Deadlifting Two Days in a Row: Is it Worth the Risk?

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There is no problem with deadlifting two (or even more) days in a row, although this will largely depend on your training experience and powers of recovery. However, you should vary the intensity and stick to lower volumes of work. Plus, you can use alternative deadlift variations if you decide to perform the movement more than once a week.

Vary Your Deadlift Intensity

Mark Rippetoe: "The deadlift is the most important lift for overall strength and development." "Don't overtrain your deadlifts. Give your body enough rest to recover fully."

Personally, I see nothing wrong with deadlifting two days in a row.

In fact, at the time of writing, I am actually in the process of deadlifting 5 times a week for the foreseeable future.

I have previously performed squats every single day for a prolonged period and saw some amazing results.

However, due to a previous lower back injury I was somewhat wary about my squat experiment.

And I would’ve been the same with my deadlift experiment, if it wasn’t for my previous awesome results with the squat.

The idea to deadlift for 5 days in a row (as opposed to just two) came from reading a truly superb article by Dave Bonollo.

Dave actually carried out an experiment and performed deadlifts for 125 days in a row.

Now something that Dave learned along the way is that lifting with the same intensity all the time absolutely sucked.

Plus, this could be a precursor to injury.

My recommendation is that it isn’t bad to deadlift two days in a row if you vary your intensity.

So, day one may involve a 5×5 deadlift session at near maximum weight.

However, then you could drop back on day two and perhaps lift 3 sets of 5 reps with 70% of your one-rep max.

The point being is this isn’t about trying to pull as much weight as possible day-after-day.

You can still achieve amazing results by altering the amount of weight you choose to lift.

In fact, Dave Dellanave, considered by many as the “King of Deadlifts” talks about finding your 12-rep max or 20-rep max with the deadlift.

The idea, once again, is that you don’t have to strain every single muscle in the body by trying to hit your one-rep max 2 days in a row.

Use Multiple Deadlift Variations

When it comes down to whether or not deadlifting two days in a row is bad, intensity isn’t the only thing that matters.

There are literally a whole host of deadlift variations to choose from.

So, if you really want to deadlift two days in a row (or 5 days like me), then try to mix things up a little.

I think when most people ask about deadlifting for a couple of days straight, or more than once a week, they are solely focused on the same deadlift.

I would hazard a guess those asking want to do the conventional deadlift using the same amount of weight.

However, as I’ve mentioned above, you don’t need to lift with the same intensity day-after-day to produce some great results.

And you certainly don’t have to stick with the conventional deadlift either.

For my 5 day a week experiment, not only am I going to vary intensity, I’m also going pick-and-choose from 6 deadlift variations that I enjoy.

They are:

  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Romanian Deadlift
  • Trap-Bar Deadlift
  • Rack Pulls
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Snatch-Grip Deadlift

This means that although I am hitting the legs and posterior chain pretty much every day, there is also a great deal of variety.

This will keep things fresh, plus it’s a great way to avoid potential repetitive and overuse injuries.

Charles Poliquin: "Instead of multiple deadlift sessions, consider incorporating other exercises targeting the posterior chain like Romanian Deadlifts, Trap Bar Deadlifts, or Glute Bridges for balanced training."

Reduce Your Workload on “Leg Day”

This is a tip I picked up from Dave Bonollo’s article I’ve mentioned above.

And, in truth, as weird as it sounds, from my experiment with squatting every day.

If you’re planning to deadlift two or more days in a row, then take it easy with the other leg exercises you perform during the week.

I know many of you may follow a “bro routine”, i.e. legs, chest, back, shoulders, arms.

However, when you’re hitting deadlifts more than once a week, especially at 3 times a week or more, your legs are going to get a pretty good going over.

Personally, I’m not one for following this type of routine, but I will definitely be reducing the amount of work I do on legs.

In fact, I can’t see myself maxing out on squats when I’m deadlift 5 times a week.

I will probably stick to 3-4 sets of moderate-weight barbell back squats at 8-12 reps.

Plus, I’ll add some Bulgarian split squats.

But, that’s it.

My deadlift experiment isn’t going to last forever, and it certainly won’t be anywhere near as long as Dave’s 125 days.

So, if you are looking to deadlift two days in a row, just ease off the leg work a bit.

