How Many Times in a Week Should You Deadlift?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 30, 2022

Of all the resistance training exercises, the deadlift is the only one that engages the most muscles in one go and is the standard measure for maximum raw strength. Average weightlifters can only squat 90% of their deadlift’s one-repetition maximum (1RM). The deadlift helps build mass and power from the fingers all the way down to the toes. 

Deadlift frequency is best determined by knowing the variables and factors that influence commitment to a deadlift routine, the relationship and advantages of workout frequency to strength, muscle gains, and recovery, and based on goals for which the activity is done. 

Furthermore, a deadlift session is exceedingly strenuous, and it would not be difficult to make excuses to skip this routine every time. Many athletes, bodybuilders, and casual gym goers sometimes, or altogether, skip their deadlift routine because it is hard to recover from, and they dread the pain that comes with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). 

Factors and Variables Affecting Commitment to Deadlift Sessions

Deadlifts strengthen almost all body muscles and promote hypertrophy, especially the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and spinal erectors. It also develops denser bones and stronger connective tissues, including the tendons.

barbell deadlift movement

Committing to a deadlift routine and increased frequency might prove beneficial for overall strength, muscle hypertrophy, a more proportional-looking body, and performance improvements.

In designing a workout program for resistance training, several significant factors must be considered based on the goals and characteristics of the individual. These factors are workout frequency, volume, intensity, and other elements affecting adherence to a workout program.

Intensity

Intensity does not equate to attitude during a session, but rather it is the maximum weight utilized in a workout represented as a percentage of one’s one-repetition maximum (1RM). Another way to describe intensity is the maximum number of repetitions a person can perform for a particular set using the weight intended for that routine.

Volume

Volume is the total amount of work done and is calculated by multiplying sets by reps to weight. For example, if somebody deadlifts 200 pounds for ten repetitions and five sets, the total session volume is 10,000 pounds.

A study by Walker et al. has shown that a high-volume routine produces a more significant amount of muscle fatigue when compared to a high-intensity session.

Frequency

Frequency is the number of sessions for a particular workout within a specific period. More specifically, the number of times a muscle group is exercised weekly. Many weightlifters adhere to low-frequency routines with high volume and high intensity, resulting in a longer post-workout recovery. With squats and deadlifts, the more common practice is only once a week, and other workouts up to twice a week.

Other Factors Affecting Workout-Program Adherence

A workout program designed around the goals and characteristics of the individual will encourage commitment to regular sessions. An assessment of the factors that may affect the realization of a person’s aspirations must be considered in setting a more realistic goal.

Factors that enable or hinder adherence to a regular workout schedule include, but are not limited to, motivation, schedule, biophysical condition, environmental factors, availability of resources, and psychosocial issues.

Effects of Increased Frequency on Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength

In a review by Schoenfeld et al., they concluded that:

“When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week. It can therefore be inferred that the major muscle groups should be trained at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth; whether training a muscle group three times per week is superior to a twice-per-week protocol remains to be determined.”

Another study by Ochi et al. demonstrated that two sets of 12 repetitions (at 67% 1RM), performed three times a week were less strenuous and equally or more effective for gaining muscle size and strength in untrained subjects than six sets of 12 repetitions performed once a week. 

The results have great significance in program design, where individuals can choose their desired frequency by equating volume over the number of times they train a muscle group and also reduce muscle fatigue.

These findings would significantly benefit those who deadlift with high volume and high intensity once a week, resulting in a more extended recovery period. They may split their routine volume into twice or thrice a week, resulting in a reduction in muscle fatigue and a shorter recovery period without compromising gains in muscle hypertrophy and strength.

Guidelines for Different Goals in Deadlift Sessions

Athletes, bodybuilders, and even casual gym goers have different goals when they commit to hitting that bar for a deadlift session.

These aspirations may fall under one or all of the various aspects of muscular training: muscular hypertrophy, muscular strength, muscular power, and muscular endurance.

These recommendations are formulated using Prilepin’s Chart and are based on the assumption that a theoretical 1RM has already been established. Beginners should follow the lowest range values given for intensity, volume, and frequency. Intermediate-level lifters may settle for the middle of the range, while advanced lifters may aim for the top values or even higher.

Muscular Hypertrophy

Muscular hypertrophy is the process by which the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers increases along with the volume and mass of the muscle. A higher load on the muscle causes inducible substances like IGF-1 to be activated, which leads to hypertrophy.

For deadlifts intended for hypertrophy, beginners and intermediate-level weight lifters should target an intensity of 70-80% of 1RM, a volume of 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with a frequency of 1-2 times a week. Advanced lifters may deadlift 80-95% of 1RM, 3-5 sets of 2-10 repetitions, and a frequency of 2-3 times a week. A rest period of 1-2 minutes between sets.

Muscular Strength

Muscular strength is the capacity to produce the greatest amount of force within a single contraction, such as when lifting a weight that could previously only be lifted once before having a brief pause.

For beginners and intermediate level weightlifters, intensity should be 75 to 85% of 1RM, volume of 1-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions, and frequency of 1-3 times a week. Advanced lifters intensity must be around 85-100% of 1RM with volume at 3-6 sets of 1-8 repetitions and frequency of 3-5 times a week.

Muscular Power

Muscular power is described as the optimal quantity of work completed in a specific length of time and is needed during those explosive movements in daily activities, sports, and work. It is the maximum power production possible during a certain movement in the shortest time possible.

For beginners and intermediate level, intensity should be 60-75% of 1RM, volume of 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, and frequency of 2-3 times a week. Advanced lifters intensity must be around 80-95% of 1RM with volume at 4-6 sets of 3-8 repetitions and frequency of 3-5 times a week. In addition, the velocity of concentric contractions (i.e., lifting the weight) must be at least double that of a regular deadlift.

Muscular Endurance

The capacity of a muscle or group of muscles to sustain repeated contractions against a force over an extended period is called muscular endurance. Athletes whose sport involves a lot of running are advised to engage in this type of muscular training.

For muscular endurance training using deadlifts, Intensity must be lower than 70% of 1RM with a volume of 3 to 6 sets for 10 to 30 repetitions or higher and a frequency of 2 to 4 times a week. Rest periods in between should be 30 to 60 seconds.

Avoid Overtraining

Avoid making a drastic increase in volume and intensity to lower the chance of overtraining. For example, when the person can comfortably complete the present workload for one to three repetitions more than the required amount on two consecutive training sessions, it is advised that the intensity be increased by between 1 and 5%.

Final Thoughts

Changing some variables of people’s workout programs may just be the solution for them to commit to their deadlift session schedule and one that may allow further adjustment in the future to increase the frequency of their weekly deadlift routine.

References

1. DA Silva BVC, Branco DBT, Ide BN, et al. Comparison of High-Volume and High-Intensity Upper Body Resistance Training on Acute Neuromuscular Performance and Ratings of Perceived Exertion. Int J Exerc Sci. 2020;13(1):723-733. Published 2020 May 1.

2. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of Resistance Training Frequency on Measures of Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2016;46(11):1689-1697. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8

3. Esco MR. ACSM Information on Resistance Training for Health and Fitness. American College of Sports Medicine 2013. Accessed October 10, 2022 https://www.prescriptiontogetactive.com/static/pdfs/resistance-training-ACSM.pdf

4. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Krieger J. How many times per week should a muscle be trained to maximize muscle hypertrophy? A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies examining the effects of resistance training frequency. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2018;37(11):1286-1295. doi:10.1080/02640414.2018.1555906

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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