How Many Times You Should Deadlift in a Week

Jake Boly, C.S.C.S.
·6-min read

From Men's Health

If you want to build real strength in the weight room, you're going to need to lift heavy weights. One of the best exercises to do that is the barbell deadlift. But performing the exercise properly with large loads takes a toll – since the deadlift is a multi-joint movement that engages major muscles and puts heavy loads on the spine, it taxes the central nervous system in a way that other exercises don't. To pull heavy, you have to pull smart.

When you’re frequently performing barbell deadlifts, a common question to wonder is, “How often should I be deadlifting?” From a coaching point of view, I like to take this question a step further and ask my clients, “What is your deadlift-focused goal?”

Do you just want to improve your deadlift strength and 1-rep max, or do you want to conquer this fundamental movement pattern? If we can identify what our deadlift-specific goals are, then we create a deadlift frequency that fits our wants and needs.

Let's break down exactly how to decide how often you should be deadlifting for multiple specific goals. By creating a strategic game plan, we can approach our end-goals and workout programming with strategy and intent.

Deadlift Frequency Factors to Consider


Photo credit: Mongkolchon Akesin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mongkolchon Akesin - Getty Images

Before deciding on your ideal deadlift frequency, it’s a good idea to first consider a few key factors that can also play a hand in contributing to your ideal deadlift frequency.

The factors below will also contribute to the context of your individual needs and can then be applied to your deadlift goals.

1. Training History and Age

The first aspect to consider is your training history and age. Are you a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced athlete? In this case, training age would be the amount of time you’ve been formally training with barbell-specific movements.

Why This Is Important: An intermediate and advanced lifter will have a better understanding of how their body handles higher training frequency demands compared to a beginner lifter. This understanding can then help create realistic starting points for shifting frequency up or down.

2. Overall Programming Structure

In every training program, when one variable shifts, another generally needs to give. If you plan to increase your deadlift frequency, then you need to account for your overall programming exercise selection, training intensity, and volume.

Why This Is Important: When you account for the overall scope of your program, you can avoid running into a wall too quickly and create a realistic means for managing fatigue accumulation. Basically, we want to avoid going from 0 to 100 and overtraining.

3. Goal Timeline

The timeline in which you want to achieve your deadlift-focused goals is also important to recognise. For example, if you want to achieve a certain deadlift PR, what type of runway do you want to work with? In other words, when are you hoping to achieve this mark?

Why This Is Important: A goal-focused timeline for deadlifts will help you set realistic goals and parameters to keep you on track. Plus, this timeline can contribute to the framework of your overall program structure and assist in exercise selection, loading parameters, and overall training volume.

How Many Times a Week Should You Deadlift?

Photo credit: Zocha_K - Getty Images
Photo credit: Zocha_K - Getty Images

Once we’ve established the above points, we can then dive into selecting our ideal frequency based on the goals provided below. We’re going to cover three specific deadlift goals in this article.

1. Skill Acquisition

The goal of skill acquisition entails the primary focus being on learning and perfecting the deadlift’s form. Generally, this goal will be utilized by lifters that either want to A) learn how to deadlift properly, or B) focus on a specific point in the deadlift.

For most lifters, a higher deadlift frequency will be useful when deadlift skill acquisition is the desired outcome. More frequent exposures can lead to better (and faster) gains.

Programming Recommendations

Weekly Deadlift Frequency: 2 to 5 times a week

Weekly Structure

  • 1 strength-focused day (moderate reps and moderate loading)

  • 1 to 2 skill days (higher reps and lighter/moderate loading)

  • 1 to 3 deadlift variation days

If your goal is improving on a specific point in the deadlift, then opt for variations that will promote working towards that goal. For example, if you have trouble off the floor, then try tempo deadlifts or paused deadlifts.

2. Strength

Deadlift frequency can vary slightly for strength-focused goals due to differences in training history. Lower and higher deadlift frequencies can both work for achieving this goal.

Generally, beginners can get by with less frequency, as it doesn’t take a whole lot to increase strength for this lifting population. Intermediate and advanced lifters can—at times—require a higher deadlift frequency due to them having a higher threshold.

Programming Recommendations

Weekly Deadlift Frequency: 1 to 3 times a week

Weekly Structure

  • 1 strength-focused day (moderate/lower reps and moderate/higher loading)

  • 1 strength/hypertrophy focused day (moderate reps and moderate loading)

  • 1 deadlift variation day

Author’s Note: For powerlifters and strength sports athletes, your specific needs may be different from what’s provided above, as you’ll also need to consider the specificity of your sport and current competitive level for finding your deadlift frequency.

3. Maintenance

For lifters with the goal of simply maintaining their deadlift strength and numbers, or even marginally progressing their deadlift, then it’s a good idea to look at research for training suggestions.

An interesting meta-analysis that sought to find minimum effective dose recommendations required for increases in strength for the squat, bench press, and deadlift suggested the following: To marginally increase squat and bench press strength, authors posit that one set of 6 to 12 reps performed 2 to 3 times a week was enough to move the needle forward. Then, lifters performed their sets between 70 to 85 percent of their 1-RM for 8 to 12 weeks. For the deadlift, the authors noted that there still isn’t enough research to draw suggestions from—however, we can use the above information to build a basis for suggesting maintenance deadlift frequency.

Programming Recommendations

Weekly Deadlift Frequency: 1 time per week

Weekly Structure

  • 1 strength-focused day (moderate reps and moderate/higher loading)

Context Matters

Photo credit: FlamingoImages - Getty Images
Photo credit: FlamingoImages - Getty Images

Remember that as you apply the above recommendations to your individual goals, these are merely suggestions to build upon. Generally, when we alter training variables like frequency we need trial and error to find what works best per our needs, resources, and goals.

If you’re increasing or decreasing your deadlift frequency, try out your new protocol for a small mesocycle (a 3 to 5 week split), then gauge your progress after you’ve spent time accumulating exposure to this new training style and make changes then.

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