Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The 3/1/5 High-Frequency Deadlift Program

The more I lift and the more I learn, the more I move away from the standard, low-frequency splits that are recommended by the majority of coaches and lifters on the interwebz. Instead of doing each of the big lifts once or twice a week and following them up with a boatload of assistance movements, I would rather do more of the big lifts and less of all the other crap. When I get away from doing the basic lifts and start adding in a variety of assistance exercises, I feel like I am forced to juggle too many variables. I would rather direct my efforts towards doing a few things well and know exactly where my gains are coming from instead of doing a bunch of different things and hoping for the fabled "carry-over effect". Sure, assistance exercises have their place in a program. However, I take issue with relying on them to get results. Instead of doing a million different exercises in an effort to build your lifts, focus on the lifts themselves and guarantee your progress. I realize I am taking a hard, black-and-white stance on this issue. In reality, the answer is probably in the grey area. However, I hope that you understand the point I am trying to make. If you don't get it, then read about the following program and try it out. After a solid couple of months doing this program, you will be in the know.      

The 3/1/5 High-Frequency Deadlift Program:
Work up to 3 sets of 3 reps (sets across)

Work up to 5 sets of 1 rep (sets across)

Work up to 1 set of 5 reps

-Start on Monday and use a weight that is fairly easy for 3 sets of 3 reps (~8 RPE). Every Monday, rest as long as you need to rest in between sets in order to complete all 9 reps.

-On Wednesday of the first week, add 5-10 pounds to the weight you used on Monday and lift that weight for 5 easy singles. Focus on nailing your set-up and lifting explosively.

-On Friday of the first week, add 5-10 pounds to the weight you used on Wednesday and work up to one top set of 5 reps with that weight.

-On Monday of the second week, add 5 pounds to the weight you used on Friday and complete 3 sets of 3 reps.

-Continue to add 5 pounds every session. If you start to miss reps on your set of 5 on Fridays, then either, 1) Begin to micro-load with 1.25 pound plates, or 2) Only add 5 pounds on Wednesdays and use that weight for both your Wednesday and Friday sessions.

-"Sets across" means that you will be using the same weight for all of the working sets that you do in that session. So, you work up to the prescribed weight, then you use that same weight for all of the prescribed sets.

-When you are doing your warm-up sets, you don't have to do a bunch of reps. On Fridays, especially, don't wear yourself out doing sets of 5 as you work up to your top set. Do singles, doubles, or triples as you make reasonable jumps up towards your working set(s).

-Do you have to lift on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? No. However, you should have at least one day of rest between your deadlift sessions when doing this program.

-As far as your other lifts are concerned, just do whatever makes the most sense. If you really want to focus on your deadlift, then scale your other lifts back. While this program can become difficult, it is not ridiculously demanding. Most lifters should have no problem squatting at least twice a week and benching and/or pressing twice a week in conjunction with this deadlift program.

(Day, Week: weight x reps x sets)

Monday, Week 1: 275x3x3
Wednesday, Week 1: 285x1x5
Friday, Week 1: 295x5x1

Monday, Week 2: 300x3x3
Wednesday, Week 2: 305x1x5
Friday, Week 2: 310x5x1

Monday, Week 3: 315x3x3
Wednesday, Week 3: 320x1x5
Friday, Week 3: 325x5x1

Monday, Week 4: 330x3x3
Wednesday, Week 4: 335x1x5
Friday, Week 4: 340x4x1 (Missed last rep.) 

Monday, Week 5: 345x3x3
Wednesday, Week 5: 350x1x5
Friday, Week 5: 350x5x5

Monday, Week 6: 355x3x3
Wednesday, Week 6: 360x1x5
Friday, Week 6: 360x5x1

-3 sets of 3 is a fairly standard workload. It is a protocol that should be manageable from week to week; especially if you start the program with a weight that allows room for improvement.

-The 5 sets of 1 allow you to practice your set-up, recover, and prepare for the set of 5 on Friday. These sets should all be fairly easy, especially during the first few weeks.

-Friday is the do-or-die day, as you only have one set that you need to dominate. Deadlifting for sets of 5 can be very taxing, both physically and mentally. Having to complete just one all-out set every week is very manageable.

-The program assumes that the training is working, and it forces you to add weight and do the work every session. When you lift heavy weights, your body should adapt and get stronger. As long as you are eating enough,  getting adequate sleep in between sessions, and you are not already nearing the limits of your lifting potential, then you should be able to lift a little more every session. Increasing the weight in standard, manageable increments ensures that you do not succumb to backing down on the days when you are not there mentally.

-Plans like this hold you accountable, allow you to look forward to the progress you will make, and exploit the skill improvements that accompany high-frequency training.

-This program doesn’t rely on other variables (such as assistance work); your deadlifting is what will build your deadlift. No guesswork. No wondering about whether or not you are improving your deadlift. Just do the work and watch your deadlift numbers increase.

In Conclusion...
Deadlifting more than once or twice a week can done, especially if you put together an intelligent program that allows you to recover from session to session. If you want to build your deadlift, then give this program a shot. Best-case scenario is you add 60-70 pounds to your 3-rep and 5-rep deadlifts and put yourself in position to hit a big 1-rep PR in only six weeks. (You can do the program for as long as you like, though. Or, more specifically, as long as it continues to work.) Worst-case scenario is that you die.

Just kidding. You won't die due to deadlifts. Just do the program.    


  1. FINALLY! Someone acknowledges that the worst case in any training program is that I die. But I would argue that the worst case is that I die and crap myself on the way out.

    Any training philosophy that tells me I get to deadlift frequently gets my attention, because I like to deadlift. Thanks for the post.

  2. Where were u all these days???
    This is one of the most common sensical article on high frequency deadlifting I have ever seen.
    Thanks mate!