Learning how many sets and reps for deadlifts depends on many factors including what your goal is and how long you have been training.
For most gym goers, 3 - 4 sets of anywhere between 3 - 12 reps of deadlifts will help you build strength and muscle. Rest 3 - 5 minutes if you do between 3 - 5 reps or 2 - 3 minutes if you do 6 - 12 reps.
Let’s break down what type of deadlift is best for you.
Deadlifts are an advanced exercise that take time to learn and perfect. As a beginner, the most important thing you can do is take the time to learn perfect form before you start aggressively increasing weight.
If you don’t take the time to learn proper form, you risk injuring your lower back (here's some stretches if you have pain). Generally speaking, you want to stay away from low reps until you feel confident with the movement.
Guidelines for deadlift sets and reps for beginners:
- Perform 3 sets of 6 - 8 reps.
- Always rest 2 - 3 minutes to ensure you are fully recovered.
- Before beginning the first of your 3 sets, perform 1 - 2 rounds as a warm up round with lighter weight.
- Find a weight that you do for the 6 - 8 reps and still have 2 - 3 reps left in the tank. For example, if you do 135 for 8 reps, you should be able to do 10 - 11. This is a safe spot to train as a beginner.
The more advanced and comfortable you feel deadlifting, the more flexibility you get to start having.
You can go lower in reps for a more focused approach on maximal strength or go higher in reps for more hypertrophy.
Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable pushing the intensity, allowing you to get closer to failure with your reps.
Guidelines for deadlift sets and reps for intermediate and advanced lifters:
- Perform 3 - 4 sets of 3 - 12 reps.
- Rest 3 - 5 minutes for a rep range of 3 - 5 and 2 - 3 minutes for a rep range of 6 - 12.
- Do 1 - 2 practice rounds as you ramp up the weight.
- Leave 1 - 2 reps in reserve (RIR) on each set.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best type of deadlift is one that you enjoying doing, can perform with great form, and you can do pain free.
For most of my clients we focus on trap bar deadlifts. They are easier on the joints and allow you to distribute the weight across your whole body whereas a more traditional deadlift is a posterior chain movement.
Other variations of deadlifts include traditional barbell deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, split stance deadlifts, single leg deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts.
Since deadlifts are a big compound movement that work multiple muscles, it is very taxing on your central nervous system.
If you are picking weights that make each set challenging, 5 sets is going to be too much for most people.
Stick to 3 - 4 rounds and make sure each round is challenging.
Maximal strength for deadlifts is done in the rep range of 1 - 5. Going heavy on deadlifts is fine if you don’t feel any pain.
To reference my clients again, we stay in the 3 - 5 rep range if that is their goal. The risk versus reward isn’t worth it doing 1 - 2 reps. You are better off going slightly lighter and adding extra reps to prevent injury.
How Many Sets And Reps Of Deadlifts Should You Do Recap
As you’ve learned, there is a wide range of options when picking your sets and reps.
If you’re a beginner, stick with slightly higher reps for less sets and focus on form.Once you get more advanced, add more sets, more variety with rep ranges, and higher intensity.
For tips on how many sets and reps you should do on other big lifts, check out these guides: