Why Do I Feel Light Headed After Deadlifts? Solutions And Fixes!
March 19th 2019
Do you feel light headed after deadlifts? What is the reason for this and is it limiting my gains?
One plausible explanation is that because you tense your entire body, you are squeezing your blood vessels which increase your blood pressure. As a result, your body will expand your blood vessels to get the blood pressure down to normal. However, with the combination of dropping the weight and explicit tension in the chest, it makes it difficult for your body to pump blood throughout your body and to regulate your blood pressure back to normal, causing you to feel dizzy, light headed and faint.
Feeling dizzy after deadlifts
Should you be concerned? What should you do?
The body is undergoing complex processes while you deadlift.
Before you deadlift, everyone braces before the big pull.
This is expected to be a normal starting sequence before any big deadlift attempt.
As you begin the deadlift, you will tighten your whole body.
This will artificially increase your blood pressure since you are squeezing your blood vessels by holding your breath.
As a result, your body will react and dilate its blood vessels to accommodate.
Your body is trying to lower the temporary increase in blood pressure.
When you drop the weight, this stops the increase in your blood pressure.
However, since your body is already vaso-dilated, which means that your blood vessels are expanded, you now need to wait for your body to react and adjust your blood pressure until it is regulated.
It is at this time you may feel the dizziness that many lifters get.
But why? Why do we have to feel dizzy? Is your body not able to recover as quickly and regulate our blood pressure fast enough?
There is another explanation for that as well.
Remember that you are tensing your entire body when you brace. This will mean that you are tightening up your chest.
And your chest contains all your big arteries and veins. Most importantly, your heart as well.
So, under this chest tension, your big veins are unable to push blood back to the heart at the normal rate due to this elevated chest pressure.
As a result, your heart is unable to pump out as much blood to help regulate the blood pressure. This will result in your blood pressure returning back to normal more slowly.
There is another issue lifters need to watch out.
I, myself, am guilty for this mistake as well. It is dropping the weight instead of slowly lowering it down. Why is this an issue as well?
You run the risk of blacking out or fainting when you just release all the tension from your body all at once.
You are already under a lot of stresses in your body, from having dilated blood vessels, being really tight (so that means you are not breathing), and that probably means you have poor cardiac output, an imbalance between oxygen delivery and oxygen consumption, at that time, which should be temporary.
What do we have to work with in the end?
- Expanded blood vessels that need to return back to normal
- Poor cardiac output, a result from trying to maintain tension throughout your entire body and not breathing
Aside from the conventional wisdom stated above (Control the weight down instead slamming it down and if you are feeling faint or light headed, sit down and relax instead of forcing yourself to lift), there are several other strategies lifters can implement in order to limit this light headed feeling.
1. Warm up longer
If you are coming straight from work, which is not a labor intensive job, chances are you will not be practicing anything remotely close to your workout.
You need to get your neurons firing and working so that you can warm up these neuropathways to have the deadlift feeling more natural.
After all, ever tried just deadlift 80-90% of your working set as your warm up set?
Does not feel so good, does it?
Even if you are able to lift up the weight, you are just increasing your risk of injury for no real benefit.
Warm ups are used in order to help you practice the movement as well as get blood circulating in your muscles.
Your body is helping you prep for your working sets, which you will do in a few minutes anyway.
Any experienced lifter will tell you the importance of warming up properly instead of going into a working set cold.
There is a reason for that.
Veteran lifters have been injured from not adhering to well-known advice and have paid the consequences for them.
Elite lifters have had poor training sessions from not warming up properly which led to bad training experiences.
This is not good since it will throw off mental clarity, which is very important in this sport.
Despite all these warnings, there may be some beginner lifters that will try to do something cute or new just for the sake of doing so.
While every experienced lifter will tell you to stories and advice on what not to do, it is your journey.
Other people want to see you succeed and will try their best to give you information that has worked for them.
Mistakes and consequences are the greatest teachers in life.
Maybe it will take you getting hurt to realize that what your mentor is saying is correct.
Maybe it is reading this article that will flip the switch for you.
All we can do is provide you valuable and informative lessons.
It is up to you to listen.
2. Scale down your workout
As powerlifters, strength training athletes, strongman, etc, we need to push ourselves.
It is one of the proven ways to get bigger, stronger, faster and better at the sport.
However, it does come at a cost.
There are many reactions our bodies will show, which will probably be unpleasant.
This is one of the reasons why strength training is so difficult.
Feeling light headed during and after a deadlift is just a minor to moderate feeling, depending on how hard you pushed yourself that day.
Sometimes, it may be a good idea to just tone down your deadlift session.
You are feeling light headed during and after your deadlift working sets, why should you continue to force yourself to feel abnormal?
Experiencing different volumes and intensities may do you some good here.
