June 19, 2019

Daniel J. Belcher1, Colby A. Sousa1, Joseph P. Carzoli1, Trevor K. Johnson1, Eric R. Helms2, Nishant Visavadiya1, Robert F. Zoeller1, Michael Whitehurst1, Michael C. Zourdos1

1Florida Atlantic University, Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Muscle Physiology Laboratory, Boca Raton, FL. USA
2 Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ) AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand

Among various fitness communities it has been long-standing belief that the deadlift exercise causes greater fatigue than the squat or bench press. Therefore, it is commonly said that the deadlift should be trained less frequently than the squat or bench press even though no data actually supports this notion. The concept of training frequency is important as recent literature has indicated a training frequency of 2-3 times per week to be the “sweet spot” for maximizing both muscle hypertrophy and strength adaptations. Therefore, data is needed regarding how long it takes to recover from a deadlift session of sufficient intensity and volume to make appropriate frequency recommendations.

The aim of our study was to examine and compare the time courses of indirect markers of muscle damage and performance in the squat, bench press, and deadlift in well-trained males. Twelve male lifters (24±4 years) with an average of 7 years training experience participated. The lifters performed four sets to voluntary failure on each exercise in separate weeks (i.e., squat one week, bench another week, and deadlift another week) using 80% of their one-repetition maximum (1RM). Performance (average concentric velocity at 70% of 1RM) and indirect markers for muscle damage (muscle soreness, limb swelling, and blood enzymes) were assessed immediately before and after exercise, and at 24, 48, 72, and 96-hours after each week’s exercise session to gauge the time course of recovery.

Overall, average concentric velocity at 70% of 1RM decreased post-exercise in both the squat (~10%) and bench press (~27%), but deadlift velocity did not significantly decrease (~7%). Squat velocity recovered within 96 hours, while bench press velocity recovered by 24 hours. All three exercises resulted in significant muscle soreness (assessed by palpating the muscles with an algometer) with chest (bench press), hamstring (squat), and quadriceps (squat and deadlift) all recovering between 48-72 hours post-exercise.

Our findings also indicate that muscle damage markers require at least 48-72 hours following a bout of the squat, bench press, or deadlift to recover. Interestingly and contrary to popular belief, recovery times between the three exercises seem to be similar. Because training to failure significantly increases recovery time, and participants in our study performed each exercise to failure, it is practical to assume recovery from each exercise tested can be achieved within 24-48 hours if failure is avoided. However, it should be noted, recovery from these exercises is individual-dependent, similar to the amount of training volume and frequency needed to maximize strength and hypertrophic adaptations. Thus, resistance training programs should assess recovery on a case-by-case basis. Nonetheless, our results suggest that recovery time is similar between the squat, bench press and deadlift when considering all markers of recovery.

Key Findings:

  • The deadlift does not require longer recovery time compared to the squat and bench press when set volume is equated and training is completed to failure at 80% of 1RM in well-trained males.
  • Due to deadlift recovering in a similar time course compared to the squat and bench press, it appears that the deadlift can be trained with a similar frequency as the squat and bench press. 

Original Article:

Belcher DJ, Sousa CA, Carzoli JP, Johnson TK, Helms E, Visavadiya NP, Zoeller RF, Whitehurst M, and Zourdos MC. Time Course of Recovery is Similar for the Back Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift in Well-Trained Males Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. Published on the web February 19th, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2019-0004

This article is a summary of an article published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. If you intend to cite any information in this article, please consult the original article and cite that source. This summary was written for the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and it has been reviewed by the CSEP Knowledge Translation Committee.