Why CrossFit Loves the Deadlift + 7 Best Workout WODs

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CrossFit Deadlift Workout – Introduction

What are the best CrossFit deadlift workout WODs for beginners?

CrossFit loves the deadlift for good reason.

Deadlifts are arguably one of the best exercises you can do for your body.

They’re so effective that the US Army uses deadlifts as their primary combat fitness strength standard, and centuries ago, Victorian physical culturists used to call them the health lift.

It turns out that bending down and picking up something heavy is REALLY good for you!

The barbell deadlift is the last discipline contested in powerlifting meets, and bodybuilders do deadlifts to beef up their glutes, hamstrings, and backs.

It also features in strongman competitions, although the athletes are just as likely to lift a car as they are a more recognizable barbell.

But, it’s not just powerlifters, strongman competitors, and bodybuilders that love the deadlift.

It’s an integral part of CrossFit too.

CrossFit is a multi-disciplined training system designed to create the highest possible level of all-around fitness.

It’s also a competitive sport.

CrossFit athletes train to develop high levels of cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, explosive power, and brute strength.

Most CrossFit workouts are against the clock, which is where informal and formal competition comes in.

The CrossFit Games is one of the most widely viewed sports events, and some of the athletes are professional CrossFitters.

The deadlift is a common feature of many CrossFit workouts, called WODs, which is short for Workout Of the Day.

So, in this article, we’re going to take a look at why CrossFitters love the deadlift and reveal some of the best CrossFit deadlift workouts.

Why CrossFit Loves the Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the fundamental exercises that all CrossFitters need to master.


Because it’s such a beneficial exercise!

These are just some of the reasons that CrossFit loves the barbell deadlift.

Master the hip hinge

The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that many people find difficult.

A hip hinge involves bending forward from the hips without rounding your lower back.

A rounded lower back is a weak lower back, so knowing how to hip hinge is crucial for avoiding back pain.

The hip hinge is an integral part of many CrossFit exercises, and the deadlift provides a convenient and safe way to learn how to do it.

A precursor for swings, cleans, snatches

Many of the exercises in CrossFit start with a deadlift or deadlift-type movement.

This includes kettlebell swings, Olympic cleans, and snatches.

If you can’t deadlift correctly, you won’t be able to do these exercises correctly, either.

Because of this, if you want to progress to more complex CrossFit WODs, mastery of the deadlift is all but compulsory.

In fact, the deadlift is one of the nine foundational movements in CrossFit that every CrossFitter has to know:

  1. Air Squat
  2. Front Squat
  3. Overhead Squat
  4. Shoulder Press
  5. Push Press
  6. Push Jerk
  7. Deadlift
  8. Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  9. Medicine Ball Clean

Get strong

Strength is one of the fitness components that CrossFitters train to develop.

Strength is your ability to generate maximum force.

Real strength means using your whole body to overcome an external load, such as lifting a heavy object off the floor, and that’s where the deadlift comes in.

At its core, the deadlift is simply an efficient and safe way to lift a heavy object.

It teaches you to use your legs and back simultaneously so you can produce the greatest amount of force.

Deadlifts build real-world strength that is highly transferable.

For example, if you can deadlift a heavy barbell, you probably also be able to lift and carry an injured comrade.

That’s why a) deadlifts are a big part of CrossFit and b) CrossFit is so popular with the military and emergency services.

A versatile exercise

CrossFit workouts are very varied.

The whole idea is to expose your body to a wide range of training scenarios to develop all-around fitness.

After a few months of CrossFit training, you’ll be fit for almost any physical challenge that comes your way, even if it’s something you’ve never encountered before.

Deadlifts are a very versatile exercise and can be programmed in lots of different ways to elicit a wide range of effects.

For example, very heavy deadlifts for low reps build pure strength, while deadlifts done with moderate weights for medium reps build muscle size and endurance.

High rep lightweight deadlifts are an excellent way to build muscular endurance and general fitness.

As such, when it comes to deadlifts, CrossFitters don’t just do the old standard of five sets with five reps with a heavy weight.

Instead, they use various loads and set/rep schemes to challenge their muscles in lots of different ways.

The 7 Best CrossFit Deadlift Workout WODs

Now you know why CrossFit has so much love for the deadlift, let’s take a look at some of the most popular and effective CrossFit deadlift workouts.

Some of these workouts are very deadlift-centric, while others combine deadlifts with several different exercises.

It all depends on the purpose of the workout.

Where weights are prescribed, e.g., 225 lbs., please adjust the load to suit your current abilities.

CrossFitters call this scaling.

You may also want to scale the reps or number of sets/laps if you are new to this type of exercise.

It may also be necessary to make exercise substitutions if you are unable to do the prescribed movements.

