In previous articles, we have broken down the form of different deadlift variations and discussed their technique. These articles are great for both beginner and veteran deadlifters who want to improve their form. One aspect of training that these articles have not covered is programming these lifts into your training. After reading our previous articles, you now know how to perform many important lifts. But now you may be asking “What is the proper way for me to program these lifts into my training?”. This article is going to show some examples of how the programming should look for powerlifting deadlift workouts.


The first thing that should dictate how your programming will look is what your training goals are. As I previously stated, this article is going to be focused on how a powerlifter should program their training. A powerlifter’s main focus is building strength, so their programming should be structured accordingly.

To train for strength, the focus should be lifting heavy. This doesn’t mean you should go to the gym and start maxing out on the first day. In order for strength training to be effective, you must be smart in how you program it.

Depending on their program, most powerlifters will begin their training with the competition lift. This means that depending on your pulling stance, conventional or sumo deadlifts will be the first exercise done. It is recommended that 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps be done if strength is your goal.

After the competition lift, usually further barbell work is done. Different variations of the main lifts are used as assistance work. This can include deficit deadlifts, rack pulls, stiff leg deadlifts, and banded deadlifts or deadlifts with chains. Generally these exercises are 4-6 sets of 1-5 reps also. The amount of these exercises done will vary depending on if the lifter has an upcoming competition or not.

If the lifter is in a hypertrophy phase, isolation work is sometimes done to work on weak muscles individually. Examples of isolation work to enhance deadlifts would include good mornings, back extensions, dumbbell still leg deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions, bent over or dumbbell rows, and shrugs. These exercises can sometimes be done on their own separate day, but are also effective when done after performing the main lift. Generally these exercises will use higher reps than the barbell exercises. You should use a weight that you can complete 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps with for hypertrophy goals.

Layout of a Beginner Deadlift Workout

The Main Lift 

Conventional or sumo deadlift5 sets of 5 reps

Assistance Work 

Deficit pulls (used if the bottom portion of the main lift is a weak point) – 5 sets of 5 reps


Rack pulls (used if the top portion of the main lift is a weak point) 5 sets of 5 reps

Stiff leg deadlifts (should be used every deadlift workout as an assistance movement  for the main lift) – 5 sets of 5

Isolation Work 

Pick two of the following exercises:

Good mornings – 4 sets of 10 reps

Back extensions – 4 sets of 10 reps

Leg curls – 4 sets of 10 reps

Shrugs – 4 sets of 10 reps

This is an example of a basic deadlift workout for powerlifting. Even if you are not a powerlifter, this would be a good workout to become better at deadlifting and get stronger overall. Now that you have an example of how to program all of these exercises, you have no excuses to not be doing them!

If you decide to try this workout, let us know how it goes for you!

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17 comments on “Powerlifting Deadlift Workouts
  1. says:

    This post is perfect for people like me who are trying to build more muscle mass but are intimidated by going to the gyms and asking for help to put together programs to help me to achieve their goals.

    Yes, most gym inductions try to offer advice when it comes to bulking up but the problem is that most people don’t seem to get the results they want from these induction trainings and this post will prove to be a breath of fresh air for anyone looking to get into weight lifting.

  2. Jay says:

    Deadlifting is so important. It’s the most functional of all lifts in my opinion. Pick something heavy up and put it down. Do it again. That’s function.

    Have you ever used a trap bar to dead lift? I started using it instead of a straight bar. It’s more natural having your hands off the side. It takes all of the pressure off of your lower back. Its much safer.

    I’ve also started doing cowboy deadlifts. Those really help you learn how to get underneath the weight and not hurt yourself.

    Deadlifts are amazing as long as they are done properly.

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      Trap bar deadlifts are a great variation and also really good for people with lower back injuries or people just starting out. I’ve never heard of a cowboy deadlift though.

  3. Christie says:

    I liked the way you addressed your site to either the beginner or someone that would workout at home or in the gym. Your instructions are quite well done. I would like to see a few pictures of the equipment that you are talking about. Or someone using the equipment. sorry, I am not a weight lifter. Perhaps in the future you could add a You Tube video of someone performing the reps while you talk them through it. Any competition success would be a great place to shout-out and shine. Did you have a product that you are recommending?

