Information on how to run faster, lift stronger and think deeper

Deadlift How many reps for mass [Article, Free Calculator]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jul 31, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Deadlift How many reps for mass

Deadlift how many reps for mass


To train the deadlift for mass consider 3 - 5 sets for 8 - 12 repetitions with 50 - 70% of your one repetition maximum with 30 seconds to 1 minute of rest between sets. Trap bar deadlifts or deadlifts with straps are recommended to minimize injury risk.
Get the free deadlift calculator

Guide to reps and sets

The deadlift is a great builder of muscle and strength for the back. For beginners, it is hard to figure out what to do. There is a lot of contradicting information out there. This is based on the fact that blog posts are often general to cover all angles. The information is not wrong, just convoluted for the reader who does not have the knowledge yet to pick it apart. The following article will give you more context and detail which rep schemes make the most sense for you to build mass.

Clarity gets you mass


As many beginners, I struggled with my goals in the beginning. I wanted to run a marathon and deadlift 600 pounds on the same day. That is still one of my goals. Still, I came to realize that it is hard to get there when you don’t know what you want.  Mainly I see three-goal sets in fitness which most people fall under 
  • Looks
  • Health
  • Performance
As you are interested in building mass it is very likely you fall into the looks bracket. So this article is geared towards the goal of maximizing muscle growth rather than strength. For this, it is important to have some general knowledge about picking your repetitions and sets.

How to pick repetitions and sets for mass

If you read a lot of articles and books about strength you will find the following recommendations to build mass repeatedly:
  • 8 - 12 repetitions per set
  • 3 - 5 sets per session for given exercise
  • 30 sec. to one minute rest between sets
  • 50% - 70% of your one repetition maximum for weight
  • Do the same exercises every other day
  • Vary your program every 1 - 3 months
  • The deadlift takes about half the volume of every other exercise
The general goal of muscle growth is to do more repetitions per set with full control. One session in the gym should be somewhere between 25 - 60 repetitions of any given exercise. Give yourself one day of recovery between doing the same or similar exercises. Two very popular variations for muscle growth are drop sets and pyramid sets. Pyramid sets go up in weight while going down with repetitions per set. For someone with a 100kg deadlift one repetition maximum it looks like this
  • Set 1     12x50kg
  • Set 2    12x55kg
  • Set 3    10x60kg
  • Set 4    10x65kg
  • Set 5     8x70kg 
Stick to 30 seconds to one-minute rest between sets. Perfect execution of each rep and this should be challenging for you. Drop sets turn this on its head. Here the progression looks like this:
  • Set 1 8x70kg
  • Set 2 10x65kg
  • Set 3 10x60kg
  • Set 4 12x55kg
  • Set 5 12x50kg
Set 5 for the pyramid sets and set 1 for the drop sets are also called to set. Top set means that these are the most challenging sets for the workout of the day. Bodybuilders would lean more towards to make this a "to failure" set. This means you try to lift the weight as often as possible until you can not go on. Powerlifters would usually advise training 1 - 2 repetitions short of failure. As failure often spells injury with inexperienced lifters I lean towards training 1 rep short of failure and not to failure. If you are interested in muscle growth the following maxims will help your thinking
  • It's not what you can do in a set, it's what you can do in a workout
  • If your main goal is hypertrophy, you should use a wide range of reps, from as few as 1 to as many of 30
  • Training to failure is only advisable for technically stable athletes on their last set

Things to consider when training the deadlift for mass

As you are interested in mass you can be more flexible about the use of straps and special equipment. Control and a full range of movement are paramount. Whether you put straps on the barbell or use a different method of lifting the weight is not as relevant. To minimize the injury risk consider following variations of the deadlift to build your back
  • Kettlebell deadlifts
  • Dumbbell deadlifts
  • Trap bar deadlifts
These variations are easier to master and less challenging for your entire body than the barbell deadlift. When you do the barbell deadlift consider using straps. Experienced bodybuilders can get stimulation for their backs by overloading the deadlift with straps


The deadlift is the ultimate show of force when it comes to strength. It is a useful tool in bodybuilding and building mass. If you want to do the barbell deadlift to build your back, it is a good choice. However, there are also safer options which will do the same for you if you have less interest in strength. Prioritise your goals between looks, performance and health clearly and the choices you have to make will become a lot easier.



Topics: Deadlift, Powerlifting, Bodybuilding