When 2 out of 3 of the lifts in powerlifting involve the legs you may be left wondering what the best way is to space out deadlifts and squats and whether it’s okay to deadlift after squats day.
Should you do a deadlift day after squats? Doing heavy deadlifts after a tough squat workout is not a good idea. The general recommendation is to squat at least 24 hours after deadlifting. Upwards of 48-72 hours is required between deadlift and squat workouts if the workout is high volume and/or high intensity.
With that said, you may need to deadlift after a squat day out of convenience or because you’re squatting and deadlifting multiple times per week. As long as you put some thought into how you structure these workouts to minimize any negative effects of fatigue and maximize recovery, you can occasionally squat and deadlift on back-to-back days.
In this article I will cover:
- Whether it’s okay to deadlift after a squat day,
- Reasons why you may choose to do so; and,
- Ways to structure and approach it if that’s something you decide is right for you.
Is It Okay Deadlift After Squat Day?
Deadlifting after a squat day doesn’t automatically result in negative outcomes.
Both squats and deadlifts are movements where you are moving a large amount of weight and use both your legs and back to varying degrees. Your tolerance for back to back sessions will therefore be largely dependent on your experience, how heavy you’re lifting, individual factors that influence recovery, and how long you plan on doing this for.
For example, someone who squats 600lbs may not feel too great deadlifting the next day, but someone who squats closer to 200lbs may be just fine because the total stress accumulated on the muscles is far less.
This is also why beginners tend to be okay with higher volumes and frequencies and why lower weight class competitors tend to sometimes recover quicker session to session when compared to heavy weight lifters.
Recovery can also vary and be dependent on things such as:
- Nutrition; and,
- How much stress you deal with outside of the gym.
With this in mind you can also see how having squats and deadlifts back to back may just come down to your personal situation. If you’re dealing with working a stressful or physical job or are dealing with challenging times in general, you may very well benefit from spacing out your training or alternating between an upper and lower body focus.
Important to note, however, that if you are a competitive powerlifter you will never be deadlifting competitively in a completely un-fatigued state. Deadlifts always come after you’ve already maxed out both squats and bench which means having a little fatigue on your deadlift days may arguably help prepare you to perform under stressful conditions in the future.
Takeaway: As long as you are managing your recovery and adjusting your programming to allow you to recover, deadlifting after squatting is okay for some people in certain situations.
Reasons Why You Might Put Deadlift Day After Squats
There are a couple reasons you might put a deadlift day after squats including time constraints or being on a high frequency squat or deadlift program.
If you’re on a high frequency squat program where you are squatting 3 or more times a week there is no way you can organize your week where squats won’t come right before a deadlift session. Therefore, it is just a matter of choosing the best possible option available to manage fatigue.
In addition to this, some lifters may be on a deadlift-focused block because they want to improve their skills, get more practice or build some muscles for deadlifting. Therefore, in this situation you are again left with no choice but to program some days back to back and that will be alright as long as you then reduce squat intensity.
Aside from just the frequency of your squat and deadlift training, you may simply lead a lifestyle that doesn’t allow you to spread out your workouts in a more optimal fashion. Not everyone has the luxury of training any day of the week and so of course you can make adjustments that fit your lifestyle and priorities.
And finally, it may just be a spur of the moment decision because life gets the best of you one week and you can’t run your normal training cycle. If that’s the case, you will definitely be alright. Concerns regarding this type of training schedule creep up more so when looking at long term training and likely won’t be noticeable if you do it once in a while.
However, regardless of the reason, if you find yourself needing to deadlift after squats there are ways you can approach it intelligently to make the most of it.
How To Structure Deadlift Day After Squats
To maximize a deadlift day that comes after a squat day, I would recommend trying to space out the workouts as much as possible, opting for less lower body accessories and lowering the intensity on the deadlift day.
Pay Attention to Workout Timing
If you are squatting on Monday and your deadlift day would then be Tuesday, I would strongly suggest not squatting on Monday night and then deadlifting on Tuesday morning. Instead consider doing squats on a Monday evening and then deadlifts on Tuesday evening. Or, better yet, get squats done on Monday morning and then go in for deadlifts on Tuesday evening.
Your body recovers over the course of hours and so the more hours you put in between the two workouts the more recovered your muscles will be and the less beat up you will feel.
In an ideal world you would have your squat day on Monday and then your deadlifts on Wednesday, but if that is not possible, just think about the exact timing of when you head into the gym and make sure to get a good night’s sleep in between.
Don’t Do Lower Body Accessories on the Squat Day
It may feel intuitive to do lower body accessories on your squat day; however, if you have a deadlift day coming the next day try to avoid any additional spinal loading or doing too much with your legs and back. Instead add some benching and focus on upper body accessories or isolation movements that won’t leave you sore and sluggish the next day.
Make a Lighter Deadlift Workout Follow Your Heavier Squat Workout
This option is great for those who deadlift twice a week and have one higher intensity deadlift day and one lower intensity one that is more focused on volume. In this case try your best to have your heavier deadlift day be separated by a rest day from other training, but the lower intensity deadlift day can follow one of your heavier squat workouts.
Alternatively, if you do just deadlift once a week but you are temporarily just making your deadlift day come after your squat day then maybe just lower the total volume or the intensity on the block just so it’s something more sustainable you can recover from.
Alternate Ways To Structure Your Deadlift Day
Aside from deadlifting the day after squats, some other ways to organize your deadlift day into your weekly schedule are as follows:
Option #1: Have 2 Squat Days and 2 Deadlift Days
By breaking down your weekly volume more evenly, no single workout will leave you in a state where you can’t go in to train the next day. If you are someone who deadlifts only once a week and squats 1-2 times a week, try splitting up your deadlift and squat volume by adding an extra day of one or both to just lessen how much you will need to recover from day to day.
- Monday – Squats
- Wednesday – Deadlifts
- Friday – Squats
- Saturday – Deadlifts
Option #2: Squat and Deadlift on the Same Day
This is another option that some people keep in their regular training. As mentioned previously in the article deadlifts always come after squats in competition (if you’re a competitive powerlifter) so it’s a good way to simulate that experience.
However, volume and intensity will again need to be modified in a way where you aren’t able to complete all your sets within a reasonable rate of perceived exertion (RPE).
Check out my article: Can You Put Squat And Deadlifts In The Same Workout?
Option #3: Separate Heavy Deadlift Days With Rest Days
Assuming you have one deadlift day dedicated to going heavy and sticking to lower rep sets. It would be best to keep this day right in between rest days, that way you have 48 hours to rest before and then 48 hours to recover before going into another squat day.
This can look like the following:
- Monday – Squat
- Wednesday – Deadlift
- Friday – Squat
Deadlifts and squats are both movements that require a lot of muscular strength and can stress out our bodies. In an ideal world we recover from each session before going into the next, but sometimes squats and deadlifts will need to be done one day after the other.
Just make sure you’re accounting for volume and intensity and track your recovery to make sure you’re getting enough each week. Otherwise having certain blocks or training weeks where you need to have them programmed close together is reasonable and can be managed in the short term.
About The Author
Elena Popadic has worked within the fitness industry for over 6 years, is co-host of the Squats and Thoughts podcast and trains and competes as a powerlifter. She has a BSc in Life Sciences from McMaster University, a Postgrad Certificate in Public Relations from Humber College and is currently pursuing a MSc Occupational Therapy at Western University. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.