deadlifting questions

Hey guys…usually a lurker here, but I’ve got a few deadlifting questions for you.

I heard a while back that yo ushould never deadlift more than 5 reps or so in a set because it’s too taxing on the lower back. Any merit to this?my workouts right now are in the 6-8 rep range, but I don’t want to drop my deads out of my program (working on thickening up).

And second, is it OK to do deadlifts on back day and to do stiff leg deads on leg day? Is that overkill? I’ve got 4 days between back and leg days, so i figure I’m plenty rested. Or should I do regular deads on leg day? Or what?

Thanks for the advice guys.

I think it’s an overkill to do deadlifting on teh back day and do stiff-legged DL on the leg day.

BTW - if your load is light enough I don’t see why you can’t do more than 5 reps per set.

Uh, you should perform deads for back.

As for the “NOT more than 5-reps”, it depends on what you’re trying to do. There are some days where I perform more than 5-reps. If I’m performing Sumo deads, than they’re 8, 10 or more reps.

Understand that you need to consider what you’re trying to accomplish with your training. As for not wanting to “drop deads” out of your program? There is going to be a time (maybe soon), where you’ll need to do this. I dropped deads out of my training for awhile and then, one day, hit a PR. With deadlifts, taking a break and training all the assistant movers instead is a good thing.

Thanks for the replies so far.

patricia: right now i’ve dropped the regular deads from back day (been about amonth now) but i’ve kept the stiff-leg deads in with my hamstring workout. i think i was feeling guilty about not doing deads on back day because i know they’re great for adding thickness. also, deads are my strongest lift (at 6’0". 170# it’s all relative though) so i don’t like seeing them go.

any advice on thickening up my back without deads then? i’ve got broad shoulders and wide lats, but i’m one of those guys who disappears when he turns sideways.

thanks again for helping me sort this out.


I couldn’t agree more.

“any advice on thickening up my back without deads then?”

Rows. All kinds of rows in the horizontal plane.

Oh, and eat more. At 6 feet and 170 pounds, you’re not gonna look thick no matter what you do.

Gotta agree with Ike and Patricia- there’s no particular reason to deadlift all the time. It’s a very satisfying exercise (you can handle a lot of weight!) so I know it’s tempting.

However, take a look at how the Westside advocates train- they NEVER do regular deadlifts, yet perform PB’s in competition. Go figure…

Regarding rep number- I think a common problem (which has been discussed on the forum before), is that with high reps the form often goes out the window. I myself find it virtually impossible to perform consecutive reps without resetting (placing the weight on the ground for a short period and adjusting my body for the next rep). This enables me to maintain good form. However it is also tiring to take it from a dead stop each time, and so generally I never go above 8-10 reps.

However, as Patricia said, there’s no reason you can’t do more if you train lighter.

To thicken up, try snatch deads, power cleans, power pulls off the floor, blocks etc, power snatches… Stay away from anything with the word shrug in it.

I never do regular deads and semi-stiff legs (Romanian) in the same cycle. I can do Romanians concurrently with squats but save regular deads for their own cycle. If you want to use deads strictly for back thickness without overtraining your hips/lower back try doing 3/4 deads in the rack from just below the knees. After adding those a few years ago my back blew through every strength/size plateau that I was suffering from on various exercises—weighted chins especially.

Sub-scapular chins, hands down one of the best back movements there is Horizontal and Vertical pulling, plus since you’re on the lighter side like myself it should probably be easier for you to crank out a decent number of reps to stimulate growth. The strength gains also carry over quite well to other exercises.

Try some “good mornings” while sitting on a bench for your lower back. Start off light though and don’t bust your face on the bench.

While training heavy on a variety of exercises for your back will help in thickening you up; your diet is really the catalyst.

If you’re not eating enough, it ain’t gonna make a difference on how hard you’re training. At 6ft and 170lbs, I would take a look at “Massive Eating” by John Berardi.

As for the deads. They’re one of my favorite lifts, too. But I very rarely perform conventional deads anymore. But my back is thicker than ever. Do take a look at (as has been suggested), snatch deads, power cleans, hang cleans, etc. Oly-lifts have really improved my deads; besides providing me with some thickness. But then I do eat. And I eat alot of food.

Patricia - We’ve all seen your back, and it’s outstanding. I’m sure there are others besides me who would like to know more specifically what your program looks like, both while using deads and when not.

Depends on how much weight you use and what your goals are. I often prefer heavy sets and low reps of 1-3.

However, I know many people that have done high rep deadlifts (15-20 reps) (rest pause style) and stated that they packed on a lot of muscle.

I have tried high rep heavy deadlifts before and like high rep heavy squats, they are hard as hell and it is not easy to use perfect form as fatigue builds up fast. Make sure that you do them on an empty stomach.

Mike Mahler

thanks again for all the advice. and i’m fully aware that i need to eat. it’s the hardest part of this whole endeavor for me. i love to lift, but had no idea how much will power was involved in eating so much until i tried massive eating about a year ago. fell off the wagon, and just now getting my act back together…starting up this long weekend (plenty of time to grill lots of meat!)

currently doing lots of rows, dumbbell and barbell, and prioritizing close grip (palms facing) pull ups instead of wider grip pull ups. haven’t ever done much with olympic lifts…will need to do a whole lot more research to figure out how to do all that.

i’ll post some “after” pics in about 2 or 3 years for you guys to let you know how it turns out :wink:

There’s lots of good info here.

CGB, what’s wrong with shrugs? Isn’t that the best type of lift for building your upper traps?

Polar Princess, I wanted to address your post a wee bit here.

Due to strongman training, we’ve really cut down on our back training during our regular gym sessions. Strongman training entails alot of back work (especially low back). We’ve really been incorporating more of the Oly-lifts (power/hang cleans and snatches, etc.) and Renegade style of training (especially with complexes). BUT we cycle the oly-lifts; once every couple of weeks we’ll perform 'em.

This may change. But for now, we’re focusing on legs and grip during our regular training. I have to pick up my leg strength for Nationals. If you read my previous “strongman training updates”, you’ll see exactly what we’ve done there.