It’s natural to feel tired after deadlifts because it’s such a big lift. The deadlift is a compound exercise that incorporates many muscles of the body, and therefore it can be taxing on the Central Nervous System. You should also be wary of factors such as your deadlift volume, intensity, and whether you’re getting enough food, water and sleep.
Deadlifts Are Tough
Pure and simple, deadlifts are tough.
You’re using a lot of muscles to get that bar off the floor.
Plus, they also happen to be some of the biggest muscles in the body.
This is one of the ultimate movements when it comes to a compound exercise.
I would also hazard a guess that the deadlift will see you lift the most weight with a barbell.
Additionally, the deadlift involves you lifting a “dead” weight from the floor, so there is absolutely no momentum involved whatsoever.
I understand that all exercises should be performed without any momentum.
However, the vast majority of exercises will allow for the slightest amount of “additional help” when going from concentric to eccentric, and vice versa.
Deadlifts Are CNS Intensive
Deadlifts are extremely taxing on the Central Nervous System (CNS).
This is typically because of all the factors I’ve just mentioned above.
The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord, and is responsible for controlling the functions of both the mind and body.
It’s also true that deadlifts are more taxing on the CNS because you are lifting from a dead start.
You don’t have the advantage of stretch reflex that you will with other exercises.
So, the central nervous system will need to activate your muscles more than usual in order to get the weight moving.
Too Much Volume
As the deadlift is such a physically demanding exercise, the amount of volume you train with could be an issue.
When I say volume, I’m talking about the reps and sets you may be performing in a workout, and even how often you choose to deadlift.
I’m sure we all know that when it comes to strength and body composition that the deadlift is a beast of an exercise.
There are few exercises that will help you get stronger.
Plus, irrespective of your goals – whether you want to lose weight, burn body fat, or build muscle, deadlifting can help you achieve this.
So, as the deadlift is such a fantastic exercise, surely we should be doing as much of it as possible, right?
Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly build up to deadlifting with higher volume sessions, and indeed more often.
However, just going back to the points I’ve mentioned about deadlifts being tough and CNS intensive, this could be a case of “less is more”.
I’ve always viewed the deadlift as a strength exercise, and I tend to keep my sets in the 3-5 rep range.
I often see people deadlift with a much higher rep range, and even all the way up to 10-12 reps a set.
Okay, you’ll be lifting much less weight than if you were performing sets of 3-5 reps.
But, you are still using the various muscles I mentioned earlier.
Additionally, I would suggest that the higher volume and a longer deadlifting session would actually cause greater CNS fatigue.
How Often Are You Deadlifting?
How often you deadlift could also be causing an issue.
As the deadlift places such a high demand on the body, it’s only natural that it will take longer to recover.
So, if you’re deadlifting 2-3 times a week, you’re probably not lifting to your full potential, plus you’re probably also hampering your other workouts too.
Depending on how long you have been deadlifting even once a week could be too much for you.
I’m certainly not telling you to stop using the deadlift, but you may need to play around with volume until you hit a sweet spot.
Don’t forget that exercise is all about progression.
So, as you get better and stronger at the deadlift, there’s no harm in upping your volume at a later date.
Too Much Intensity
It may seem somewhat counter intuitive to say that you’re using too much intensity.
After all, the deadlift is a strength exercise, so surely you should be lifting as heavy as possible.
Once again, this comes down to how much experience you have with deadlifting.
But, you definitely shouldn’t be “killing it” every deadlift session you do.
In fact, you will find that constantly maxing out on deadlifts could have a negative impact, and I’m not just talking about tiredness here.
I’ve already mentioned numerous times how taxing the deadlift is on both your muscles and CNS.
This could have negative consequences for your upcoming workouts.
You may find that you simply don’t have the energy to train as hard for the rest of the week.
It may even have ramifications on your dietary habits, sleep, and mental health.
Okay, this may all sound a bit over-the-top, but stressing the body to such a degree can have a knock-on effect.
I will say that the deadlift is one of the best exercises ever, but there’s a fine line between success and failure.
So, try not to overdo it.
Food & Water
I typically train first thing in the morning nowadays.
For me, this is the perfect time.
It gives me a sense of achievement before my day’s really started.
