Your glutes, or butt muscles, are actually three separate muscle groups: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. When performing dead lifts, all your glute muscles have to fire, along with your hamstrings, lower back, adductors and core. Your glutes play the biggest role toward the top of the movement, as you push your hips forward forcefully to finish the lift. Sore glutes after deadlifting is relatively common, though the soreness should subside over time.
DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is a common occurrence when weight training. DOMS is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, brought on by intense lifting. Although this is a natural process of getting stronger and training hard, it can leave you feeling sore for up to 72 hours post-workout, according to the American Council on Exercise. DOMS will be particularly prominent if you're new to weight training or haven't deadlifted in a while.
As your glutes are one of the main muscles working during the dead lift, a little soreness following a tough workout shouldn't be surprising. The glutes play a big role in hip extension, claims strength coach Bret Contreras in an interview with trainer Todd Bumgardner. Hip extension occurs in the very final portion of a dead lift as you push your hips forward. If you're actively contracting and squeezing your glutes to finish the lift powerfully, it's likely you'll experience more glute soreness in the following days than if you just jerk the bar off the floor or stop short of full lockout.
The stance you use can play a role in how sore your glutes get. A sumo stance, which involves a very wide foot spacing, with your hands and arms inside your thighs, places more stress on your glutes than the conventional narrower width stance, according to coach Mike Robertson of Robertson Training Systems. If you're currently deadlifting in a sumo style and experiencing glute soreness, you may wish to consider switching to a regular stance.
The more you deadlift, the less of an issue glute soreness will be, as DOMS is always worse when you introduce new exercises or movements into your routine. If you find DOMS persists, you may have tight muscles in your glutes or around your hips, so a visit to a sports therapist may be in order. If you suspect your soreness is injury-related, rather than simple muscular soreness, consult your health care provider. Always ask a qualified trainer to check your technique before starting dead lifts and stretch after sessions.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.