For example, if you can’t do handstand push-ups, you could do regular push-ups instead as there is no convenient way to make handstand push-ups easier.

Finally, never sacrifice good form for more weight on the bar or doing more reps.

The deadlift is one of the most productive exercises you can do, but it can also be destructive when performed incorrectly.

Poorly performed deadlifts can cause serious back injuries.

#1. Donny

Like a lot of CrossFit WODs, this workout is named after military and emergency service personnel who lost their lives on active duty.

In this case, it’s U.S. Army Specialist Donald L. Nichols, who died while serving in Afghanistan.

Donny is a short, intense workout consisting of a couplet (two exercises) done back to back for descending and then ascending reps.

The aim of the workout is to complete all the reps as fast as you can.

Do 21, 15, 9, 9, 15, 21 reps for time – consisting of:

  1. Deadlifts (225lbs for men, 155lbs for women)
  2. Burpees

#2. Diane

In the early days of CrossFit (nearly 20 years ago!), many WODs were named after girls.

In fact, the original CrossFit girl workouts have remained virtually unchanged since their inception and are benchmarks that CrossFitters use to measure their progress.

Diane is another short but intense couplet workout designed to develop strength endurance, and fitness.

Do 21, 15, 9 reps for time of:

  1. Deadlifts (225lbs for men, 155lbs for women)
  2. Handstand push-ups

#3. The CrossFit Total

The CrossFit Total is both a workout and a way to measure your strength.

It’s CrossFit’s equivalent to powerlifting (squat, bench press, deadlift).

After a warm-up, you get three attempts at each lift to determine your one-repetition maximum, or 1RM for short.

Take 3-5 minutes between attempts and only count successful lifts.

Then, add up your best lifts to get your CrossFit Total score.

Try to beat it the next time you do this workout.

The three exercises are:

  1. Squat
  2. Overhead shoulder press
  3. Deadlift

#4. Roy

Roy is another “hero” workout.

This WOD is a simple five-lap circuit against the clock.

However, simple doesn’t mean easy, and Roy is a very challenging WOD, so feel free to scale it down if necessary.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do all 25 pull-ups in a single set, so take rests as and when needed.

But you can only move on to the next exercise once you’ve done all the prescribed reps.

Do five rounds for time of:

  • 15 Deadlifts (225lbs men/155lbs women)
  • 20 Box Jumps (24” men/20” women)
  • 25 Pull-Ups

#5. Rankel

This CrossFit WOD involves a predetermined timeframe during which you must try to do as many laps as you can of a four-exercise circuit.

In many ways, these are the best type of workouts for CrossFit novices as you get to set your own pace.

Just go as fast as you can, and then try to go faster next time.

Complete as many rounds/reps as possible in 20 minutes:

  1. 6 Deadlifts (225lbs men/155lbs women)
  2. 7 Burpee pull-ups
  3. 10 Kettlebell swings (24kg for men/16kg for women)
  4. Run 200 meters (approximately two football fields – 218 yards)

#6. Jeffrey Palazzo or Death by Deadlifts

This is one of the few deadlift-only CrossFit WODs.

So, if you are looking for a short but intense CrossFit deadlift workout, this one’s an excellent choice.

It’s pretty simple too, although, as you know, that doesn’t mean it’s easy!

Load up your barbell with 60% of your 1RM and do one set every minute on the minute (or EMOM for short).

Perform one rep for the first minute, two reps for the second minute, three reps for the third minute, etc.

Continue until you cannot complete the required number of repetitions for the given minute.

#7. Dennis O’Berg

Your final CrossFit deadlift WOD is another EMOM workout.

However, instead of doing just one exercise, you’re going to alternate between two different movements.

This provides a mental and physical break which should allow you to maintain a higher work rate.

EMOM for 14 minutes

Odd Minutes:

15 Kettlebell Swings (24kg for men/16kg for women)

Even Minutes:

10 Deadlifts (225lbs men/155lbs women)

CrossFit Deadlift Workout WODs – Wrapping Up

While there is nothing wrong with doing deadlifts as part of a powerlifting, bodybuilding, or general strength training workout, you don’t have to limit yourself to that type of program if you don’t want to.

With CrossFit deadlift workouts, you can use this fantastic exercise to build strength, improve your fitness, and burn fat, too.

However, it’s important to stress that CrossFit deadlift WODs can be immensely challenging and should not be taken lightly.

There is a big difference between doing a few sets of 8-12 reps with a leisurely two-minute break between each one and doing 21, 15, 9 reps against the clock!

That said, if you are looking for a fun way to add some extra variety to your training, any of these CrossFit deadlift workouts should provide you with the challenge you’ve been looking for.

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