How Many Times A Week Should You Deadlift & Squat?

*Note* This has been one of my most popular posts on Quora, I thought it ought to also work for the website, so I’m re-blogging it here.

Both of these multi-joint exercises exert incredible stresses on the spine, individual vertebrae and intervertebral discs, as well as core muscles, postural muscles and main drivers.

If handled intelligently, qualities like fortitude, dedication and willpower are good and beautiful tools. Like any good tools, they’re reliable but only guaranteed to build and not cause injury if applied within their measured tolerances. When these qualities are applied to training and pushing yourself beyond your body’s limits, even more so.

Obsession is a very overused term. It is often mistaken for the previously mentioned set of qualities. Letting obsession get out of hand conjures up a whole Pandora’s box of high-risk outcomes from activities that have potentially devastating consequences if pushed too far and too hard for too long.

The body is a many-faceted machine, resilient and magical, but it’s a relatively soft one. Its owner must proceed with caution, with an eye on the clock and respect for his or her future self.

OK, detour finished and on to a simple answer to your question: if your sessions are brutal, high-intensity, kick-a*s types of events, a maximum of once-per-week should be about right.

 Less intense, lighter, perhaps higher volume training schemes could be run more often. But, then whether this type of training suits you is based a great deal on genetics. *You will have to experiment to discover if these types of sessions produce results. If they do, this will significantly reduce your risk of injury and chronic conditions in the future. Don’t take someone else’s word as law before you spend the time necessary for evaluation yourself. This is not an area where shortcuts always pay dividends.

Yeah, INTENSITY, that electrically charged “I don’t care if it kills me” attitude, it works, it surely does. Ocassionly with truly astounding results.

But there are potential risks as well as the costs involved for running it at too high a current:


All photos from my collection.


The photo above is an example of some of the functional outcomes of decades with this training outlook and ethic.

And here are examples of some of the downsides keeping with the “fuck it, I’ll do this if it kills me” mindset:

Sure, the point here may appear a little dramatic, perhaps overly so. Outcomes will vary. Of course, it won’t be the same story for everyone.

Ah, I hear you saying to yourself: ‘’Who here is really dumb or timid enough to believe that scare tactics like this work?’’

”Not me!” I hear you boast.

In the long game, trying to shame or bully people doesn’t change anyone’s behaviour or achieves nothing worth much.

Telling people what they would rather no hear and don’t want to believe just pisses them off, or else, they just ignore it and continue, business as usual.

For what it’s worth, I’m probably just waving around a magic reality wand and crying over spilt milk in the hope that a blog like this might perhaps modify someone’s behaviour enough so that they might avoid some common mistakes.

Sometimes, by grabbing the sharp edge of good intentions and taking a positive thing to the extreme, the sharp edge catches up with you.

If you want to get anywhere important in Bodybuilding, it is absolutely crucial that you train intensely. Hard, big exercises like deads and squats are phenomenal for creating this intensity.

But…it is also critical for you to spend the required time to recover from the resulting inevitable stress & damage that your tough training sessions bring about.

If you’ve managed to read this far and can tolerate a guy who once thought he was superman, climbing onto his pulpit to confess that he’s discovered otherwise, stick with me a bit longer.

Was injury just bad luck? Perhaps.

Was it Fate or Destiny? Who knows? But most likely my level of success would have measurably improved, and Fate might have worn a kinder smile, by affording myself an attitude a little less driven, a little less reckless, proceeding a little more cautiously and spending my recovery time a little more wisely. Pain? What was pain? Way back in the day and at the time…The pain was just a signal to throw open a door that you walked right through…not letting it hit you on the ass on the way through it.

My interpretation of pain, my relationship to its signals and frames of reference, while still ambivalent, is significantly different these days.

At this point in my life, the constant, familiar, repeating and never-ending message that pain sends echoing back to me from my once-upon-a-time younger, dumber, more fearless but impatient and incautious self, has lost its power. Through year-upon-year of waging war against it, pain loses much of its value to prevent the harm that it once may have represented. The only thing it does now is to produce a continual weariness and constant fatigue.

This, I sometimes say to myself, is just the way it goes, just the way some shit happens to some stubborn, pig-headed people.

If I had the chance to do it over again?

Ridiculous speculation, because no one ever gets that chance.

I’d unquestionably take more time off to adapt, recover and recuperate.

The harder and more intensely you train, the less frequently you need to, or in fact, should train.

Assuming that this rule-of-thumb won’t apply to you often carries with it dire consequences.

This blog was not intended to be a sermon.

I am not saying “quit-before-you-get-hurt” or here to instil doubts about attempting difficult tasks with balls-to-walls determination…that would just be pathetic, the folly of losers.

My intention is merely to produce a cautionary tale designed to supply some good, old-fashion, backwoods-home-truth adhesive for application as the reader may see fit.

When I started to answer this question, I didn’t start off meaning to point in this direction, it just kind of evolved into a kind of  ‘‘but there you go: here is curated, well-packed lesson delivered directly to the door!”

Should you decide it is a worthwhile one and care to sign for it after pressing the learn-it button.

Courtesy of Steve Chauvel and BodyWorks

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