T Nation

Deadlift Frequency


#1

Howdy all!

I love the deadlift. It's my favorite activity in the gym and thus I like to know as much as I can about it. I've seen a lot of articles and programs that recommend deadlifting only once a week and in very low rep and set ranged compared to other exercises. Why is this? I'm not saying I want to deadlift every workout, but at least twice a week (With two or three days between for rest).


#2

I'm not very scientific when it comes to training, but here is my 2 cents on it.

From my experience this is what I have found to be true, for me at least. I've trained others, and it works to some degree as well.

When you first start, as a beginner in lifting, you can get away with deadlifting more frequently. The reason being is the load that you are lifting. For example, if you have a lifter who is only pulling 200 lbs for his/her works sets the overall stress is going to be much lower than someone who is pulling in the 400s. Now, this is really relative in my opinion-- becasue work done to one individual is going to be entirely different for another.

The more you progress, the less frequency you'll need. More or less, this is based on the fact that your body will need more time to recover and you are not going to get results as quickly as when you are a novice lifter. I believe I read a thing by Matt Kroc many years ago where he explains this better... I'm sure you could find it with some searching around.

Since the deadlift is such a taxing exercise to the body and nervous system, consider the affects it has on other lifts. Primarily the squat. If you're fried from deadlifting your squat will suffer. However, most people who progress in squats will have a positive carry over to their deadlift. So, the idea is that you can squat, squat, and squat some more and be getting results in two lifts. You'll stay fresher, recover faster, and thus reap better results.

Personally, I can leave deadlifts totally out of my program for months, and come back and pull the same thing I did 3 months ago. I've even played around with deadlifting once per month, and have had great results with that. Likewise, deadlifting once a week works well to a certain degree for me, but I don't recover from deadlifts all that well, so I usually just play it by ear.

Another thing I have learned, is that ANY injury or serious strain I've had from deadlifting, has been the result of deadlifting too frequently. I have found that when I get tired, it is a fuckin horrible idea to push beyond that, because whether I realize it or not, my form fails just enough to where I can hurt myself pulling challenging weights. If I can attack a challenging session being fresh I stay healthier and can maintain proper form to pull heavy. I hope that made sense...

Remember, this is all done through proper programming and chosen the right assistance exercises to aid in overall strength development.


#3

Totally agree with the frequency observation you made Evolve. As long as I squat and do other posterior chain work, deadlifts seem to be good to come back to as a bench mark every now and then. As I'm moving closer to 400 (started 2-3x a week at 180), I've really had to back off because of strain on my hips and elbows. I do them about every 10 days now and it's still going up slowly.


#4

I agree also. The Dead is a full body workout. When you pull, you will use every muscle in your body. At my gym, when we are training for a meet, we will Dead maybe once every 6 to 8 weeks. and do other back movements on the other back days. Once you have your form down, you should back off the every weeks Deadlift.


#5

5x10 7x a week. Add 2x40 Kroc Rows and AMRAP wide grip pullups.

No Pain No Gain Brah!


#6

Cool, so basically the more you can lift, the less frequent you should deadlift. Yesterday I pulled 215 (Still pretty low, I know), and I've been deadlifting on wednesdays on one week, then monday and friday on the following, and so on for the past three months now, so I'm deadlifting on average every 4 days. It's probably going to depend on how I feel with it, but from your experience, how long can I expect to keep this pace before I have to lower the frequeny?


#7

I reckon you'll figure it out for yourself when it starts impacting recovery for other lifts like squats and rows.


#8

If you are making progress with your current training routine, keep doing what you're doing. If you are pulling 215 I would think you are totally fine pulling every 4 days. I couldn't really give you a time frame or number as to when to back off. I wouldn't want to do that anyway, because I would hate to put some idea in your head to perhaps slow your progress down.

Use common sense on that and don't be scared to back off your frequency on deadlifts. Beginners have a bad habit of thinking they are not doing enough, so keep that in mind along the way too.

When I first started taking deadlifts out of my programming, was when they started to be a problem for EVERYTHING I did. I eventually came back to them and that is how I discovered my own personal frequency. Basically, I started to hurt all the time, was chroniclly sore, I would pull shit in my back, or strain my elbow, my squat started to suck ass, and so on... I got so pissed off I took the deadlifts out. Probably 6 months later, I decided to pull again and to my surprise I picked up literally right where I left off. Obviously, don't wait till you start to injure yourself, but I guess what I am saying is don't push it. Since you know this NOW, you'll hopefully be sparred the trouble and pain later on.


#9

I train legs twice/week, one day has deadlifts, the other trap bar deadlifts. A trap bar deadlift is much much easier on your lower back and hits your legs alot harder. It's actually more like a squat in that sense. If you have a trap bar at your gym it's something worth considering. Increasing my trap bar poundage does inevitably lead to increase on my conventional deadlift as well. For reference, my 1rm is in the 5s on both.


