Everything I've read says to do 1 set of 5 deadlifts or you risk injury. Is this true?

He is suggesting that I start at 115 lbs and move up to 175 by my 5th set, which is near my max. Would this be ok to do since I'm starting at such a low weight?

  • Is 175 near your max for a set of 5, or is your 1 rep max something like 185? Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 21:45
  • I don't think I've ever seen 1x5 deadlift as the "recommended" program; curious what your references are. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 20:39
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    @DaveNewton Starting Strength, StrongLifts, Madcow, and GreySkull LP (sort of) all use one set of five at the work weight for deadlifts. It's not the whole program, but it's certainly common enough. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 21:39
  • @DaveLiepmann With no warmup sets?! I'm returning my Kindle book then; irresponsible. If it's part of a program, then it needs to be discussed in context, not as an isolated entity. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 22:12
  • @DaveNewton No, as my answer discusses, 1x5 is for work sets, which is distinct from warm-up sets in most nomenclature. Madcow is an exception as far as I can tell; they say to do 4 sets, but only the last one is a work set. And while I'm generally a fan of more programming context, and I'd be happy to see that here, I think it's probably not necessary to know about the rest of his routine. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 22:26

6 Answers 6


This is standard barbell weight training as it has more or less always been. Your first four sets are just warm ups for your one heavy set.

If we take my own program as an example I start even lower and end up higher. I calculate my warm up sets by ramping up from 20% (or the weight of the empty bar), 40%, 60% and 80% of my final pull. Even though I ramp up more slowly I don't think your program will be detrimental in any way. This is variations of more or less the same concept.

However as your pulls get bigger, you necessarily don't want to start higher with your warm up sets.

  • Not sure where you are pulling this info from? Why can't I do 5 working sets?
    – Mike S
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 4:37
  • This pretty much concludes why: stronglifts.com/why-deadlifts-1x5-stronglifts-5x5-squats Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 10:22
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    While the StrongLifts advice is very applicable to the OP, who is (I assume) a novice, multiple sets are often called for in more advanced programming. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 16:07
  • @conMan - As I see it there is absolutely no hard scientific reasoning behind any of this. So you can pretty much not conclude anything. Mehdi states some guide-lines based on his gut-feelings and experience.
    – user8264
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:10

What you need to determine is how many work sets you're doing, not how many total sets.

For me, anything south of 250 is more of a warm-up set. I'll do 3 to 5 at 135 or 145, 215 or 225, and in the upper 200s before doing a set (or two) in the 300s. Only that last one is what I consider a work set, which is the one that matters.

Doing five sets from 115 to 175 (which is near your max) is a little odd, however. It may be fine--maybe the idea is to pyramid up--but it couldn't hurt to ask which ones are warm-ups, which ones are meant to be heavy, and how the programming works. But don't get married to the "one set of five for deadlifts" idea. That's common for novice programming, but not necessarily the One True Way.

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    +1 I think this is the heart of the OP's issue - differentiating the idea of warm-up vs work sets.
    – G__
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 19:03

I don't think a single set of deadlifts would be enough volume to grow in my opinion. If I skimp on the deadlift sets (do only 2 sets) I notice I don't gain strength over the next week (assuming you are deadlifting once per week).

@DaveLeipmann is right. Don't confuse things and count warm up sets. You shouldn't have to do huge extended warmups that are going to tire you from your performance during your working sets - especially if the first set is as low as 65% of your max. If you pyramid up the weight (and drop the reps) a 65%, 75%, 85%, 95%, is a good 4 set structure. You could divide the 65-95 range into 5 sets, but remember you don't really want to bother training under 65% of your max (the reps get too high to be of much affect). Notice I'm not talking reps - just % of max because I'm assuming you are going more or less to failure in your WORKING sets. If you are doing it right,the first sets are the HARDEST because high reps on deadlifts close to or to failure are VERY HARD (20+reps). 5 reps (about the 90% mark), even if hard, are all over and done with before you know it.

A warmup 'warms' up the muscles. You shouldn't be 'training' your muscles as part of your warmup. If my first set was greater than 65% of max, I would do 2 or 3 warmups with graduations of weights going up with reps looking like 10,3,1. If your first set is 65% then you could almost get away with a bit of light stretching or light pumping at a low weight to practice the movement. There is NO point 'warming up' with the weight you are going to use on your first set!! You could be wasting precious reps and not meet your performance targets for that workout.

