Proper deadlift form can help you avoid knee pain.
Getting sore from time to time is part of the game when weight training, as soreness is a sign of muscle breakdown. That being said, while muscle soreness is often an indicator of hard training, joint soreness is something you want to keep an eye on. While deadlifts aren't usually associated with knee soreness, if your technique is slightly off, or you have muscular imbalances, deadlifting may be exacerbating your issues.
Deadlift Form Guide and Biomechanics
When you deadlift, a number of joints and muscles work simultaneously. Stand with your feet under the bar, about shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar with both hands, bend your knees slightly and lower your hips so your back is flat. As you lift the bar, your knees and hips should extend in tandem, while you maintain a slight arch in your lower back. Push your hips forward at the top while squeezing your glutes, core, hamstrings and upper back to finish the lift. The deadlift is known as a hip-dominant movement, whereas other lower-body moves such as squats and lunges are knee dominant. Knee-dominant moves are generally more often the cause of knee pain than hip-dominant ones.
Common Form Issues
A reason your knees may be getting sore from deadlifts is because your form is not quite right. If your knees drift too far forward when deadlifting, this turns the exercise into more of a knee-dominant one, notes strength coach Mike Robertson. The coach also advises not squatting down to grab the bar, but pushing your hips back to load the glutes and hamstrings.
Deadlifts: A Sore Knee Solution
Rather than being the cause of your knee pain, deadlifts could actually help to strengthen your knees and help ease said pain. By strengthening your posterior chain muscles -- the glutes, lower back and hamstrings -- you'll actually reduce your risk of injury, according to Robertson. Trainer Jessica Smith of Shape adds that deadlifts strengthen your core and glutes without stressing your knees and hips too much.
Strategies for Healthy Knees
Deadlifting more frequently and improving your strength for the exercise could help your knees feel better, notes strength coach Grant Lofthouse in an article on Ben Bruno's website. Lofthouse advises performing three or four sets of hip-dominant exercises for every set of knee-dominant ones. So if your usual leg routine is three sets each on deadlifts, squats and lunges, try switching to two sets of squats and two sets of lunges for your knee-dominant exercises, then do four sets of deadlifts, four sets of kettlebell swings and four sets of glute bridge raises to balance out your program.