How Often To Deadlift

Based on Your Experience, Training Goals, and Workout Split

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: April 1, 2021

Deadlifts are arguably the best exercise for building overall strength and muscle mass. Not to mention they burn a ton of calories! So they’re worth adding to your weight lifting program no matter what your goal.

Of course, you can have too much of a good thing. Deadlifting too frequently will diminish your strength, deplete your energy, and can lead to overtraining. So how do you know how often to deadlift?

The right answer for you depends on several factors unique to your situation. So I’m going to help you figure out the ideal deadlift frequency to get the most out of your workouts without burning out.

How Often To Deadlift

How Often To Deadlift

Most people will benefit from deadlifting 1-2 times per week. But there are specific situations where you could do deadlifts (or deadlift variations) up to 3 times per week.

Your ideal deadlift frequency depends on several factors related to your body, your intentions, and your schedule. So I’m going to explain those factors in more detail to help you determine your deadlift frequency.

Factors That Influence How Often To Deadlift

Before you decide how often to deadlift, it helps to understand the key variables that influence how your body responds to a training stimulus. I’ve broken this down by training history/experience, personal goals, exercise intensity/recovery, and workout split.

Now let me define each of these factors in more detail.

1. Training History & Experience

Training experience is whether you’re a beginner or an advanced weight lifter.

In general, beginners have less than 2 years of continuous resistance training experience. While advanced lifters have been hitting the gym for at least 2 years consistently.

As for training history, I like to think of it as what kind of weight lifting you’ve been doing. Have you done deadlifts before? And if so, how often do you currently deadlift?

These answers affect how often you should deadlift in the immediate future.

2. Personal Goals

When choosing your deadlift frequency, it helps to know what you want to accomplish. For example, are you trying to master the technique? Or are you trying to build a bigger and stronger back?

Different goals call for different training strategies and deadlift protocols.

3. Exercise Intensity & Recovery

Exercise intensity is the amount of work you do in a given timeframe. For deadlifts, intensity depends on the weight, number of reps, number of sets, and rest periods between sets.

Since deadlifts involve lifting relatively heavy weight, it’s already an intense exercise. The more reps and sets you do, the more intense the workout gets. And the more intense a workout, the more time you need to recover.

Therefore, as exercise intensity goes up, deadlift frequency should go down.

How Often To Deadlift Intensity

4. Workout Split

Lastly is your workout split. This refers to which muscle groups you train in each workout over the course of the week.

Deadlifts are a taxing exercise and so are other big compound movements like squats. So it’s important to design your workout split with adequate rest between those taxing workouts.

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at how often you should deadlift based on each of these factors.

1. How Often To Deadlift Based On Experience

For those of you just starting out, deadlifting will work some muscle groups you’re not used to using. The first few times you do it, you might be pretty sore. So you may only want to deadlift once a week at first.

As you get more experienced, you can deadlift to 1-2 times per week. There are rare occasions when you could deadlift up to 3 times, which I’ll get into next.

Always keep in mind though, as weight and reps increase, frequency should decrease.

2. How Often To Deadlift Based On Goals

Generally speaking, people do deadlifts for 3 reasons; to get better at deadlifts, to get stronger, or to get bigger. And your goal has some influence on how often you should deadlift.

Improve Technique

While you’re in the novice phase, your priority should be improving your deadlift form and technique. During this phase, the weight (and intensity) will still be relatively low, so you can deadlift up to 3 times per week to get your form down.

As you progress, your goal will shift from technique to gaining strength and building muscle.

Gain Strength

In order to get stronger, you need to use a concept called progressive overload. This is where you gradually increase the weight you lift each week so that your body adapts by getting stronger

How Often To Deadlift Progressive Overload

Milos of Croton was an ancient Greek wrestler of renowned strength. Legend has it he grew so strong by putting a calf on his shoulders every day as it grew into a bull (aka progressive overload).

Deadlifting once per week should be adequate for general strength gains as long as you gradually increase the weight. But if you’re goal is to maximize your strength on the deadlift, you may need to do more than that.

For example, if you’re training for a powerlifting competition or to set a new personal record, deadlifting twice a week may speed up your progress. In special cases, strength athletes may deadlift 3x per week. But this should not be every week for recovery reasons.

Build Muscle Mass

Strength gains and muscle gains go hand in hand. But training for maximum hypertrophy (muscle growth) is a little different than maximizing strength.

The reason is that hypertrophy generally requires more training volume (total sets) and attention to more muscle groups. All this volume means there’s not a lot of room to deadlift multiple times per week.

