The question of workout frequency tends to be a hot topic for general lifters. How much is enough and how often should you be performing a particular lift? More and more, research is suggesting that frequency isn’t nearly as indicative of success compared to overall volume and intensity, but that doesn’t necessarily answer the question at hand (1).
This article was inspired by my current training program, which is prepping me for a deadlift-only meet. When I explain that I’m currently deadlifting three-four times a week, I usually get confused looks from other recreational lifters. There tends to be a misconception on individual lift frequency, and most seem to think that one or two times a week is ideal for compound movements. This logic isn’t necessarily wrong, but it fails to recognize individual context.
In this article, we’re going to breakdown the incredibly nuanced question of, “How many times should you squat and deadlift in a week?” We’ll cover a couple different ways you could approach this question to find your ideal frequency for certain lifts.
What Is Workout Frequency?
Before diving into the question above, it’s best to quickly cover what workout frequency is. Frequency is a training variable that highlights how often athletes are training as a whole, performing certain lifts, or lifting a certain way. Basically, you can apply frequency to multiple workout variables, but most view frequency as the total amount they are hitting the gym.
We briefly touched on this above, but overall work out frequency has been a pretty hot topic in research lately. What research is beginning to suggest is that when volume and intensity are equated, then frequency isn’t incredibly important.
In layman’s terms, when you account for consistent loading and reps for resistance training work outs on a weekly basis, then it doesn’t really matter if you are achieving your total work volume in a few days or five/six days.
In fact, a recent study we just covered hypothesized that some individuals may have a maximum resistance training threshold, which is interesting food for thought (2). Research is still thin on this topic, but it brings up some interesting points for recreational athletes who are super concerned with getting to the gym six days a week for maximum benefits — that’s probably overkill.
Note, frequency for experienced athletes or those in meet prep will change a bit, as these athletes will require a higher threshold for work. Less sessions could be problematic for recovery purposes and time allotments. The most important takeaway for understanding work out frequency is recognizing the context of the individual.
How Often Should You Squat and Deadlift Per Week?
Before diving into the ways you can breakdown squat and deadlift frequency, it’s important to note that there isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all answer. The below points will assist in providing direction to help you assess how often you should squat or deadlift on a weekly basis.
What’s Your Training Goal?
The first way to assess this question is to analyze what your current training goal is. This is potentially the easiest way to dictate lift frequency, as it’s the most straight forward question. Specific lift goals will generally warrant a higher training frequency, while general wellness and strength will remain on the moderate to lower end of frequency.
If your goal is to improve your strength for the squat or deadlift, then you’ll want to increase your training frequency for these lifts accordingly. An increase in frequency will improve your overall threshold for training these exercises, along with giving you more exposure to practice form and technique.
Ideal frequency to improve one lift will vary based on multiple individual factors, but generally you’ll want to train that ONE movement 2-4 times a week. It’s important to remember that ample attention needs to be given to loading and rep schemes if you’re training the squat and deadlift multiple time during a week (more on that below). This is where squat and deadlift variations, periodization schemes, and recovery modalities come in.
- Higher Squat/Deadlift Frequency Best For: Individual lift goals, meet prep, experienced athletes
For the goal of overall strength in both movements, then a moderate or balanced frequency will tend to be best. This goal typically works best for newer trainees because they need less exposure and stimuli to grow. Performing the squat and deadlift once or twice a week is typically enough to facilitate benefits for the recreational or newer lifter.
- Low-Moderate Squat/Deadlift Frequency Best For: Newer trainees & general overall strength goals
A good piece of advice that I’ve learned when it comes to hitting a specific lift goal is to stay a little more conservative with the timeline. As opposed to building a longer training cycle, keep individual lift goal timelines on the lower end to avoid burning out for that movement, or sharply hitting a wall/plateau (think: 8-12 week workout plans for each lift goal).
Note: If you’re trying to improve one lift, then we recommend limiting exposure to the other during this time. For example, if you’re squatting three or four times a week, then limit deadlift sessions to one or no sessions a week, vice versa. This is simply to promote the best amount of recovery you can achieve without overreaching.
Another way to assess ideal squat and deadlift frequency is to analyze training history. A higher training history can indicate three major things: More exposure to the lifts, a better understanding of the body, and a higher training threshold.
