These programs are all primarily aimed at increasing your deadlift strength. But, since muscle mass is a key factor for long-term strength gains, they will also grow your leg muscles.
Which Deadlift Program Should You Choose?
How do you know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter?
While there are many ways to classify training level, I like these definitions from Practical Programming:
- Beginner: Gets significantly stronger from workout to workout.
- Intermediate: Gets significantly stronger from week to week, or bi-weekly.
- Advanced: Gets significantly stronger from month to month, or longer.
By “significantly stronger” I mean that you can add 2.5 kg (or 5 lb) and do the same number of reps or use the same weight but do more reps.
Beginner Deadlift Programs
- Beginner Deadlift Program. 2x/week. A simple yet effective beginner deadlift program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your deadlift career.
- Beginner Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. A beginner powerlifting program that combines training for the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Weights increase every workout.
Intermediate Deadlift Programs
- Intermediate Deadlift Program. 2x/week. A deadlift program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind but is not yet ready for advanced deadlift training. The weights increase every week, and you’ll alternate between heavier and lighter workouts.
- Russian Deadlift Program. 3x/week. The same set and rep scheme as the Russian Squat Routine, but for the deadlift. Enter your 1RM into the calculator, and we’ll generate the program for you. To make this program work for the deadlift, you should enter a very conservative 1RM.
- Intermediate Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. An intermediate powerlifting program where you squat twice per week, deadlift once per week, and bench press three times per week. The weights increase weekly.
- Madcow 5×5. 3x/week. This is a classic workout routine for intermediate lifters looking to gain strength and muscle quickly. This program emphasizes the squat more than the deadlift, but you will still deadlift once per week.
Advanced Deadlift Programs
- Deadlift Disco. 2x/week. Our deadlift specialization program. Increase your deadlift 1RM and build bigger back muscles. Six weeks long, but possible to cycle through several times.
- Advanced Powerlifting Program. 3x/week. An advanced powerlifting program combining training for the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Two squat sessions, one deadlift session, and three bench press sessions per week. Nine weeks long and ends with a short taper and peaking phase.
- Powerlifting Polka. 3, 4, or 6x/week. One of our most popular and effective powerlifting programs. It is six weeks long and comes in three versions: 3, 4, and 6 days per week. Powerlifting Polka is a mash-up of some of our most popular programs for the three big lifts: Squat Samba, Bench Press Boogie, and Deadlift Disco.
- Powerlifting ABC. 3–4x/week. An 11-week long powerlifting program, divided into four weeks of preparatory training, four weeks of specialization, and three weeks of peaking – which culminates in a competition (or max attempts).
Follow These Deadlift Programs in The StrengthLog App
Want to give our deadlift training programs a go?
They’re available exclusively in our workout tracker app.
While some of our programs require a premium subscription, StrengthLog is free. You can download it and use it as a workout tracker and general strength training app – and all basic functionality is free forever.
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Frequently Asked Questions
For the rest of this article, I’ll attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about our deadlift programs.
How Do I Know What My 1RM Is?
Many of our programs are 1RM based. Meaning, that we specify how much weight you should lift in terms of percentage of 1RM.
“4 sets x 2 reps x 80% of 1RM”
Of course, the app calculates this for you, but you still have to enter your 1RM at the beginning of the program.
Your 1RM is the heaviest weight you can currently lift for a single repetition. It does not necessarily have to be the same thing as your PR (personal record).
You hit a deadlift PR of 200 kg (441 lb) last year. At that point, 200 kg was both your PR and your 1RM. Then you eased up on deadlift training for several months and dropped a bit of strength. Currently, your PR is still 200 kg, but your 1RM might be 180 kg.
If you’re unsure of your current one-rep max, you can use our 1RM calculator to get an estimate. Take the results with a grain of salt, though, and use your best judgment.
Then, you enter your 1RM in the app upon following a program and starting the first workout.
Do the prescribed weights seem a little too light or too heavy? Adjust your entered 1RM up or down by a small amount, until the weights feel about right.
Note that a common theme in most of our strength-focused training programs is that you seldom push yourself to failure. Most of the time, you will terminate your sets far from failure, which might seem odd if you’ve never trained like that before.
The reason is simple:
Stopping further from failure generally allows for a higher total training volume and also for better technique practice. If you were to go balls to the wall in every set, you would have a hard time training enough to make progress, especially at the intermediate or advanced level.
So: enter your best guess at your current 1RM, and then make small adjustments in your first or second workout until the weight feels right.
How to Make the Most Out of These Deadlift Training Programs
Here are some tips and things you can do to improve your chances of successfully increasing your deadlift max from one of our programs.
