Considering Deadlift Frequency
A year and a half ago, I hurt my back. Luckily, I rehabbed that sucker after reading Stuart McGill’s Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance (a book that I sincerely recommend to anyone – click here to read my full review on it). This year, I also conditioned my back by using kettlebell swings and various core exercises.
I tried deadlifting for the first time in a long time (years?) just recently and pulled 135 lbs, and boy did it feel light!!! This week, I pulled 205lbs for reps and, once again, it was feeling nice and light. Here’s to healthy spines and strong posterior chains!
Once I start hitting a plateau, I’ll need to implement a slightly more advanced deadlifting program – and when that brings me to another plateau, I’ll need a more advanced program to get me over that wall.
Different Approaches, Same Results?
What’s interesting is the variety of programs and philosophies regarding the training of the deadlift. You think there’d be a narrowed “scope” of approaches to becoming elite in this lift, but it appears that methods really differ.
One “difference” I’ve seen is in the frequency of performing the deadlift. Some advocate frequent lifting, with Pavel Tsatsouline for example prescribing lifting up to 5 days per week with ultra-low-volume for each workout in his book, Power to the People (read my review of Pavel’s book here). Deadlifts and presses are the only lifts in the program. On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got guys like Bill Starr and Louie Simmons touting “never deadlift to increase your deadlift”. In programs like this, “power” movements such as cleans and snatches are used in addition to accessory exercises such as good-mornings, and together they increase the ability to deadlift.
Deadlift Often as a Newbie, and Less Often as an Advanced Lifter
I think in a beginner, there is importance in frequently performing the same movement repeatedly, for a number of reasons.
First I believe this approach builds the “muscle memory” tied to deadlifting-movement, which is helpful for anyone who may go through periods of not actually performing the deadlift. In all seriousness, who doesn’t fall out of their training routine once in a while – people get sick, people have children, and so on. Life isn’t always predictable, but knowing you can always return to deadlifting because you know the movement like the back of your hand is damn nice.
Second, I believe it completely takes advantage of the “newbie-gains” period safely and effectively. Frequent deadlifting allows you to progressively increase your deadlift, yet still doesn’t burn you out as quickly because the weight has yet to get too heavy.
On the other hand, deadlifting more than once a week, or even once a week at all, may be too much to recover from for advanced lifters. These folks will be pulling anywhere from a quarter-ton to a half-ton, and that takes a way bigger toll on the body than deadlifting 225 lbs. There’s a greater need for recovery with heavy weights.
At that point in their careers, advanced lifters will have so much practice with the deadlift that the movement-pattern and strength will be so ingrained into their nervous- and musculoskeletal-systems, that they don’t NEED that much frequency to stay strong. Heck, I was able to maintain hip-extension strength through kettlebell swings, a totally different exercise from deadlifts, so guys who pull once every week or every other week should be golden.
For me, I’m still enjoying my post-recovery newbie-gains, so I’ll be deadlifting with decent frequency. Soon after, I plan on keeping the deadlifts at once a week, with accessory lifts performed throughout the lift. Speed, grip strength, depth strength, and lumbar strength are attributes to be addressed with these accessory lifts. Interestingly enough, sandbag cleans incorporate all of these, except for lumbar strength. Looks like I need to make heavier sandbags for the upcoming months, huh?