Is it possible to create a high intensity interval training format with only the deadlift?

Yes, it’s very possible, even though the deadlift is traditionally associated with powerlifting.

Making a HIIT workout out of deadlifts is simple – as far as putting it together.

But let me tell you, it will WIND YOU SERIOUSLY.

The trick is to make sure you’re using the right amount of weight.

  • Good form is a must.
  • In fact, form should be more than good; it should be superb.
  • A mixed grip is recommended to avoid distraction from aching or burning wrists.

Choosing the Right Amount of Weight

You’ll want a weight load that doesn’t “feel heavy.” You should have no problem picking it up for one rep.

Think of this weight load as a demonstration load if you were showing someone how to perform a deadlift.

Or, you can think of the load as what you’d use for your first warmup set for a standard deadlift routine.

The weight should be light enough for you to “bounce” eight reps.

When I say “bounce,” I mean quickly, as fast as possible, go through the reps, reaching a full standing position (but don’t exaggerate this by swinging back) at the top of every single one of them, then employing the “touch-and-go” technique at the bottom of each rep.

Do not let the barbell slam to the floor; it should be a touch-and-go or tap.

The key is finding the right amount of weight for which you can do these eight reps, while at the same time, the completion leaves you very winded.

If you’re not very winded, you can do two things.

First, increase the weight a little. However, I prefer the second option: Add more reps.

Ideally, the weight should allow you to complete 15 reps. Remember, this is for HIIT, not building muscle or becoming strong.

You can focus on muscle or strength building after the HIIT portion of your deadlift routine.

The HIIT portion actually works great as a warmup to heavy pulling.

With that all said, aim for eight to 15 reps, but the load should be such that after the end of each set, you are breathless.

And remember, the reps should be done as FAST AS POSSIBLE while preserving superb form.

If you can’t do the reps rapidly, the weight is too heavy – even if you can do 15.

These are supposed to be speed deads.

Rest Time in Between

Your rest time in between each speed set is 60 seconds: no less, no more.

Thus, it’s crucial to make sure you won’t have any distractions such as a chatty workout partner.

The importance of the one-minute rest is to ensure that your body doesn’t quite fully recover before the next set.

The 60 second rest means that the intensity effect will be cumulative with each set, meaning, if you begin, say, with 12 reps (and feel breathless at the end), your second set may still end up being 12 reps, but then you’ll find that the third set will need to be taken down to 11 or even 10.

Do four to five sets total. Trust me when I say this: This HIIT deadlift workout is absolutely sizzling and punishing!

The beauty is that you’ll get a tremendous workout in a very short period of time. Think about that: Four or five sets, eight to 15 reps, one minute in between.

You’ll be done in zip time, yet feel as though you just completed a full hour workout.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


Top image: Anastase Maragos/Unsplash