how much should i deadlift

How Much Should I Deadlift?

When it comes to strength training, no other movement holds as much importance than the deadlift. Why is this exercise so important, though? The answer is due to the amount of muscle groups engaged, turning it into a metabolic powerhouse that can provoke muscle growth that can elevate strength.

The deadlift is a compound exercise, meaning it incorporates numerous muscle groups in a single effort. This comprehensive recruitment of various muscle groups is what sets the deadlift apart. When multiple muscle groups are activated simultaneously, the exercise becomes very metabolically demanding, which is a precursor to muscle growth. But why is growing muscle so vital? Because it directly correlates with strength. The more muscle you have, the more weight you can move. The deadlift's ability to involve numerous muscle groups, from the top of the back to the base of the hamstrings, contributes to the development of a well-rounded, stronger physique.

Besides all the hype, how much should you deadlift? The deadlift is clearly an important exercise for building size and strength, but how much should you deadlift? Is it about hitting a certain number such as one, two, or three times your body weight? In this article, we will go into the standards of the deadlift, what they signify, and most importantly, how to enhance your deadlifting strength for building optimal results.

Understanding the Deadlift

To improve your deadlift, it's important to understand how the deadlift works, and what are the expectations of the deadlift. The deadlift is a foundational compound exercise in strength training, strongman and powerlifting. It entails the act of lifting a motionless barbell from the ground to lockout. Unlike the squat and bench press, which involve multiple phases, the deadlift is a one-phased movement, meaning you go from nothing to everything, all at one.

But besides the traditional deadlift, there are other variations of this lift that could be used to help improve performance in weak points, or could be used based on body types and or preference.

Variations of the Deadlift

Deadlifting offers a variety of forms, each with its unique set of challenges and benefits. Here are some of the most common deadlift variations:

Conventional Deadlift

In this traditional form of the deadlift, the lifter stands shoulder-width apart, gripping the barbell outside the legs. This stance places greater emphasis on the lower back and hamstrings during the lift as the shoulders could potentially fall forward from the weight of the barbell.

Sumo Deadlift

Sumo deadlifting requires a wider stance with the toes angled outward. The grip is inside the knees, emphasizing the hips and quadriceps as the lifter is typically in an upright position.

[Related: Sumo VS Conventional Deadlift: Differences, Pros, Cons]

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar, also known as the hex bar, is designed for the lifter to stand inside the bar and use better leg drive due to leveraging a better center of gravity. This engages a better recruitment of the quadriceps and glutes.

Romanian Deadlift

The romanian deadlift (RDL) involves holding a barbell or dumbbells in front of the body and hinging at the hips. This hinge forces the hips to stay at the same height throughout the movement, but move forwards and backwards. It primarily targets glute and hamstring development and offers adaptability for both sumo and conventional stances.

Muscles Engaged in the Deadlift

Since the deadlift is a compound exercise, it recruits many muscle groups including:

  • Glutes: Responsible for hip extension and the power needed for beginning the lift.
  • Hamstrings: Working with the glutes, the hamstrings extend the hips and provide crucial support during the lift.
  • Lower Back: These erector spinae muscles, found in the lower back, maintain a neutral spine to prevent rounding of the lower spine during the lift.
  • Traps: The trapezius muscles are engaged during the pull, contributing to the upward motion of the barbell and maintaining a rigid spine for better support of the lift.

When performing the deadlift, optimal form is what helps recruit these muscle groups effectively. One way to ensure great form is through the choice of equipment. Using a lifting belt can help keep the posture of the athlete throughout the movement, but also using a unique barbell could help the lifter have better success too. A deadlift bar, which is much different than a power bar, helps to give the lifter some initial slack that helps the lifter build more tension at the bottom of the lift. The more slack provided, the bar can bend initially, making the athlete taller in the starting position to have better mechanics for a stronger deadlift.

