A Deadlift 3 Times Per Week Program

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It’s rare that I post anything on the weekend, but when I do you know it’s kind of a big deal.  Today I’ve got a special guest post from Dave Dellanave, author of the brand spankin new resource (and arguably the best title for a book, like ever) Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination.

Admit it. As soon as you read the title of this post you were thinking “No way.” The deadlift is a lift you perform once per week, if that. It’s too taxing on the CNS and there’s just no way your lower back can handle deadlifting that often. Plus, your hands would probably get torn to shreds, and your gym would kick you out for dropping a heavy bar over and over again every time you come in to lift.


Is everything evil we’ve been told about frequent deadlifting true? People often say the same thing about squatting, and many authors have dispelled and debunked that myth, including our gracious host, Tony.

What I’d like to do here is convince you that if you like deadlifting, it’s more than okay to deadlift more frequently, and you stand to gain tremendously from it. Here are a few reasons I deadlift as often as I do, and I think you should, too:

  • There aren’t many ways to work more muscles than the deadlift. From your hands up to your neck, down your entire back to your calves, and back up the fronts of your legs and your abs, almost every muscle in your body is working during a deadlift. Maybe the only thing it doesn’t develop impressively is your chest. (But who cares about chest muscles when you’ve got a massive back?)
  • Picking up heavy things is an essential life movement. It’s unlikely that a single day goes by that you don’t pick something up. When the time comes to lift something heavy, it’s pretty awesome to not even have to think twice about it because you know it’s a fraction of your deadlift.

  • Having a big deadlift is like having a cheat code for every lift in the gym. I will be the first to tell you I am an embarrassing hack when it comes to the Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk. Yet I can snatch over my bodyweight, and I can clean over 275 pounds, simply because I can cheat with my strength. I won’t be competing at the next Olympic Games, to be sure, but it’s not a bad start from next to nothing. My point is, relative to a triple-bodyweight deadlift, most other things in the gym become easier to achieve.
  • Let’s be honest, nothing is more awesome than taking a heavy bar in your hands and standing up with it like all that is man.

Fortunately, I don’t think I have too much of a tough sell to convince you, a reader of Tony’s site, that deadlifting is awesome. So how can you do it more often?

As I mentioned initially, most programs involve deadlifting once per week with very low sets and reps at a high percentage of your max. For good reason, as well, since it is true that unless you’re very, very new to lifting and very weak, you’re not going to be able to deadlift heavy three times per week. At least, not for very long before you run out of steam. To pull off that frequency, you’ll need a little more creativity and variety. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Day 1:  Heavy, low-rep deadlifts. This looks like your typical deadlift programming, with your favorite deadlift variation performed at a high intensity (meaning percentage of max, not turning up the music and getting slapped before you lift) for 1 to 5 reps and a few heavy working sets.

  • Day 2: Grip deadlifts. Picking up anything heavy off the ground is a deadlift. To cut down the absolute amount of weight lifted, make it hard to hold on to. An extra-thick bar or a pinch lifting block is a great way to do that. Since your hands are going to be the limiting factor here, it’s going to be awfully hard to do too much, so feel free to crank up the volume.
  • Day 3: Light technique or speed. This is your chance to amp up the volume because you’ve dialed down the intensity. At a lighter weight you can either do a lot more reps to hone your technique, use as much speed as possible to improve your rate of force development, or both. At first you will require a fair amount of recovery from higher-volume deadlifting, but in a few weeks you’ll be surprised at how little recovery you actually need and how much work you can get in without affecting your heavy days. If you’re on a M-W-F lifting schedule, you’re probably wondering how it would go to lift heavy on Monday after doing a ton of deadlifts on Friday. Again, you’ll be surprised at how little it affects you negatively, and how it can even improve your heavy days.

This is, in a nutshell, is the program I lay out in my book Off The Floor.

Of course, to round out the program you’ll want to fill in any gaps with appropriate accessory exercises, but this should give you a great starting point. If you love deadlifting even half as much as I do, you’ll get your fix as often as you can handle by deadlifting three (or more) times per week.

Sometimes beliefs, even unfounded ones, can be very limiting. I’ve found, through my own experience and helping people improve their own deadlifts, that not only can you get away with deadlifting often but it’ll do exactly what you want it to do: make you stronger, put more muscle on your body, and up your deadlift numbers.

Looking for more insights like these on the deadlift – as well as a great program to help you improve your pull?  Be sure to check out Dave’s new product, Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination, which is on sale at a great price until Saturday (Sept. 7th) at midnight. 

I read it one sitting last weekend while snuggling on the couch in a blankie, and literally had to resist the urge to hop in my car to drive to the facility right then and there to go train.  It’s awesome.

If I were you I’d act quickly, because the price increase 50% by midnight tonight.

About the Author

David Dellanave is a lifter, coach, and owner of The Movement Minneapolis in the Twin Cities. He implements biofeedback techniques, teaching his clients, ranging from athletes to general population, to truly understand what their bodies are telling them. He writes articles to make you stronger, look better naked, and definitely deadlift more at http://www.dellanave.com/.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ddn

Facebook: http://facebook.com/movementminneapolis


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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Ronn

    How long before we bust through our PRs, as that is the only thing that seems to matter on the internet.

    September 7, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Ronn - it's going to be hit or miss. Newbies and intermediate lifters will likely see progress from the get go. For stronger guys (say, those who can lift 2x-2.5x bodyweight) it may take a bit more attention to detail and tweaking.

      September 8, 2013 at 6:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • ronellsmith

    Tony, Thanks for sharing Dave's new program. I "discovered" Dave (and Jen) from your blog, and they are both a riot--albeit a very strong, smart and witty riot. He's a bright dude I've learned a lot from, including in this blog: The grip deadlifts idea is priceless, an ingenious way to hone technique and strengthen grip in the process. RS

    September 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply to this comment

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