How Much Do You Need to Deadlift to Be Competitive Against the Best?

November 7, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Ava Kitzi
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Remember a decade ago when 300 pounds was a big deadlift for CrossFit women, and when team athlete Sam Dancer was in a league of his own when he deadlifted over 600 pounds at the CrossFit Games?

It’s 2023 now, and deadlift events start at 300-plus pounds for women, and if you’re a man, well, if you’re not knocking on the 600-pound door, you’re not going to factor in at an elite-level CrossFit competition.

At least, that’s what the one rep max event at last week’s Rogue Invitational in Austin, TX told us.

The Dirty Deadlift Details

The women: Half the field at the Rogue Invitational—10 of 20 athletes—hit 375 pounds or heavier, while 70 percent of the field listed at least 355 pounds in the event that was won by Alex Gazan at 425 pounds.

Putting this in perspective, let’s compare this to the 2018 CrossFit Games, where the athletes did a one-rep max deadlift during the CrossFit Total event. 

  • That year, 11 athletes—28 percent of the field—hit the 375-pound milestone, while 21 athletes—53 percent of the field—hit the 350-pound mark during the CrossFit Total event. Meanwhile, Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr and Brooke Wells both hit the heaviest lift at 415 pounds.
  • And in 2016: Only six athletes—15 percent of the field—hit at least 375 pounds, while 32 percent of the field hit the 350-pound milestone during the Deadlift Ladder at the CrossFit Games. 

The men: Sixty-three percent of the field—12 out of 19 athletes—hit at least 545 pounds, 79 percent of the field lifted at least 525 pounds, and Chandler Smith topped the event at 610 pounds at last weekend’s Rogue Invitational (his winning lift was 605, but he went for a PR at 610 as well).

  • At the 2018 CrossFit Games: Ten out of 39 athletes—25 percent of the field—lifted at least 545 pounds, while 43 percent of the field lifted at least 525 pounds. The heaviest deadlift was put up by Pat Vellner at 595 pounds.
  • At the 2016 CrossFit Games: Eight athletes—20 percent of the field—hit the 545-pound threshold, while 40 percent lifted 525 pounds or more. 

Noteworthy Individual Improvements: Not only has the field as a whole advanced its deadlift game in a big way each year but so too have some of the individuals who competed at the Rogue Invitational last weekend. Three noteworthy improvements include:

  • Travis Mayer: 575 pounds at Rogue, compared to 525 in 2016.
  • Pat Vellner: 595 pounds at Rogue and in 2018, compared to 525 in 2016.
  • Brent Fikowki: 515 pounds at Rogue compared to 485 in 2016.

The big picture: Making strength gains can be slow and requires serious patience even when you’re 100 percent committed to the cause. So the fact that experienced elite CrossFit athletes, who are simultaneously trying to improve their endurance, speed, power and gymnastics ability, can still see such big gains speaks to the power of CrossFit.

And if you want to keep up with them in 2023, 375 pounds is the new 300 as a woman. And if you’re a man, it’s not out of the question that you should be working to join the 600-pound club.

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