Training deadlifts with high reps is used by strength athletes, bodybuilders, and general gym-goers alike.
So what are high rep deadlifts? High rep deadlifts are deadlifts performed at 8 reps or more. High rep deadlifts stimulate muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) as you’re able to perform more training volume compared with moderate or low rep training within the same workout. Loads for high rep deadlifts are usually 50-70% of your 1 rep max.
In this article, you will find out:
- What Is Considered A “High Rep Deadlift”
- 5 Pros Of High Rep Deadlifts
- 5 Cons Of High Rep Deadlifts
- Who Should Do High Rep Deadlifts
- How You Can Program High Rep Deadlifts Into Your Routine
- Important Things To Consider When Implementing High Rep Deadlifts
What Is Considered A “High Rep Deadlifts”?
Most people consider 8 to 12 or more repetitions for deadlifts to be high rep deadlifts. There is no universally agreed threshold for high repetitions as repetitions are on a spectrum. Most people who train high rep deadlifts would not exceed 15 repetitions although occasionally there are advanced athletes who do more.
Different people will use similar approaches for high rep deadlifts, but to obtain different outcomes.
Bodybuilders may choose to do high rep deadlifts as a back exercise to build their back extensor and lower back muscles.
Strongman competitors and powerlifters may use it to train for some of their competition events.
Weightlifters may use it to build their hip muscles in the off-season.
5 Pros of High Rep Deadlifts
The benefits of high rep deadlifts are:
- It can build muscle mass in your leg, hip, and back
- It can improve your energy systems
- It can build work capacity for strength/intensity blocks
- It can help you break plateaus in your sticking points
- It can increase your deadlift strength
1. It Can Build Muscle Mass in Your Leg, Hip, and Back
Deadlifts have the highest demand in your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, but also have a demand in your hip adductors, calves, abdominals, lower and upper back muscles.
Training deadlifts to high reps can be a time-efficient way to build muscle hypertrophy in these muscles as it is one exercise that hits multiple groups simultaneously. Also, it is time-efficient because you perform a lot of repetitions in each set.
High repetitions will mean that you have to use lower loads for the exercise (50-70% of your 1RM), however research has shown that low load training is effective at gaining muscle strength and size.
2. It Can Improve Your Energy Systems
Training deadlifts to high reps means that you perform bouts of high-intensity activity that can last between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This means that there is a high demand for your anaerobic energy systems, which are the energy systems that do not depend on oxygen.
This is beneficial for sports that have a high demand for these energy systems. Sports that may benefit from this include ones that include intermittent bouts of activity such as football, soccer, basketball, and also sports such as rowing, middle distance runners, etc.
High rep deadlifts will contribute to improving your energy systems for these sports as well as increase lower body strength at the same time.
3. It Can Build Work Capacity for Strength/Intensity Training Blocks
High rep deadlifts can help you with your ability to perform more repetitions at higher intensities.
This is useful for strength athletes who want to improve how many total repetitions they can perform at higher intensities. If you find that you fatigue very quickly at higher intensities i.e. 80% or more, or you find that your legs burn very quickly, then high rep deadlifts can help with that.
By doing high rep deadlifts, you improve your work capacity to perform more total reps at high intensities in subsequent strength or higher intensity training blocks. If you can perform more reps at higher intensities and recover from them, you are more likely going to make better gains.
4. It Can Help You Break Plateaus in Your Sticking Points
Most people have a sticking point in their deadlifts where they slow down somewhere halfway up the range of motion. This sticking point can stop you from lifting heavier or lifting more reps at certain intensities.
If you use higher intensity weights, you may find that higher intensity work is limited as the sticking point holds you back from performing many reps.
What high rep deadlifts offer is a way of training through that weak range with more reps of lower intensity weights to put more of a training stimulus through the sticking points.
5. It Can Increase Your Deadlift Strength
Novice to intermediate level athletes can increase their deadlift strength with high rep deadlifts to an extent.
What doing high rep deadlift provides is two things: the act of practicing many repetitions and also high levels of work that can increase the muscles responsible for the exercise.
Novice and intermediate athletes will benefit plenty from building muscle and having more practice to dial down technique.
The body of research suggests that there is a dose-response relationship between training intensity and strength gain. This means that when you increase the dose of training, you get a better outcome up to a certain point where you get diminishing returns.
Less experienced lifters will benefit most from lower intensity training, and at lower intensity sets, you are naturally able to perform more repetitions.
One of the biggest predictors of performance in high-level powerlifters long term is muscle mass therefore building muscle is going to be an important part of getting stronger.
5 Cons of High Rep Deadlifts
The cons of high rep deadlifts are:
- It can injure your back
- It requires good discipline and technique
- It requires no major weak points
1. It Can Injure Your Back
High repetitions can be fatiguing to perform and if you lose concentration or if your weaknesses show up, you can risk injuring yourself particularly your back.
If your legs and hip muscles fatigue as you perform a set, you might find that you end up rounding your back to compensate and this is when you put excess stress across your lower back.
If you are not particularly conditioned to perform high reps for the deadlift, it is definitely something that you should slowly work up towards.
2. It Requires Good Discipline and Technique
Deadlifts with high reps will have a prerequisite of good technique as a baseline and good discipline to execute all the reps well especially the last few reps in the set.
