Deadlifts are one of the foundational strength training exercises. They can help you get stronger, build muscle mass, improve grip strength, and strengthen your posterior chain.
While deadlifts are an impactful exercise, they embody the meaning behind the phrase, “too much of a good thing is a bad thing.” Here’s what you need to know about how often you should deadlift.
- What You Need to Know About Deadlifts
- Is Deadlifting Once a Week Enough?
- Should I Deadlift Twice Per Week?
- Is it Ok to Deadlift Three Times Per Week?
- Is it Ok to Deadlift Every Day?
- Amping Up Deadlift Training
- How Often Should You Deadlift?
What You Need to Know About Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a compound exercise that works the entire body. A conventional deadlift focuses on the glute and hamstring muscles, while also engaging the quads, core muscles, upper back, and even the shoulders.
In addition to engaging the entire body, deadlifts are also one of the few exercises that start from a full stop. A max effort deadlift is viewed by many to be the best indicator of overall strength, more so than the bench press or squat.
The downside of this powerful strength training exercise is that it takes a toll on the body. Proper rest and recovery are essential after deadlift training. It’s this aspect of the exercise that prompts many people to ask, “how often should I deadlift?”
Is Deadlifting Once a Week Enough?
Many strength training programs only schedule one deadlift workout per week. StrongLifts 5×5 is a popular training program in which the lifter only deadlifts once per week. Smolov squat training is a world-famous training modality that expressly states that you should only incorporate heavy deadlifts when trying to perfect your lifting technique for competition.
The reasoning is simple. As deadlifting is a compound exercise that engages the same muscles as a squat, bench press or upper body row, you don’t need to do it often to build strength. That is, as long as your programming is working the muscles involved in other ways.
Furthermore, by reducing the frequency of this exhausting full-body exercise, you’re allowing for better recovery. As such, your other lifts won’t be impacted by your deadlift training.
A new lifter should start by adding deadlifts one per week and work on their lifting technique before increasing their deadlift frequency.
Should I Deadlift Twice Per Week?
Once you’ve gotten a handle on the barbell deadlift, it’s not uncommon to add an extra deadlift training day. Many powerlifters heading into a competition will use an extra deadlift day to improve their lifting technique and get to a heavier weight before the event.
Adding a second deadlift workout to your weekly training is also a fantastic way to explore various deadlift variations.
Instead of a conventional barbell deadlift, you might consider adding a deficit deadlift session to improve your range of motion in the hip hinge position. Alternatively, you might swap out the barbell for a trap bar deadlift to shift the movement’s power to the quads and unload the spine.
Consider adding a deadlift workout as an accessory on a squat training day, so that you don’t exhaust your lower body muscle group. On this day, you might only do a single set of heavy deadlifts, rather than pushing the volume.
Is it Ok to Deadlift Three Times Per Week?
There are a few programs that encourage deadlifting three times per week. The most notable is the Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) program. DUP programming takes some core programming concepts and accelerates them into a faster training approach.
Periodization is a core concept in any training modality. It breaks larger programs into smaller blocks or cycles. For example, if you have a 12-week deadlifting program, that might be split into three separate four-week training blocks.
Undulation is an alternative to linear progression. Rather than doing 4×6 sets of a bench press one week and 5×6 the next, you might do 3×10 today and 4×6 three days from now.
The DUP program brings that together so that you do the big three lifts (squat, bench, and deadlift) on the same day, three times a week with variable sets and reps.
The challenge here is that you’re training every significant muscle group together without adding accessory training. While you may reach a heavier weight quicker, it’s easy to burn out or sustain an injury. While taking a DUP approach to a single lift can be effective, focusing on the big three often neglects the accessory work that makes a subtle-yet-important difference in form.
When it comes to deadlifting three times a week, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Is it Ok to Deadlift Every Day?
There’s no good reason to deadlift every day. Furthermore, no proper deadlift program will encourage it. At some point, you’ll experience the law of diminishing returns. In other words, your training will start to limit your strength rather than contributing to it.
As previously mentioned, deadlifts are a tiring, full-body exercise. If you want to improve your strength and lift a heavier weight, focus your extra time on nutrition, sleep, and mobility. These pillars of strength gain and building muscle mass will benefit you more than deadlifting every day.
Amping Up Deadlift Training
When it comes to weight lifting, there are a lot of variables to consider. You might try deadlifting multiple times per week and see great success. Meanwhile, your friend might see equal success with only one deadlift exercise per week.
So how do you find the right deadlift frequency for you? Keep these key considerations in mind.
Consider Your Goals
People walk into the gym with different goals. If your goal is to overcome a plateau on your pursuit to get a heavy deadlift, adding a more frequent deadlift program could be beneficial. If your primary goal is to build muscle mass and definition, adding a deadlift variation like the Romanian deadlift or single-leg kettlebell deadlifts can help.
Take some time to learn about the best training style for your goals before determining how often you should deadlift.
Varying Weight, Sets, and Reps
If you love deadlifting and want to do it more often, adjust the weight, sets, and reps to make it more manageable. Incorporate lighter deadlifting days with bands and chains to play with the resistance or add paused or speed deadlifts to work through sticking points.
If you add more deadlifting days, pay attention to your volume and intensity. You can calculate your volume by multiplying your weight by reps by sets to determine the total weight moved in a workout.
Intensity is also quantifiable when deadlifting. When putting together a program, weights are often determined as a percentage of your one-rep max. The higher your intensity, the lower your rep count should be. Avoid big jumps in volume and adjust your intensity as needed.
The DUP programming mentioned above is an excellent example of how you can create variability by focusing on total volume. Rather than pushing the weight during each training session, you can have one heavy weight, low rep training day, and a lighter weight, higher rep training day.
Adding variability also helps create a well-rounded training program that works on improving both muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Assessing Your Recovery
Your body will tell you if you’re deadlifting too much. If you’re breaking form, getting pain in your lower back, or starting to fail at your other lifts, it’s time to assess your recovery.
Rest days are an important aspect of sustainable training. Ensure that you’re getting the time you need between workouts or muscle groups for your muscles to repair and grow.
As mentioned previously, sleep, nutrition, and mobility also play a critical role in recovery and longevity in training heavy.
As deadlifting can exhaust your entire body, ensuring you have enough nutrients to fuel your workout and support post-training recovery is essential. Focus on creating an effective sleep routine and give your body a break from training.
Work on your mobility by adding a dynamic warm-up before deadlifting and targeted stretches afterward. Many lifters confuse mobility with flexibility. Flexibility means being able to stretch and explore your entire range of motion; mobility means being strong throughout your complete range of motion.
Adding Deadlift Accessory Lifts
If your goal is to be able to deadlift a heavy weight, consider adding accessory lifts rather than increasing your deadlift frequency. Exercises like pull-ups, row variations, and front squats can help develop the muscles used while deadlifting using targeted movements.
Bodyweight exercises like squats and cross-training exercises like kettlebell swings can also help improve the hip hinge motion that powers your deadlift.
With the right combination of accessory lifts, you can keep making progress without deadlifting every day.
How Often Should You Deadlift?
As there is so much variability from one lifter to the next, there’s no definitive answer on how often you should deadlift. New lifters should start with one day per week and focus on improving their lifting technique.
If you decide to add more deadlifting days to your training regimen, scale up slowly, and add variability in deadlifting styles and intensity. Listen to your body and prioritize preparation and recovery to avoid burn out and injuries that could derail your efforts.