Are You Deadlifting Too Much? 16 Signs To Know

16 Signs To Know when Deadlifting Too Much

You may think that training the deadlift harder leads to more gains. And that’s true — your deadlift training needs to progressively overload as you get stronger and more experienced over time.

However, you need to make sure that you are not training the deadlift too much when it comes to frequency, volume, and the amount of weight you’re lifting.

So how can you tell if you are deadlifting too much?

The 16 signs that you’re deadlifting too much are:

  • You are losing motivation to deadlift
  • Your squat performance is going down
  • Your soreness is not dissipating
  • Your deadlift performance is trending downwards
  • Your deadlift technique is changing
  • Your bar path is changing
  • You are ripping your calluses
  • You are skipping other exercises
  • You are grinding your last few reps
  • Your lower back is rounding
  • You are developing joint or muscle pain 
  • You are hitching your deadlift
  • You are losing grip of the barbell
  • You are failing repetitions
  • You are hips are starting to shift
  • Your hips are shooting up

In this article, I will discuss the telltale signs that you are deadlifting too frequently (i.e. too many times per week), doing too much deadlift volume (i.e. too many sets & reps), or deadlifting too much weight (i.e. the load on the barbell). By the end, you’ll be able to determine if you need to cut back on your deadlift training.

Let’s first start with signs to know if you’re deadlifting too frequently.

How To Tell If You’re Deadlifting Too Frequently? 4 Signs To Know

4 signs you're deadlifting too frequently

Here are 4 signs that you are deadlifting too frequently:

  1. You are losing motivation to deadlift
  2. Your squat performance is going down
  3. Your soreness is not dissipating
  4. Your deadlift performance is trending downwards

1. You Are Losing Motivation to Deadlift

You may be deadlifting too frequently if you are losing motivation to deadlift. When you lose motivation to deadlift, you may have a tendency to skip your programmed deadlift sessions altogether, or you may combine multiple deadlift sessions into one.

If you find yourself doing this, your training will become less consistent as time goes by. When you have inconsistent training, you may oscillate between hard and easy training, which makes your fitness and fatigue levels harder to manage. 

You should choose a deadlift frequency that is realistic and practically doable so that your readiness to train becomes more manageable.

Not sure how often you should deadlift? Check out my article How Many Times A Week Should You Deadlift? to find your optimal deadlift frequency.

2. Your Squat Performance Is Going Down

If you are a powerlifter or you have squats in your training program, you may find that deadlifting too frequently has a negative impact on your squat performance.

The reason why this may happen is that your squats and deadlifts both use the same muscles as the main movers. These muscles include the quads, hamstrings, hip adductors, and glutes. Check out my guides on the muscles used in the squat and the muscles used in the deadlift to learn more.

In order to make progress on both lifts, you need to manage the interference effect (the belief that training the squat right after the deadlift could impact your deadlift performance or vice versa) of training both through the week.

This is especially true if you are looking to increase both your squat and deadlift. But if you are trying to prioritize the deadlift more, you may want to keep the deadlift frequency higher.

Is it safe to squat and deadlift on the same day? Get my expert opinion in Can You Squat and Deadlift In The Same Workout?

3. Your Soreness Is Not Dissipating

The more frequently you train the deadlift, the more frequently you stress the same muscle groups. This can lead to chronic soreness when you impose damage on the muscle fibres.

Soreness itself is not necessarily a bad thing and is a natural phenomenon from lifting weights. The problem is when muscle soreness builds up week after week until soreness on a muscle feels more like a muscle strain than just regular soreness.

This is a symptom that you are likely deadlifting too frequently. When soreness ends up feeling like a mild to moderate muscle strain, it may be an early red flag that you are close to risking an injury.

Wondering what to do if your muscles get sore after deadlift training? Check out these guides:

4. Your Deadlift Performance Is Trending Downwards

If your deadlift performance is trending downwards several weeks in a row, you feel like your sessions are hard, and you’re feeling more fatigued, you may be deadlifting too frequently.

It is normal to occasionally get short term decreases in training performance as you may be more fatigued during certain days or weeks of training. However, if you feel like you are getting burnt out and the weights you are able to lift is trending downwards for more than a month, you should reduce your deadlift frequency.