For muscle mass, deadlifting 1 time per week is usually plenty. Although there may be cases where you could do it 2 times per week to break through a plateau. This requires special attention to your training split and recovery.

3. How Often To Deadlift Based On Recovery

If you’ve ever done heavy deadlifts, you know they can leave you feeling sore for two or three days. But you may not realize that deadlifts also take a toll on your central nervous system.

Think of your body as a robotic machine. If your muscles are the mechanical parts, then your nervous system is the electrical wiring. When you overload the robot, you wear out the mechanical components as well as the electrical.

One part of recovery is rebuilding your mechanical parts (muscles). But you also need to rewire your electrical parts (nervous system). And the latter can take longer.

So how long does it take for your nervous system to recover? Well, studies show that it takes experienced lifters about 72 hours to recover from deadlifts according to heart rate variability (HRV) measurements.

How Often To Deadlift Recovery

Actual nervous system recovery (measured HRV) following heavy compound movement workouts. Adapted from Chen et al.1

Based on the above data, you should not deadlift more than once every three days. Theoretically, you could deadlift 3 times in the same week. But then you would only be able to deadlift 2 times per week for the next two weeks.

To illustrate, the calendar below shows what it would look like if you deadlifted every 3 days. Since there are 7 days in a week, you average 2.33 times per week. ( 7 ÷ 3 = 2 1/3 )

Keep in mind, that high frequency is only possible if you’re not doing other taxing exercises like heavy back squats. And it’s normally not necessary.

How Often To Deadlift Max

Hypothetical maximum frequency for deadlifts. Note: This is for illustration purposes only, not a recommendation!

Next, let’s take a look a how deadlifting might realistically fit into your weekly workout routine.

4. How To Design Your Workout Split Around Deadlifts

Now that you know it takes 72 hours to recover from heavy deadlifts, the challenge is putting together a workout split that helps you reach your goals without overtraining your body.

Of course, you need to be lifting more than once or twice a week to get results. But you shouldn’t be training 7 days a week either.

So let’s look at 3, 4, 5, and 6-day workout splits. These examples show how you can incorporate deadlifts or deadlift variations with different routines.

3 Day Split

On a 3 day workout split you normally workout every other day. In other words, that’s 48 hours of recovery between workouts. So you shouldn’t do heavy deadlifts in back-to-back sessions.

As an example, you might workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You could do deadlifts once per week on any of those days. Or you could do deadlifts twice per week on Monday and Friday.

When I design a 3-day workout program, I have you train all muscle groups in each workout. For this reason, I usually include deadlift variations that are less taxing such as Romanian deadlifts.

  • Monday Total Body: Barbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Tuesday Rest
  • Wednesday Total Body: No Deadlift
  • Thursday Rest
  • Friday Total Body: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Saturday Rest
  • Sunday Rest

4 Day Split

With a 4 day split, you might workout 4 consecutive days, like Monday through Thursday. Or, what I like to do, is take a rest day mid-week. So you would lift Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday.

Either way, you’ll want to give yourself 3 days of recovery between heavy deadlifts. Usually, I recommend a push-pull style split where each pull day is separated by at least 72 hours.

  • Monday Push: No Deadlift
  • Tuesday Pull: Trap Bar Deadlift
  • Wednesday Rest
  • Thursday Push: No Deadlift
  • Friday Pull: Sumo Deadlift
  • Saturday Rest
  • Sunday Rest

You’ll also notice the two different kinds of deadlifts. This is one way to spread out the load onto different parts of the legs and back. I’ll describe each in more detail in the next section.

5 Day Split

Once you get to a 5 day split, I recommend targeting one individual muscle group per workout to aid recovery. This is often referred to as the bro split workout, although it’s not as douchey as it sounds. 😂

One drawback of the 5 day split is that it’s difficult to do deadlifts because they hit more than one muscle group. However, you can do deadlift variations with a partial range of motion to isolate the back and hamstrings.

  • Monday Chest: No Deadlift
  • Tuesday Back: Rack Pulls
  • Wednesday Legs: Stiff Leg Deadlift
  • Thursday Shoulders: No Deadlift
  • Friday Arms: No Deadlift
  • Saturday Rest
  • Sunday Rest

6 Day Split

With a 6 day split you have multiple options. One way is a variation of the bro split where you train 2 muscle groups per day instead of 1. This enables you to train some muscle groups twice a week which maximizes growth.

