Has your back been feeling sore or stiff after doing deadlifts? If so, you’re not alone.
Back pain after deadlifting is a relatively common complaint and, in some cases, may just be a normal response to adding a new exercise or increasing intensity. However, continual pain in the lower back after deadlifting may not be a warning sign of improper training.
But before you give up on deadlifting altogether, our list of 5 of the most common reasons that people experience back soreness after deadlifting might provide the answer to your discomfort. A simple adjustment to your technique or training method might be all you need to find yourself back in the gym pain free.
Deadlift mechanics and back soreness
When you perform deadlifts, your gluteus maximus should be acting as the “prime mover,” or the main muscle group that is working to extend your hips and lift the weight. In order to perform the motion of a deadlift, your spinal extensor muscles need to work as “stabilizers” to keep your back from rounding during the deadlift and ensuring that your glutes are the muscles doing the lifting.
If proper form isn’t maintained throughout the deadlift, it’s possible for other muscle groups, like the spinal extensors, to take on more of a “prime mover” role which can eventually lead to soreness, stiffness and pain in the back. Read below to learn more about some of the common mistakes in deadlift form and execution that can lead to lower back discomfort.
5 reasons your back may feel sore after deadlifts
1. You’re new to deadlifts
If you just did deadlifts for the first time and woke up the next morning with a sore back, there may not be anything to worry about. Your body takes time to adapt to a new movement or exercise and it is totally normal to feel sore the next day. However, if you’ve been deadlifting consistently for over a month and your back still feels sore every time, there is probably something else going on.
2. Not maintaining proper spinal position
When you’re lifting with heavy weight, it is normal to have some rounding of the upper back while lifting the weight of the ground and bringing it into position. Therefore, it’s normal to have some upper back soreness after deadlifting. However, your lower back should stay rigid, and not round, throughout the deadlift. Rounding of the lower back could be putting a significant amount of stress on the lumbar spine.
3. Hips rising prematurely
If you notice the barbell losing contact with your legs during the deadlift, your hips may be rising too soon. When the hips rise prematurely, it causes the low back to lose its rigid position and take on undo stress. To keep from rising to quickly, keep the barbell in contact with your legs the whole time and drag it up your legs as you push through your quads.
4. Starting with hips too High
Starting your deadlift with the bar too close to your shins or not being able to get your elbows to your knees during your deadlift is a sign that you are starting with your hips too high. This transfers some of the load from your quads to your lower back, causing strain. It’s important to start with your hips at the correct height, which you can do by positioning the barbell an inch or two away from you shins, then moving your shins toward the bar and your knees toward your elbows.
5. Training intensity is too high
Even with perfect form, deadlifting at too high of an intensity can lead to back pain or soreness. If your session is focused on lifting as much weight as possible or doing as many reps as possible, what you’re doing is more like “testing” than “training.” Finding the proper training intensity is essential for deadlifting without lower back pain.
If you’ve addressed all the common pitfalls listed above and are still experiencing lower back pain after you deadlift, you’re not out of options. You can try variations on the traditional deadlift, like a trap bar deadlift which may put less strain on the lower back.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it will take some time and possibly the assistance of a coach or trainer to make the proper changes and stay consistent. If you continue to experience regular or severe back pain after deadlifting, you should consult your doctor. But more than likely, some adjustments to your form and programming are all you’ll need to stop feeling sore and start getting the most out of your deadlifts.