Wondering how your deadlift performance stacks up to other lifters? Check out the deadlift standards for your age and weight class in How Much Should You Be Able To Deadlift (By Age & Weight)

Want to improve your deadlift technique?

How To Tell If You’re Deadlifting Too Much Volume? 5 Signs To Know

5 signs you're deadlifting too much volume

Here are 5 signs that you are deadlifting too much volume:

  1. Your deadlift technique is changing
  2. Your bar path is changing
  3. You are ripping your calluses
  4. You are skipping other exercises
  5. You are grinding your last few reps

1.Your Deadlift Technique Is Changing

Good technique is key for efficient execution of the deadlift. Whenever you perform a deadlift repetition, you reinforce the technique that you used in that execution. As such, you could be reinforcing improper deadlift technique.

When you perform many reps in a deadlift session, some or all muscles will fatigue gradually. When your muscles are fatigued, you may end up moving differently in the later repetitions.

If you end up moving differently in the later repetitions, then your deadlift technique is changing throughout the session. This is not desirable because you end up reinforcing diminishing technique quality later on. If this happens, then you are doing too much volume in your deadlift session.

2. Your Bar Path Is Changing

A bar path represents the way the barbell is moving when you execute the deadlift. It gives you a clue to how you are holding the barbell and where on your foot you are keeping your center of gravity.

The bar path is best tracked from viewing or video recording the barbell from the side. If you find that the initial few reps or initial sets are consistent but the barbell changes as you progress through the set or in later sets, you may be doing too much volume.

A solution may be to reduce the number of sets that you do within the deadlift sessions or reduce the rep range without changing intensity.

For more information on deadlift bar path, check out What Is The Best Deadlift Bar Path? (Plus, Mistakes To Avoid).

3. You Are Ripping Your Calluses

Calluses in your palm or fingers can build up over time when you deadlift. They may initially hurt but you end up conditioning yourself to tolerating them over many repetitions.

The problem occurs when your calluses build up aggressively in a session to the point where they are close to ripping. You do not want to rip your calluses by accident because it is unhygienic, and you end up opening up a wound in your hand, which makes deadlifting near impossible afterwards. This may mean abstaining from short term deadlift training.

You should reduce the volume in your deadlift session if you find that your calluses are close to ripping.

For ideas on how to manage your calluses, check out my 5 tips on dealing with calluses from lifting.

4. You Are Skipping Other Exercises

Deadlifts may be a primary exercise for many people, but accessory exercises afterwards are also important for developing strength and muscle mass.

If you find that you have so much volume in your deadlifts that you end up skipping the later exercises, then you should cut back on your deadlift volume. You may be skipping the later exercises for several reasons such as losing motivation, losing energy to start, or simply running out of time in your session if you are tight on time.

If you’re looking for other exercises to do on your deadlift days, check out What Else Should I Do On Deadlift Day? (5 Examples).

5. You Are Grinding Your Last Few Reps

The deadlift is one of those exercises that you should not be grinding too much on. Grinding refers to executing the reps really slowly while applying maximal effort. If you are grinding your last few reps, you may be training too close to failure.

The reasons why you should avoid grinding your last few reps in deadlifts are because you increase your injury risk, build up more fatigue, and have a greater chance of form breakdown. An increase in fatigue is not necessarily a bad thing if you can recover from it, but if you are grinding on a weekly basis, you may accumulate too much fatigue and overtrain.

One way to manage your training intensity is to do RPE (rate of perceived exertion) or RIR (reps in reserve) training. Learn more in RPE vs RIR: What Are The Differences? How To Use Them?

How To Tell If You’re Deadlifting Too Heavy? 7 Signs To Know

7 signs you're deadlifting too heavy

Here are 7 signs that you are deadlifting too heavy:

  1. Your lower back is rounding
  2. You are getting joint or muscle pain and injuries
  3. You are hitching your deadlift
  4. You are losing grip of the barbell
  5. You are failing repetitions
  6. You are getting bad hip shifting
  7. Your hips are shooting up

1. Your Lower Back Is Rounding

If you go too heavy on deadlifts, lower back rounding can be a likely occurrence. Lower back rounding can be due to your hips, legs, or both not being strong enough.

