If you recently completed a deadlift workout and feel soreness in your glutes, you might be wondering why an exercise you thought targeted your hamstrings and back is making your glutes sore. You might even be concerned, depending on the severity of the soreness.
So, why are your glutes sore after training the deadlift? Glutes can be sore after deadlift for three reasons: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), general fatigue, or as a result of injury. Yоu can usually determine which of these three is the cause of your soreness by considering your form/technique, the volume of work, and timing of the soreness.
Let’s dive into these reasons in more detail below, and talk about techniques that can help you reduce overall glute soreness after deadlifts.
3 Reasons For Glute Soreness After Deadlifts
1. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
First of all, DOMS is perfectly normal. No reason to be alarmed if this is why your glutes are sore.
The American College of Sports Medicine defines DOMS as “any type of activity that places unaccustomed loads on muscle may lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).”
In plain terms, any time you introduce an “unaccustomed load” to a muscle, you’re inviting DOMS to the party.
Because of that, DOMS is particularly common among new lifters, those trying new exercises, and those who have had a long break since the last time they lifted.
Further, consider the broadness of the term “unaccustomed load.”
This doesn’t only refer to the amount of weight you’re using (though that certainly is one factor), but can be increased or decreased across a few other variables, like the total number of sets, number of reps per set, and time under tension (TUT), or the intentional slowing down of reps to make the muscle work longer.
Note that DOMS is not the same as the burn you feel during your workout (like the pump, or the burning sensation that makes you feel you can’t do any more reps). This is defined as “acute soreness” in scientific terms.
The ACSM says:
“Delayed soreness typically begins to develop 12-24 hours after the exercise has been performed and may produce the greatest pain between 24-72 hours after the exercise has been performed.”
So if your glutes are sore from DOMS, look at your recent training history.
If you changed your technique, altered your load (weight, reps, sets, or dynamics of your deadlifting), or if you’ve had a decent break since the last time you deadlifted. Your body will just need a chance to adapt to the new stimulus.
The second reason you may be feeling soreness in your glutes after deadlifting is simply that you put new emphasis on the muscle and it’s just plain tired as a result.
This is commonly the result of altering your technique, or even your preferred deadlift variation, which results in a larger need for the glutes.
The Use Of Glutes In The Deadlift
A conventional deadlift (done with your feet shoulder width apart, with your hands holding the barbell outside of your foot position) begins with your quads pushing against the floor, like a leg press. But once you get the bar up past your knees, your glutes kick in to push your hips forward toward the bar, bringing your whole body in line for the lockout at the end.
Without your glutes, your hips would stay behind you, like when you started the deadlift from the floor.
Now think of the block deadlift.
In this deadlift variation, we start with the deadlift at knee height. Because it’s a partial range of motion, you’re eliminating the range of motion off the floor, you can typically handle heavier weights.
Therefore, the glutes are working much harder than they would in a traditional conventional deadlift. You’re not getting help from the quads as you otherwise would either.
Therefore, if you recently trained block deadlifts, or another variation that heavily targets the glutes, you may have just used your glutes more than usual and you’re feeling the normal fatigue as a result.
If you like learning more about how certain muscle groups contribute to different deadlift variations and ranges of motion, be sure to check out our complete guide to the Muscles Used In The Deadlift.
The last reason you might feel soreness in your glutes after deadlifts is because you’re injured.
Now I am not a doctor, I can’t diagnose your injury or recommend treatment. If you believe you are injured, it’s best to seek the advice of a medical professional. But as frustrating as an injury may be, it happens to be the easiest cause of soreness to identify in many cases.
The reason it’s the easiest to pick out is because you likely would have felt a sudden onset of that pain during the lift or immediately after. This is usually the sudden tightening of the muscle, or the dreaded “pop,” “snap,” or “crack” we feel as the pain suddenly begins.
If you have a recollection of this kind of a moment during your training, and it didn’t go away with a few minutes rest and ceasing the exercise, there’s a good chance you have an injury.
If that’s the case, see my recommendation above – talk to a medical professional.
Check out our other guides on muscle soreness:
- Quads Sore After Squat: Is This Good Or Bad?
- Hamstrings Sore After Deadlifts: Is This Good Or Bad?
- Quads Sore After Deadlifts: Is This Good Or Bad?
- Hamstrings Sore After Squats: Is This good or Bad?
Should You Be Worried If Your Glutes Are Sore After Deadlifting?
The only reason to be concerned about glute (or any muscle) soreness after deadlifting is if you believe it is due to an injury, based on the explanations above. You can use those guides as a means of determining what kind of soreness you are experiencing.
Think through the following checklist as you review your last deadlift workout:
- Was there an alteration to your load (weight, reps, sets, or dynamics) in any way?
- When was the last time you deadlift before? Did you take an extended break from lifting at all or particularly deadlifts and/or glutes?
- Did you try out a new deadlift stance, or perform reps with a deadlift variation you don’t usually do, like the block deadlift?
- Did the pain begin during the exercise and persist even after ceasing the exercise and taking a break?
If you answered “yes” to the last question, that’s the only one you need to worry about, so seek medical attention. For any affirmative responses to the prior questions, you’re just feeling normal soreness, because the workout session did its job.
Under normal circumstances, your soreness should subside within 72 hours. If you find yourself still sore a week after your workout, you likely did far too much load or volume for your current ability levels. But some soreness a few days after your workout is normal.
Technique To Implement If You Want To Reduce Glute Soreness From Deadlifting
Now if this soreness isn’t new, but it’s been happening for a while, and you’d like to get it under control, you may just need to fix your deadlift technique so that your glutes aren’t doing more work than necessary.
As we broke it down above, the glutes are used to bring your hips forward at the end of the deadlift and align your body upright to lock it out. That’s it.
If you’re consistently sore, it may simply be that your hips are way too far back to begin with, making your glutes work harder to push them into lockout at the end.
Set up a camera to the side of you when you deadlift and look at your starting form. Your hips will be a little behind you, as you have to bend over to reach the bar. However, after you place your hands on the bar, you can focus on pulling your chest up and your shoulders back as a way to get your hips in as close as they can in that position.
By starting with your hips closer to the bar (even just slightly closer), you reduce the range of motion your glutes have to cover to lock out at the end.
Which Deadlift Variations Can Make The Glutes More Sore?
As we broke it down above, the block deadlift will recruit more glute for the lift than the conventional deadlift due to the hips having to start by driving forward right away.
Again, that doesn’t mean that the conventional deadlift won’t use your glutes at all, but the block deadlift variation certainly emphasizes them more.
Here’s a list of a few glute-focused deadlift variations
What To Do If Your Glutes Are Sore After Deadlifts (6 Things To Follow)
Since soreness will always be a part of training (and deadlifts), we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to reduce your soreness.
Take the Time to Warm Up
Don’t skip it – this stuff matters.
Your warmup doesn’t have to be extensive, but take some time to break a sweat and get blood moving in the muscles you are going to train. For deadlifts, I always prefer sitting on a stationary bike for a few minutes before stretching.
Check out exactly how I warm up for deadlifts.
Focus on Form
Check out our deadlift technique category to improve your deadlift form.
If you are regularly sore from a single exercise, you’re probably doing it wrong. Run through the form check above if your glutes are sore after deadlifting and see what you can improve.
Spread Out Your Volume
DOMS typically comes along when you work a muscle for an extended time or with increased intensity. Spreading it out can allow you to get the same work in, but by breaking it up.
For example, try taking your 4 sets of 8 and breaking it up into 8 sets of 4. You’ll get the same amount of volume (if you use the same load), but by the end of each set you won’t be as fatigued.
Train More Frequently
In the same vein as the recommendation above, try training deadlifts twice a week instead of all at once.
I get that you might think that training glutes/deadlifts twice a week would only make them more sore, but that’s not the case. By training your deadlifts (or at least your glutes) twice a week, your body adapts to them being used more often, and the shock of an intense deadlift session wears off (at least in terms of the effects on your butt and how sore you get).
You might try incorporating some isolated glute work earlier in the week. By the time you deadlift a few days later, you’re recovered, but it’s not the first time in a week you trained your glutes.
Check out our other resources on deadlift training frequency:
Cool Down Afterward
Just like the warm up, take the time to cool down after your workout.
Keeping your muscles moving after a workout can help reduce DOMS and injury, so take a few minutes to sit on the stationary bike, the elliptical, or just walk around for a dedicated amount of time before you go sit down and relax somewhere.
Keep At It
You may just be at the tipping point of adaptation, so keep training til your body catches up!
When all is said and done, soreness is part of this process. It means you actually put in the work, so don’t be afraid of it. Keep doing what you are doing, make smart decisions to make the soreness manageable, and stay the course.
Eventually, the soreness will become more manageable, or move to a different area we need to start focusing on.
Can You Still Train If Your Glutes Are Sore From Deadlifting?
As long as your soreness is not the result of an injury, you are fine to train your glutes again even if they are sore. If you’re injured, ask a doctor before you start training with that muscle again.
That being said, use the information your body is sending you with that soreness and be smart about it. Take the time to warm up and stretch those sore muscles before you lift, possibly even longer and slower than your normal warmup.
Finally, be aware that your glutes may not operate at full capacity when they’re sore, so adjust your expectations with lifts involving your glutes so you don’t overreach.
Although your glutes only work at the end of the deadlift, they are still working, and becoming sore as a result of a deadlift workout is perfectly normal.
As long as you can look back at your workout and identify the possible causes of your soreness and rule out injury, you have no reason to be concerned about that sore feeling after a workout.
On the flip side, if you recognize a need for greater glute strength or development in your training, you can leverage the deadlift as a way to train the glutes specifically. Use block pulls to really hit the glutes and reach your goals.
About The Author
Adam Gardner is a proud resident of Utah, where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has been competing in powerlifting since 2016 in both the USPA and the APF. For the past three years, he and his wife, Merrili, have coached beginning lifters to learn the fundamentals of powerlifting and compete in their first powerlifting competitions.