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Finnish Deadlift Secrets...



TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
Throughout the years, the deadlift has been the national sport in Finland. World records have been broken since early 70´s. What makes Finns pull so much, what is their secret?
I took a look and after collecting training information of many new and former greats, here is some background and information.

# 1 Genetics

To be able to lift a lot, you have to be talented athlete. Most of the guys had long arms and legs. You could see middleweights pulling over 200 kilos the first time they saw a power bar. But that's only a good start. The best deadlifters in the late 70`s and early 80´s had two things in common. Most of them had a background of hard labor, like lumberjacks, construction workers, farmers or something similar. They carried, lifted and dragged for their living. That laid a perfect background for deadlift training and very often ensured a hard grip too. The second thing was Olympic lifting background, they had pulled alot before their powerlifting career. Raimo Vlineva held Scandinavian records in Olympic lifting and was able to clean 330 pounds with straight legs. He had World records of 688 in 148´s and 716 in 165´s in early 80`s. When weightlifting had the press it was more a pure strength sport as now when speed and technique more critical.

Many of the new lifters have some type of athletic background from other sports. Ismo Lappi, 338,5 kg deadlifter in 165´s, has thrown javelin over 75 yards and ran 100 meters in under 11 seconds in his teens. He is fast and explosive enough to deadlift big.

# 2 Squatting for the deadlift

All of the former record holders and many of today's too, squatted with a narrow stance. This had two advantages. First, it served as an excellent special exercise for deadlift. Many trained the squat three times a week. Twice back squatting and once front squatting. The other back squat could be a high bar session.

Other squat exercises were something like lunges, or step squats, using bar on back. These were done sometimes a box under front or back feet, varying how it hits glutes and hamstrings. A 8-12 inch box under back feet hits the upper part of glutes quite hard.

Many used different stances. The narrow stance high bar was the most common but many, like Taito Haara, Reijo Kiviranta and Hannu Saarelainen, squatted with 3-4 stances.
During the last years, the box squat has become very popular in Finland. Janne Toivanen put it in practice by hauling up 804 in `96 IPF World's in Austria. Many have followed. Ano Turtiainen started using the box and now pulls over 859 in every meet he enters. Ismo Lappi, the new WR holder in 165´s in IPF, does box squats as assistance. Veli Kumpuniemi stated that if would have known how to use a box in his prime he would have lifted a lot more. How much more? He tore his hamstring while trying 804 in the 181´s back in 1981. He hit 822 ( 373 kilos ) in a national before that weighing under 190 pounds. All his hamstrings could handle he hauled up. He never really recovered but wanted to send his compliments to Louie Simmons for this excellent exercise.

# 3 Deadlift Variety

Many still train the deadlift two times a week. In the early days, it was not rare to deadlift three times a week. Veli Kumpuniemi, the only man we call Mr Deadlift in Finland, trained deadlift sometimes four times a week. Here's some pulls to use:

Deadlift standing on the block. Many used 2-6 inch block and pulled standing on it. That has been a pull used very often. Many did these for 3-5 reps using conventional style even if they pulled sumo in meets.

Straigth leg deadlifts. These were done off floor or using a block under feet. There were two styles. Some pulled with a bent over style, rounding the lower back. Some, like Janne Toivanen, Ismo Lappi and Ano Turtiainen, pulled in a romanian style with arched back and pushing glutes to rear. With a round back, most used only 40-50% for high reps like 10´s or so. For the romanian style, some go quite heavy. Janne Toivanen hauled up 4x661 from an 4 inch box and Ano Turtiainen has done 5x727 off floor.

Olympic pulls. These were done many times as a warm-up or speed work before the deadlifting. High pulls, raw cleans, raw snatches were the most common. The old school did some pulls with straight legs like Russians.

Pulls with a snatch grip. This has two variations too. Some pulled the weight all the way up and some just up to past knees. These developed technique by forcing you to keep shoulders in line and it’s a good one correct technique.

