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Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain – The Short and Simple Answer is….
If you’ve been in the gym and experienced lower back pain you might have asked yourself: can deadlifts help lower back pain?
Sometimes it’s because we overdid it at the gym, or sometimes we just moved the wrong way during daily activities.
No matter what the cause is, we’ve all experience some kind of lower back discomfort at some point.
If you’ve ever lifted really heavy and felt your lower back was feeling a little wonky afterwards then the best way to prevent any damage or future problems is to use a quality weight lifting belt.
We highly suggest our own weight belt:
If you’re lifting a lot of weight or just want to make sure you’re protected. Definitely get a quality weight belt like ours.
Trust me, you don’t want to “wish you had it” after you’ve been injured.
Also before we get into the details, we want to thank or Dark Iron Fitness writer Tina Ngai for creating this blog post for us.
Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain?
Excess mobility, specifically the excessive mobility of the lumbar spine can cause lower back pain.
It turns out that one particularly tough, but extremely rewarding, exercise can actually help lower back pain.
Deadlifts are the ultimate lower-back exercise. If done correctly, it can decrease back pain, decrease the risk of injury, and improve functional strength.
This exercise is the most effective way to train the paraspinal muscles, which run down both sides of your spine and play a major role in the prevention of back injuries.
The University of Waterloo conducted a study to calculate how much low-back flexion deadlifting inflicted and the amount of strain put on the vertebrae and lumbar ligament.
There were many claims that the lift put this area under great strain which could then result in injury.
Real-time x-ray imaging was used to see how the spines of elite powerlifters reacted when they fully flexed their spines with no weights as well as while deadlifting over 400 pounds.
Except for one subject, all the men did their deadlifts within the normal range used during full flexion.
So a properly executed deadlift will strengthen your entire back, including your erector spinae muscles while maintaining a normal range of motion.
This very simply answers the question of : can deadlifts help lower back pain
Deadlifts are More Effective at Bullet Proofing
Numerous strength coaches have noted that when deadlifts are performed correctly–with a neutral spine and with a proper hip hinge–they are far more effective at “bullet proofing” the body than any other exercise.
Furthermore, proper deadlifts teach the glutes to share the load which eventually spares the spine.
A deadlift is a great way to protect yourself against back injury and low-back pain.
Proper form is essential for getting the most benefits from deadlifts, and it’s important to work within the restrictions of your skill level and ability, in order to avoid injury. Can deadlifts help lower back pain?
We have all heard how deadlifts target more muscles than any other conditioning movement. They are an extraordinary all-in-one exercise for full body development.
So not only can deadlifts help lower back pain but they definitely help to improve a whole lot more than that.
Deadlifts Affect Weight Loss
They affect weight loss since performing a deadlift requires expending a significant amount of energy that will encourage fat loss.
The increasing of the hormone growth and testosterone production results in the faster healing and enhanced muscle growth.
Related Article: Do Squats and Deadlifts Increase Testosterone? – The Answer
This will probably be enough to convince you that the deadlift is a “must do” exercise, but there is actually a better way of thinking about this move.
Deadlift is a Must-Do-Properly Exercise
Our approach should be the deadlift is a “must-do-properly” exercise.
If your body is curved when deadlifting, like the guy pictured on the left, eventually you will get lower back pain. The worst thing you can do while deadlifting is allowing your back to bow forward.
Curving forward can cause tremendous stress on your spine during a heavy deadlift.
If you round your back, the vertebrae at the top of the arch receive a disproportionate amount of strain since this shifts a great deal of the stress away from the erector spinae muscles and on to the vertebrae and ligaments, and that’s what is harmful to your back.
Even if they don’t herniate, the flexion creates pressure that can negatively affect the nerves running through the vertebrae.
If you lift with correct form, that stress is distributed among the vertebrae and shifts the weight to the powerful muscles of your posterior chain and your core, which can handle the significantly heavier weight.
Deadlifting like the guy pictured on the right, where you really pay attention to keeping your back straight throughout the exercise, will result in a pain-free lower back.
“But once you become strong enough to lift a heavier load, your back muscles can’t support the weight and you run into problems,” says Mike Reinold, P.T., C.S.C.S. owner of Champion PT and Performance in Boston.
The point where the load reaches the danger level varies from person to person, but Reinold says he’s seen that when the load equals double the body weight is when it tends to be the “injury point” for many people. (For example, a 180-pound man doing a 360-pound deadlift.)
That’s why the perfect form is key.
If you didn’t perform deadlifts with the proper form then it would be very difficult to determine can deadlifts help lower back pain.
Two skills to require good form:
- a great hip hinge pattern—which transfers the weight to your powerful posterior chain muscles
- and a strong core, which is what keeps your back from rounding mid rep.
2 Tests that can Assess Your Hip Hinge and Core Strength
The two tests in assessing your hip hinge and your core strength:
- Push your hips back, bend at your waist, and touch your toes. But remember your back has to stay flat throughout the movement.If you can’t touch your toes—or if you had to round your back to reach your toes—you don’t have the hip mobility to properly deadlift.