Lower back rounding is an example of a poor deadlift technique. If you allow your lower back to round, you are reinforcing an inefficient technique and will generally have a harder time locking out your deadlift

Allowing your lower back to round is also going to increase your risk of injury in your spine or in your other back muscles. You will need to reduce the weight to an amount that allows you to maintain good technique and a flat back throughout the whole session.

With that said, a round back in the deadlift isn’t always a bad thing. Learn more about when it’s okay for your back to round in the deadlift in Is It Okay To Deadlift With a Round Back? (Powerlifters Say Yes).

2. You Are Developing Joint or Muscle Pain 

If you develop joint or muscle pain while deadlifting heavy, you likely went too heavy. With joint or muscle pain, you are effectively in the first stage of an acute injury.

Pain is an indicator that the joint or muscle could not tolerate the amount of load going through it. It is likely that you went too heavy, but another possibility is that your technique was not good.

An acute injury can turn into a chronic injury if it is not addressed properly. A piece of wisdom that I normally tell my lifters is that if you have not been injured yet, then you have successfully prevented injury.

Injuries in powerlifting do occur, but there are steps you can take to prevent them. Find out how you can reduce your risk of injury in How To Avoid A Powerlifting Injury (Complete Guide).

3. You Are Hitching Your Deadlift

Hitching the barbell when you deadlift is an example of poor technique and is often due to the weight being too heavy. Hitching refers to the rebending of the knees forward once the bar passes them in an effort to support the barbell with your quads. 

It often happens when your hip muscles — including your hamstrings, glutes and lower back — are too weak. If you allow yourself to hitch the barbell, it also may appear that there is a lot of up and down motion of the barbell as you struggle to lock it out.

When you hitch the barbell, you also reinforce this as a technique to execute the deadlift. If you are a powerlifter, this is not desirable as it is illegal in powerlifting competitions.

For more information on the deadlift hitch, check out my article What Is A Deadlift Hitch? (And, How To Avoid It).

4. You Are Losing Grip of the Barbell

The deadlift requires strength from different portions of your body. Grip strength is a key component of this. If you lose grip and drop the barbell during a set, then the weight is too heavy for you.

If you are not strong enough to grip and hold the weight loaded onto the barbell, then you are not strong enough to deadlift the barbell. What some people may choose to do is to use lifting straps, but the problem with this is that your grip strength does not get a training stimulus as much. Instead, you should drop the weight to a load that you can grip.

Check out my tips for improving your grip strength for deadlifts in How to Maximize Your Deadlift Grip (Never Fail Again On Grip).

5. You Are Failing Repetitions

signs you're deadlifting too heavy

If you are failing repetitions during a set, then the weight you have chosen for that rep range is too heavy. It is important to choose a sensible load and intensity for a given rep range.

Choosing the right load for a given rep range may require looking back at what you have been able to lift before at the same rep range and also taking your current fatigue levels into consideration.

6. You Are Getting Bad Hip Shifting

A hip shift during the deadlift refers to the pelvis shifting to one side or the other. This is a sign that one side of your hip is stronger than the other. Hip shifting often appears or is often exacerbated by deadlifting too heavy as the weaker hip struggles in the execution.

You do not want to go so heavy that you start to hip shift, as this reinforces your dominant hip to get stronger as it compensates and takes over. Over time, this could cause pain and even injury in your hip or back regions.

For more information regarding hip shifting in deadlifts, check out How To Fix Hip Shift In Deadlift (10 Tips).

7. Your Hips Are Shooting Up

Hips shooting up in the deadlift means the hips suddenly rise more than the shoulders, while the knees suddenly shoot backwards. This often happens when your leg muscles, particularly the quads, can no longer hold the tension from the weight loaded.

If your hips shoot up in the deadlift, it normally coincides with your bar path moving back towards the shin, rather than in a straight vertical line. 

For more information on the hips shooting up, check out How To Fix Hips Shooting Up In The Deadlift (5 Tips).

Final Thoughts

It is important to make sure you do not deadlift too much so you can sustainably train the most amount that you can recover from for the long term. Ultimately, this is what will allow you to create the most gains without any setbacks from overtraining and getting injured.

Most of the time, people deadlift too much because they are overzealous and impatient. Getting a big deadlift is very much like a marathon, and slow and steady progress will make you more successful in the long run.

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About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com