How Much Should You Deadlift – Introduction
How often should you deadlift per week?
There are hundreds of strength training exercises you can do, but the deadlift is one of the absolute best.
If you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life, the deadlift would arguably be the ideal choice.
Deadlifts are hugely functional and can develop strength and muscle mass for practically every muscle group in your entire body.
And even better, they can burn fat depending on the set and rep scheme you choose.
There are also several excellent variations, so whatever your goal, there is a deadlift variation that’s right for you.
One of the biggest reasons that deadlifts are such a great exercise is their brutal simplicity.
All you need to do them is a barbell and some weights.
You don’t need a squat rack, and, unlike bench presses and squats, a failed rep won’t leave you pinned under a heavy weight.
And while it may take you a while to master the deadlift, it’s nowhere near as complicated as some other lifts – like snatches and cleans, for example.
But, as the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing.
So, this guide focuses on how often you should deadlift per week and reveals the best deadlift frequency & recovery plan for a beginner to make solid progress.
Less than once a week
Let’s get one thing straight from the start; to benefit from any exercise, you need to do it reasonably frequently.
If you can’t commit to deadlifting at least once a week, you probably won’t get a lot from this powerful exercise.
In fact, you’ll probably just end up feeling sore as your body will never really adapt to the demands of deadlifts.
If you know you can’t deadlift regularly, you may be better off sticking to exercises that are more accessible, such as bodyweight squats.
That way, you’ll be able to do them often enough to get at least some benefits.
That said, a few top powerlifters do only deadlift once every 10-14 days.
However, they are training close to their personal bests all the time, using weights that are almost beyond belief.
They’re also doing the same thing every time they squat.
This scenario does not apply to a new lifter, where more frequent deadlift workouts are generally best.
Deadlifting once a week
Deadlifting once a week can work.
It’s a popular choice with bodybuilders and powerlifters, and many well-known strength training programs prescribe once-a-week deadlift sessions.
The deadlift can be such a demanding exercise that it may take you 5-7 days to fully recover, especially if you also do squats elsewhere in your training week, e.g.:
- Monday – deadlifts
- Thursday – squats
That’s because there is a significant overlap between deadlifts and squats.
While this approach is popular and can work, it may not be ideal because deadlifting is not just an exercise; it’s also a skill.
If you only deadlift once a week, it’ll take you longer to master this crucial exercise.
Also, for once-a-week deadlifts to work, you’ll need to train hard, heavy, and with moderate to high volume to create the necessary stimulus that triggers your body to get stronger.
You need to earn that week of rest and recovery!
If you don’t push yourself, you may not see much progress from your single weekly deadlift session.
Deadlifting twice a week
For a lot of lifters, twice-a-week deadlifts work really well.
It provides a nice balance between training frequency and recovery but means you can still train with plenty of intensity.
Twice-a-week deadlifting also means that you don’t have to put 100% into both your workouts, and you’ll also have time to use some of the deadlift variations available to you.
- Monday – conventional deadlift (5 sets of 5 reps, heavy)
- Thursday – deficit deadlifts (3 sets of 8 reps, medium)
Deadlifting twice a week may also help reduce muscle soreness as you won’t tend to stiffen up so much between workouts.
On the downside, deadlifting twice a week may be difficult if you also like to squat hard and heavy.
That said, one way to do this is to deadlift and then squat for one workout, and then squat followed by deadlifts the next.
Deadlifting three times a week
Three times a week is probably the practical upper limit for deadlifts.
It takes roughly 72 hours for your muscles to recover from intense training, and not respecting this could mean that you start to feel overtrained.
You may also find that doing the same exercise routine three times on a weekly basis gets boring.
It would be a shame to fall out of love with deadlifts simply because you do them too often.
However, one way you could successfully deadlift three times a week, continue making progress, and not get bored would be to rotate deadlift variations and intensity levels, like this:
The movement variations combined with alternating between heavy, medium, and light weights means your workouts would never be boring, and the less intense workouts would provide you with plenty of active recovery.
Deadlifting every day
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should!
Deadlifting every day is rarely a good idea because it means you have no time for rest and recovery.
Remember that your muscles only get stronger between workouts.
Intense training causes microscopic trauma to your muscles and depletes your energy.
