Powerlifting and Deadlift Singles vs. Reps

The sport of powerlifting tests your strength in basic weightlifting exercises, such as the deadlift, against other competitors in an event. The goal is to lift more weight in one repetition, also known as a single, than the competition. When you train deadlifting outside of an event, the choice of singles versus reps must be determined by your training style and personal preference.

Deadlifting Form

In order to make beneficial gains from deadlifting, you must use proper form with each repetition. Begin with your feet beneath the center of the barbell, flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Hinge at your knees and hips, keep your back straight and extend your arms down to the barbell. Grasp it in your hands and straighten the hinge at your knees and hips to lift the barbell as you return to the standing position. Release the weight by dropping it to the floor from standing, provided you are working on a weightlifting mat. If you are not on a floor that can sustain a dropped weight, repeat the hinge at your hips and knees, keeping your back straight, to return the barbell to the floor.

About Singles

Single lifts push your muscles to their maximum output with each repetition. You should warm up for at least 10 minutes before performing deadlift singles. Skipping rope, body-weight squats, jogging and jumping jacks all provide a sufficient warm up. Load the barbell with your maximum deadlifting weight and perform one repetition with proper form. Take a two- to three-minute rest, keeping your muscles limber with light exercise, such as stair climbing, before performing another single. Repeat this process six to eight times. In about seven training sessions, your muscles’ strength should noticeably increase, allowing you to up your maximum lifting weight. One singles deadlifting session requires about 35 to 40 minutes.

About Repetitions

Repetition training typically consists of two sets of six to eight consecutive deadlifts, pushing your muscles to maximum output. You must warm up for at least 10 minutes prior; singles, skipping rope, jogging, body-weight squats and jumping jacks work well. Load the barbell with approximately 80- to 90-percent of your maximum lifting weight. Perform one deadlift and rest for 30 to 45 seconds. After resting, perform another; repeat this pattern until you have completed all repetitions in your set. Rest for five minutes and complete another set to conclude your deadlift reps training. In each set, the first third of the deadlifts should be easy, the second third difficult and the last third pushing to maximum strain. In approximately seven training sessions, your maximum deadlift should noticeably increase. One repetition deadlifting session requires about 40 to 45 minutes.


After a deadlifting training session, you must allow your body two to five days to heal the tears in your muscles. When the muscles heal, they become stronger. If you are still sore from powerlifting training, your muscles are not ready to exercise again. Exercising before you have healed causes loss of strength, working against your powerlifting goals.


Singles and repetition training for deadlifting both increase your maximum lifting weight. The styles of training require roughly the same amount of time, provided you perform them properly. Experiment with both singles and reps during separate training sessions. Make your choice based upon what you enjoy most, which keeps you motivated and what makes your muscles work the hardest. So long as you train regularly, at least two times weekly, either method increases deadlifting strength.

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