Why Is My Upper Back Sore From Deadlifts? Normal Or Not?

April 19th 2019

Read more to find out whether or not having upper back soreness is normal from deadlifts.

It is not uncommon to get upper back soreness from deadlifts.

However, lifters need to make sure they are lifting with proper form so that they are not excessively hunched over when performing a deadlift.

Sore upper back from deadlifts

It is not uncommon to have a sore upper back from deadlifts. As long as you maintain good form, one or a combination of the following reasons are why you are feeling upper back soreness:


  • Trap soreness
  • Keeping your shoulders and spine stable
  • You are a newer lifter


Trap soreness

The biggest purpose of your traps during a deadlift is to stabilize your upper back.

Your traps keep your upper back sturdy and able to withstand a heavy deadlift.

A big time deadlifter, Cailer Woolam, emphasized how one of the best exercises he has ever done to get to a 900+lbs deadlift was to work on his traps.

He implemented heavy shrugs into his routine many years ago.

His results speak for themselves.

Though you never want to try to shrug up your deadlift.

Cailer Woolam claimed to have his deadlift strength increase greatly from doing heavy shrugs once a week.

Keeping your shoulders and spine stable

In order to deadlift, the weight hinges at your shoulders.

In order for your shoulders not be ripped apart from a heavy deadlift, your upper back is working on stabilizing your shoulders.

In addition to keeping your shoulders healthy, your upper back also serves to stabilize your spine and prevent any excessive upper back rounding.

Some lifters may find that they have upper back soreness whether they have good form or not.

It is always best to maintain a neutral spine while deadlifting.

This ensures that you are placing any unwanted pressure on your spine.

With heavy deadlifts, this can go south very quickly.

You are a newer lifter

If you first started to deadlift, you may have full body DOMS for the entire week.

Or maybe after every deadlift session.

The deadlift physically challenges you to make improvements to your physique and strength.

As you start to deadlift heavier and heavier, you will notice you may get less sore every session.

This can only happen after you have been sore from previous deadlift workouts.

Though soreness does not directly correlate your strength or size gains, it is one signal that can be revealed when your muscles have been pushed past their limits.

How normal is upper back soreness from deadlifts?

It is not uncommon to get upper back soreness from deadlifts.

This full body compound exercise requires a ton of back stabilization.

This isometric contraction is so great that it can leave your sore every workout depending on whether or not your upper back is the weakest link in the chain.

I cannot deadlift without upper back rounding?

I have done some research on this topic and found some interesting results.

There were many surveys done on big deadlifters on their opinion about upper back rounding.

While the general consensus is that upper back rounding should be avoided, all time deadlift record holders have different thoughts.

Big time deadlifters, like Cailer Woolam, Blaine Sumner, John Gaglione, have weighed in on their thoughts about upper back rounding during the deadlift.

Unanimously, they all agreed that upper back rounding will occur during max attempts during deadlifts.

There was no further discussion about that.

There was another great point - that upper back rounding should never be thought to newer lifters.

In fact, all three world-class lifters shared the same opinion that strength athletes need to train with proper form all the time.

This means that you need to keep a neutral spine throughout the lift.

Will there be a time to do upper back rounding during the deadlifts?

Yes, but you are not supposed to “learn” how to do that.

Lifters should always strive to maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire deadlift.

As expected, all three lifters made it clear that this upper back rounding should be minimal, if ever occurring.

Once upper back rounding spread down to the lower back, you are inviting trouble into your life.

This is an absolute no-no in the lifting community and these three powerful lifters also agree as well.

What to do if my upper back is sore during deadlifts?

For most lifters, they will be ready for the next deadlift session.

Keep moving and making sure you get enough sleep and food will always ensure that you stay on top of your recovery.

There will always be good and bad soreness.

Again, most lifters will experience a good kind of soreness in their upper back from deadlifts.

This soreness does not involute acute, sharp pain that feels like needles and pins.

If your symptoms do not improve for a few weeks, it would be wise to see a medical professional.

How to make sure your upper back is neutral during the deadlift?

One cue that some lifers can use is to try to arch their lower back while picking up their chest.

This will ensure that their upper back is in a neutral position from the starting position.

For bigger lifters, their upper backs may appear more flexed than usual due to how wide their upper backs are.

They may look overly flexed even with a small amount of upper back flexion.

There is another powerful cue that many strength coaches have offered us lifters - how you start off is how you will end.

This is a very good strategy to internalize since your starting position is practically your bread and butter of your lift.

If you have a crappy deadlift starting position, you will finish poorly.

On the other hand, master your deadlift starting position with having a neutral spine, vertical shins, etc, you will find that your deadlift will be a lot of smoother.


Upper back soreness from deadlifts should be nothing out of the ordinary.

However, it is important to keep track of whether or not you are practicing good form.

Periodically, take workout videos of yourself doing the deadlift and see if you are implementing the optimal technique.

It is very easy to fall into a bad habit if you are not aware of the dire consequences.

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