When it comes to exercises like back squats and deadlifts, a lot of lifters get confused as to how often they should be performing them. Should you deadlift once a week, every day, a few times, what’s best for growth?
Like most things related to working out, it depends. Your deadlift frequency should be a direct reflection of your training goals and “what’s right” should be individual to you.
In this article, I’m going to discuss deadlift frequency and a few different ways to look at and approach the topic of, “How often should you deadlift?” depending on your goals.
If your goals are deadlift maintenance or to slowly improve your deadlift strength, then generally speaking, deadlifting once or twice a week will be a good call. This will typically be enough frequency for most recreational lifters who want to improve their deadlift.
How often you deadlift each week should be a direct reflection of your current training goals and how far along you are in your training journey. Blending these two elements can help you be more strategic with your programming.
If your goal is deadlift strength maintenance, then deadlifting once a week is usually enough for most lifters to maintain baseline levels of strength.
As you get more specific with your deadlift goals, it can be a good idea to work with a strength coach to assist you with programming. A coach can help you work around your blindspots and be more efficient with your goals.
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Is Your Goal Improving Your Deadlift Skills?
At times, I think lifters forget that the deadlift is a skill and to get really proficient with any skill you need to practice said skill often.
If you’re a beginner or an intermediate and you’re really wanting to focus on your deadlift efficiency then you’ll want to typically opt for a higher deadlift frequency.
For this lifter, I typically recommend deadlifting 2-4x a week for a few training blocks. This deadlift frequency will generally give you a nice degree of exposure to this skill so you can really cement the deadlift’s mechanics into your brain.
When working with higher deadlift frequency it’s important that you’re strategic with your programming and the intensities that you’re using. Basically, you don’t want to make every day a heavy pull day.
Any time you have a singular training variable like that skew, you’ll need to implement a little more strategy with intra-week progressions and variations that you’re using.
For example, if I was programming for a lifter that was deadlifting 3x a week it would look something like the following:
- Day 1: High Intensity/Low Volume
- 80-90% / 3 x 2
- Day 2: Moderate Intensity/Moderate Volume
- 70-83% / 4 x 3
- Day 3: Skill-Focused Day
- 60-75% / 5 x 4
On day one, the goal is to give the lifter a nice exposure to heavier loads while keeping volume relatively low to avoid excessive fatigue accumulation. I also like starting weeks with heavier sessions because work and life fatigue is typically lower.
Heavier sets can be important when focusing on the skill of deadlifting as your form will change with load so it’s good to know how your form shifts as intensities increase. This can also help influence what you’re doing on your skill-focused day.
On day two, you’re going to perform moderately heavy sets with moderate volume. This is an accumulation day where the goal is to focus on getting in quality reps for a decent amount of volume. We don’t want the reps to be too light on this day, think 70%.
On day three, you’ll perform a skill-focused variation of the deadlift. This could include things like mid-shin paused deadlifts if you’re struggling with bottom positions or tempo deadlifts if you’re struggling with eager hips when breaking the floor.
For day three, you’ll keep intensity in the moderate range and your volume will fluctuate depending on the variation you’re performing. For example, I would program tempo deadlifts at a slightly lower volume than paused deadlifts to avoid excessive fatigue accumulation.
Is Your Goal Improving Your Deadlift Strength?
Deadlift strength can take multiple forms and it’s a good idea to define a couple of variables when you’re programming specifically for improving your deadlift strength.
For example, I’ll typically break this section into two different groups. I’ll look at the topic of improving deadlift strength through a beginner lens and an intermediate/advanced lens. From here, you can then get more granular with your programming and deadlift frequency.
For beginners wanting to improve their deadlift strength, generally speaking, deadlifting 1-2x a week will be more than enough.
Oftentimes, a beginner will need less to make strength gains since their foundation is lower. This is why a beginner will often see a ton of growth and gains even if they’re just deadlifting once a week.
If I’m programming for a beginner that is deadlifting once a week, then it would look like the following,
- Day 1: Ascending Intensity/Moderate Volume
- 65%-85% / 5 x 4
For day one, we’ll start at a light to moderate load to get in skill work and ascend the load slowly for a moderate volume. The goal is to give a beginner a lot of different exposures so they can both sharpen their deadlift skill while increasing their work capacity.
For intermediate and advanced lifters wanting to improve their deadlift strength, generally speaking, deadlifting 1-3x a week will be a good range.
There’s a healthy range of deadlift frequency here because different lifters will respond to deadlifts differently. For example, I can deadlift once a week and even bi-weekly and see a nice increase in strength while other lifters need more exposure to see the same amount of gains.
For this lifter, there will be a lot of trial and error and if you’re in this population then I’d suggest playing with different deadlift frequencies to see what you respond best to.
If I’m programming for an intermediate lifter that wants to improve their deadlift strength and pull twice a week, the weekly programming may look something like this,
- Day 1: High Intensity/Low Volume
- 80-93% / 2 x 2, 2 x 1
- Day 2: Moderate Intensity/Moderate Volume
- 68-83% / 6 x 5
On day one, the goal is to move heavier loads that are either ascending in nature or straight sets depending on how a lifter responds to different intensities.
On high stimulus days, I like to program doubles and singles for intermediate and advanced lifters because triples or more for high thresholds can lead to greater degrees of fatigue.
On day two, I’ll program moderate-intensity sets for moderate volumes and this is an accumulation day. At times, I’ll opt for deadlift variations like trap bar deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and stiff-leg deadlifts.
If I’m using a deadlift variation then it’s usually because there’s an area lagging with a lifter’s deadlift performance. For example, the RDL is a great option for a lagging posterior while a trap bar deadlift is great for building strength off of the floor and accumulating volume.
Is Your Goal Maintaining Your Deadlift?
Deadlift maintenance is a fun topic to explore because maintenance can take multiple forms. As you progress through your lifting career, you’ll likely learn “how much is enough” for you to maintain your deadlift proficiency and strength.
For most lifters wanting to maintain their general deadlift strength, typically, deadlifting once a week will be enough.
If I’m programming for a lifter wanting to maintain their deadlift strength only train this movement once per week, then I’ll program something like the following,
- Day 1: Ascending Intensity/Low Volume
- 70-88% / 3 x 2, 1 x 1
For day one of deadlift maintenance, the goal is to give a lifter a nice range of intensity exposures while keeping volume relatively low. Generally, a few heavy singles and doubles will be enough to maintain baseline levels of strength and neural capabilities.
Again though, maintenance can vary pretty greatly and if you’re further along your lifting career then you could likely take a block or two off of deadlifts and swap in a different exercise without really skipping a beat.
As you learn more about how your body responds to different exercises this should be more apparent to you. For a personal anecdote, my back squat is an exercise I need a lot more exposure to maintain versus my deadlift. This is a normal occurrence.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:How many times a week should I deadlift?
Q:Can I deadlift every day?
Q:How often should beginners deadlift?
Deadlift frequency is one of my favorite topics to explore with lifters that ask me, “How often should I be deadlifting to accomplish a said goal?”
There are so many ways to approach the topic of improving your deadlift and frequency is only one of the many variables you’ll want dialed in to ensure you’re being efficient in chasing your deadlift goals.
If you have additional questions about how often you should deadlift, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).