Deadlift – Keeping Your Lower Back Safe

The Deadlift, And it’s flaws & fixes.

– An almost non negotiable lift
– Fundamental movement pattern
– Requires and creates a strong body

1. Why does your Deadlift hurt your lower back?
2. Why does your Deadlift look more like your humping a Barbell?
3. What can you do about it?

The deadlift is technically the most simple of the major lifts.

Its the most efficient and effective way to get a big old heavy weight off the floor in the safest manner.

However, a quality Deadlift requires a few key ingredients:

1. A straight (neutral or extended) back throughout the lift.
2. Extension of the knees but primarily the hips.
3. The ability to grind it out.

Thats pretty much it.

But what makes it more complex? Usually your ego…

Let me state this first.

“Deadlifts don’t hurt backs – bad deadlifts that are NOT Deadlifts do”

Flaw #1.

The rounded Back

What constitutes bad form? Usually the inability to maintain a straight back, that is the most crucial element of Deadlifting.

Rounding your back when you deadlift is simply a natural way to get a round the problem that your glutes and hamstrings are struggling to move a given weight. You therefore try to solve the issue by reducng the moment arm, hence the rounded back as you try to reduce the amount of torque for the hip extensors and lower back.

This is why rounded back deadlifting is generally thought of as slightly superior among powerlifting circles.

But don’t confuse the specific rounding we are talking about. The common consensus is as long as its thoracic flexion its okay – lumbar flexion on the other hand is to be avoided at all costs.

1. Thoracic flexion reduces the moment arm thus the torque in a much more efficient and safer way.

2. Lumbar flexion during the Deadlift can compress your spinal discs from the front and can result in lower back injuries like herniated discs.

Also remember using a rounded back may well increase the load you can pull and that some powerlifters may use some rounding during competition simply because they can move more weight, but its a case of risk vs reward.

In the gym I really don’t see how risk stacks up to the reward, so the safest position is neutral.

Hopefully the above paragraphs should tell you all you need to know about how to solve that problem. (If it doesn’t, feel free to get in touch)

If you can pull 90 kg off the floor in good form but you cant pull 100 without rounding your back, its not a case of lack of mobility, its a case of you’re not ready to pull 100kg yet. You need to acquire the specific strength to do so, strength follows form!

So here’s your fixes…

Due to the fact everybody has different anthropomorphic features, everybody pulls slightly different so there is rarely a perfectly angled blueprint for deadlifting. People have varying differences in terms of torso length, arms, legs etc.

So why do some people almost squat up a deadlift & some people seem to crane up a deadlift and is one more efficient than the other?

Yes. With slightly lower hips you can recruit the quads to a higher degree. The higher your hips are the less you can do this and the higher the hips go, the longer the moment at the arm will be, further increasing torque around the hip extensors including the lower back.

From a basic technical and efficiency standpoint;

1. Get low – pull your deadlift with as low position as your anthropomorphic features allow, if this means checking your ego at the door so be it – gyms are full enough as it is.

2. Let form dictate your weight – the deadlift will tell you when you can add those biscuits.

Flaw #2.

The hyper extender! Lean back! No, please don’t!

Yes an arch in the back is natural,  we all have or should have a curve (lordosis) but it has to be your natural arch, be sure not to over do it, this is almost as bad as rounding your lower back as it simply risks herniatian from the other side of the disks.

the goal is to maintain your natural arch or lordotic curve throughout the lift, often times its the case of simply trying so hard to avoid a rounded back people can end up with excessive lordosis and risk compression of the back of the interverterbral disks

Here’s your fixes;

1. Maintain neutral spine throughout.
2. Don’t look up – this can encourage excess arching.
3. Breathe deep – increase IAP (intra abdominal pressure) to help recruit the abdominals and lock in the mid section, this will also help transfer force.
4. Don’t lean back at the top of the deadlift – lock it in, you should be tightly locked into the barbell, glutes and abdominals are key here.
5. Correct pelvic tilt – if your posture resembles a ballerina then maybe you have a forward tilted pelvis (anterior tilt) possibly caused by lifestyle in shortened postitions like driving, office desk, high heels etc. These daily postures act as super high reps for certain muscle and can create a shortening in certain circumstances.

In the next part of this blog post i’ll throw some common weaknesses and ways to strengthen them…

But for now, go deadlift and deadlift well!

Dan