Last updated on November 15th, 2022 at 04:34 pm
Surely I’m not the only one to experience sore quads after deadlifts?
Deadlifts are probably one of the best strength exercises that you should be doing.
Plus, they hit a huge number of muscle groups in the body.
However, even though deadlifts are primarily a lower body exercise, they should be more taxing on the posterior chain.
This would usually mean that you should “feel sore” more in the glutes and hamstrings than the quads.
So, what exactly is going on here?
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Why Are My Quads Sore After Deadlifts?
The main reason your quads are sore after deadlifts is because poor technique has turned the exercise into a more quad-dominant movement. If your torso is too upright or you bend excessively at the knees during the deadlift your quads will usually have to work harder than the posterior chain to lift the weight. Additionally, you may wish to look at when you’re performing deadlifts. If it’s directly after a squat day, or even straight after squats if you perform both exercises on the same day, this will have an effect on your quads.
1. Your Torso is Too Upright
I would say that the number one reason that your quads feel sore after deadlifts will be down to the position of your torso.
Basically, the more upright your torso is during the movement, the more of a quad-dominant exercise the deadlift becomes.
With that being said, there are certain deadlift variations that require the torso to remain in a more upright position.
The sumo deadlift and trap-bar deadlifts come to mind.
So, if you’re regularly performing these two deadlift variations then you can expect your quads to be working hard.
However, if your “go-to” is the conventional deadlift then you shouldn’t be feeling it as much in your quads.
It’s probably time for a form check.
Ensure that you’re properly hinging at the hips.
Plus, from the starting position your torso should be nearer to horizontal than vertical.
Of course, you don’t want the torso to be parallel to the floor, as this puts excessive pressure on the lower back.
So, aim to have the torso approximately 15-30 degrees above parallel.
2. You Are Bending Excessively at the Knees
Another reason your quads may feel sore after deadlifts is if you’re excessively bending at the knees.
Once again this will turn the movement into a more quad-dominant exercise.
You can usually tell if you’re bending too much at the knees as the shins are angled far more forward than they should be.
With a hip-hinge exercise like the deadlift the shins should remain nearer to a vertical position.
And with a squat-based-movement because you should bend the knees more, the shins tend to angle forward.
So, if you find that either of these things are happening it means that you are bending more at the knees, as opposed to hinging at the hips.
I’ll admit that your height does play a role in how much you have to bend at the knees during the deadlift.
However, just remember that the more the knees are bent, the less likely that you will be pushing the hips back.
The outcome being that you will typically use more quads than glutes and hamstrings to lift the weight.
Proper Deadlift Setup
3. It Depends on When You’re Performing the Deadlift
Something else to consider is when you’re actually performing the deadlift.
If you happen to squat and deadlift on the same day, and you squat first, then this could be a potential answer to the quad issue.
Plus, even if you’re deadlifting a day or two after you squat, then this could be DOMS kicking in.
It’s all relative.
The squat and the deadlift are two of the biggest exercises that you will perform during the week.
Both movements use a huge number of muscle groups and they’re both extremely taxing on the Central Nervous System.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be performing either or both exercise every week.
However, it’s important to keep in mind what impact either exercise can have on the other.
If you’re training a typical 3 or 4 split then it’s likely that you’ll either be performing both exercises on the same day, or in fairly close proximity to each other.
So, if you find that one exercise is having an effect on the other, e.g. your quads feeling sore during and after deadlifts, then you may be better off splitting them up.
This may involve having a squat day on Monday and your deadlift day on a Friday.
As you become more used to each exercise you can obviously start to mix things up a little.
With that being said, as squats and deadlifts are probably the two biggest exercises you’ll be doing in terms of muscle-building and strength, it should help to have ample rest during the week between doing them.
4. You Have a Relative Comparison Muscle Weakness
This can actually work both ways.
The most obvious form of “relative comparison muscle weakness” would be that your glutes and hamstrings are weak compared to your quads.
This can typically mean that your quads start to take over whenever you deadlift.
If this is the case then it’s a good idea to train the glutes and hamstrings with a variety of other exercises.
To be honest, many people do tend to have a weakness in the muscles of the posterior chain.
I guess this is down to the fact that we can’t really see the muscles.
So, the “show muscles” tend to get a lot more work, i.e. chest, biceps, and quads, because they are at the front of the body and plain for all to see.
With that being said, if your quads are sore after deadlifts, the total opposite could be true as well.
The quads are weak in relative comparison to the glutes and hamstrings, so you literally “feel” them with every lower body exercise you perform.
If this is the case, then you’ll need to look at additional exercises to strengthen the quads.
I think a lot of this may come down to the fact that many people choose to do no other exercises for the lower body other than squats and deadlifts.
However, only you will know for sure whether you have a specific weakness, and whether it’s the front or the back of the lower body.
The Best Posterior Chain Focused Leg Day
So, hopefully you now have a better idea of why your quads feel sore after deadlifts.
As I’ve mentioned, the main reason tends to be that you have turned the exercise into a more quad-dominant movement.
This is most commonly done by either keeping the torso too upright or excessively bending at the knees.
In effect, you have taken up a squat body position in order to perform the deadlift.
You should also consider how close you’re training the squat and the deadlift to each other, as this can have an impact on muscle soreness.
Plus, this may even be your body highlighting a specific weak point to you.
While I’m on the subject of issues with deadlifts, here’s what I have to say about your knees caving in whenever you deadlift.
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.