What Results Can You Get From Deadlift Only Programs?
Updated July 1st 2021
Having a deadlift only routine is a great way of achieving a max deadlift personal record but if you do not train other compound movements, there would not be a ton of carryover.
Lifters love to theory craft different routines on what to do in the gym.
As strength athletes and strength enthusiasts, we get excited whenever there is a new breakthrough in the lifting community.
Everyone benefits from new knowledge, techniques, and protocols whenever they are optimized.
One idea that has been thrown around in the lifting community is having a deadlift only routine.
Whether this is due to previous injuries or general curiosity, some lifters thought it may be a good idea to do a deadlift only routine.
No, just no.
Here are 5 reasons why you should not do a deadlift only routine.
But before we go into them, let us review what would happen if you only do deadlift only routine for whatever reason.
DEADLIFT ONLY RESULTS
In one year with 50lbs of bulking, you can raise your deadlift max from 315lbs to 605lbs. You will develop a strong posterior chain, core, traps, forearms, and spinal erectors from doing only deadlifts. Depending on your deadlift variation, you can also work on your quads using the sumo or trap bar deadlift.
It should be stated that your results will vary but if you are hyperfocused on solely achieving a big deadlift, it can be done.
You will obviously need to deadlift but your frequency will vary depending on how quickly you can recover from a deadlift session.
Whether you deadlift every week or two, it needs to be right for you.
Then, you will have a decision to make— how many accessory days to supplement your deadlift training?
Because let's face it, recovery will be the limiting factor and you still need to grow your body to withstand your training.
Some lifters used 3-4 exclusive training days to train deadlift accessories but it really depends on how extreme you want to take your training.
You should know why it takes so long for muscles to recover.
However, if you want to develop a balanced physique or strength level, you will need to incorporate other exercises to help train your body.
Though the deadlift is one of the best exercises to target a majority of the muscle groups in your body, there are other exercises that are more optimal in terms of their leverages and effort exertion.
For instance, for most lifters, squats can target your quads way more than any deadlift could.
That is why you may have sore quads from deadlifts.
But you can also have a ton of reactions from doing only deadlifts—
The list can go on and on.
For all lifters, an overhead press can target your shoulder muscles way better than any deadlift variation, even if you choose ohp accessories.
By learning and understanding which exercises you need to have a complete program; this will limit the number of head games you can create for yourself.
There will be no more “deadlift-only” or “squat-only” routines.
Use your common sense.
5 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT DO A DEADLIFT ONLY ROUTINE
- There is no balance in your program
- Find another pain-free movement
- Know your specific goal
- Low workout frequency
- Physique wise, you will have no upper body gains
THERE IS NO BALANCE IN YOUR PROGRAM
Your time would be better spent using a general strength training program, like Greyskull LP or 5/3/1 Forever (the current program I am running).
Functional strength can be gained and learned by incorporating the four basic compound movements—
- the squat
- the bench press
- the overhead press
- the deadlift
With a deadlift only program, you are restricting yourself to three other crucial compound movements that are viewed as necessary for functional strength development.
Why would you limit yourself if you are a healthy person who wants to improve your strength, physique, and size?
FIND ANOTHER PAIN-FREE MOVEMENT
I have seen many lifters develop knee pain from squats and want to omit squats from their workouts.
Deadlifts, on the other hand, have no issues and they are debating with the idea to do a deadlift-only program in order to heal their knee injury.
I am not a health professional (yet), but you need to understand that way back in history, do you think people who got injured would visit doctors for their injuries?
No, they would probably die because any physical injury will limit your chances of survival.
Luckily, we are not in those ancient times.
Yes, go visit a health care professional.
At the same time, do not throw your brain in the garbage.
Did you know that people who have a total knee replacement or total hip replacement in hospitals are forced to walk and move around on the same day of the surgery?
That was not always the case.
Just a few decades ago, many of their surgery patients were immobilized for several days or weeks after surgery.
The doctors noticed poor recovery and result from their current systems.
It slowly began to change when the idea that these patients would be better off if they kept moving.
So, how does this relate to you?
Instead of eliminating squats completely from your program, find another squat alternative to replace your squats temporarily.
- Leg presses
- goblet squats
- partial squats
- front squats
There are thousands of different squat alternatives that many lifters can choose from.
Replace your squat movement with an alternative for 1-2 weeks.
Then, re-evaluate yourself to see if your condition improved.
It is really a trial and error process.
Your doctor or physical therapist will not always be following you around, so it is really up to you to take full responsibility for your health.
KNOW YOUR SPECIFIC GOAL
Unless you know you want to try and break certain deadlift world records or you acknowledged the consequences of having a deadlift only routine, there should be no reason why you should be doing only deadlifts.