Factors Affecting Deadlift Weight

One of the more popular quotes I have heard about lifting is “mass moves mass", which is a fundamental principle when it comes to lifting. This means, the bigger you are, the more you can move! Your body weight plays a crucial role in how much you lift. Bigger individuals typically have the advantage of moving heavier loads. However, it's essential to consider relative strength – the amount of weight you can lift concerning your body weight. Achieving a high relative strength should be the goal, as it showcases your efficiency in lifting a significant amount of weight compared to your body size. To enhance deadlift strength, a combination of increasing muscle mass and technique is crucial.

As a strength coach, I notice a big mistake in programs is that the hips are an overlooked part of anyone’s deadlift performance. The hips house the glute muscles, one of the prime movers of the deadlift exercise. Strong, well-developed glutes are essential for hip extension, a key component of the deadlift. By training your glutes, you can significantly enhance your ability to deadlift heavy. Incorporating exercises like hip thrusts, romanian deadlifts, and glute bridges can target and strengthen this crucial area.

Another factor of your deadlift strength is grip strength. Grip strength is an often underestimated aspect of the deadlift. Whether you prefer an overhand grip, mixed grip, or hook grip, one consistent theme emerges – grip strength should be a priority for anyone looking to have a better deadlift. Your grip serves as the link between you and the barbell, and a weak grip can be the limiting factor in your deadlift performance. To improve grip strength, consider specific exercises and training techniques, such as farmer's walks, heavy holds, and grip-specific work. A powerful grip is not only crucial for deadlifting, but also translates to improved control and effectiveness in other tasks that require a strong grip.

Deadlift Standards and Strength Levels

Deadlift standards are a topic of discussion in the strength training community. Different coaches and organizations may propose varying benchmarks for what's considered an impressive deadlift. From my experience with athletes,I believe working towards a 2-3 times bodyweight deadlift is very impressive. Of course, hitting three times body weight would be the most impressive. However, hitting a double bodyweight deadlift is a great goal for an intermediate lifter who wants to stay on track and is eager to be a future competitive athlete.

Other strength coaches like Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore provide insight on what they feel is a great reference point for deadlift standards. Their standards notably differ from the typical body weight multipliers I provided above. For example, they provide a chart of multiple weight classifications. In the lightest weight classification of 114 pounds, they propose that an elite or category five lifter should aim for a 385-387 pound deadlift, which is around 3.4 times their body weight. This is an insanely impressive lift as its more than 3 times body weight. .

In the heaviest category of 320 pounds or more, they suggest that an elite lifter should target a 615-517-pound deadlift, which is significantly less than 2 times their body weight. This seems a bit odd to me. I am sure there are reasons to this logic. However, to me, I like the simplicity of having someone work towards building relative strength on their deadlift between the range of 2-3 times bodyweight.

Here's a chart for reference:

Body Weight (lbs) Deadlift Standard (2x Body Weight) Deadlift Standard (3x Body Weight)
110 lbs 220 lbs 330 lbs
120 lbs 240 lbs 360 lbs
130 lbs 260 lbs 390 lbs
140 lbs 280 lbs 420 lbs
150 lbs 300 lbs 450 lbs
160 lbs 320 lbs 480 lbs
170 lbs 340 lbs 510 lbs
180 lbs 360 lbs 540 lbs
190 lbs 380 lbs 570 lbs
200 lbs 400 lbs 600 lbs
210 lbs 420 lbs 630 lbs
220 lbs 440 lbs 660 lbs
230 lbs 460 lbs 690 lbs
240 lbs 480 lbs 720 lbs
250 lbs 500 lbs 750 lbs
260 lbs 520 lbs 780 lbs
270 lbs 540 lbs 810 lbs
280 lbs 560 lbs 840 lbs
290 lbs 580 lbs 870 lbs
300 lbs 600 lbs 900 lbs
310 lbs 620 lbs 930 lbs

Assessing Your Deadlift Performance

For those who are new to strength training, the deadlift can be an intimidating but formidable exercise. To set yourself up for success, you need to do the following:

Assessing your starting point

You need to understand where you stand with the deadlift. Are you having trouble off the floor, trouble at lockout? If you are new to the deadlift, it’s understandable that your form might struggle initially, especially developing a curved spine and putting pressure on your back. No matter what the issue could be, it’s important to understand where you are lacking in performance in order to build a game plan, such as choosing variations and rep ranges to help improve your technique within the deadlift.