I tend to find that the gym is less busy first thing in the morning.
And I usually get a fantastic energy boost, thus allowing me to have a productive day.
I’ve spoken often about habits and “building up” to things.
And believe it or not, I usually train on an empty stomach, and yet I find that I have strength and energy to bang out a really decent workout.
In fact, I have little more than a cup of coffee most days, but occasionally there may be a banana thrown in for good measure.
But, I have “built myself up” over a period of time to be able to do this.
I Didn’t Always Train First Thing
However, it wasn’t always this way for me.
Due to work commitments, laziness, preference, etc. I have played around with the time of the day I train.
So, a lot of the time I had eaten prior to my workout.
Therefore, when I initially started training in the mornings, if I hadn’t had a decent meal beforehand, I simply didn’t have the energy to lift.
Is this an issue for you?
We know that food is fuel for the body, and so it makes sense that we should be satiated before we train.
And as I say, I may train nowadays on an empty stomach, but it definitely took me a few years to “build up” to this.
Plus, I will also say that we often mistake hunger for dehydration.
And this is especially true first thing in the morning.
Even though I always train early mornings, I have consumed at least a litre of water prior to even warming up.
And I take on plenty more water throughout my workout.
So, if tiredness after deadlifts is an issue, make sure that you are fed and watered before you train.
It could make all the difference.
It’s obvious when you think about it, but if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, this can affect your workout.
Regardless of what we’re doing, a poor night’s sleep will leave us feeling tired the next day.
So, if you generally find that you feel okay whenever you train and even afterwards, this could be the reason.
I’ve spoken enough now about how tough and taxing the deadlift is.
Therefore, if you’re hitting your deadlift workout and already feeling tired, the additional stress on your muscles and CNS will simply make you feel more fatigued.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important sleep is to recovery, building strength and muscle growth.
So, if you are coming to the gym feeling exhausted already then you may be better off concentrating on something less physically demanding.
Believe it or not, how you’re feeling mentally has a huge impact on how you perform physically.
Plus, let’s not forget that deadlifting will be demanding on the central nervous system.
And we know that the CNS controls the functions of the mind and body.
Therefore, much the same as coming to the gym physically tired will impact on your performance, the same can be said for mental tiredness.
If you’re stressed out about something, this will affect not only how you lift, but also how you feel afterwards.
You may even find that the gym environment is causing your mental anxiety.
Too many people in the gym, and don’t get me started on how busy gyms are on a Monday.
You can’t get to the equipment that you want to use.
Too hot, too cold.
There’s a myriad of reasons.
We don’t always put the two together, but our mental and physical well-being are forever connected.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should You Rest After a Deadlift Session?
Figuring out the ideal rest period after a deadlift session can be a bit tricky, as it really varies from person to person.
If you’re someone who’s just starting out or if you’ve gone particularly hard in your session, only deadlift once a week could be advisable.
That being said, resting for about 72 hours between deadlift sessions should be your absolute minimum,
For those who are more experienced and perhaps didn’t push to their absolute limit, a 48-hour rest could suffice.
But, with more experience, even if you did push hard, it’s likely that you will recover much quicker than a beginner.
In fact, I have personally performed deadlifts two days (or more) in a row on occasions.
However, this does involve using differing variations and differing intensities with each workout.
Nevertheless, I’ve mentioned deadlift training volume and the regularity of your workouts, so please keep this in mind from a personal perspective.
The key here is to focus on how your body feels.
If your muscles are still sore or you’re feeling overall fatigue, it’s a sign that your body is still in recovery mode.
During this rest period, it’s not just about avoiding heavy lifting.
It’s also about making sure you’re supporting your body’s recovery process.
This means paying attention to your sleep quality, hydration, and nutrition.
Ensuring you’re getting enough protein and micronutrients can significantly impact how quickly your muscles recover.
Also, consider incorporating some active recovery methods like light walking, swimming, or yoga.
These activities can help maintain your flexibility and blood circulation, which are beneficial for muscle recovery.
Are Deadlifts More Tiring Than Squats?
Whether deadlifts are more tiring than squats once more comes down to personal experience based on your body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Deadlifts are a powerhouse move that engages your entire posterior chain – from your heels right up to your upper back.
