The deadlift is an excellent exercise as it is metabolic in nature and loads up the entire body. If done correctly and in proper frequency, deadlifts will build your hip, leg, and back muscles very quickly and very generously.
Because it’s so effective, people tend to hypothesize that they can deadlift more and more and they will see bigger and better gains. But how much of this is true and how much of it is nonsense needs to be evaluated.
Consequently, among lifters who stand by the deadlift as one of their favorite lifts, a question that is asked more and more is how often one should deadlift for optimal results. The volume, intensity, and frequency with which you deadlift can greatly affect your results – so it is vital that you get this part right!
The Usual Case
Most people who are badass enough to deadlift, perform the lift either once, twice, or in rare cases, thrice a week. Some advanced powerlifters go heavy on deadlifts only once a month, as this best suits their training plan. On the flipside, you might encounter maniacs once in a while who will tell you to deadlift every day.
You have to realize that there is no clear-cut answer to this question unless we involve the training intensity. The deadlift is easily the most demanding of exercises, so you have to be really careful in planning your training routine for it. For instance, most people will deadlift only once a week, but they go heavy with near maximal weights in this one session.
The Truth about Deadlifting Twice a Week
Quite simply stated, deadlifting twice is OKAY – but only under some conditions. Here are the guidelines:
1. Deadlifting heavy twice a week is too taxing on the body for most trainees that we’ve seen.
You should be fine if your “heavy” falls under 225lb or so but beyond this, you are inviting trouble in the name of fatigue and plateaus by going heavy twice a week.
The deadlift is just too taxing on the nervous system and you’ll just fry yourself by going heavy two or three times a week. Yes, few lifters might argue they can survive on such a routine, but these people would count as exceptional. You are normal.
2. That said, deadlifting twice a week can be better than deadlifting once a week. How?
Deadlifting twice a week can actually be better if you switch things up in one of the two sessions, by doing lighter sets with more volume. So on one session you go heavy and work in the 1-5 rep range, while in the second session of the week you should aim for sets of 8-10 reps of lighter weights but more repetitions.
Alternatively, you can use the second session for another variation like Sumo deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts. These lightweight endurance sessions will help you progress faster in adding weight to your deadlift.
The Smarter Choice
There is a smarter way to deadlift just in case you’re wondering, especially if you belong to the demographic of meatheads who switch to twice-a-week heavy deadlifts (from once-a-week) in pursuit of more strength and faster gains.
Well, it’s quite simple, mathematically at least. If once a week is slightly less challenging for you, but twice a week can prove to be too much, simply go for 1.5x a week! This is the same thing as deadlifting 3 times in 2 weeks. To put it to context, you will deadlift 18 times in 3 months, as compared to 12 times if you only performed deadlifts once a week.
For optimal results, deadlifting heavy 3 times every two weeks is often better and more lucrative than going heavy just once a week. This way, you’ll progress faster, build more muscle, and avoid fatigue all at the same time. This is why programs like Stronglifts 5×5 and Starting Strength make you bench press and deadlift 3 times every two weeks as well.
You should always push yourself a bit harder, but not too much that it would adversely affect your progress. That is the whole idea of training.