Last updated on July 3rd, 2021 at 01:03 pm
Your lats should not be sore after deadlifts, but there are a few reasons this may occur. Firstly, it’s important to realise that the lats work isometrically to ensure that the bar stays close to your legs. Plus, if your arms aren’t fully extended during the deadlift, so even the slightest bend in the elbow, you’ll activate the lats to a far greater degree.
The Lats Work Isometrically During Deadlifts
You’ll typically hear a lot of conflicting information about muscle soreness.
And this is especially true when it comes to deadlifts.
Many will say that soreness only occurs from eccentric contraction of a movement.
And of course, there should be no eccentric contraction of the lats during deadlifts, so you shouldn’t feel sore there.
Then again, some may say that deadlifts are a full-body exercise and you can expect to feel sore pretty much everywhere.
For me, I probably lean more towards the latter.
Deadlifts are a massive exercise.
They hit just about every muscle group in the body.
They tax the Central Nervous System immensely.
So, “feeling sore” is just a by-product of deadlifting.
I also think that this is why there is much confusion over whether deadlifts are a leg or a back exercise.
And this is why many of us are unsure what lifting day we should be performing deadlifts.
From a personal perspective, if I separated body-part training (which I don’t), I would deadlift on leg day.
Deadlifts are basically an exercise to train the posterior chain, and they typically work the hips, glutes, and hamstrings the hardest.
But this doesn’t mean there isn’t any involvement from the lats, upper back, and traps.
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Basically, the upper body muscles of the posterior chain will perform an isometric contraction throughout the movement.
This ensures that the bar stays close to your legs, and it also helps in getting the bar off the ground.
If you think about it, if you placed a 200kg barbell into someone’s hands who had never deadlifted before, it’s likely that the bar would rip their shoulder clean out the socket.
Or dislocate it at the very least.
The upper back, lats, and traps all work together whenever you deadlift to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
So, if your lats are feeling sore after deadlifts I wouldn’t overly worry about it.
They’ve had to do a fair amount of work throughout the movement.
Are You Bending Your Elbows?
Something that you may unconsciously be doing is bending at the elbows.
Whenever you perform a deadlift the aim is to keep the arms completely straight throughout the entire movement.
I believe this is why I view the deadlift as a leg exercise.
Basically, my hands are only there as hooks, something to literally hook around the bar.
In order to get the bar off the floor I am pushing through my feet and using just about every muscle in my legs to lift.
Obviously, as I’ve mentioned, there will be an isometric contraction in the upper body muscles of the posterior chain.
This of course ensures that my arms stay attached to my body and I don’t have to worry about the hideous notion of having them ripped out of my shoulder sockets.
However, the slightest bend in the elbow when you deadlift completely changes the exercise, and the muscles affected.
In fact, as soon as you bend at the elbows you have literally turned the movement into some type of hybrid bent-over row.
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You may not actually be pulling the same as you would do with a row-type exercise.
But that slight kink in the arms at the elbows will definitely bring the lats and upper back far more into play.
So, check your form, and ensure that your arms remain ramrod straight whenever you deadlift.
Deadlifts – 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making
Which Deadlift Variation Do You Perform?
Okay, so we’re aware that the lats have a fair amount of involvement whenever you deadlift.
However, the type of deadlift you perform could also have an impact.
Admittedly, whenever you lift from the floor, and return the bar to the floor, you will typically be deadlifting more weight than other variations.
In reality, I’m talking about the amount of weight you may deadlift using the conventional, sumo, or trap-bar compared to the Romanian.
The Romanian deadlift involves you picking up the weight once from the floor, performing your entire set, before the bar finally comes to rest on the floor.
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So, in effect, by having the bar in your hands throughout an entire set of Romanian deadlifts your lats remain in isometric contraction.
In most cases we all typically “relax” somewhat when we return the bar to the ground during the traditional deadlift.
Okay, perhaps we should maintain tension in the body, but we all generally “take a breather” at the bottom.
Personally, I like to completely reset myself at the bottom to ensure that my form is tight and ready for the next rep.
However, I tend to deadlift in the 3-5 rep range, so I’m usually going pretty heavy.
So, if you typically feel lat soreness more after performing Romanian deadlifts when compared to the traditional deadlift, this is because you aren’t releasing the tension until you’ve finished your entire set.
Are Your Lats Weak?
Something else to consider is that you may have a potential weakness in the lats.
Even though deadlifts aren’t an actual lat exercise, we’ve established that they have to work pretty hard to keep your arms attached to the rest of your body.
Firstly, if you’re deadlifting, that’s cool.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I love the fact that you appreciate what a great exercise this is.
However, there does seem to be a leaning towards training the front of the body more than the back of the body.
Basically, the muscles that you can see in a mirror, and that you assume that everyone else can see.
This is especially true of the pecs and biceps.
I mean the bench press and bicep curls get a hammering pretty much everywhere around the world.
And if you’re going to train the “show muscles” for balance, then I guess the quads and front delts often get a lot more training than they should.
What I’m saying is that there seems to be a preference to train the muscles at the front of the body more for aesthetic purposes.
And do you want to know what the weird thing is?
If you trained the opposite muscles at the back of your body you’d probably actually look far more athletic and sexy.
If you don’t believe me, try it.
Spend the next few weeks just training the glutes, hamstrings, lats, upper back, traps, rear delts, and triceps.
I guarantee that you’ll go through a complete body transformation.
You’ll look fantastic.
And the front of your body will probably look better than it ever has done before.
The point I’m trying to make is that the back of the body typically gets left behind (no pun intended) a lot of the time.
So, if you’re experiencing lats soreness after deadlifts this could simply be down to weak lats.
Therefore, it’s probably time to up your pulling game.
You want to make row variations, pull ups and chin ups your new best friends.
Lat Training Do’s & Don’ts
You shouldn’t feel sore in the lats after deadlifts, although they do play a role in the movement. The lats perform an isometric contraction to ensure that the bar stays close to your legs throughout the deadlift. However, if you have a bend in your elbows the lats will be activated even more. Furthermore, if your lats are weak in relative comparison to your other “deadlift muscles” this can certainly lead to soreness.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.