The Simple Deadlift Program

by Matt Kroc

This once-per-week deadlift program will give you a 20-50 pound increase in 1RM over a 16-week period.

Proper Pulling

Training the deadlift is simple. Hit it hard, hit it heavy, then let your body recover and grow.

There’s really no need for fancy techniques like drop sets, super sets, or rest-pause sets. Effective programming for the deadlift involves a well-planned progression in the amount of weight used. It also addresses and prevents overtraining, stimulates hypertrophy, and reinforces proper technique.

Using the program below, it’s not surprising to see a 20-50 pound increase in 1RM over a sixteen-week training period. I’ve even witnessed as much as a 90-pound increase.

You’ll only deadlift once per week, preferably 3-4 days after squatting. You’ll also notice that you take every fourth week off from deadlifting. This is to allow sufficient recovery and prevent overtraining.

Deadlifting is very taxing and the lower back muscles are often stressed heavily when squatting and during other heavy back movements, so you need the break.

Instead, you’ll train the lower back muscles during the fourth week, but with different exercises like good mornings, weighted back raises, reverse hypers, and pull-throughs, keeping the reps in the 10-20 range.

Find Your True Max

The key to using this program effectively is starting with an accurate 1RM from which all your subsequent lifts will be based. All too often lifters overestimate their max or use a number they could do in their sleep. It’s essential to use your current true max using proper form.

Failure to do so will only result in overtraining, making it difficult to progress from week to week, and in general screw up the whole program.

It’s also important to note that you don’t recalculate your max at any point during the program. Strength increases have been factored into the design of this program and adjusting the weights during the program will completely muck it up.

The Plan

Note: It should go without saying that you need to warm up before doing any of the workouts.

  • Week 1: 5 x 5 x 70% (5 sets of 5 reps at 70% of 1RM)
  • Week 2: 5 x 3 x 75%
  • Week 3: 5 x 1 x 80%
  • Week 4: No deadlifting, but feel free to do accessory movements like good mornings, weighted back raises, reverse hypers, or pull-throughs in the 10+ rep range.
  • Week 5: 5 x 5 x 75%
  • Week 6: 5 x 3 x 80%
  • Week 7: 5 x 1 x 85%
  • Week 8: No deadlifting, but do accessory movements.
  • Week 9: 4 x 5 x 80%
  • Week 10: 4 x 3 x 85%
  • Week 11: 4 x 1 x 90%
  • Week 12: No deadlifting, but feel free to do accessory movements.
  • Week 13: 3 x 5 x 85%
  • Week 14: 3 x 3 x 90%
  • Week 15: 3 x 1 x 95%
  • Week 16: No deadlifting and no lower back work at all.
  • Week 17: Retest your max or compete in a powerlifting meet.