- Next, get into a perfect plank position, where your knees, hips, and shoulders are all in line. Brace your core and hold that position, without moving, for 10 seconds. If you hold the position for the allotted time, you pass.
Reasons Why Someone Might Fail a Toe Touch Test
Reinold says there are various reasons why someone might fail a toe touch test.
This can often be corrected by teaching someone the movement pattern. Foam-rolling, stretching and mobility work is often helpful as well.
Try to strengthen your core on a regular basis with planks. Brace as hard as you can for 10 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. That’s one “set.” Do 10 sets.
After doing those drills three times a week for four weeks, reassess yourself on both these tests.
But even if you pass these evaluations this doesn’t automatically mean that you are ready for conventional barbell deadlifts.
“You have to earn the right to do barbell deadlifts by perfecting less technical variations of the exercise,” says Reinold.
Not necessarily what we want to hear, but these measures will help you from injuring your back.
Start with a kettlebell deadlift. Place the kettlebell 6 inches off the ground by placing it on a low box or step. so that it is elevated, and stand with your groin directly over the handle.
“This helps teach you to hinge back and pick the weight up from under you, not out in front of you,” says Reinold. Once you become proficient in that exercise, try trap bar deadlifts, says Reinold.
“The raised handles make the exercise less of a challenge for your mobility.”
Studies about Deadlifts
The book Strength Training Anatomy, explains that one way that deadlifts work to protect the lower back is through developing the entire core.
A study published in the January 2008 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” found that deadlifts worked the abdominal muscles even more than exercises designed specifically for the core area.
The lower back muscles alone aren’t sufficient to prevent the spine from folding forward beneath the stress of the deadlift.
Instead, heavy deadlifts activate and strengthen the entire girdle of core muscles, creating internal pressure that keeps the spine immobilized.
For more detailed information on studies and tests regarding deadlifts, check out our friends over at The Barbell Physio who have written a great article about dealing with back pain from deadlifting.
Benefits of Deadlifts
This benefit is unique to very heavy exercises such as the deadlift and squat and is crucial for creating the strength needed to prevent lower back pain.
Stress the tempo of the deadlift while the weight is lowered to the floor. This is to reinforce the stabilization of the core area.
Instead of counting (for tempo), a more desirable goal is for the weights to “kiss the ground,” quietly changing direction from the floor. Can deadlifts help lower back pain?
For maximal strength exercises, such as the deadlift, weight is increased as a specified percentage of body weight, before adding to the range of motion.
For example, beginning athletes use a deficit, such as plates on the ground or trap bar. It is to practice getting in the correct positions under the heavy load before. Then, adding a range of motion by getting rid of the raised surface.
Deadlifts emphasize stability. A 2011 study had deadlifts performed with 2 distinct barbells. And found the hex-bar (or trap-bar) bar deadlift was less stressful to the lumbar spine, hip, and ankle than a traditional bar. The disadvantage is, there is an added stress on the knees. The study confirmed that “how” you do an exercise is critical, whether it is the choice of
The study confirmed that “how” you do an exercise is critical. Whether it is the choice of a barbell, coaching cues, reps/sets, etc.
The exercise is far more effective when you increase the weight on a trap bar, hence, the conclusion. This conclusion would be relevant for athletes if the goal was only adding more weight.
If you are experiencing back pain and your main goal is stability and athletic efficiency, reduce the weight until the pain subsides. But don’t blame the movement.
Swinton PA, Stewart A, Agouris I, Keogh JW, Lloyd R. A biomechanical analysis of straight and hexagonal barbell deadlifts using submaximal loads. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jul;25(7):2000-9.
With all the information stated above it’s very easy to see that not only can deadlifts help lower back pain but there are a wide array of things that the deadlift helps to improve.
Can Deadlifts Help Lower Back Pain – Conclusion
Before we give you the our conclusion to the question of: can deadlifts help lower back pain, remember that there’s no point in helping your back if it isn’t supported
One of the biggest things for helping lower back pain is making sure it’s protected:
Aside from that, here’s our final notes:
One interesting side note is that in addition to helping lower back pain, heavy deadlifts also have another benefit. They can possibly increase bone density.
Further research from Granhed et al. (1987) found that powerlifters were able to sustain 4,824 lbs. of compressive loading during the deadlift.
Even though this load is too high for the spine to handle, the author believed, “the study showed that intensive training will increase the bone mineral content (BMC). To an extent that the spine can tolerate extraordinary loads.”
Karlsson et al. (1993) demonstrated that weightlifters possess 10% greater total body bone density and 13% greater lumbar bone density than test controls. Studies by Sabo et. al. (1996), Granhed et al. (1987) and Bennell et al. (1997) confirm this research.
A study by Karlsson et al. (1995) suggests that these increases in bone density are maintained for many years following cessation of lifting.
Overall we hope you’ve enjoyed the blog article and learned a lot and of course we’ve helped you to understand whether or not can deadlifts help lower back pain.