High repetitions in the deadlift can be extremely demanding and it is easy to want to get the set over and done with. It needs high levels of discipline to ensure that you set up well repeatedly and execute the lift with good attention to technique and not rush it.
If you struggle with this, then it is best not to do high reps with the deadlift. The idea is to treat each repetition with a high level of attention and not get complacent. It works best if you have the mindset of approaching high rep deadlifts like a marathon, not a sprint.
Rushing through the set and not having good technique will risk injury.
3. It Requires No Major Weak Points
Weak points in your deadlift will show up during high reps in the deadlift even if you are disciplined to attempt to perform reps with good technique.
If you have any obvious weak points, you should not perform high rep deadlifts but instead, focus on training your weak points away.
If you really do enjoy doing high rep deadlifts, then you may have to reduce the intensity to the point that you can perform all the reps with good technique. Alternatively, you can perform high reps of the deadlift and stop at the point before your technique breaks down.
Should You Do High Rep Deadlifts?
Here are the things you need to think about if you want to consider high rep deadlifts:
Do You Need To Improve Your Technique?
If you need to improve your technique, then you should not do high rep deadlifts. If you do not need to improve your technique but you need to focus on building work capacity and strength, then you should include high rep deadlifts in your training.
When you do include high rep deadlifts in your training, it is important that you do not push the sets to failure and that you give yourself plenty of time to recover before performing other lower-body movements.
When you do high rep deadlifts, it makes you ingrain your own movement pattern i.e. technique. So if you have poor technique, it will make it harder for you to untrain the poor technique.
Have You Hit a Strength Plateau?
If you are hitting a strength plateau where higher intensity work is not increasing strength or your work capacity is low, then high rep deadlifts might be useful for you.
If you have had a considerable amount of time focusing on high-intensity loads, your body adapts to the stimulus leading you to plateau. You reach a point where you cannot progress much more with higher intensity reps.
Performing a high rep deadlift can increase your muscle endurance in the relevant muscles, which can have a roll-on benefit for building up your ability to perform more reps at higher intensity loads.
Are You Injury-Free?
If you are carrying any injury related to the deadlifts muscles or get exacerbated by the deadlift movement, you should avoid high rep deadlifts. Otherwise, you can consider high rep deadlifts.
One important thing you need to understand with high rep deadlifts is there is a high opportunity for you to lose focus on a rep within the set which can lead to you reinjuring yourself. There is a saying that goes “One rep will not make you, but one rep can break you”.
It is important that before you consider high rep deadlifts, you should rehab and recondition the injured muscles so that it is on par with the rest of your body.
For more information, check out how to avoid powerlifting injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions: High Rep Deadlifts
Do High Rep Deadlifts Count As Aerobic or Cardiovascular Training?
No, high rep deadlifts do not count as aerobic or cardiovascular training. High rep deadlifts are still a form of strength training. If you are new to exercise in general, you may find some improvements in aerobic fitness as a side effect.
How Many Sets Should I Do for High Rep Deadlifts?
You should do between 2 to 3 sets for high rep deadlifts per session if you are unaccustomed, this will mean between 4 to 6 sets per week. You should do between 3 to 4 sets for high rep deadlifts per session if you are more experienced, this will mean between 6 to 8 sets per week.
Should I Use Straps for High Rep Deadlifts?
If grip strength is something that you are lacking then you should not use straps. If you have no issue with grip strength but you want to focus more on posture during execution, then you should try using straps.
Should I Train to Failure With High Rep Deadlifts?
No, you should not train to failure with high rep deadlifts because of the nature of the exercise. The deadlift is a large compound movement, which means that there are multiple joints in action, and training to failure may elicit fatigue in one area. This may increase the risk of injury.
How Do I Recover From High Rep Deadlifts?
To recovery from high rep deadlifts, you need to ensure that you are giving yourself enough time. In between sets, you should rest between 3 to 5 minutes. You should rest for 48 hours at least before you perform other lower body training.
Are High Rep Deadlifts Dangerous?
High rep deadlifts are not inherently dangerous given certain conditions are met. The conditions are that you do not train to failure, that you do not have any pre-existing injuries or major weaknesses, that your technique is dialed down and you use discipline to perform each rep to the best that you can. You should also work your way up to high rep deadlifts gradually.
Are High Rep Deadlifts Good for Fat Loss?
Yes, high rep deadlifts can be good for fat loss. The reason why high rep deadlifts can be good for fat loss is as deadlifts can target many different muscle groups at the same time. Building muscle mass is important to improving body composition and increasing metabolism.
Are High Rep Deadlifts Good for Building Muscle?
Yes, high rep deadlifts are good for building muscle. Not only will high reps be effective at building muscle, but deadlifts also make it efficient to build multiple muscle groups at the same time.
Other High Rep Training Guides
- Do Powerlifters Do High Reps? (Yes, Here’s Why)
- Benefits of High Rep Bench Press
- Benefits of High Rep Squats
- The Repetition Method: Pros, Cons, & Should You Do It?
High rep deadlifts are very useful to have in any training program whether it is for powerlifting, bodybuilding, or strength and conditioning for sports. You should implement this appropriately and at points in your training phases in a way that makes sense. The misuse of high rep deadlifts can increase your risk of injury so it is important to be careful how you use it.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com