Build your technique

As mentioned before, you need to understand your initial deadlift performance to know what you need to fix. For those who struggle off the floor, you might consider deficit deadlifts to help you work in a deeper range of motion. For those who lack postural strength, perhaps use blocks to help you start deadlifting from a higher position to improve your posture. For those who need a better lockout, use bands to help improve your top end strength. Understanding your deadlift and where you struggle will help you better know how to build your technique for a better experience.

Set goals

Once you have built your deadlift performance, it’s now time to set goals for yourself. Whether you want to deadlift 1,2 or 3 times your body weight, you need to have a goal in order to help you stay on track and focused for the outcome you desire.

Training Approach and Workout Routine

Now that you understand the importance of the deadlift, its impact on building muscle and building overall strength, we can now discuss the approach to training and how to build a successful powerlifting program workout routine to improve your deadlift.

Deadlift frequency

The amount of times you deadlift a week depends on the strength and style of your deadlift. What this means, is that if you conventional deadlift or sumo deadlift, that changes the amount of times you would train the deadlift in a week, Conventional might only need 1 day of training a week with how simple the lift is. However, for those who are wanting to improve their strength and power output, it might require the lifter to do 2 days a week of deadlift which entails 1 heavy day, and 1 lighter day.

The sumo deadlift is a more technically proficient lift that could require a minimum of 2 training days per week. Regardless of the style of deadlift, intensity is a big factor of deadlift frequency as well. The heavier the deadlift becomes, the less frequently you want to perform them. Besides muscular fatigue, the nervous system can take a toll during a deadlift. Especially since the deadlift recruits multiple muscle groups.

Deadlift variations

Once frequency has been established, deadlift variations should be considered. The deadlift variation should help improve areas of weakness for the lifter, such as deficit deadlifts for building speed of the floor, or a block pull to build top end strength of a deadlift. The deadlift variation could be a secondary movement performed after the deadlift, or at times could be the main exercise in that training session.

Sets and reps

Deadlifts are a tricky exercise, as they should not be done for multiple reps. As a strength coach and previous athlete, I recommend athletes do no more than 5 deadlifts within a working set. Instead, I would advise lifters to do more sets of fewer reps to accommodate for the deadlift’s single-phased action. There is no need to do excessive consecutive reps of the deadlift when the deadlift is originally a single-phased movement.

Accessory exercises

Many accessory movements that would accommodate the deadlift relate to the back, glutes and hamstrings. However, just because a movement like the “overhead press” might not relate to the deadlift, you need to have a strong core and back in order to do the overhead press. Traditionally, though, movements that have been able to help the deadlift include shrugs, rows, hip bridges, and even squats as they teach you to brace your core and stay upright.

The use of all these variables can help you improve your programming and workouts to make you a much more effective lifter.


The deadlift stands as a cornerstone in strength training due to its ability to engage multiple muscle groups for building tons of size and strength. This muscle growth directly translates into enhanced strength. But to leverage the many benefits of the deadlift, we need to understand how much we should deadlift. Knowing the standards of the deadlift is pivotal for maximizing our training to get the most benefits possible. The standards we found were that lifting around 2 to 3 times body weight is ideal for being termed as a great deadlifter.

The deadlift is not just an exercise. it's a path to a stronger, more capable you. But understand that to be a great deadlifter, you can’t solely be concerned about how much weight is on the bar. You need to also concern yourself with form, technique, and your ability to execute each rep efficiently to get the best muscle recruitment possible.