Last updated on March 14th, 2023 at 06:04 pm
Let’s face facts, deadlifts are tough.
In fact, an intense deadlifts session could literally wipe you out for a few days.
This being the case, does it make more sense to perform deadlifts at the end of your workout?
Deadlifts are traditionally done at the beginning of a workout. The main reason for this is because they are typically the most physically demanding exercise you’ll do in your workout. Therefore, you may be too fatigued to perform deadlifts to the best of your ability at the end of your workout. However, if you’re performing a powerlifting-style workout, deadlifts are best left till the end. You should start with squats, then do bench press, and finish with deadlifts.
Deadlifts First – The Traditional Way
The “traditional” way to perform deadlifts is at the beginning of your workout.
Deadlifts recruit so many muscles in the body that many people want to perform them while they’re “at their best”.
Basically, deadlifts are typically the most physically demanding exercise you’re likely to perform during your workout.
So, it makes sense to do them as early as possible.
Plus, deadlifts also recruit many stabilizers and assisting muscles, so it seems better to do deadlifts while these muscles are also at full strength.
And let’s not forget that deadlifts hit the Central Nervous System extremely hard.
So, many people would not wish to fatigue any of their muscles prior to performing such a taxing exercise.
With that being said, there are those who believe that deadlifts are best performed at the end of a workout.
The main reason for this is because they want all their muscles to be thoroughly warmed up and therefore able to take on such a demanding exercise.
The thinking here is that as you’re using so many muscles during deadlifts the last thing you want is to injure yourself because the muscles aren’t warm.
Now don’t get me wrong, you should of course be performing a thorough warm up prior to deadlifts.
And by this I don’t simply mean doing a few light sets of deadlifts.
You’ll want to complete certain mobility work, as well as warming up your core, before you even go near the barbell.
And even after your mobility and warm up work you should still perform a few sets of deadlifts below maximum intensity.
However, I know some people feel that this isn’t enough, and would therefore prefer to do deadlifts later in the workout.
For me, there isn’t any specific right or wrong way.
However, I’ll now cover where I think you should do deadlifts based on the type of workout you’re doing.
Do Deadlifts Last With a Powerlifting Workout
Deadlifts happen to be one of the “Big 3 Lifts”, along with the bench press and squats.
These exercises are typically viewed as the main exercises that a powerlifter would perform.
Basically, these are the exercises that they wish to get better at for competitive purposes.
The Big 3 have now become part and parcel of most people’s workouts, irrespective of how they train.
However, what if you are performing a powerlifting-style workout?
You simply want to train the Big 3 exercises regularly and nothing more.
What order should you perform them in?
Firstly, the conventional powerlifting way would be to train all 3 exercises three times a week.
But, you would start each subsequent workout with a different lift.
So, in effect each lift receives top billing at least once a week.
A typical split would see you squat first on Monday, bench first of Wednesday, and Deadlift first on Friday.
This makes a great deal of sense, as every week each exercise will be performed at least once while you’re at your freshest.
However, there are another couple of ways to perform the Big 3, and the deadlift always comes last.
Firstly, you have the order of squat, bench, and deadlift.
The thinking here is that the squat is also a physically demanding exercise that taxes the Central Nervous System, but it doesn’t hit quite as many muscles as the deadlift.
But, squatting first is enough to get the entire body warm, primed, and ready.
You then give your legs a break, as you bench press next, thus allowing you to concentrate on the upper body.
And then you do your deadlifts last.
The other way would be to bench press first, followed by squats and then deadlifts.
The reason for this is that the bench press can be impacted by either of the other exercises, as they hit the Central Nervous System so hard.
The takeaway here is that if you’re performing powerlifting-style workouts then the deadlift will usually come last.
Do Deadlifts Near the Start With a Pull Workout
As you can see, the type of workout you’re doing will typically have an impact on when you perform deadlifts.
A great workout split that is extremely popular is push/pull/legs.
Now, firstly I will always categorically state that the deadlift is leg exercise.
And I’d even go as far to say that deadlifts are also a push exercise.
However, most people will generally perform deadlifts on a “pull day” or a “back day”.
I have no real issue with this, each to their own I say.
Plus, the deadlift does require an isometric contraction of the lats, upper back, and most of the “pull muscles”.
But, please remember that you should not be “pulling” the bar off the floor.
The main aim is to use your glutes and hamstrings to lift the load from the floor.
With that being said, if you are doing deadlifts on “pull” or “back” day then you’ll want to do them as soon as possible.
The main reason for this is that a variety of rows, pull ups, and curls are likely to fatigue the upper back, lats, biceps, and forearms.
And even though you are not specifically pulling with a deadlift, the lift can be affected when your pull muscles are tired.
If your forearms or lats are spent you’re going to find it extremely difficult to get anywhere near your max deadlift weight.
So, for me, you should be performing deadlifts as early as possible if your workout involves a lot of pulling exercises.
Start With The Exercise You Want to Improve Most
Pure and simple, the exercise you start with in your workout should generally be the one that you wish to improve the most.
As I’ve already mentioned, this is when you’re at your freshest.
So, if you want to improve your pressing muscles, then start your workout with the bench press or overhead press.
If squatting is most important to you then squat first in your workout.
And of course, if you wish to improve and increase your deadlift, then perform the movement at the beginning of your workout.
You can still progress with any exercise irrespective of which order it comes in your workout.
But, for most of us, we will make our greatest gains when performing an exercise when we are at our freshest.
Key Learning Points
- The traditional way to peform deadlifts is at the beginning of your workout. But, you can change this to suit your specific training protocol.
- Deadlifts are extremely taxing on the body and the Central Nervous System, so performing them first may affect the rest of your workout.
- Do deadlifts at the end of your workout if you are performing a powerlifting-style workout.
- Do deadlifts at the beginning of your workout on a pull-specific or back-specific day.
- Always start your workout with the exercise you wish to improve most. So, if your aim is to improve and increase your deadlift as much as possible, perform them at the start of your workout.
I’ve mentioned a few times how taxing deadlifts can be. So, ensure you check out my article about why you generally feel so tired after deadlifts.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.