Option 1: Modified Bro Split

  • Monday Quads & Shoulders: No Deadlift
  • Tuesday Chest & Triceps: No Deadlift
  • Wednesday Lats & Biceps: No Deadlift
  • Thursday Shoulders & Upper Chest: No Deadlift
  • Friday Hamstrings & Mid Back: Deadlift & RDLs
  • Saturday Biceps & Triceps: No Deadlift
  • Sunday Rest

Another way to design this split is called push-pull-legs. With this option, you can do deadlifts on either a leg day or a pull day as long as you have 72 hours between them.

The only drawback is that you have to be careful about overtraining if you’re also doing squats on your leg days. For this reason, I like to spit deadlifts up into rack pulls and RDLs.

Option 2: Push-Pull-Legs-Repeat

  • Monday Push: No Deadlifts
  • Tuesday Pull: Rack Pulls
  • Wednesday Legs: RDLs
  • Thursday Push: No Deadlifts
  • Friday Pull: Conventional Deadlift
  • Saturday Legs: No Deadlift
  • Sunday Rest

Other Splits

Of course, there are many other possibilities for different training splits. And some might look totally different for beginners or those with very specific training goals.

However, the examples above are well-rounded workout programs for intermediate to advanced lifters targeting all the major muscle groups.

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You may have noticed that I’ve included a few different types of deadlifts. As well as some exercises that don’t seem like deadlifts at all. So let me discuss these variations and alternatives.

Deadlift Variations & Alternatives

Deadlift variations and alternatives include any exercise that works all or part of the same range of motion.

This includes full range of motion exercises using different stances, hand grips, or bars. As well as partial range of motion exercises that focus more on the hamstrings or upper back.

Conventional Deadlift

The conventional deadlift is what we refer to as “the deadlift”. It’s a straightforward exercise starting with the bar on the ground and standing all the way up to lockout.

Generally, your feet and hands should be about shoulder-width apart. And you want to keep your back straight or slightly arched.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is another full range of motion lift from the floor. But the stance and grip on the bar are different. For one, your hands grip the bar between your legs instead of outside them.

Also, your feet are spread wide and your toes pointed out. At the start of the lift, your stance resembles that of a sumo wrestler about to square off with an opponent. Hence the name.

The sumo stance allows your back to stay upright and puts more of the load on your inner thighs and quads. The range of motion is shorter, which means you can usually lift more weight with this variation.

How Often To Deadlift Sumo

Hex or Trap Bar Deadlift

A trap bar or hex bar is shaped like a hexagon with handgrips on either side. With this deadlift variation, you stand inside the bar and your hands are directly at your sides.

This bar also allows you to stay upright at the start of the movement instead of bending forward to grab a barbell in front of you. For this reason, it’s a little easier on your lower back.

This hand position puts more of the load on your upper back and traps, which is where this bar gets its name. It’s also good for doing shrugs.

Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are like a partial range of motion deadlift. By placing the bar on a rack or blocks, you raise the starting point of the exercise which reduces the involvement of the hamstrings and low back.

For this reason, rack pulls are better for building your upper back and traps. As well as increasing your strength in the top half of the deadlift movement.

Romanian Deadlift (RDLs)

The Romanian deadlift is an exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings using a relatively light weight compared to deadlifts. To start, you pick up the bar off the floor like a deadlift and hold it in front of you.

Then, lower the weight by pushing your hips back and bending slightly at the knees. Once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, push your hips forward to bring the weight back up.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift is similar to the Romanian deadlift except each rep starts from the floor and you don’t bend your knees. As with RDLs, it targets more hamstrings and you should use significantly lighter weight to avoid straining your back.

How Often To Deadlift Key Takeaways

  • Most people will benefit from deadlifting 1 time per week
  • When improving technique or training for max strength, you could deadlift up to 2 or even 3 times per week for a short time
  • Your central nervous system requires about 72 hours to recover from heavy deadlifts
  • When designing your workout split, allow adequate time to recover between any heavy compound exercise like deadlifts or squats
  • Alternative exercises like rack pulls and RDLs can be used to improve specific parts of the deadlift range of motion


Deadlifts are a fundamental weightlifting movement that involves the entire posterior chain. They are excellent for building size and strength. But you have to be careful not to overdo it.

It’s important to think about your experience, goals, and recovery when creating your workout split. Or share your goals with a certified personal trainer and have them design your plan for you.

For more answers to all your workout-related questions, be sure to check out my related content below!

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By |April 1, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
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