Deadlifts have a bad name. They are chronically believed to be bad for your back when in all reality, are one of the best things for us. Just like almost everything else in this world, a few stupid dead lifters ruin it for everyone. These are the videos you see of people with terrible form or lifting way too much weight. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the batch though, okay? This article is geared to help us understand a little more about deadlifts, why can they help and how to get started.
Are deadlifts dangerous?
Simply put. No. Deadlifts are inherently safe when done with proper form and gradually loaded. Deadlifts, just like any other strengthening exercise do require a baseline level of understanding and proper form. Take a look at this great article here from bodybuilding.com on a beginners guide to deadlifting.
Once you have mastered the general form, working towards heavier lifts and other forms of deadlift is key! Deadlifts have been used in many populations and groups to help with things like overall body strength and body density in geriatric populations.
Top 2 things we see in people with low back pain
Generally, people with a history of low back pain present with a few issues. First, they demonstrate aberrant movement patterns which is any movement that deviates away from what we consider normal or safe. One of the most common motions affected after back pain is the ability for someone to bend over. The ability to bend, using their hips while stabilizing their spine becomes wonky resulting in faulty movement or general avoidance of the movement as a whole. They don’t want to bend, but still live in the real world, so figure out other ways to do it due to fear.
People who have suffered from low back pain also present with less endurance in their muscles used to keep their back strong. They might be able to bend, but cannot stay in hinged positions for long. This normally manifests itself in pain at the end of the day or pain with prolonged positions.
Deadlifting as a tool to address these things.
Deadlift training is a wonderful way to address these two common issues that contribute to low back pain. Learning to hinge first, accessing the proper joints and allowing yourself to bend is how we can eliminate the aberrant motion. I always say it is like returning to the scene of the crime. Normally, bending over is how people with low back pain were initially hurt, but we cannot avoid it forever. There is healing and gains to be made in methodically returning to the issue, and retraining our brains and our muscles to tolerate the motion again – in a healthy and pain free way.
Once we get the hinge or bend down, then we slowly begin to load it. Welch et al did a study that looked at two groups with low back pain. One group received impairment specific but low level movement exercises and the other group received a resistance training routine that included the deadlift. Both groups had significant changes to their pain score. The amazing thing was that the resistance training group were instructed to perform each exercise between their 6 and 10 rep maxes. That is pretty heavy!
Once the skill is learned and gradual overload has happened, loading our muscles heavy is where we rehab. Heavy lifting studies show an increase in endurance, decrease in fatty tissue infiltrate (common in back pain) and significant decreases in pain.
It is functional.
When we slowly and methodically train the deadlift, we now are able to confidently do the things at home we HAVE to do. Lifting suitcases, cases of water bottles, our children, laundry baskets, making the bed, etc.
I find that these things are done no matter what, and what absolutely contribute to cyclical back pain in clients. It is until they train themselves to do it right, do it well, and do it confidently is when back pain is eliminated.
If you find yourself suffering from acute low back pain, we suggest starting with our First Aid Low Back Pain Kit that you can find here. This was created to help people have a step by step guide on how to manage back pain flare ups. Once you have worked through acute pain, find a clinician or trainer who can help you walk through a return to deadlift program.
Lift. Lift well. Lift heavy. Lift often.