5 Common Struggles That Follow Heavy Deadlift Day

Can you help us move tomorrow? Sure…

Well, that’s great and all, but not the day after working heavy deadlift triples.

If I had to pick a real life activity that translates best to the barbell deadlift, then I think I’d take moving as my number one. Bend down, maintain a set back, and hoist boxes/furniture to a moving truck. Then, factor in that you’re probably navigating hallways and stairs with the lifted equipment in your arms, so you’re basically doing deadlift with weighted carries; who said deadlifts aren’t functional AF?

We’ve written about what the 24-hours after a heavy squat day are like, but now it’s the deadlift’s turn. Here are five everyday struggles following heavy deadlift sessions put into a “moving boxes for your office” scenario.

1. You Get to the Office: Man, I Feel Good Today

You know the feeling. Yesterday’s workout was tough, but you hit your reps and avoided form breakdown in doing so. Your upper, mid, and lower back feel a bit tight, but you’re surprisingly not that sore, in fact, there’s some back pump still going on. On an internal level, you feel great. When training with heavier loads often, it’s uncommon to experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after every session, although, at times, you may experience it here and there even though your training variables were consistent.

Things like lack of sleep, stress, and poor nutrition can contribute to this random mid-training cycle onset of DOMS. That being said, unfortunately, today was a day where stress and poor sleep was made evident. When your colleagues ask you to help move the office, you quickly reply with a happy “sure!”, because in the back of your head, what’s wrong with a little extra back work.

2. Your First Box: Why Is This So Heavy?

“Hey, can you pick up the treadmill desk?” You bend down to grab the desk and immediately realize that it feels way heavier than you remember.

Whether you’re sore or not, when training at a high intensity, you’re causing damage to the muscle and fatiguing the motor neurons attached to them in order to build back stronger. On the muscle, this damage comes in the form of micro-tears and can vary in the level of severity in which you feel it (more so could be defined as DOMS). Additionally, regardless your level of soreness, more than likely, your peripheral nervous system (PNS) is also in the process of recovering, which could impact the rate at which your perceive different loads.

Some athletes and coaches refer to this phenomenon as CNS fatigue, or central nervous system fatigue, but recent literature is actually suggesting that it’s the peripheral nervous system that’s fatigued, and the CNS isn’t the full underlying issue. The CNS is composed of the brain and spinal cord, while the PNS is the neurons and ganglia that extend off of them. When the PNS motor junctions/neurons become fatigued/damaged, then they can’t relay message optimally to the muscles.

Think about it like you’re pressing down on a 6-cylinder car’s gas pedal, but only 4-cylinders are firing. It’s going to move, but at a much slower, less powerful rate.

3. 10 Boxes In: Time to Use the Legs

“Wait, we’re taking this down two flight of stairs?”

Fatigue and soreness can lead to a major issue with your performance and that’s form breakdown. When we experience soreness, tenderness, or even varied levels of pain caused by exercise or other external factors, the body has a tendency to compensate for it by shifting how it naturally moves. In your head, you know what you should be doing, but in reality it doesn’t look the same.

Deadlifts hold a ton of benefits, but they can also be a recipe for disaster when not executed properly. This is why maintaining strong lifting postures (such as maintain a set back in a hinge) and using the joints accordingly (proper mechanics of the legs, back, and hips) are so detrimental for instances like this. After all, injury over an every day task is one of the most frustrating experiences an athlete can encounter.

4. 16 Boxes and a Set of Stairs: Please, Cut My Erectors Some Slack

“Can you grab that box, too?”

No matter what, if you pull sumo or conventional, there’s no denying that the erectors are getting a work out. And save the sumo is cheating argument for another time, fatigue is fatigue. Obviously, the erectors may get beat up a bit more for the conventional deadlifters, but when it comes to fatigue that’s irrelevant. In terms of EMG, outside of the glutes and hamstrings, the erectors have been seen to be one of the prime movers in all deadlift variations.

If you’ve ever had really sore erectors, then you can probably sympathize with the agony that hinging and loading can have after a deadlift day. Fatigued erectors (hamstring and glutes for that matter) can be tough to work around since they’re present in so many movements on a day-to-day basis.

5. 22 Boxes Later and Finished: Is He Sleeping Standing Up?

“Alright, that’s the last box, good work team.”

Okay, the move is done, and you made it through, but not without struggle. In fact, you had to dig deep with some personal self-talk to push through the final boxes that you felt were going to put you over the edge.

Compound movements are taxing. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, there’s no denying that. The state of super-compensation you were teetering in all day is gone, and your body has made it very clear that some much needed sleep is on the horizon. Now it’s time to sleep, recover, and get back training.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

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Jake holds a Master's in Sports Science and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as one of the full time writers and editors at BarBend. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand. As of right now, Jake has published over 1,000 articles related to strength athletes and sports. On the side of writing, Jake works as a part-time strength coach and works with clients through his personal business Concrete Athletics in Hoboken and New York City.