  4. Randy says:

    Hey guys, you have an awesome site here.
    I’ve been working on my deadlift for the past 2 years. I’m mostly training for hypertrophy, but I’m also going for maximal strength.
    I will be sure to try some of your additional exercises in this program.
    How many times a week do you recommend training deadlifts?
    Thank you!

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      I would recommend doing the main lift (conventional or sumo) once a week and an accessory exercise another time in the week with two or three days between the two. Accessory movements for the deadlift go really well with squats, so it would be a good idea to pair the two. For example, you would do squats and a deadlift accessory on Monday, then conventional or sumo deadlifts on Thursday followed by other accessory movements.

  5. Deborah Collins says:

    You two have done a great job with instructions. I am not a powerlifter yet, but would like to get started. I have been very inspired by the women powerlifters i have watched at competitions, so instructions for women are appreciated, too. And more photos on this website would be great. Looking forward to more articles.

  6. Maria says:

    This is great to outline what workouts to do for powerlifting. What do you do between the workouts to recover and avoid cramping or issues like that?
    I liked how you laid out the beginner workout – it makes it look easy though I know it’s all about the weight.

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      To optimize recovery, you can do things like foam rolling, stretching, massages, and get plenty of sleep (at least 8 hours a night). Also to avoid cramping, warm up properly and drink at least a gallon of water a day

  7. Chris says:

    I’m just trying to get back into training again after a long break due to a back injury. I’m pretty sure that this injury was caused by incorrect lifting and warm up, so your site is very useful to me.

    I’m sure I’ll have some questions once I start trying this stuff out again but thanks for getting me thinking about it!

  8. Jon says:

    I like the header images changing on the website.. really catches your attention.. just thought i’d say! 🙂
    The site is brilliant for advice and especially specialised with some deadlifts. Hard to get genuine advice these days and your content comes across genuine.
    I am trying to get back into the gym but am find it difficult with my knees becoming painful and i have a rotary cuff injury… is there anything you can suggest to ease back into dead lifts?

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      I would suggest starting with something light and focus on technique, only lifting what you can handle with proper form. Once you get the form down, you can increase the weight as needed, while always maintaining good technique

  9. Mara says:

    Hi there,
    I’m just thinking about getting back into some lifting. I used to do “Body Pump”, which is an actual class. I’ve also lifted free weights before at the gym with my husband, who is a seasoned pro. I like that you have targeted this at beginners, which is probably where I need to go back to. Some of the moves I haven’t hear of though – do you have some diagrams or a video to show the Good Morning technique? It would be helpful to see how these are done – I’m a stickler for doing things correctly, both for maximum effect and also to avoid injury. This would really help me.
    Thanks, Mara.

    • Eric Radcliffe says:

      Hey Mara,

      Click here for a video for how to do good mornings. Thanks for the comment and let us know if you have any other questions!


  10. Kelara says:

    I’ve never heard of deadlifting before but then I don’t lift weights either. Great article for people who are weight training. Especially beginners looking to discover how to add deadlifting to their daily regimens. I like that you added information about recommended exercises. It would be nice to see some pictures or even a video of someone doing a deadlift workout. Nevertheless, great website. Best wishes, Kelara

  11. Barry says:

    Dead lifts are not something you see at the “fitness centers” just the gyms. I miss being in a gym. They are a dying breed I am afraid.

    Believe it or not I had the manager of the place I work out come over to me and ask if I could grunt less.

    The key is progression, starting light and working your way up a bit at a time. Also especially with dead lifts as the weight increases the form becomes a big key to avoid injury.

    If I could only do one lift it would be dead lifts. What about you? If you could do only one exercise which one would it be?

    Appreciate the tips. See you at the GYM. If I can find one.

    • Lucas Maki says:


      Those fitness centers are full of crap. Sad to see society going in that direction. If I could only do one exercise it would be either deadlifts or power cleans. That is a tough question though. Thankfully we can do both of them!


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