Generally, more experienced lifters can benefit with training these movements a little more often depending on their lifting style. Lifters who train for a specific strength sport like powerlifting and weightlifting will have high squat and deadlift frequencies compared to those who lift for general strength. Then within specific sports, athletes will have varied frequencies based on their meet timelines, current strength goals, and overall training history.
Beginners and general lifters can get away with squatting and deadlifting on a more conservative basis to ensure they are properly recovering and understanding the movements.
- Higher (2+ years) Training History: Better suited for higher squat and deadlift frequency
- Minimal (<6 months) Training History: Lower squat and deadlift frequency.
Structuring High and Low Squat and Deadlift Frequency
After you’ve decided what squat and deadlift frequency you think would benefit your training best, it’s time to structure your workouts accordingly. There’s no perfect answer for this, but below we’ve created some overall guidelines that might help provide some direction when structuring squat and deadlift weekly frequencies.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the below squat and deadlift frequencies are being used over the course of a 12-week long mesocycle. Remember, when training one lift with a high frequency to keep the other lift’s exposure more conservative to promote recovery. Below are some ways you can structure squat and deadlift frequencies on a weekly basis — percentages and RPEs will have to be adjusted for your needs.
Squat or Deadlift 4x/Week
- 1 Heavier Day: Singles or doubles with 80%+ 1-RM
- 1 Moderate Day: Triples-fives with 70%-85% 1-RM
- 1 Lighter/Speed Focused Day: Triples-Fives with 60-75% 1-RM
- 1 Variation Day: 4-8 reps with moderate intensities
Squat or Deadlift 3x/Week
- 1 Heavier Day: Singles or doubles with 85%+ 1-RM
- 1 Moderate/Speed Day: Triples-fives with 65%-80% 1-RM
- 1 Lighter or Variation Day: 6+ reps with moderate to lighter intensities
Squat or Deadlift 2x/Week
- 1 Heavier Day: Singles or doubles with 85%+ 1-RM
- 1 Moderate/Speed Day: Triples-sixes with 60%-80% 1-RM
Squat or Deadlift Once a Week
- 1 Moderate Strength Focused Day: 5-8 reps with 65-85% 1-RM
Author’s Note: The above structures are only examples for how you could program the squat and deadlift on a weekly basis if you’re performing them multiple times. Use the above as a starting or jumping off point, then structure your workouts accordingly for your body’s needs.
What Else to Consider
Now that you’ve decided what weekly frequency you want to start performing for the squat and deadlift: What else should be considered? Recovery needs and a conservative starting points are both huge for success when squatting and deadlifting multiple times in one week. For example, if you know it takes your body a long time to recover from heavier deadlift sessions, then account for this by manipulating intensities and rest days to best suit your needs (ex: avoid heavy and moderate days back-to-back).
It is typically wise to start with a slightly more conservative starting point with percentages. A high frequency generally relates to a higher total training volume and this can accumulate quickly as weeks go on. The last thing you want is to burnout or get injured before the full mesocycle is completed.
Another useful factor to consider is your individual time allotment. If your days are crunched and stretched thin, then a more conservative frequency might benefit you best. This will facilitate your full focus for the minimal workouts you can get in, along with keeping progress moving forward towards a squat and deadlift goal.
The last point to consider is what squat and deadlift variations you want to incorporate. My advice, include variations that will strengthen weaknesses. More than likely, your squat and deadlift accessories will be a bit more finite in nature with a higher frequency, so make your chosen variation days count!
When working towards a specific squat and deadlift goal, it’s best to structure workout frequencies based on your individual needs. A lot of factors can be considered when finding your perfect lift frequency. What’s most important is that you are choosing a frequency that accommodates for recovery, growth, and overall progress.
One of the best parts of manipulating lift frequencies is that it can help you better understand what threshold your body responds to best.
1. Damas, F., Barcelos, C., Nóbrega, S., Ugrinowitsch, C., Lixandrão, M., & Santos, L. et al. (2019). Individual Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Responses to High vs. Low Resistance Training Frequencies. Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research, 33(4), 897-901.
2. Barcelos C, e. (2019). High-frequency resistance training does not promote greater muscular adaptations compared to low frequencies in young untrained men. – PubMed – NCBI . Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
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