T Nation

Too Much Back Soreness/Tightness After Deadlifts


I’ll get right to it, currently I’ve been doing the 3 day a week waterbury method, with 10x3 for a big compound lift, and then 4x6 for the other muscle groups. So far I’ve been loving it, my 3 big movements are Trap bar Dead for day 1, OHP for day 2, and Zercher Squat for day 3. I subbed in a few sets of farmer’s carries for the direct calf work or arm work- mostly because A: my calves look good from all tennis, and B: I like traps more than my arms. Anyway not really the point. HERE IS THE PROBLEM: I lift with my dad, this is our second year of lifting together and he’s noticing some back tightness and soreness after the trap bar deads, that continue through the week and then just as he feels good again the zercher squat lights his back up. This doesn’t affect me, and I’ve trying to figure out what’s been going wrong. He is experiencing some minor tightness and im wondering if you guys think its too much back volume.


How old is your dad?
Is the pain purely muscular soreness?
What sort of weight is he using for the deadlift?
What does his recovery look like? (diet, sleep, any additional mobility work/stretching, etc)
Is he also doing farmer’s carries in addition to the deadlifts and zercher squats?
How long have you been training on this program?

Some answers to the above may help get some better advice.

But to start, I would try dialing it back to 5x3 (or some variation of reduced sets) to start off for the deadlifts and zercher squats. Both will hit the posterior chain pretty hard, and if his previous training didn’t prepare him for that, then it could be too much volume right now (amount of volume will be very individual). Then you can try adding a set per week until he can comfortably perform all sets/reps without feeling the same tightness you’re describing. This would be the easiest way to find out if the soreness if from volume, or just performing that lift in general.

Depending on leverages, historical injuries, yadda yadda, some movements just cause people pain, so this could perhaps be one of them.

I’m kind of just throwing darts here though, but I would experiment with volume first and see if this helps at all.

Good luck!


@littlesleeper my dad is 50 years old, but has been pretty active his whole life- we play tennis together and he wins a couple tournaments. I’m assuming the pain is purely muscular because it goes away after a few days, and doesn’t impede on anything else. In terms of weight we are using about 275 lbs. on the deadlift however this is the first time in a while we are incorporating it into our program. His recover is not great, going through a stressful time, diet is okay, sleep is meh, he doesn’t do any mobility work or stretching. Yes the farmer’s carries are done kind of like a finisher at the end of every workout, but he says that doesn’t affect anything (he also loves them). we’ve been doing the program for about 4 weeks now, but the pain just started at the end of the 3rd week.


This could just be waking up muscles that aren’t used to this type of stimulus. When I start training a lift that I haven’t done in awhile, my delayed onset muscle soreness is always pretty high. It typically goes away after a few weeks of doing the movement though.

I too love farmer’s walks. They are, however, a much more draining exercise than most people think (which is also why they are so damn effective). I tried to program my own training, and did not account for how much the farmer’s walks actually taxed my system, just something to keep in mind.

Out of everything, this is where I would start improving. It isn’t the fun or glorious part of the sport of lifting, but it’s one of the most important (if not the most important). If your new program is asking more from his body than the last, he will need to feed it, rest it, and make sure that he is taking care of it (stretching, mobility, etc). This becomes even more important as you get older. Doing “Agile 8” daily, or doing a few yoga poses in the morning/evening could be all it takes to keep everything limber. Get 8hrs of sleep, and make sure he is getting adequate protein (0.8-1g/lb of bodyweight is what I like to shoot for) and calories.


@littlesleeper thankyou so much for the advice, it has already improved since last week (we moved the farmer’s carries to an off day, and turned it into more of a lighter weight further distance thing), and lowered the volume on the heavy lifts by a couple sets until he adjusts.


You’re very welcome. I’m glad to hear his back is feeling better.
Feel free to ask any other questions on the forum or start your own training log and people will follow along and comment. It’s a great community on here.