Alright, I've never really put deadlifts into my routine. I've done them before, but it was never heavy nor often as I was always paranoid I'd injure myself. Do you have any advice for how I should start out doing these bad boys? I don't want to jump straight into 3 sets of 6, or is this the best way?
Deadlifting for the first time.
At the risk of being redundant (as you say you already know how to perform the lift):
Although it sounds quite simple (really it is) it can actually take a few sessions or so before you have coordinated the legs, back, arms, etc to get a good pull. Once at the top just come to where your body is vertical with shoulders back, there is no need to lean backwards further than this and thus taking a chance of aggravating the lower back.
Also (you probably already know this) depending on the type of weight plates you use you will start out at different heights - for example if they are olympic 20kg (45 lbs) (one per side on a oly bar = 135 lbs) plates your starting position will be "normal" that is what is used in a typical weight lifting competition and at most gyms. If you use "exercise plates" or say 25 or 35 lb oly plates you will start out a few inches lower thus adding to the difficulty of the lift (and hence also a valuable training aid for those wanting to improve their dl). But you needn't worry about that at this point just be aware of it - that is if you start out in a lower position use less weight as this will definitely stress the lower back more.
Put a "comfortable" weight on the bar that will allow you to focus on technique say for 2-3 sets of 8 reps for a few weeks so you can start to feel the "groove" - then when you feel comfortable don't be afraid to have a go and try for a big lift - provided you have warmed up properly and you are keeping the back "flat" and the bar in the proper vertical alignment. If it all starts to go wrong just put it down rather than try to force it to completion.
Once you have established a "maximum" (mind you at this point that should be a lift that is "no big deal" to your lower back) then work the dl into your training with say 70-80% of your maximum. 3 sets of 6 is a nice routine - one that I use frequently - but also sometimes just 2 or even 1 set depending on the poundage lifted, other exercises performed and how I feel on that particular day. Be prepared for sore hips, glutes, hams, and lower back - let those muscles rest for a good week or even more and then come back for more.
After this you can attempt a more complex progressive cycle where you back down in weight for more sets/reps and then start adding 5 lbs or so every workout, gradually dropping sets/reps building back up eventually to a new personal best set for 5 reps.
A good goal to shoot for (for a 5'9", 190 lbs, 7" wrist trainee): A single with 450-500 lbs, or 10-15 reps with 350 lbs). Adjust up or down depending on size. If you attain these lifts, it would put you in the upper 10% or so of the average trainee and you are most likely guaranteed to open lots of eyes when you pass by.
I hope this helps and will like to hear how you get on.
Conceive, believe, achieve.
Thanks for the great replies, it was more than enough information and even taught me a few things I wouldn't have even considered asking about.
Just one question though, what's a 7" wrist trainee?
5'9", 190 lbs, 7.0" wrist -
A "mythical" average trainee - average height, average weight, average wrist size that is the circumference measured just above the bump at the wrist - this will give an indication of bone size - large boned man 7.5" plus, medium: 6.75-7.25", small 6.0-6.5".
Conceive, believe, achieve.