How to Prevent Lower Back Pain After Deadlifts
One fine day in 2011, I walked out of my studio apartment in New York City.
As I closed the heavy metal hunter green door common in New York City apartments, my lower back gave out.
I could not walk or stand up.
Instead, I crawled back into my room and pulled myself up onto the bed.
I did not know who to call for help, even though there are forty other apartments on my floor.
I didn’t know my neighbors.
It was no fault of mine or them; it is how people live in New York City, long working hours, late nights at the office, eating out for the most part since the normal kitchen in my building is five feet wide.
Rarely do people meet each other at the same time other than in the morning elevator ride, which is as silent as it is uncomfortable.
I had never experienced intense pain like that in my life.
Was I responsible for this severe back pain?
I imagined that my obesity could be a factor in the stabbing pain in my back from just closing a door (no kidding!).
I helped myself blow up with Oreo cookies and Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch pints of ice cream.
Fast forward several years to 2014.
I had lost 75 pounds in 6 months, but I pulled my back again.
This time doing deadlifts.
In both cases, I threw out my back.
The first time was from locking my front door, I know, pathetic.
In the second case, I experienced low back pain from the king of full-body strength training, the barbell deadlift, for the first time.
How Bad is the Pain from Hurting Your Back?
This is how bad.
The first time I pulled my back, it took me more than six months until I could walk, bend, or get up without fear of my back feeling that pain again.
Not to mention closing doors.
But, in the second, I was much lighter and stronger.
So, after a bit of discomfort for several days, I was back at deadlifting though I now pay much more attention to improving my deadlift technique and form.
I suggest you do the same.
The powerful deadlift can change your body from fat to fit in only six months.
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises you will ever do.
Therefore, not doing deadlifts is not a great option.
At the same time, sloppy deadlifting is also not an option.
So, it would be best if you worked on perfecting your deadlift form.
Proper Deadlift Form
Deadlifts done with proper form will make you stronger than you have ever been in your life.
You build muscle mass all over your body like a sheath of armor.
When you deadlift with proper form, the deadlift will strengthen and protect your back.
This is because the deadlift works all the major muscle groups in your body.
The muscles you see in the mirror, and the ones you cannot.
You will be sore after deadlifts, even a day after deadlifting, but you will not risk injury.
#1. Deadlift in Long Pants
Wearing long pants will give you more confidence to keep the bar close to your legs while you deadlift.
These weightlifting pants will help you protect your legs and lift with proper form.
In turn, this will prevent lower back pain after deadlifting.
Unless you have deadlift shin guards, it is better to wear long pants for your deadlift workout and not shorts.
The further the barbell is from your legs, the heavier the weight will be and the more risk for injury.
This is the primary reason trap bar deadlifts have become so popular, because, in the trap bar deadlift, you are right in the center of the weight to deadlift.
However, you want to keep the bar as close to your shins as possible for the conventional deadlift.
See the 5 Best Deadlift Shin Guards on the Market Today for recommended shin guard products.
#2. Deadlift in High Socks to Protect your Shins
In addition to wearing long pants, get over the knee deadlift socks to protect your shins.
Keeping the bar close to your shins is another preventative measure against lower back pain from deadlifting.
A simple but effective way to keep the bar against your shins is to wear great deadlifting socks and long workout pants.
See my review of the 5 Best Deadlift Socks to Protect Your Back from Injury for more details.
#3. Prevent Deadlift Lower Back Pain with a Neutral Back
Do not round your back when deadlifting.
And don’t arch your back when deadlifting.
Instead, use a neutral straight excellent posture back when deadlifting.
Before you begin your deadlift, make sure that your back is neutral and that your head is neutral as well.
The neutral lumbar spine, also known as the neutral back, is the back when the relationships between the vertebrae are the same as when standing in a normal anatomical position.
A neutral flat back is how to prevent lower back pain after deadlifts with correct posture.
#4. Raise your Chest to Prevent Lower Back Pain from the Deadlift
To help keep your back neutral, raise your chest when you are at the bottom of the deadlift position before you begin your deadlift.
Do not round your shoulders and have your chest sunken.
Instead, keep your chest up to avoid deadlift lower back pain.
Raising your chest will immediately make your back flat.
#5. Take a Deep Breath to Avoid Lower Back Pain when Deadlifting
Take a deep breath and tighten and strengthen your core muscles.
You cannot do deadlifts if your body is soft like jello; you have to be sturdy and solid in your core.
I have already made the mistake of not bracing to strengthen my core, and I paid for it, almost every time!
Do not make this mistake and bad form, which includes improper breathing.
Therefore, learn and practice how to brace, fill your belly with breath, create intra-abdominal pressure, and tighten your core before you lift.
This will help prevent deadlift lower back pain.
#6. Push Your Hips Forward
Set up with the bar over mid-foot, meaning the middle of your feet.
Your feet are a bit narrower than shoulder width, so you have room for your arms to grab the barbell.
Grip the barbell about shoulder width.
You crouch down during the setup with your hips below your shoulders and your back neutral with your chest up.
Your shoulder blades are straight above the barbell, not behind or ahead of the barbell.
Right before you begin the deadlift, tighten your grip on the bar, take a deep breath, and tighten your whole body.
Keep holding your breath while you start the deadlift by driving your feet against the floor.
Never try to lift the bar with your arms.
Instead, imagine that your arms and grip are straight hooks and are there only to firmly hold the barbell as you push against the floor.