#10

I think it depends a bit, too, on whether you lift mostly with your legs (knee extension) or mostly with your back (hip extension). i think people can train them more frequently if they minimize the amount of back they use - but they find themselves lifting considerably less weight from that disadvantaged position.


#11

Very insightful, I'll definitely keep what you said in mind. Thanks for the feedback!


#12

Well, I get in position and make sure my setup is good (hips up, chest up, shoulders a bit more forward than the bar, and my eyes on a point in the floor around 5 feet forward), breath a big puff of air, tighten my abs, hamstrings and ass, then I push with my feet keeping my torso straight until I clear my knees, then I push my hips forward to complete the lift, but not so forward as to lean back. I lower the bar doing the inverse: push hips back until bar clears the knees, then I keep my torso from moving while I lower it with my legs. So I think its kind of 50-50.


#13

what one says to oneself while lifting can often be quite different from what one is actually doing while lifting...

e.g., people with relatively long arms and short legs are natural born deadlifters. the long arms means the bar hasn't got to travel far to lockout and the short legs mean they got excellent leverage for lifting the weight by using their legs.

take someone with longer legs... and they tend to start from a higher hipped position. basically deloading the legs or turning the deadlift into a stiff legged deadlift. they can move more weight that way than starting with their hips lower - but their lower back will be in danger of overtraining if they do that too often.

it wouldn't surprise me if...
a) you got relatively short legs and long arms (so a lower hipped starting position works good for your levers) and / or
b) you have much much much much more in you with respect to your max (where your hips will start to adopt a higher start position thus putting more stress on your lower back - in which case you will start to see why you need to be careful about deadlift frequency later down the track).

but that is just my little guess to myself and i might well be wrong.


#14

i'd love to see a vid. side on if possible :slight_smile:


#15

I'll record one next time I deadlift, which is on friday. I think I have pretty long arms and legs and the way I do it just feels right, but I'll quit with the guess work and show you how I do it so you can give me your opinion. I just started deadlifting three months ago. Started with 95 lbs and now worked it to 215, adding 10 lbs the first few weeks of training every workout since I felt it too light, then my hips and low back felt funny so I started adding 5lbs each workout instead (As per instructions on the Stronglifts program: Add 10lbs each workout until the DL gets challenging, then start adding 5lbs). I feel I can lift a lot more than what I pulled yesteday, but I don't want to risk trying a 1RM and screwing up my back with bad form just to see how much I can lift. Usually my ego stays home when I hit the gym.

Anyhow, I'll post a vid on friday or saturday. Thanks!


#16

thanks. i'm totally hooked on trying to figure the bio-mechanics of lifting... but i'll warn ya i'm very much at the 'trying to figure' point rather than any point of knowledgeability. obsessed with how ideal form for everyone is a bit different because of different relative lever lengths and different goals (e.g., move most weight vs recruit certain muscles) and also in reconciling different goals...


#17

Yeah, I want to be a bodybuilder on the long run, but now I get I need to get strong and lose fat first. And don't worry, I'm not very thick skinned and can take constructive criticism with a smile.


#18

Man, reading your comments-- you're probably one of the smartest beginners I've read on these forums.


#19

I'm in pretty much the same boat as you are. Even pulling the same weight. When I read this I had to make sure I didn't post it. Very helpful thread as frequency is what I'm most worried about. My form needs a little work, too.


#20

This.

When I started lifting seriously I could deadlift 2-3 times a week with ease. After I got to the point where I could DL about 4 plates, I had no clue how I ever managed that because going at it twice a week KILLED my recovery. I dropped it to once a week, which was a level of frequency that I still found that I could make good progress with.

Fast forward to right now, and I picked up deadlifting twice a week again, which seems to give me a better rate of progress. The key, I learned, is carefully moderating your intensity and volume. By programming your deadlift right, you can most certainly DL multiple times per week. I'm sure I could do 3x per week if I wanted. It's not something I'd recommend trying until you know your body well enough, but I think it's important to know that the option is out there. While low frequency deadlifting is fine, doing a higher frequency routine can work too if you program it right. For the record, I love deadlifting too.

As an example of what I'm doing now, on my heavy low volume day I'm doing a ROM progression by deadlifting from mats (credit goes to Pwnisher for the idea on this one - it works fantastic). The problem with this is that I've found pulling from mats all the time really doesn't help you break it off the floor, so I added a second (lighter, higher volume) day with speed or deficit DLs. No real problems (but pretty good results) from this as long as I'm not a dumbass and don't push it too far.

Hope this helped :slightly_smiling: