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9 CrossFit Deadlift WODs That Will Break You

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Last updated: September 20, 2022

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 traditional deadlift workout is a key part of CrossFit and will be part of many sessions that focus on the lower body and core. 
  • Getting the deadlift movement right takes some practice to avoid back injuries. 
  • It's also important to pair the deadlift with other workouts like burpees that will challenge your core and upper body to push yourself to the limits.

9 CrossFit Deadlifts 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

This is a great deadlift workout for beginners as you only need to learn three different 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

This deadlift workout is all about keeping your heart rate up in the fat-burning zone. Yes, ideally, you'll have a heart rate monitor to confirm this.

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.

Your aim is to do 7 rounds for time, where you want to keep track of the weight and final time.

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

4 - Death By Deadlift

Man struggling to lift a heavy weights

For this exercise, you need first to establish what your maximum deadlift weight is as a benchmark.

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.

5 - Timed Deadlifts

For this CrossFit workout, you pick a weight and then multiply it to get to 20,000 pounds. You then complete that number of deadlifts in as fast a time as possible.

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

6 - The Widow Maker

The aim here is to do AMRAP with increasing max weight and number of box jumps.

  • 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

This is a workout named after the NFL player Pat Tillman, and if it was good enough for him, then it should be good enough for you.

Repeat 7 rounds of these workouts.

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

8 - The Fast AMRAP

Set yourself a time limit and aim to do as much as possible in 20 minutes.

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

9 - The Rollercoaster

This can be the ultimate WOD, and most people will collapse halfway. 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.

But 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

Build up some core strength to support good form before you start filling a WOD with loads of deadlift workouts. Don't go for full power from the get-go, but rather get used to the movements.

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 [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

The one thing I would say is that the CrossFit deadlift might be risky if you try to progress too fast to the advanced methods.

For a beginner, it can be challenging enough from a strength and fitness perspective to do a deadlift exercise at a standard pace.

Suddenly switching to speeding up the exercise or training at higher intensity could lead to multiple types of injuries.

That's why I would recommend spending a lot of time with a coach to get your posture and alignment perfect by practicing just with a barbell and no plates.

It gives you a chance to gain some muscle memory and avoid some common backaches [3].

Related article:

Are You Ready To Try Out Some Competition-Style Deadlift Workouts?

I mentioned above that you shouldn't consider doing these WODs more than twice a week.

But when you do introduce them on a regular basis, you can make quite a substantial difference to your body.

Just make sure you spend enough time with your coach to make sure you get your posture and body alignment right so that you avoid injuries that could set you a long way back on your fitness goals.


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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