You may have read online somewhere that there are farmers that only do deadlifts during the workouts.
Yes, I can agree with that statement.
You are also missing the point that farmers are literally working hard the entire day to ensure the productivity and sustainability of their land.
We are talking about 10+hours of hard labor.
For almost everyone wanting to do a deadlift only routine, I can guarantee that you are not working nearly as hard as a farmer.
So, do not use them as an example of how you can pull off a deadlift only routine.
What’s my point here?
To know where you want to go and take the right steps to achieve your goals.
For instance, you should know whether or not you want to do dumbbell shrugs or barbell shrugs when deciding on a deadlift accessory.
It is okay that we do not have the same goals.
This is one of the strengths of the lifting community - we all have different aspirations and gifts to offer.
So, if you want to be a powerlifter, a deadlift only routine will be a poor selection because you will not place any focus on the squat or the bench press.
If you want to be a deadlift specialist, a deadlift only program may be up your alley once you ask a few more additional questions.
LOW WORKOUT FREQUENCY
Depending on your deadlifting intensity, you may be only deadlifting once a week unless you literally only deadlift light weight.
I have seen an article about someone doing 125 days of daily deadlifts, doing light to moderate weights in the 12-20 rep range.
As a fitness challenge, I can see why this lifter would partake in this experiment (aside from the clickbait).
On the other hand, you are probably reading this article because you are interested in strength training.
- You want to get strong.
- You want to get big.
- You want to be more powerful.
What is the point of lifting weights if you cannot push your strength limits?
And it goes without saying... you should be getting more than 5 hours of sleep if you are doing intense training.
I am not saying this is good or bad but there is no strength training protocol that tells strength training beginners that they should do daily deadlifts in the 12-20 rep range in order to increase their strength.
Their time would be much better spent doing 5 reps at first and then tailored according to their specific program.
There have been many experiments done where people have tried to deadlift every day while maintaining a high intensity.
For instance, Chris Duffin tried to deadlift 880lbs/400kgs for a month for cancer; he got injured on day 16.
This does shed some light on the durability and strength of the human body - it can do more than you think.
But the question now is how much are you willing to push yourself to find out.
The second question you would ask is if it is all worth it.
In the past, deadlifters who held world records deadlifted twice a month or once a week.
And for a long time, this was the norm.
This just simply worked and many lifters now are able to crush new PRs and set new world records using the same strength training principles.
If it is not broken, why fix it?
To bring this topic full circle, deadlifts are a very taxing exercise.
When you push your deadlift workout just too much, you will be forced to rest and recover.
This is just one of the limitations of the human body.
As a response, many strength training programs, from the beginner level all the way up to the elite level, have deadlifts trained 1-2x a week.
This does not include the world record holders and very elite level lifters.
So, if you are looking to do a program that is 3x a week or more, a deadlift only program will not align with your wants especially if you want to become an elite powerlifter.
PHYSIQUE WISE, YOU WILL HAVE NO UPPER BODY GAINS
As hinted in the first bullet, you will need to do upper body exercises in order to develop upper body strength and size.
Deadlifts do a great body of maintaining your upper body tone.
For your lower body and posterior chain, you can expect massive growth.
The same cannot be said for your upper body.
Sure, if you do nothing for your upper body, deadlifts can slightly improve your physique and maybe even grow your upper body for some lifters.
But for a majority of lifters, this is simply not true.
You will need other exercises to help stimulate your upper body gains.
Do not also forget how paramount nutrition is too.
And even if you do not work out, creatine might give you an extra edge in the gym.
So, if you want to be a centaur with a thin upper body, a deadlift only program may be a solid choice for you.
Unless you need to hit a deadlift PR in the short or mid-term future, having a deadlift only program will have very little ROI.
You can do whatever you like.
The choice you make will not affect me whatsoever.
However, I am concerned with providing you, my readers, the information that will best help you achieve your goals.
If you are ignorant and blind to the truth, nothing I will say or do will change your decision.
Understand that a deadlift-only routine does have its limitations.
But like all programs, they work if you put in the time, dedication and commitment.
And even with the big 4 exercises only, your physique with only compound movements will still be great.
If you are a strength training beginner, your time would be better spent doing a general strength program I linked above.
You need to train the muscle groups not addressed by the big 4 lifts.
However, if you already deadlifted 600lbs during your first deadlift session, by all means, optimize your deadlift gains and do a deadlift-only program.
The world is not a cookie-cutter place.
We need people with different strengths and skills to help improve the strength training knowledge base.
Let us make the world a stronger place every day.