Deadlifting is a very technical exercise and it can take quite some time to get it right.
Okay, it’ll never be perfect, but you will at least find what works best for you.
If you’ve ever worked out at all in your life, you know what DOMS is. It stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. You know, the reason why you hurt for days after you lift.
I bring up DOMS because there seems to be confusion in regards to lifting and if you should feel pain. Not just lactic acid building up (the pump), but actual pain… should you lift with pain?
The short and long answer is no.
Pain means something is not working the way it is supposed to and that means problems.
Here’s a picture of me deadlifting. I love deadlifts and I wanted to share some of my tips to help you get the most out of your deadlift and how to do them pain-free. Below you will find 10 ways that I’ve found to help fix your form so that you do not have lower back pain while lifting.
So let’s get into the different reasons why you could feel back pain and how to fix them.
10 Ways To Fix Your Lower Back Pain While Deadlifting
Below you will find some common causes of lower back pain and some tips on how to fix it.
1. Hips Starting Too Low
One thing I was always told is to “start with your hips low like a squat.” Thinking back on it, I feel like I was told to do that so I wouldn’t deadlift as much as I could.
When you squat, your body has different levers and the weight is in a completely different position than it is on a deadlift.
The idea behind this is to “use your legs” and not your back. In reality, you are taking any leverage you have out of the equation.
Solution: Play around with hip height. You will feel a sweet spot if you start practicing at a lighter weight. It will feel natural and you will feel a rubber band effect when you hit it.
2. Looking Too High Up
It’s a known fact that looking down will round your upper back and cause the bar to drift.
Looking way too high up when pulling is a common mistake that can throw off your form.
Solution: Keep your head in a neutral position and fix your eyes on something in front of you that would be shoulder height when standing. This will keep your upper back and neck neutral for the lift.
3. Thinking of “Picking It Up” instead of “Pulling”
Dave Tate is the one who put this into words for me to understand. He said that a lot of people try to pick up the weight instead of pulling the weight. The deadlift is a pulling exercise and should be treated like that.
Solution: Pull the weight back towards you, and when you feel your hips hit the sweet spot, stand up. Don’t pick the weight up, stand up.
4. Rounding Lower Back
Keeping your lower back from rounding can be one of the harder things to learn. Take a lot of videos from the side as you deadlift to try to identify if you are rounding any.
Solution: Try widening your stance a small amount and do more posterior chain exercises.
5. Hyperextending the Lower Back
Usually, after you find that you let your lower back round, you start hyperextending it.
Just like with your neck, you want your spine in a neutral and ideally straight position. Forcing your hips out of alignment to hyperextend your back will cause a lot of pain and you look like you’re trying to be a supermodel.
Solution: Practice in a mirror at different angles to see how your back looks if you are having an issue keeping a neutral spine. Again, hip and posterior chain exercises.
Check out the rest of the deadlift tips on the next page…
6. Starting With the Bar Too Far Away
If you initiate your pull with the bar too far away, you’re going to rock onto your toes and throw off your form.
Quit being afraid of scraping your shins or hitting your knees. Eventually, you’re going to figure out the right distance for you and you can run with it.
Solution: Find what feels natural to pull and practice every time you set up to hit that mark. Create a routine and stick with it.
7. Rolling Shoulders
Depending on your posture and other body indicators, keeping your upper back rigid and beginning your pull isn’t always the best.
Over the years, I’ve picked up the rounded upper back technique that a lot of advanced lifters use. When I would try to keep my upper back rigid, my shoulders pulled back and tucked away, and using “textbook form” I would eventually lose tightness and screw up the lift.
Solution: Find what works best for you and consult different lifters to get an idea what will help keep your back in alignment.
8. Deadlifting In Soft Shoes
Deadlifting in running shoes or any soft-soled shoe is not going to be good for you.
Having an unstable base to lift from sucks and for the majority of people won’t be noticed, but I know as soon as I started deadlifting barefoot or in solid-soled shoes, my problems went away.
Solution: Ditch your running or walking shoes for some Converse shoes or deadlift barefoot.
When you start getting into the more intermediate to advanced intermediate levels, pulling from the ground every week will become impossible.
Solution: I highly recommend looking into rack pulls and other variations of the deadlift to implement into your routine. Pulling from different heights will allow you to work on weak points and save your lower back.
10. Emulating Someone Else
Not everyone is built the same. If you watch Eddie Hall deadlift vs Brian Shaw, you will see they are completely different.
Following general guidelines of keeping a neutral spine and lifting in a manner that is natural to your body will help keep you healthy.
Solution: Don’t try to copy anyone, learn what works best for you.
Everybody wants to have a big deadlift, but nobody wanna pick that sh*t up, right? Check out a few tips on building a bigger deadlift and let me know if you’ve fixed your lower back pain.