets faster and faster, and most people will struggle to get close to 10 minutes.

  • 1 deadlift in the first 1st minute
  • 2 deadlifts in the 2nd minute
  • 3 deadlifts in the 3rd minute
  • etc.

Also Read: How to Perform Dumbbell Deadlifts

5 - Timed Deadlifts

In 'Timed Deadlifts', a workout I often recommend, choose a weight to collectively lift 20,000 pounds as quickly as possible.

  • 20,000 lb lifted in the shortest space of time

6 - The Widow Maker

In my sessions, 'The Widow Maker' has always been about pushing limits with AMRAP, increasing weights and box jumps.

It's a challenging yet rewarding part of our routine.

  • 10 deadlifts (50% maximum)
  • 15 box jumps (15 reps)
  • 10 deadlifts (55% maximum)
  • 15 box jumps (18 reps)
  • 10 deadlifts (60% maximum)
  • 15 box jumps (21 reps)
  • 10 deadlifts (65% maximum)
  • 15 box jumps (24 reps)
  • 10 deadlifts (70% maximum)
  • 15 box jumps (27 reps)

7 - The Tillman Routine

Drawing from my experience, 'The Tillman Routine' honors Pat Tillman's legacy and challenges athletes at every level.

Repeat 7 rounds of these workouts.

  • 8 deadlifts
  • 200-meter sprint
  • 15 weighted pull-ups
  • 30-second rest

8 - The Fast AMRAP

From my coaching, 'The Fast AMRAP' is about maximizing effort in 20 minutes, a tactic I've found effective for building endurance.

  • 10 chest to bar pull-ups
  • 6 deadlifts
  • 8 burpees

9 - The Rollercoaster

In my experience, 'The Rollercoaster' is intense, with many unable to complete it initially. It's a real test of endurance and resilience.

You start with a higher rep count and slow things down. Then speed it up again like a rollercoaster.

  • 13-9-6-6-9-13 Deadlifts
  • 20-18-15-15-18-20 Burpees

How Many Deadlift Exercises Should You Do In Every CrossFit Session?

Side by side image of a man preparing for a deadlift

A typical CrossFit workout that includes a deadlift routine will cover at least 5 rounds with a short rest between rounds. But how many repetitions you do will very much depend on your goals. You could have a WOD with 9 reps for time and another WOD where you gradually increase the repetitions.

Before embarking on your deadlift routine, it's crucial to engage in dynamic stretching and foam rolling, as these warm-up exercises significantly reduce the risk of injury and adequately prepare your muscles for the intense workout ahead.

Here are some general tips and guidelines.

Skip Days

You don't want to do or need to do a deadlift workout every day. You'll probably find that it causes back strain, and you'll have better muscle responses by giving your back and core a regular rest.

Gradually Build Up Your Skill

From my personal and coaching experience, I emphasize building core strength to support good form before intensifying your deadlift workouts. Don't go for full power from the get-go, but rather get used to the movements.

It's essential to progressively increase your deadlift weights for continual improvement, while being mindful of common pitfalls such as rounding the back or overlooking the need for adequate recovery, ensuring a safe and effective strength-building journey.

Be Careful With Speed

Going for fast repetitions is common in CrossFit workouts, but you have to get the movements perfect [1]. Work with your coach, and don't do this every day to allow for adequate muscle recovery.

What Are The Benefits Of CrossFit Deadlifts?

Man holding a barbell to do deadlift workout

Deadlifts feature high on the workout plans I create for clients, and the approach that CrossFit takes to the traditional deadlift can bring you some additional benefits.

Effectiveness

When you are doing a certain number of reps for time, which is common for a CrossFit workout, you constantly push yourself to improve the number of repetitions.

This is a great way to build up strength in the body and tone the lower back.

I also like the way that some of the above workouts force you to adjust the speed of the movement. This changes the time under tension, and that can transform your body composition, according to the Mens Journal [2].

"Time under tension (or TUT for short) is commonly used in strength and conditioning and bodybuilding. Essentially, it refers to how long a muscle is under strain during a set. A typical set of 10 reps for an average lifter will take anywhere from 15-25 seconds, depending on lifting speed. By putting a muscle under longer bouts of strain, you can cause extensive muscle breakdown leading to sleeve-busting muscles."

- Jeremey DuVall, M.S., C.P.T., MensJournal.com

Variety

A typical deadlift workout is pretty straightforward. But I like the fact that CrossFit brings variety into it by changing the workout strategy a bit.

As you can see above, there is a mix of increasing repetitions per round, or increasing weights per round, or maximizing the rounds for time.

That's a clever way to change how the body reacts to the movement, and it makes every deadlift workout more interesting and fun.

High Intensity

Every CrossFit WOD is designed to make you break into a sweat as fast as possible. And that intensity for burpees, pull-ups, push-ups, and deadlifts pays off very quickly.

Most newcomers will notice that they make a lot of quick progress in the first few months, allowing them to power through each workout.

Are There Downsides To CrossFit Deadlifts?

Getting ready for deadlift

Rapid progression to advanced CrossFit deadlift techniques can be risky, especially for beginners.

The key is to build strength and fitness gradually, as accelerating pace or intensity too quickly may increase injury risk.

It's advisable for beginners to focus on perfecting posture and alignment under the guidance of a coach, initially practicing with just a barbell without plates.

It gives you a chance to gain some muscle memory and avoid some common backaches, according to the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine [3].

Related article:


References:

  1. https://www.livestrong.com/article/497414-back-injuries-from-deadlifts/
  2. https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/gain-big-with-time-under-tension-training
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6201188/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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