If you are attempting a new 1 rep max, the warmup regime will be more aggressive. I'd start at 10 reps at 50%, 6 reps at 65%, 4 reps at 80%, 1 rep at 90%, 1 rep at 95%, go for gold! I try do these once per month to gauge how I'm doing. If you are doing these once per week, chances are you will be wrecked after the PB attempt and then will skimp on the VOLUME required for the strength increases & hypotrophy to achieve your goals.

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    Upvoting because multiple sets to failure works for you and your deadlift is dramatically higher than everybody else's here, but I will note that one set of five or less (not to failure) got my deadlift 3RM above double bodyweight. Most people outside of strength-specific sports consider that at least minimally sufficient for health and athletics. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 16:05
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    Good info +1. One thing I will suggest is that at the novice level, the OP probably isn't ready to be trying 1RMs just yet; his gains should come so fast that the 1RM will increase every workout, not to mention the neural adaptation to handle a heavier load.
    – G__
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 19:02
  • @DaveLiepmann yes I agree with you. Doing what I do is very hard mentally physically month after month. For a novice lifter I would definitely recommend a 5x5 or 5x4 type program.
    – Mike S
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 22:32

Novices need practice and I don't think one weekly session is enough to get comfortable with any lift. Yet, Stronglift focuses on squatting and a newbie will gain general lower body strength doing this, so his/her pull is likely to come along (if you get to 365 lbs for 3 x 5 on squat, your deadlift isn't going to stay put at 225! You're more likely to handle 385 lbs 1 x 5).

At one point however, squatting gets more taxing, and deadlifting gets VERY taxing. The catch-22 is: An intermediate lifter has to work technique with a heavy weight on the deadlift; I can do a zillion picture-perfect reps at 315, but my skill gets challenged whenever I get north of 400 for reps, or north of 460 for a single. I don't think doing just one heavy set per week is enough to develop this skill.

I use two sessions per week; on Saturday I do stiff-leg deadlifts for volume, doing 5 x 5 with some ramp up (may look like (post warm-up) 275 x 5, 295 x 5, 315 x 5, 335 x 5 and 350 x 5 // It's not a beginner's session), and on Wednesday I deadlift heavy for less volume, doing sets until I become somewhat fatigued (it depends on how I feel). Yesterday I did 2 sets of 5 at 425 and felt I was done. It's not much volume, but it was one of the hardest sessions I ever did; I need to work really hard if I'm to go from 500 to 600! I've been training for 2½ years, so I know what I can recover from within a week's time.

  • Good answer, +1. Stick around answer more questions!
    – Eric
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 14:55

If you're just starting out, technique and greasing the groove is more important than weight used. Doing 4 lighter sets before 1 "work" set allows you to practice the lift. This is what Andy Bolton recommends in "Deadlift Dynamite". As for the "work" set, I tend to recommend to pick a weight which can be handled somewhat comfortably for 5 or 6 reps and stopping at 5; and wait until it feels like there is 3-4 reps in the tank before moving up (but then by 10 lbs). I precisely started out a year ago this way: from a light set at 125 to a "work" set at 175, which became 185, 195... so on. At this stage, I didn't bother with changing weights too often and did 3 sets at 155 before the last one at 175, the focus being greasing the groove. As for frequency, I could handle this workload three times a week (I weighted 220 then, so the barbell was lighter than me, which is a big factor - I also only knew about the old Reg Park programs, so it felt pretty normal to me - soreness vanished after two weeks!). At that frequency, I found I could progress without going all-out in intensity. As the working weight got past 300, I scaled the frequency back to twice weekly, but added more work sets. Right now, after one year of steady progress, my sessions have gradually evolved to something like 375 for 3 sets of 5 followed by 2-3 sets of 3 at the same weight (after a warm-up sequence like 135 x 5 reps, 225 x 3, 275 x 3, 315 x 1, 335 x 1, 355 x 1). I did some heavy singles, hitting 435 once, and 4 reps at 405, but this seems more like strength testing than strength building. Despite strength being my focus, I've put on some muscle in the process and now weight in at 240 (6'1" tall). My best progress still comes from multiple sets twice weekly using a heavy but feasible weight (It gets VERY challenging as sets go on one after the other -- I "graduated" to 375 after pulling 355 for 7 x 5). This builds what John Davis called "durable power" and many natty guys (me obviously) respond pretty well to such type of work. I love training in this style so I'm usually very energetic and motivated. That said, I'm still a beginner and learning...

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    Not a bad answer at all, but the (missing) formatting makes it very hard to read. Maybe if you could throw in some line breaks it would be easier to read. On the content, though, I do agree wholeheartedly.
    – user8119
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 7:03

With stronglifts or starting strength you are also squatting 3 times per week so when you are lifting decent weight you are severely taxing your cns, you will be glad to only pull 1x5!

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