Deadlifts and Back Pain: The Easy Fix

Deadlifts and back pain.

If you get a sore back during (or after) deadlifts, we have got you sorted.

By Coach Hunter Bennett

Deadlifts are one of the most effective exercises on the planet. However, some people do find they irritate their lower back, often leading to pain.

But we are hear to help.

1. Improve Your Deadlift Technique

I would argue that the most common cause of back pain in the deadlift is undesirable technique (much like the bench press, which I discussed HERE).

What specifically?

Hyperextension of the lower back.

Most people know that deadlifting with a round back may not be a great idea (for any number of reasons). As a result, they tend to overcompensate by aggressively arching their back.

This is followed by them “pulling” the bar from the floor.

This combination places a huge amount of load on the spine in a poor position, which can become problematic over time.

The solution?

Well, a few things should be addressed to ensure technique is not an issue.

  1. Find neutral spine: this means finding a position where your pelvis is ‘flat’ and your ribs are ‘pulled down’ slightly. If you breathe out hard and squeeze your glutes, you will find the spot.
  2. Brace hard: once you have found neutral, take a deep breath into your belly and actively push out your entire midsection (front, back, and sides). This is the brace you need to maintain throughout the whole movement.
  3. Load the hips: get down to the bar by softening your knees and pushing your hips back without losing your brace. This loads the hips, not the back.
  4. Look down slightly: as you descend to the bar, look down slightly to keep your neck in line with your spine. Looking up increases the likelihood of hyperextending your back.
  5. Push the ground away: lastly, think about pushing the ground away (rather than pulling the bar off the ground) to commence the lift. This ensures your legs are doing the work, rather than your lower back.

Tick these five boxes and you will be doing everything you can to keep your back in a good position by using efficient deadlift technique.

2. Develop a Stronger Midsection

A strong deadlift demands you maintain position as the bar breaks the floor.

A common fault that occurs during the deadlift is that as the bar leaves the foor, your torso changes position — and this shift under load can become an irritant.

This occurs because your mid-section is not strong enough to maintain position under load. While this can be improved by ensuring you have a solid brace (read point 1), it can also occur because of a weakness.

With this in mind, if you feel like your set-up is solid but you still lose position during the movement, you need to do some extra work.

This means:

  1. Increase your trunk stability: using planks, side planks, deadbugs, and bird-dogs. This will help improve your ability to maintain position during the deadlift.
  2. Use paused deadlifts: in addition to the above, it is also in your best interest to include paused deadlifts into your program. By pausing for 1-2 seconds about 1-2cm of the floor (yes, every single rep), you improve your ability to maintain position under load.

Start integrating these two tips into your program and see HUGE results.

3. Build your Posterior Chain

Lastly, you want to build your posterior chain — and more specifically, your glutes — to improve lockout strength.

If you struggle to lockout the bar using the muscles of your hips, you are going to use the muscles of your lumbar spine instead. This will cause a shift under load that may contribute to back pain.

This means integrating exercises like hip thrustsromanian deadliftsand glute pull throughs into your program on the regular.

Build a strong lockout and save that back.

Deadlifts and Back Pain: Final Thoughts

Deadlifts and back pain.

The solution lies in improving technique and strengthening specific muscles (namely the abdominal and the glutes) — and this articles outlines exactly how to do just that.

Give it a go and let us know what you think.

And if you want to read more about deadlifts, I suggest checking out our article “Deadlifts for Lower Back Pain” to find out how and why deadlifts can help with back pain.

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