The best deadlift practice is for the bar to rise right against your shins.
Since you are wearing deadlifting socks and long pants, you will not bruise your shins.
As soon as the bar reaches your knees, squeeze your buttocks and drive your hips forward to straighten out your body.
Moving your hips forward as soon as you can help to prevent deadlift lower back pain.
The reason is that hip drive takes the stress of the weight off your back.
#7. Never Arch Your Back After Hip Hinge
When you straighten up by pushing your hips forward, do not push them so far forward that you end up hyperextending your back.
Never arch your back, not at the beginning of the deadlift in the setup position, nor the end when you have stood up with the weight.
Keeping your back in a neutral position throughout is the best insurance to avoid deadlift lower back pain.
Do not lean back or arch your back at the top of the deadlift.
Watch this video to learn a better way to perform a proper hip hinge:
#8. Do Not Pull the Weight with your Arms, Deadlift with your Legs
A common mistake when deadlifting is trying to pull the weight up with your shoulders or arms.
This is a big blunder and could lead to tearing a bicep.
Do not attempt to use your arms to lift the weight because you will put major stress on your back and arms.
Instead, use the most powerful and largest muscle group in your body, your legs, to drive your deadlift.
Push your feet against the floor and push with your legs.
A great cue is to imagine that you are doing a vertical leg press against the earth.
Drive the ground away from you as you do the platform of a leg press machine.
When the deadlift bar reaches your knees, drive your hips forward to stand up with the weight.
Use your leg strength to deadlift, and you can save yourself from deadlift lower back pain.
Watch this video, which expands on doing deficit deadlifts, breathing, and pushing against the floor:
#9. Do Not Lift More Weight than You can Handle
This should be a no-brainer, but we all have egos.
Stay focused on progressive overload; gradually increasing your weight in the deadlift while always practicing the best form possible.
If your ego seduces you to deadlift more weight than you can handle and you wreck your back, you are not going to be feeling or looking too strong to anyone.
You will be lucky enough if you can hobble around on your feet and wait till when you sit down, or you want to stand up, you will really feel weak!
This is no joke; increase your weight gradually, 2.5 to 5 pounds a training session, and when you feel really comfortable and strong then increase your deadlift weight.
Even if you know you can handle the weight you are about to deadlift, you are inviting deadlift lower back pain into your life if you do not learn how to warm up for deadlifts properly.
Make sure you warm up with a lighter weight than you can handle, which is approximately 50 percent of your one-rep max.
If you do not have time to warm up, you do not have time to deadlift!
Run for five minutes, walk for twenty minutes, use a foam roller, whatever is your normal warm-up, do it.
Also, consider doing your deadlifts after squats.
A typical warm-up of squats and three squat working sets will take about thirty minutes.
By that point, your legs, body, and back will be very warmed up for a working set of deadlifts.
I use this deadlift workout routine, which has an excellent deadlift warm-up.
#10. Foam Roll to Prevent Deadlift Lower Back Pain
Foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release) is an excellent alternative to getting a massage to release muscle tension.
You can use a foam roller both before and after your workouts.
A good foam roller will increase the blood flow, and range of motion in the areas rolled.
Foam rolling is an effective tool to decrease your risk of injury.
Also, the self-myofascial release promotes recovery after a workout.
See my post on the best Fitness Gear for specific foam rollers.
For self-massage of the back using a foam roller, triathlon.com recommends:
“Lie on your back over the foam roller. Cross your arms and keep the lower back dropped down. Roll, relaxing as much as possible, letting the back arch over the roller. Hold this position or roll to target the muscle at either side of the spine. Support the neck if you have any issues in this region.”
Deadlift lower back pain prevention with foam roller graphics credit https://acutegraphics.co.uk
In summary, the 10 best ways to prevent deadlift lower back pain from happening to you.
Lower Back Pain After Deadlift – Final Thoughts
Can you experience lower back pain after deadlifts?
Or can only closing your door cause lower back pain?
The answer is yes to both.
In fact, you can throw out your back doing anything.
The idea, though, is to build a stronger back and body in general with deadlift workouts.
The difference is that if you focus on doing the best proper form deadlift possible, you will be much more resistant to experiencing lower back pain from deadlifts.
As you continue to deadlift with great form, you are going to get much stronger and fitter and keep melting the fat off of your body until you lean out your body and transform into the fit person you want to be.
Therefore, you need to know the best preventative measures against lower back pain from the deadlift.
And you need to know it now before you do your next set of lifting a dead weight off the ground.
What causes lower back pain from deadlifting?
The number one reason for lower back pain after deadlifts is bad form.
A properly executed deadlift is your friend, and improper form is your worst enemy.
But, you risk injuring your back, knees, biceps, and even elbows if you do not practice perfect deadlift form and good technique.
Deadlifting with poor form is what puts you at risk for lower back pain and injury.
This post contains the top tips to prevent deadlift back pain and achieve pain-free deadlifting.
Note: If your back is already hurting you, do not use this information as medical advice.
It would be best if you had treatment.
But, these deadlift tips can save you from a lot of back pain and time off because of injury.
By now, you know how critical proper technique is for safe and effective deadlifting.
To accomplish this, learn how to perform the perfect deadlift setup:
and if you currently have back pain or are prone to lower back injury but still want to work the deadlift muscles, use these 15 Best Deadlift Alternatives that Will Protect Your Back
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