I know it is a huge blow to your ego since we are trying to deadlift with moderate intensity and volume and it just sucked.
But your mental health is also another important factor to maintain and improve.
I know that for me I actually had to modify my deadlift workout last week because the weight was not moving as great as I wanted it to move.
Last week, I wanted to do a 335lbs deficit deadlift, with a full reset after each rep.
In my first set, I was at my third rep when I called it quits.
It was not feeling great and it felt that I was really struggling.
Now, I had several options here, one of which was to be stubborn and continue to try and do my second set at the same weight.
I have a different plan.
I went to do 305lbs for a set of five on my second set.
This was almost 10% lower than what I wanted to do but I knew it would have been better for me to hit a moderately challenging weight for a set of five.
And this week, I was repeated last week’s targetted goal and was able to accomplish that, 335lbs for two sets of five.
All it took was to not force the issue and to keep my ego in check.
3. Try not to deadlift so much
Are you deadlifting 4x a week? If so, that may be another issue you may need to look into.
If deadlifts are at the end of your workout or you are doing high volume deadlifts, you may just be too tired.
Instead, one possibility to limit feeling light headed during and after deadlifting is to lower your deadlift frequency, volume, or intensity.
This way, you give your body more time to recover.
4. Eat more food
If you are deadlifting after fasting for 10 hours, you may have a bad time.
Eating nutritious food is one way of making your body has enough fuel to power through your workout.
Pre-workout nutrition is important so you should be aware of what you are eating pre-workout, for example what are the best foods to eat before a workout?
In addition, staying hydrated is vital for avoiding any light headed feelings.
Ever wondered why you feel a little dizzy after you slept for 7-9 hours at night?
Well, you are fasting and depriving your body of water.
Did you also notice how after you eat breakfast and drink some water, all your uncomfortable head fog just goes away?
Making sure you eat enough foods and fueling your body with plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins will ensure that you limit any light headed sensations during and after deadlifts.
Deadlift breathing pattern
I have researched this question for many years. I have seen many different answers from many different sources.
Here is the best breathing pattern I found that worked for me and for Richard Hawthorne, The ANT.
I found that his deadlift breathing philosophy worked best for me.
You take your breath at the top before you start your deadlift.
Because at the top, you have more room to take in more air whereas at the starting position of the deadlift, you are slightly hunched over and you are constricting your abdomen and chest.
If you need to take a new breath, you would take it at the top of the deadlift where your entire body should be straight.
In addition to that, Richard Hawthorne also mentioned two mental checkpoints you should also be aware of:
- Knowing your lung capacity
- Knowing how many reps you can do at a certain weight
After all, it would suck if you did not exhibit any lung control and just let out all your breath randomly.
It would be laughable if you pass out because you are yelling at the top of the deadlift or just let out all your breath and drop the weight like a fool.
Another very common breathing pattern is that you take your breath at the top before you reach down for the bar.
Once you are tight, you then reach down for the bar do your reps.
Here is the difference in breathing technique.
After they complete one rep, they will also reset their breath at the bottom of the lift.
I have tried this technique in the past and it does feel pretty good. Will it work for you?
You will need to experiment with your working deadlift sets.
The third deadlift breathing technique I noticed was that you will take your breath at the starting position of your deadlift.
So, these lifters will reach down for the bar and get into position while taking their final breath before the big pull.
If there needs to be a reset, they will also take their breath at the bottom of the deadlift.
I am not a fan of this deadlift for reasons that Richard Hawthorne explained.
I found that I was not able to take a big enough breath as well as not being able to maintain a very tight core. But to each their own.
This is what I found to work for me to get me to a 405lbs deadlift. And beyond.
Feeling faint after squats
You may also feel faint, dizzy, or light headed after a squat.
But why is that?
For all the same reasons why you feel light headed after a deadlift.
I have had this feeling before in my six years of strength training.
While doing my research online, I found that one of the culprits to produce this feeling is by holding our breath.
But it makes sense.
If you are not building up tightness in your body, you are not in a correct position to handle a heavy squat.
As a result, some people may be holding their breath a little longer than they should have and will be gasping for air after finishing their squats, maybe even seeing some stars at the same time as well.
And the solution?
You need to understand your lung capacity and how long you can hold your breath for the squat.
For example, if you can hold your breath for 5 reps at 225lbs but at the end of the fifth rep, you are gasping for air, you may want to hold your breath for 2-3 reps instead of 5.
Reset your breath and you will find that squatting may even be tolerable. Just a thought.
But in addition to that, making sure you hydrated and eating enough should be already done.
However, there are many circumstances that get in the way of making sure lifters drink enough water and eat enough good foods to properly fuel a workout.
So, always make sure your nutrition and recovery are taken care of before you point the finger at some other minuscule stressor.