This whole-body engagement can be particularly draining, especially if you’re lifting heavy.
And as I’ve mentioned, the amount of concentration and effort to maintain proper form throughout the lift adds to the fatigue factor.
Squats, while also a full-body exercise, focus more on the anterior chain and require significant quad and core strength.
They can be equally exhausting, especially when performed at high intensity or volume.
Some people find squats more challenging due to the level of knee and hip flexion involved, which can put more strain on these joints.
Additionally, your body type can also make a difference.
Admittedly, both squats and deadlifts are better suited to shorter people (the weight has less distance to travel).
Although, shorter limbs, especially legs, are better for squats, whereas longer limbs, especially arms, are better for deadlifts.
Therefore, your body composition could mean that you find one movement much easier than the other.
But personally, for me, I actually prefer performing deadlifts, but find them much harder to recover from.
Furthermore, there is evidence that both squats and deadlifts affect the central nervous system equally.
However, I would hazard a guess that most people believe that deadlifts are more taxing of the central nervous system.
That being said, one of the first clues of a fatigued CNS is reduced grip strength, and deadlifts obviously target your grip strength more than squats.
The bottom line is that both exercises are demanding in their own ways.
So, some people will find one movement much more tiring than the other depending on the all the factors I’ve mentioned above.
Therefore, it’s important to strike a balance between the two in your workout routine, as they both offer immense benefits for strength, endurance, and muscle development.
How Do You Recover From Deadlift Fatigue?
Recovering from deadlift fatigue requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses both muscular and nervous system stress.
Here are some effective strategies to get you back on the path to peak performance.
Cool-down: Dedicate 5-10 minutes to light cardio followed by static stretches for your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core. This helps flush lactic acid and improve flexibility.
Hydrate: Replenish fluids lost during your workout. Aim for 16-20 ounces of water within 30 minutes, followed by consistent water intake throughout the day.
Refuel: Consume a post-workout meal or snack rich in protein (20-30 grams) and carbohydrates (40-50 grams) within 30-60 minutes. This helps repair muscle tissue and replenish glycogen stores.
Self-massage: Use a foam roller or massage ball to target tight muscles, especially in your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. This improves circulation and reduces muscle soreness.
Rest and sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep is crucial for muscle repair and nervous system recovery.
Active recovery: I’ve already spoken about the importance of active recovery. Engage in low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or yoga on rest days. This promotes blood flow and prevents stiffness without placing further stress on your muscles.
Nutrition: Ensure a balanced diet with adequate protein intake (0.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight) to support muscle repair and growth. Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats for overall health and nutrient needs.
Stretching and mobility work: Perform regular dynamic stretches and mobility drills to improve flexibility and range of motion, making future workouts more efficient and reducing injury risk.
Listen to your body: Don’t push yourself too hard, too soon. Pay attention to your fatigue levels and adjust your training intensity and volume accordingly. Taking an extra rest day or reducing weight/reps can prevent overtraining and promote optimal recovery.
Compression garments: Some research suggests compression socks or tights can improve blood flow and reduce muscle soreness after intense workouts.
Ice baths or contrast showers: These techniques can provide temporary pain relief and reduce inflammation, although their long-term effectiveness is debatable.
Electrolytes: Replenish lost electrolytes through sports drinks or electrolyte tablets, especially if you sweat heavily during your workouts.
Supplements: Consider creatine and protein powder as potential aids for muscle recovery.
Key Learning Points
- Deadlifts use a large number of major muscle groups in the body.
- Deadlifts are very taxing on the Central Nervous System.
- Your deadlift volume per workout could be too much.
- If you train the deadlift multiple times a week you may need to cut back or look at varying the intensity of your workouts.
- Poor nutrition, hydration, sleep habit will all impact on your physical wellbeing. Plus, as deadlifts are such an intense exercise you must fuel your body and use recovery correctly.
- If you suffer any form of mental anxiety this can and usually will affect your physical performance. It is even possible that your training could be causing you these issues.
So, as you can see, there are so many reasons why deadlifts may be wiping you out.
You’ll notice I compared fatigue between “The Big 2”, now see what I have to say about whether just doing squats and deadlifts are enough for overall leg development.
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.