Deadlifts will give the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors plenty to do, so you really don’t want to overload the legs.

Menno Henselmans: "Listen to your body! Don't force deadlifts two days in a row if you experience fatigue or soreness. Adjust your program and prioritize safe and effective training."

Keep On Top of Nutrition and Sleep

The main reason that many people view deadlifting more than once a week as a bad thing is because of potential “overtraining”.

Yes, deadlifts are extremely taxing on the central nervous system and the body in general.

And yes, the muscles typically grow and get stronger when we rest, not when we train.

However, to actually “overtrain” and to “over tax the central nervous system” takes a helluva lot more than most of us are capable of.

Layne Norton: "Nutrition is key for deadlifts. Prioritize protein for muscle growth and repair, carbs for energy, and healthy fats for hormone balance."

I can guarantee that if you’re lifting big multiple times a week that good nutrition and plenty of sleep will aid with recovery.

If you deadlift two days or more in a row you’ll definitely start to notice that your appetite soon increases.

So, it’s important to fuel both your workouts and recovery adequately.

And when it comes to sleep, this is essentially one of the most important aspects to recovery, growth, and repetition.

I’ve spoken many times before about how workouts can be badly impacted if you haven’t had enough sleep.

Plus, I’ve also mentioned that it is during the stages of deep sleep that testosterone and Human Growth Hormone are released.

So, if you want to deadlift more often, and if you want to get bigger and stronger, then please ensure you’re getting enough sleep.

Take a Rest Day or Two

Okay, this may come across as slightly hypocritical.

But, even in my “squatting every day” and Dave’s “deadlifting every day” experiments, there were still rest days.

I am looking at my own, current deadlift experiment in exactly the same way.

I will train Monday to Friday.

This will involve a new deadlift variation each day.

I will keep the volume fairly low, i.e. no more than 3-4 working sets a day.

My intensity will also vary from day-to-day.

I will make sure I’m eating plenty and getting enough sleep.

However, I will still be taking complete rest days on Saturday and Sunday.

Well, as it’s me, I am walking 4-5 miles each day at the weekend, but view this as low-intensity, active-recovery.

So, if you want to deadlift more often you still need to take some rest at some point during the week.

Bret Contreras: "Deadlifts stress your central nervous system and muscles. Prioritize rest days for optimal recovery and prevent overtraining."

I know I’ve said that it’s extremely difficult to overtrain or overtax the Central Nervous System.

However, without taking ample rest, fatigue and stress can set in.

This will simply increase your levels or cortisol and hamper your workouts.

So, even though you won’t be “overtrained”, your workouts will definitely suffer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Would Happen if You Only Did Deadlifts?

If you only did deadlifts as your exercise routine, there would be both positive and negative outcomes. 

Deadlifts are a compound exercise, meaning they work multiple muscle groups at once. 

They primarily targets the muscles in your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, and to some extent, your upper back and forearms.

In terms of benefits, deadlifts are highly effective for building overall strength. 

They are one of the few exercises that engage both the upper and lower body, making them excellent for developing core strength and stability. 

Renowned strength coach Mark Rippetoe, author of “Starting Strength,” emphasizes the effectiveness of deadlifts in building functional strength that can be applied in real-world situations.

However, focusing solely on deadlifts could lead to imbalances and potential injuries. 

For instance, deadlifts do not significantly work the pushing muscles like the chest, shoulders, and triceps. 

This lack of balance can lead to muscular imbalances. 

Furthermore, overemphasis on deadlifts can increase the risk of overuse injuries. 

Deadlifting too frequently without adequate rest can strain the lower back and hamstrings, leading to issues such as chronic lower back pain or hamstring pulls.

Additionally, a well-rounded fitness routine includes not just strength training, but also cardiovascular, flexibility, and mobility work. 

Neglecting these aspects can lead to a decrease in overall fitness and may affect your ability to perform daily activities efficiently.

So, while deadlifts are a powerful exercise for building strength, relying solely on them can lead to muscle imbalances, potential injuries, and a lack of comprehensive fitness. 

It’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises in your routine to ensure balanced muscular development and overall health.

Can I Quit Squats and Just Stick to Deadlifts?

Both squats and deadlifts are foundational lower body focused exercises in strength training, but they target different muscle groups and offer distinct benefits.

