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High Rep Deadlifts

It’s something I have never really tried in training but always thought about doing.

Is it really an all over hypertrophy exercise or just an injury waiting to happen…?

Thoughts. Opinions. Experiences…

I’ve found high rep deadlifts great for conditioning and have never had any trouble with back pain. I always make sure my form stays sharp and if I can feel my lower back rounding I stop there.

3 sets of 20 reps with only 100 Kgs and short rest periods is really tough.

Not something I’m a fan of. High rep squats, absolutely. Ditto press. Deadlifts I guess you could but I think squats will do a better job. If you’ve got access to a safety squat bar, do those.


How many reps for “high reps”?

Check out @ActivitiesGuy s training log. He’s deadlifted frequently and has done em with high reps. He got me to try out high rep deads and I’m a fan now

Well I personally haven’t experimented pulling conventional much past 5reps. Sumo I had a stint of doing 3x8 and it worked quite nicely but I used it more to build a stronger base with a wide stance.

I guess 10+ reps could be considered high for deads…?

3x20 like @clobbasaurus stated seems crazy! Haha my lower back would hold a grudge for about a week if I tried that!

It’s getting closer to the time for me to try 6weeks of 20rep breathing squats. I have a real love/hate relationship with long, grindy sets of squats.

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Hypertrophy occurs when you create micro tears in the muscle fiber. Micro tears occur on the eccentric (lowering) phase of a movement. Regardless of weight or reps, if you focus on the eccentric portion and lower the weight slowly (compared to dropping it) then you will probably see some hypertrophy.

That’s the scientific theory part… I don’t do slow or even controlled eccentrics on deadlifts, but I’ve felt some good soreness after some intense deadlift sessions. Soreness=micro tears. So I wonder if there are some hypertrophy benefits from deadlifting. I wouldn’t count it out, but the science says there are better ways.

As far as ego and wanting to do manly things I think high rep deads would definitely qualify.

You can do them as long as you scale the weight appropriately and don’t allow form to breakdown, that would be around the 10 rep ranges. Going as high as 20, I’m not sure.
I’ve been doing for a while deadlifts with strength sets (5/3/1) followed by 5x10 snatch grip deadlifts and I’ve survived, so it can be done.

As JMaier stated above, you’ll surely have hypertrophy gains from them to some degree, but the eccentric phase is a big portion of hypertrophy gains and slow eccentrics with deadlifts for high reps doesn’t really sound like a good idea. I guess that romanian deads are a smarter choice as mass builders because they allow slow controlled eccentric on each rep, are less prone to form breakdown and overall seem more sustainable on the long term.

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Yeah, RDLs
Many “Old School” or “High Intensity Training” size routines have stiff leg deads for high reps. Sometimes the 20 rep squats are followed by 15- 20 rep stiff leg deads.

JMaier mentioned, the concentric or lowering for mass. In the stiff leg, this part of the lift is “automatically” emphasised. Also, the ROM is longer, maybe more muscles in your back get worked or something?

If you want to bring up your lower back without hurting yourself, you could try Deadlifting for “regular” reps, then do high reps in a more targeted/isolated move like back raises. That way you can use weight and reps that are just right for your lower back, not too heavy.


I’ll do RDLs the George Leeman way for 15-30 reps, but never venture out past 12 on conventional unless I’m trying to set a rep pr. Before I did I really want to do 500 for 20, but not as much as I want to pull 725. It is all dependent on your goals really. If you just like high reps deads, do them. If you are a powerlifter, you should probably concern yourself more so with your maxes.

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High rep work can increase work capacity so it wouldn’t be a waste of energy/time to do them for that purpose. I used to do Tabata squats at the end of every workout, four days a week. It was awful and the soreness was damn near crippling the first week but it definitely improves your anaerobic work capacity, thus increasing your ability to do more work in a workout.

Tabata intervals (named for the guy credited with coming up with the concept):

20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 8 rounds.

It’s a blast.

I didn’t mean just training on your maxes, but 20 plus sets of deads while training to get a better back squat doesn’t seem like the best plan of attack for a low back on a powerlifter. And yeah, tabata is sick. Especially for trying to get more work in in a short time.

I like experimenting and thought I’d see if I could do it as a challenge to myself. I always start super light when I’m trying stuff out for the first few times until I become comfortable with the volume. I’ve used high rep deadlifts numerous times over the past few years and it has never caused me any problems, just muscle soreness before I was used to it… and some serious calluses.

I’ve experimented with high rep front squats as well as regular squats. Power cleans from a hang were punishing. I love the experimental aspect of training because I get to understand my body more and test my capabilities.

I guess it’d be crazy if you continued attempting to smash out the reps even after your form breaks down. I try to stick between 40% and 50% of my 1 rep max and use it for conditioning.

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My gym doesn’t look kindly on people who drop the weights so all my deadlift lowering is done under control. I probably would be more inclined to do higher rep sets if I could drop the weight.

How many reps and sets did you use for high reps deads?
Also, how was your experiment with front squats? I do them in strength range % and I noticed that if I try to do sets of 10 in the 40-50% of 1RM after strength sets it’s damn hard to keep a good form (elbows up, mostly)

My gym doesn’t want people to drop the weights either, but lowering controlled doesn’t mean slow - aim to lower controlled AND quick. Just a few days ago I did an AMRAP set of 9 reps with 75-80% of my 1RM and not a single time I had to whack the barbell down to the ground. I’m still unsure if the thread is about high reps as 10 or as 20.
Also, you could put a mat under the plates so that when you lower, it doesn’t make noise/hit the ground directly. Most gyms have those mats that chicks use to do a non finite amount of abs, planks and pilates stuff

Hi @atlashrugged, it varies with the deadlifts. I do a 3 week block with them as a one of the conditioning exercises at the end of a session. Week 1 is 1x20 week 2 is 2x20 and week 3 is 3x20 then I choose something different for the next block. I have about 15 different options I use for conditioning and just cycle through those.

I have the same issue with front squats it’s usually around the 8 - 12 rep range where I struggle to keep my sholder blades retracted and my elbows up. From the way it feels it must be really working the upper back as that’s definitely my first point of failure.

Now when I’m going for high reps with an upright squat movement pattern I’ll use the dumbell goblet squat as you don’t have the same issues with having to keep your upper back tight and your elbows forward and high at the same time. It’s also much nicer on your wrists.


Thanks for the feedback!
Just one thing - shoulder blades on front squat should not be retracted, I think it’s not even possible, with bar placement they automaticallly end being depressed (the bar on the front delts automatically pushes the shoulders and scapula down) and protracted (lifting the elbows flattens the scapulae forward towards the ribcage). At least, I hope it’s like this, or I’ve been doing them wrong the whole time lol.

And yeah, higher reps get punishing on the wrists. I was looking for something that granted more overload than goblet squats, high bar squats would be ideal but God knows I suck balls at back squatting

@atlashrugged I’m not great with the regular squat either as it’s too easy to cheat when it gets tough, hence my switch to front squats.

I think it’s my choice of verb that’s confused matters here, depressed suits what I was trying to describe far better, thanks. I’ve got access to 132lb dumbbells and they’re ample for me providing I’m doing around 20 to 25 reps.

Have you tried loading up a landmine squat? You can go incredibly heavy with those and it’s nigh on impossible to cheat. How about a Zercher squat?

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My next experiment