Peoples Deadlift

by Al Myers

Bob Peoples demonstrating a high-pick deadlift in his homemade power rack.

Coming up soon will be the first USAWA Old Time Strongman Meet of the year, the “BATTLE IN THE BARN”, hosted by Eric Todd on March 25th.  His meet will include a couple of  approved OTSM lifts (Apollons Lift & Goerner Stroll), one traditional All Round Lift (Crucifix) and a new exhibition OTSM Lift – the Peoples Deadlift.   This lift has already been submitted to be considered and voted on as a new OTSM Official Lift.  It is also on the lift agenda for the OTSM Championships held next fall.  So this lift looks to be well-represented this year in the OTSM series!

Most lifters will recognize right away who this OTSM lift is named after. It is after the great deadlifter Bob Peoples.  He was way ahead of his time in regards to new training techniques for the deadlift.  Peoples is often credited for pioneering the Power Rack.  Of course, his results speak for themselves. The training ideas he used gave him a deadlift of 728 pounds at a bodyweight of 178 pounds back in the 40s.  I think it is only appropriate that a deadlift utilizing the power rack should be named after him. Most of his training ideas are outlined in a book he wrote titled, “Developing Physical Strength”.  This book is a must-read for any lifter.

Two of Peoples training ideas for the deadlift involved, 1. use of the power rack to pull from higher points, and 2. use of negatives in the deadlift.  When Thom Van Vleck proposed the Peoples Deadlift we discussed which of these ideas should be emphasized in naming a lift after him. One idea we about went with involved a deadlift where the bar started at the top position and then lowered to the floor till it touched, and then brought back to lockout. Bob commonly trained in this manner, as it involved a negative followed by a deadlift which often included being bounced from the floor. I want to relate a story about this by Bob Peoples friend and great lifter himself  Bob Hise, “Some of Bob’s training methods were unique. He built a bouncing platform of two oak 2×12″ boards, 8″ long, nailed barbell width apart on 4×4 timbers underneath at each end. By using the lift on his tractor (extending a lowering/raising mechanism which he could operate by placing his head against the actuator) 800 pounds, would be lifted to an upright extended position, and he would lower this, with a bounce, and attempt to get the bar to his knees. This would build great starting strength.”

However, Thom and I decided that the high-pick deadlift out of the power rack would be a better lift named after Bob Peoples for a couple of reasons. First it represented the use of a power rack in a lift (since Peoples pioneered the power rack), and we felt it was a safer lift. Second, the high pick deadlift (18″ deadlift) is a common height trained by strongman now a days (often called the Silver Dollar Deadlift in Strongman competitions).  This would lead itself to an OTSM lift that more lifters and strongmen would understand and relate to.


Peoples DeadliftThis is a partial deadlift, where the bar height must not be over 18″ from the platform (measured from the bottom of the bar). The plates or bar may be supported on stands, rack supports,  or blocks to obtain this height. The lifter must have the bar in front of the legs, as in a normal deadlift. Lifting straps or any other gripping aid is not allowed. It is NOT an infraction to drag the bar up the legs, bounce the bar up the legs, or support the bar on the legs during the lift (hitching). A one minute time limit is allowed for the lifter to make a legal lift, during which time a lifter may make multiple tries. Once the lifter is totally upright and the bar motionless, an official will give the command to end the lift.