Without adequate rest, your body won’t have time to repair the damage done by your workout, and you may find yourself getting weaker instead of stronger.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and you COULD deadlift every day in certain circumstances and situations:
#1. You have a planned layoff coming up
if you know you won’t be able to deadlift for a week or two, maybe because of a vacation, you could deadlift every day for the preceding week, knowing that your enforced layoff will provide you with plenty of rest and recovery time.
#2. You only have time for short workouts
You could deadlift daily if you only have a few minutes to train, and you don’t have access to any other exercises.
You’d literally warm up, do one or two work sets, and then quit for the day.
However, even if this was the case, you could balance your workouts by doing some push-ups or core work; there really isn’t any reason that you’d have to limit your daily workouts to only train deadlifts.
#3. You need to work on your technique
The best way to get better at something is to practice.
That’s why once-a-week deadlifts aren’t the best option for most exercisers.
Deadlifting every day means you’d be able to work on your lifting technique and become a deadlift pro much faster.
However, there is a significant difference between training the deadlift and just practicing it.
Even if you deadlift daily, only a couple of sessions per week will be strenuous workouts.
The other times you deadlift should be very light and easy, literally going through the motions.
#4. You are trying the Bulgarian method
Bulgarian weightlifters used to train twice a day, six days a week, with a primary focus on the snatch and clean and jerk.
Each workout was short and basically involved a warm-up and a couple of near-maximal lifts.
The Bulgarian method is a high frequency training system designed to increase strength quickly.
At the very least, it involves lifting once a day, six days a week.
This is a very advanced way of training and definitely not recommended for beginners.
Do some research (and a few years of regular training) before attempting the Bulgarian method.
So, how often should I deadlift?
Important factors to consider when deciding how many times to deadlift per week:
Faced with all these options, you may still be unsure how many times a week you should deadlift.
Consider the following while making your decision.
Your ability to recover
Some people recover faster from deadlifts than others.
If you can deadlift twice a week with no ill effects, you may be a good candidate for trying three deadlift workouts a week.
But, if two deadlift sessions leave you feeling wiped out, you may be better off dialing the deadlift frequency down to one.
Listen to your body and adjust your workout plan accordingly.
Benefits vs. cost
Will deadlifting more often give you better results?
Or will it be a waste of your time and energy?
If you are getting good results from 1-2 deadlift workouts a week, doing more may be unnecessary.
How heavy you are lifting relative to your 1RM
The heavier you deadlift relative to your one-repetition maximum (1-RM), the longer it will take you to recover from your workouts.
If you love to train hard and heavy, you are probably limited to just 1-2 deadlift workouts a week.
But, if you tend to use a lighter weight and do higher rep ranges, you may be able to deadlift more often.
Do you only deadlift, or do you do lots of other strength training exercises?
If your workouts are packed with lots of different exercises, deadlifting 1-2 a week should be plenty.
But, if all you really do is the deadlift, you will probably be able to tolerate more workouts per week.
That said, to avoid boredom, it’s still a good idea to use a few deadlift variations, such as sumo, snatch-grip, deficit, rack pulls, paused, etc.
How Much Should You Deadlift Per Week – Wrapping up
There is no one-size-fits-all guideline for deadlift training frequency.
Some of the best lifters in the world have achieved amazing results by deadlifting once every 10-14 days, yet others deadlift 2-3 times a week.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine your ideal frequency for training the deadlift.
If you are getting stronger, whatever you are doing is clearly working.
But, if your progress has stalled or, worse still, is starting to go backward, a change in frequency could be precisely what’s needed.
Adjust your training frequency to match your goals and results, and remember that more is not always better.
In some cases, less is more.
Your body adapts to your demands.
This ability to change is known as the SAID principle, or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.
When it comes to stressing your body sufficiently to cause it to adapt, Dr. William Kraemer, one of the top Sport scientists in the world, notes that there are several critical variables1:
- Choice of exercise
- Order of exercises performed
- The load (weight or resistance)
- Volume (reps x sets x load)
- Rest period between sets
Once you select a training frequency, you need to know the rep and set scheme you will use.
How Many Deadlift Reps and Sets Should You Do will help you explore the best rep and set schemes you can utilize to build muscle size, strength and get fit, all based on your fitness goals.
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1 Acute Resistance Training Program Variables and Subsequent Hormonal Response – Journal of Sports Medicine and Doping Studies