One of the primary sources of back injury is the deadlift. Does that mean you should not do it? Or do the benefits of the deadlift surpass the risks? What should you do to get the best of this exercise if you should do it at all? We’ll answer these questions in today’s article as we take a closer look at one of the most popular back exercises.
The deadlift is one of the classic compound exercises that targets several muscle groups and therefore is very effective in stimulating your muscles. Not only you work the back muscles, your upper leg muscles get hit too, as well as some of your core, arm and shoulder muscles. So the benefits of this exercise are great as it gives big intensity and calorie burn.
Indeed, whether you’re building muscle or losing weight, compound exercises such as the deadlift are irreplaceable. And yet, it’s very dangerous in that if you at least slightly fail to do it in the correct form, you risk very serious lower back injury, especially if you’re lifting heavy.
The fact that the mechanics of the correct deadlift are not quite simple doesn’t help the issue. It requires a lot of control and stability of your entire body, and especially the lower back area. A small deviation from this form can do great damage.
You should not, however, ditch this exercise. Instead, master the form. And here’s how to do it in just 2 keys.
You know that the correct back position is paramount to the deadlift. What you may find hard, though, is keeping this posture all the way through the exercise. There’s one important key to ensuring you do, and that many guys miss. Always engage your lower back muscles. This breaks down into two elements of your posture:
- Keep your shoulders back
- Always look up
What happens if you don’t engage your lower back muscles even for a moment, is that your back curls and the spine suddenly gets all the shearing force of the deadlift. That’s why you always lock that back even as you thrust your hips during the lift. Never look down as your body tends to follow the direction of your eyes. If you round your shoulders forward, you immediately release the back.
Push, Don’t Pull
If you master this way of looking at the deadlift, you will really perfect the form. It’s easy to see the deadlift as a pulling exercise, because you lift the barbell off the ground in a seemingly pulling like manner to the untrained eye. However, pulling involves all the wrong movements. Think about how pulling looks like. You pull with your hands and shoulders disengaging and curling the back while putting the shearing force on the spine. Really, if you do that, you’re killing your lower back.
Instead, see it as a pushing exercise with your hips, hamstrings and upper legs while your back is always locked. That way, the base for the lifting power is actually in your upper leg area and you eventually only slightly pull the bar after lifting it up completely, as you set back, not anytime before.
Practice with Low Weights
Practice makes perfect, so if you feel like your form is not quite perfect yet, do it with lower weights. Don’t even start with the barbell, instead try kettlebells. Focus on your back, shoulder position and posture. Focus on pushing the weight with your legs and hip thrust. This will enable you to progress to heavier weights and make use of this very effective exercise without the risk of injury.