1. Enter a Proper 1RM
Enter a 1RM that is neither too heavy nor too light.
You want to be able to perform all reps with a solid technique and don’t fail any workouts.
When in doubt, err on the lighter side. It is far better to complete every single workout of a training program that was 2.5 kg (5 lb) too light, than bomb out in week two because the weight was too heavy.
You can bump up the weight by a few percentages for your next program cycle, and light cycles are excellent for engraining proper technique and improving your training capacity.
2. Practice Proper Deadlift Form
If you’re going to do a lot of deadlift training over the following weeks or months, make sure you do it properly.
Don’t practice a thousand reps with poor form. Rather, take the opportunity to engrain a strong, stable, and effective technique.
Check out our guide on how to deadlift with proper form, and use a weight that is light enough so that 95% of all reps you do look like you want them to look.
3. Prioritize the Deadlift
These are deadlift specialization programs (except for the combined powerlifting programs). And as such, you should prioritize the deadlift when you’re on one of them.
If you are pushing the deadlift hard, then maybe your squat and bench press need to be put on the back burner for a while. Even if you can handle the training physically, it might be mentally draining to try to improve in several lifts simultaneously once you’re at a high level.
Make room for the deadlift in both your training and your other priorities, and you will see the greatest gains.
4. Eat for Muscle Growth
Muscle mass correlates strongly with strength and is one of the most important drivers of additional strength gains.
But muscle don’t appear out of thin air. You need to supply your body with the building blocks and nutrients it needs in order to grow optimally.
You’ll build the most muscle and strength when you’re in a caloric surplus, i.e. eating above your maintenance level.
If you don’t want to do that, you can still build some muscle and strength if you’re eating at or around your maintenance level of calories.
What you’ll want to avoid is eating less than your caloric requirement. That makes building muscle and gaining strength a whole lot harder, and our deadlift programs are not intended to be trained in a caloric deficit.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Similar to eating enough, you’ll get a lot less of everything if you don’t sleep enough.
Most adults require between 7–9 hours per night, and hard training won’t decrease that.
Sleep less than required, and you should expect subpar results.
What Weight Should I Use in the Assistance Exercises?
Many of the programs include assistance exercises to improve your deadlift.
What you should do is find a weight that lets you complete all sets and reps with good form. Then, when the next workout with that same assistance lift rolls around, you try to improve on what you did last time by increasing the weight or doing one more rep.
What About Training for the Rest of My Body?
Some of the deadlift specialization programs offer training for your back muscles, but not enough training for your other upper body muscles or your quads.
Add training for these muscle groups if you want to; just make sure not to disrupt the deadlift training if that is your priority.
If you want a comprehensive, full-body powerlifting program, check out our powerlifting programs or maybe Madcow 5×5. Or, for the newer lifter, our upper/lower split or Zero to Hero. All are available in the app!
I Followed Your Program but Didn’t Improve. What’s Wrong?
Sorry to hear it, buddy!
The first order of business is to check out the list under How to Make the Most out of These Programs and be honest with yourself.
Most times when people don’t improve, it’s because they:
- Entered a far too heavy 1RM, which made every workout a struggle.
- Trained with sloppy and inconsistent technique, which robbed them of actually practicing the lift.
- Tried to improve a hundred different things at once, forgetting they were doing a deadlift specialization program.
- Were eating and sleeping like crap.
Set yourself up for success by following the simple guidelines mentioned earlier.
But what if you did follow these guidelines? What if you did everything by the book and still didn’t improve?
Then, likely the training stimulus was ill-suited to what you needed.
- Either it was too much training for your current level and you would benefit from following a program with slightly lower training volume.
- Or it was too little training for your current level, and you need to pick things up a notch.
I Followed Your Program and Made Great Gains! What Now?
We’re glad to hear it!
If you made nice progress, and believe that you could benefit from another round of the same program, then bump up your 1RM slightly and go at it again.
You don’t necessarily have to enter your actual new 1RM. For instance, if you increase your 1RM by 10 kg, it might be enough only to enter a 5 kg higher 1RM. That will give you heavier training weights throughout the whole program, and will probably be enough to trigger more growth.
Remember that training is not about training as hard as possible, but training only as hard as is necessary. Keeping some of those kilos in the bag might set you up for longer-term progress and lower the risk of injury.
If you made nice progress, but don’t think you’d benefit from another round of the same program (or don’t want to do the same thing again), then look for another program. Ideally, one that is a step up in training volume if you feel like you can handle it.
Or, conversely, if you feel like you need a break from hard training, run a cycle of an easier program before you push the pedal to the metal again.
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