Partials. Hannu Saarelainen did partials on knee level, just moving the bar from below to above the knee. The bar traveled 8-10 inches in the area where the leverages were the poorest. He did high reps with rather light weight. He tried to get speed too to overcome the sticking point as fast as possible. By concentrating on weakness enabled Hannu to pull 765 in 242´s with quite poor leverages for deadlift. Rack pulls and pulls where the bar is on blocks are common, although they do not benefit as many as you could imagine.

Hack deadlifts. Many long armed lifters were able to pull with the bar behind their back. This form of deadlift developed the leg drive and helped to get the bar off floor.

# 4 Technique

Veli Kumpuniemi stated that if his foot stance was half inch off, the bar stayed on floor. And Veli was ranked rather a power puller than a technique expert which he was too. The conventional deadlift was always mostly back work. But the sumo pullers were sort of split in two categories. People like Raimo Vlineva and Hannu Malinen, the 1988 IPF World champion, used the hips alot. Raimo Vlineva was the developer of the style maximized hip drive in sumo deadlift. Lifters with extreme tecnique had quite a difference between sumo and conventional deadlift. Ari Virtanen, the little brother of Jarmo had one of the best technique I have ever seen. Every weight he got off floor he finished too. Ari´s best conventional was around 570-580 and he pulled 677 with sumo in `91 World's. Pirjo Savola, the European Record holder in 123´s with 446 said she has a best conventional of 360-370 range.

Sumo lifters with a strong back, like Veli Kumpuniemi, Janne Toivanen and Aarre Kpyl locked out their legs way before extending their torso. Aarre Kpyl who pulled 10x661 via conventional too, got the most out of his hips by keeping his legs almost straight. Jarmo Virtanen, an eight time IPF World champ, used the technique.

People used to think that Jarmo Virtanen was just very talented and had good leverages. They couldn't be more wrong. He had many things on perfecting the technique. Once he demonstrated the difference between relaxed and flexed shoulders. By dropping shoulders and using sumo, the distance was 12 inches shorter than using conventional with flexed upper body. He stressed the importance of being relaxed while deadlifting .

You should climb to tree from bottom. Most advised to learn to pull conventional first, then switch to sumo. Reijo Kiviranta, Kullervo Lampela and other conventional style greats stressed two key points. The is to push your knees over the bar in the start position. This brings the hips closer to bar and makes the leverages better. The other thing was to turn feet out. This helped the lockout and enabled specially the bigger lifters to use their hip muscles.

# 5 Basic strength and GPP

Like mentioned in beginning, many early day deadlifters did physical labor which laid good background for training heavy and often. Olympic lifting was an aid too.

Many of todays lifters don´t do any other physical work than train with weights. So the GPP has to come from somewhere else. Janne Toivanen did an extra workout six times a week, early in the morning. He did abs, side work and sometimes lower back work together with some aerobic training and streching. His training program would kill most people, but he found a way to back it up. Ismo Lappi does the same type of workouts too. It keeps the bodyfat low and aids recovery.

At the moment five or six our strongmen pull 800 pounds or more. They have long competitive season when their weight training is mostly for conditioning and recovery. Their training is one form of conjugate method. They carry, drag, lift stones and flip tires and cars using the same muscles that are important in deadlifting. Jukka Laine did 804 in September ´98 and had deadlifted twice during the summer. All he did was the event training and many meets. Jouko Aholas deadlift stayed in the same range with no deadlift training at all. He used a short cycle to peak and succeeded with 853 in meet. Janne Virtanen and Juha Rnen both pull over 800 too, 837 is their best in training but either of them haven't attended in any meets so far.


TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
I posted another thread which explains Snatch Pulls if anyone is interested.
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TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
Glad you liked it. Hopefully it will shed some light on breaking through plateaus when it comes to deadlifting.


Senior Member
Mar 31, 2011
Awesome post again. I'm starting to plateau in the mid 600's. I'll mix in a couple of these techniques that are new to me.


Jan 25, 2011
Thanks for posting that, the deadlifts becoming a favorite of mine. Planning on trying sumo soon since I guess I'm way better suited to it than conventional.