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http://startingstrength.com/article/who_wants_to_be_a_novice_you_do#.Uk2wDmSieLg

The deadlift uses only ONE heavy set. ONE. Really. Sets-across deadlifts do not work, because for the deadlift more is not better. Trust me on this.

Why does he recommend to do only one set? Does this only work for novices?

  • Clearly, from his remark, "Trust me on this", the author is expressing his opinion. – rrirower Aug 26 '16 at 16:10
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I'm not sure why Starting Strength says to do only 1 set specifically, but StrongLifts 5x5 has an explanation and it might answer your question. The basics of it is that Deadlifts works a lot of the same muscles as your Squats and are very exhausting on your Central Nervous System (CNS)

StrongLifts: Why only 1×5 Deadlifts, not 5×5?

Deadlift is only one set of five reps instead of five sets of five like the other StrongLifts 5×5 exercises. This is because Deadlifts take more out of you.Here’s why:

  • Deadlifts has each rep starting from a dead stop
  • Deadlift uses more muscles than any other exercise
  • Deadlift allows you to lift heavier weights than other exercises

And

Keep in mind Squats and Deadlifts work similar muscles. Getting stronger at Squats will get you stronger at Deadlifts. You rarely need more than one set of five reps to increase your Deadlift to 180kg (400lb).

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Different instructors would say different things when it comes to lifting. Heavy is subjective. What's heavy for me, may not be heavy for you. It make have worked for the author, but may not work for others. That's why some people take years knowing their own body's response to various exercise routines before sticking to any. Having said that, may be he's concerned, about injuries. If not, I don't see why it should be a problem if someone can do more.

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All research pretty much agrees that to build muscle you need to stress the muscle to fatigue. There are a number of techniques to achieve this. Some like a 1 set to fatigue some even like a 1 rep-max to fatigue. Most people find it easier mentally to go the several sets of a number of reps at lower weights. Which one is best? Short answers is the one that works for you.

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    Can you cite some of the research saying that repping to failure is the only way to build muscle? – Alec Aug 26 '16 at 10:10
  • Sorry I meant to say Fatigue rather the Failure. Failure is obviously a state of extreme fatigue but there is little research on it specifically. One that comes to mind is ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16410373 – Dnice Aug 26 '16 at 17:00

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