After a tough deadlift workout, you may find yourself with sore muscles. Lower back stretches, foam rolling, proper nutrition, hydration, hot/cold therapy and rest will all aid in your recovery from deadlifts.
Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The deadlift is an exercise that targets multiple muscle groups. To perform the exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Squat down and grasp the bar with an overhand grip. If you prefer, you can use a mixed grip with one hand using an overhand grip and the other using an underhand grip.
- Lift the bar by extending the hips and knees. Pull your shoulders back when you reach the top of the lift.
- Bend the hips and knees to lower the bar back to the floor.
Throughout the movement, be sure to keep your arms and back straight and keep the barbell close to your body.
Be sure to use proper form throughout the lift to avoid injury. It is normal to have muscle soreness, especially in the lower back, after doing a tough workout with deadlifts. However, you should not feel pain during the workout. If deadlifts cause serious discomfort, stop and consult your doctor.
The gluteus maximus is the primary muscle targeted when doing a deadlift, advises ExRx.net. However, many other muscles are engaged as synergistic and stabilizing muscles. The hamstrings and quadriceps are synergist muscles, along with the soleus in the calf muscles and the adductor magnus in the hips.
Stabilizing muscles include the gastrocnemius in the calf and several muscles in the back including the erector spinae, trapezius, rhomboids and levator scapulae. The rectus abdominis and obliques in your core are also activated to help maintain your posture throughout the movement.
Stretches After Deadlift
Cool down after a workout with static stretching. According to the American Council on Exercise, some stretches to consider include:
- Downward facing dog: This stretch targets your lower back, hips and hamstrings, all of which may be sore after doing deadlifts.
- Cat cow: This active stretch can help to loosen sore muscles in your lower back.
- Forward fold: This stretch targets your lower back and hamstrings. Listen to your body and don't push yourself too far. Bend your knees during the stretch if necessary.
- Legs on the wall: By lying on your back with your legs raised against the wall relieves pressure on your lower back, stretches the hamstrings and helps to increase blood flow to your legs.
Getting a massage or using a foam roller on your sore muscles can help with recovery. This helps to improve circulation to the damaged muscles and also improves tissue extensibility. It relieves tension and releases knots in your muscles.
Use the foam roller to roll out your hamstrings and calves, advises Harvard Health Publishing.
- Sit on the floor and place the foam roller horizontally under one calf or hamstring.
- Lift your hips off the ground with your hands
- Roll the foam roller up and down your calf or hamstring.
- Repeat on the other leg.
You can also use the foam roller to roll out your IT band to loosen your hips.
- Lie down on your side with the foam roller just under your hip bone and your bottom leg straight.
- Bend your top leg and place your foot on the floor in front of your bottom leg.
- Plant both hands on the ground and roll the outside of your leg from knee to hip, avoiding the joints themselves.
As a sore lower back is fairly common after deadlifts, you can use a foam roller on your lower back, notes Harvard Health Publishing. Lay on your back on the foam roller and slowly roll out your back or stand with the foam roller between your back and the wall and do slow squats to roll out your back.
While it is possible to use the foam roller on your lower back, use caution to avoid causing injury. Although there are a lot of muscles in your lower back, there are no bones in place to protect your internal organs, specifically your kidneys, notes National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Post-Workout Rest and Recovery
Recovery from deadlifts starts right after your workout ends. After your workout, it is critical to refuel and re-hydrate to give your body what it needs to build and repair the muscles. Within 30 to 45 minutes of your workout, have a snack that includes both carbohydrates and protein. The American Council on Exercise recommends a snack with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
Rest is an important part of every workout routine. Your muscles need the time to recover and repair themselves. Many of the hormones your body needs to recover, including testosterone and growth hormones, are produced during REM sleep — the stage of sleep when your muscles are relaxed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. So be sure to get plenty of rest.
You also want to take a break between workouts. Take at least one day of rest after doing deadlifts before returning to the gym to do them again. This does not necessarily mean you can't exercise, just that you want to rest the muscles you previously targeted with deadlifts. If you want to do a workout the day after deadlifts, consider an arm day or doing some cardio.
Soothe Sore Muscles
Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is normal after a tough workout. This type of soreness starts a day or two after your workout and then slowly dissipates. Slowly increasing the intensity of your workouts over time may help decrease DOMS symptoms. Light activity may help you feel better, but may not decrease the length of time your muscles are sore.
Use heat and cold therapy to soothe your sore muscles. The heat from a heating pad, sauna or hot tub, can help relax muscles and increase your circulation, which allows your body to deliver nutrients to your healing muscles and remove metabolic waste.
Alternatively, try applying a cold or ice pack to your sore muscles. While this does not feel as soothing as the heat, it helps to cool your core after a workout and reduces swelling in the muscles. The ice also increases blood flow to the area, which promotes healing.
- American Council on Exercise: "Know Your Recovery Strategies"
- ExRx.net: "Barbell Deadlift"
- American Council on Exercise: "10 Yoga Poses to Alleviate Low Back Pain"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Roll Away Muscle Pain"
- National Academy of Sports Medicine: "Should You Foam Roll the Low Back?"
- National Sleep Foundation: "How Sleep Aids Muscle"