Deadlift: Plateaus and PRs

In honor of the New Year, today we are talking goals, namely the ups and downs of reaching them. And although this can really apply to any lofty goal you have, today I’m talking about one specific goal that I have been working towards for a long time and have made some progress that has me very excited– a couple of weeks ago now I hit a new PR for my deadlift.

I’m talking a PR of a lift that I set 2 years ago. 2 YEARS ago!!


Long story short, the progress of my deadlift career has looked like the Rocky Mountains. I’ve been up, down, and everywhere in between over the past couple of years. Multiple ankle injuries, a pretty significant concussion, and months away from the weight room during the summers have meant that sure, I did hit a few PRs along the way. But I also have hit many plateaus, and some pretty deep valleys as well.

Steph Deadlift

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, first of all because I’m so excited about my new PR and my future goals, but also because I want you all to see that lifting isn’t necessarily linear. Life gets in the way, things get busy, stress takes its toll, and injuries happen. All of these things and more can stall your progress, and you can’t really let those little valleys get you down too much. Because if you work hard and stay dedicated, you will reach another peak, and this one may be bigger than the last.

So let’s break down how my DL has looked over the past 2 years or so:

  • November 2012 – Ankle Injury – Out of lifting for 2-3 months. Prior to this I had been pulling at about 165 lb but had not maxed out.
  • February 2013 – No heavy deadlifting for 1 month due to severe finger injury leading to no grip. Remember the immersion blender incident? Just got back into lifting and then…
  • Surprise! March 2013 DL PR – 185 lb. I had still been doing a lot of lifting while injured, just anything that didn’t require good grip — back loaded barbell work and such, thus the maintenance of strength during this time. And then of course…
  • June 2013 – Ankle Injury #2. Out of heavy lifting for 2-3 months.
  • December 2013 DL PR – 230 lb. This year was the first time I had been really serious about deadlifting, which is why you see such a drastic increase in PR between March and December, despite the injury. DL during this time was the one lift I could still do with my ankle, as long as the load wasn’t too heavy in the early days. Looking back, my max in March was probably a good deal higher than 185, but I was honestly scared to lift more at that time.
  • February 2014 DL PR – 235 lb. Another 5 lb increase, but I remember that this was not comfortable, and I didn’t hit that number again for a while.
  • During this time, early 2014, wedding planning was in full force. Wedding in July 2014, and after that PR in February, I didn’t push for heavy weight leading up to the big day.
  • August 2014 – Falmouth Road Race (7 mile race). I had spent most of the summer training for this, and had hardly been doing any heavy lifting at all. Hoping to get back into the weight room full force and then…
  • September 2014. Concussion. Out of lifting for 2-3 months. Resume lighter lifting in December.
  • January 2015- Max out. 215 lb. This was really a test to see where I was at, and it wasn’t great but considering the circumstances, I was pretty happy with this number!
  • Summer 2015 off of lifting, due to being away from my gym and moving further away as well. Spent a lot of time outside, working with kettle bells, ropes, and running.
  • Start heavy lifting again September 2015. 175 Feels very heavy at this point. I was frustrated with how far I had backtracked, but not surprised seeing how little I had been in the weight room throughout the summer.
  • December 2015 – Max out. 240 lb. NEW PR


So, as you can see by this very inconsistent timeline, my lifting progress has been anything BUT linear. I’ve gone up, down, and have hit everything in between, and I’m not just talking about the numbers here. My mental connection and and dedication to lifting have been all over the map too. The several injuries noted here really caused my lifting (and general fitness) to take a hit, which was a difficult thing for me to deal with on many levels. Lifting/Fitness is my mode of stress relief, and without it, I was quite lost there for several months over the past couple of years.

But for this post, I guess that’s really neither here nor there. What really matters here is that every time I got (sometimes literally) knocked down, I was able to slowly but surely claw my way back up to where I was before. It would be easy to lose everything I had worked for after one of those ankle injuries, and it definitely would have been easy to do so after that concussion, which left me riddled with severe headaches and vision issues for several months. In fact, I still get fairly serious and fairly common headaches in certain situations, something I attribute to that concussion, and the few I’ve had before that. So yes, it would be very easy for me to wallow in this and stop working towards lifting goals I set for myself long ago. After all, I set a goal of reaching 250 lb on my dead lift long ago, and I’m still not there.

So I might as well give up, right?

Wrong. I’m closer than I’ve ever been. I can feel it; I can practically taste it. I can not wait until I pull 25o lb off the ground, lock it out, and can set a new goal. Because even if it takes another year for me to reach that, it’s worth it to me to keep working. Even if I get another injury and have to take some time off, and have to start off in a little bit of a relative hole, I know I’ll get there, because that’s what I’ve set out to do.

If you gave up on a goal every time you had a setback, how would you ever accomplish anything? Life is full of stumbles and falls, but it really is true that it’s much more important to figure out how to respond to those setbacks that really determines where you end up. Plateaus don’t mean that you’re a failure, they simply mean that there is something standing in your way. Whether that something is within you or something out of your control will vary from time to time, but the only thing you can do is roll with it. Control what you can (if it’s you), work with what you can’t control, and you’ll get there eventually.
Two years later, and I’m still not at 250. But you know what? I’m damn close. And when I take into account all of the things over the past couple of years that have affected this, both those that are within my control and those that are not, I’m pretty proud of where I stand today.

Besides, if you’re reaching your goals without any challenges, you may need to rethink what your goals are in the first place. Reach a little higher, stride a little longer, and work your butt off to be better. You should be your toughest competitor, pushing yourself to work harder at every opportunity.

Readers: What’s a goal that you’ve had some setbacks while trying to achieve it? Do you find that you get frustrated with setbacks or do they motivate you to work harder?

1 thought on “Deadlift: Plateaus and PRs

  1. Love this Stephanie!! It’s always a good reminder that progression (in anything, really) is not linear- too funny that I talked about the same thing on my blog today 🙂 I always love seeing people show their progress because it helps me feel better about my own… sometimes we all just need a reminder that even people we look up to in the fitness world go through struggles to reach goals! I also love how you say if you don’t struggle or are not faced with any challenges while attempting to reach a goal, maybe you need to rethink that specific goal. So true! If it’s “easy”, maybe it’s time to change something up… get comfortable being uncomfortable. And, speaking of deadlifts- I did 100lbs last night and it felt so heavy!!! congrats on your recent PR… I can’t wait to see my own numbers start creeping up. also, ps- you look incredibly strong in that first picture!

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