Deadlifting – The Recovery Issue

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Perhaps this title misled you as it’s not to much an issue but more like an open letter to strength trainees to be aware of the extended recovery time around deadlift (vs squat and bench press).


“Less is more” in some instances and this is very often the case with deadlifts. It isn’t always wise to perform very high volume and high repetition sets of deadlift. There are a few believe this is due to the stress placed on your grip and the effect that places on your nervous system.


Many strength coaches will use dynamometers to assess their athlete’s readiness.
A dynamometer is a hand held device that measure grip strength. If you’re interested in using it then here’s a way of going about it. Start by measuring your grip strength in the morning after a good night’s rest. This will typically give you a baseline and so when you head in to train next, use the dynamometer to see if you’re above or below the baseline. If you’re below, maybe your nervous isn’t fully recovered, if your above, maybe you’re ready to go for that PR you’ve been chasing.


It’s worth noting though that in my experience, readiness, whether it’s perceived or measured (via dynamometer, HRV, tendo unit, push system) does not always correlate to the outcome you expect. Often you’ll head in without expecting too much but are surprised that the bar is moving much faster than expected and likewise there’ll be times when you’ve made sure to eat well, drink lots and sleep lots the night(s) before a session and it’s not as you expected. This of course then leads us down the path of RPE based training but, that is an article for another time.


Deadlift also requires more from your nervous system due to the inertia of breaking the bar off the ground (vs using the stretch reflex in the squat). This is one of the reasons that daily undulating periodization has been really popular in the last few years amongst the powerlifting community. It simply means that the set and rep scheme is progressing in a non-linear fashion, think of it like a wave with peaks and troughs. I’ll have many athletes use this specifically around deadlift by having lower intensity sessions (<75% of 1RM) that’ll provide more “practice” time but require less recovery than their other sessions (>75%), assuming that total volume is lower on the <75% session.


It is true that volume drives strength but, it is not the only thing. For powerlifting you may get significant strength gains by making the movements more autonomous, thereby becoming more efficient, technically efficient and allowing more mental energy to spent on “doing” rather than trying to focus on cues.


But I wouldn’t end this without providing you without some practical information you can takeaway. Head on over to download your free 4-week deadlift program and take your deadlift to new heights.

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