Firstly, it’s essential to understand the primary differences between these exercises. 

Squats primarily work the quadriceps, glutes, and hips, while also engaging the core and lower back. 

Deadlifts, on the other hand, focus more on the posterior chain, which includes the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and to a lesser extent, the upper back and forearms.

If you decide to quit squats and only do deadlifts, you might experience some changes in your training outcomes. 

The most significant change would be in muscle development. 

Bret Contreras: "Leg imbalances are common, often stemming from training emphasis, injury history, or even subtle biomechanical differences."

Since squats are highly effective for building quadriceps and overall leg strength, omitting them could lead to less development in these areas. 

Over time, this might create a muscle imbalance between the front and back of your legs.

Strength coach and author Louie Simmons, known for his work with powerlifters, often discusses the importance of balance in training. 

According to Simmons, neglecting certain muscle groups can lead to weaknesses that may affect overall performance and increase the risk of injury.

Additionally, squats and deadlifts offer different functional benefits. 

Squats mimic a fundamental human movement pattern and are essential for tasks involving lifting from a squat position. 

Deadlifts are more specific to picking up objects from the ground. 

By removing squats from your routine, you may lose some functional abilities related to squatting movements.

However, if squats are not suitable for you due to injury, discomfort, or other reasons, it’s perfectly reasonable to focus on deadlifts and other exercises. 

In such cases, it’s important to incorporate alternative exercises that target the quadriceps and the anterior (front) portion of the lower body, such as lunges or leg presses, to maintain muscular balance.

Is Intensity or Frequency Better For Deadlifts?

When it comes to deadlifts, choosing between intensity and frequency depends on your fitness goals, experience level, and how your body responds to training.

Firstly, intensity in weightlifting typically refers to the amount of weight lifted. 

Lifting heavier weights (high intensity) is beneficial for increasing muscular strength and size. 

When you lift heavy, you stimulate more muscle fibers, particularly the fast-twitch fibers, which are crucial for strength and power. 

Renowned strength coach and author Jim Wendler, creator of the 5/3/1 training program, advocates for periodic heavy lifting to achieve continuous strength gains.

On the other hand, frequency refers to how often you perform an exercise. 

Increasing the frequency of deadlifts can lead to better technique mastery and muscular endurance. 

Frequent practice of the deadlift allows you to refine your form, which is vital for both safety and effectiveness. 

Moreover, training a muscle group more often can stimulate muscle growth and improve recovery, as noted by strength and conditioning coach Brad Schoenfeld, known for his research on muscle hypertrophy.

However, once more I repeat, deadlifts are particularly taxing on the body, especially the central nervous system and the lower back. 

High intensity or high frequency without adequate recovery can lead to overtraining, increasing the risk of injury and hindering progress. 

This is why many strength training programs recommend deadlifting only once or twice a week, allowing ample recovery time.

For beginners, it’s often advised to start with a moderate frequency and intensity, gradually increasing as your body adapts. 

More experienced lifters might focus on high-intensity sessions spaced out with enough recovery time or incorporate lighter sessions for technique work.

Charles Poliquin: "Advanced lifters might benefit from periodization, employing heavier weights with lower frequency during strength phases and lighter weights with higher frequency during hypertrophy phases."

The best approach is often a balanced one. 

For instance, you might alternate between weeks of high-intensity deadlifting and weeks of moderate intensity with higher frequency. 

This method, known as periodization, is widely used to improve strength over time while minimizing the risk of overtraining.

So as you can see, both intensity and frequency have their place in a deadlift training program. 

The key is to balance the two in a way that aligns with your goals, considers your experience level, and respects your body’s need for recovery. 

As always, listening to your body and adjusting your training accordingly is crucial for long-term progress and injury prevention.

Key Learning Points

  • It’s absolutely fine to deadlift two days (or more) in a row.
  • Ensure you switch up the intensity levels one day to the next, e.g. heavy load with low reps one day, light load with moderate-to-high reps the next day.
  • Use different deadlift variations day-to-day, e.g. conventional, sumo, Romanian, snatch-grip, trap-bar, rack pulls, etc.
  • Make recovery a priority, e.g. rest days, great nutrition, good sleep habits, etc.

If you’re looking to get your deadlift to PB levels, check out what I have to say about the rarity of pulling a 600lbs deadlift.

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