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Deadlift and lower back [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

May 7, 2019 9:30:00 AM

Deadlift and lower back

Deadlift and lower back

Training the deadlift also covers the lower back. Only doing deadlifts will leave you with a bottleneck in the smaller muscle groups soon. Incorporate some low intensity, high repetition lower back work to remedy this. 

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What is your why 


Before we delve into the depths of deadlift and lower back training let me ask you a couple of questions:


  • Why do you want to deadlift 
  • Why do you want to train your lower back 
  • Why do you want to get stronger 
  • Why do you want to build muscle 
  • What happens when you do
  • What happens if you don’t 


Having good answers to these questions will determine whether you will reach your goals or not. Why do Hollywood actors look so good? Because they know that if they don’t look like the script asks for, they have no job. Nobody wants to see fat Thor swinging a hammer unless it is a parody (hint most of them don’t make a lot of money at the box office). 


Life will get in the way of your goals. This is why many people give up on their goals. The thought pattern is often structured like this:


  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it 


As attention spans are shrinking at the rate the internet expands the cancellation rates are high on fitness goals. People go so extreme to get faster results that the status quo is not maintainable or just ditch their ambitions. If you want to reach your goals and stick with the results transform your thought pattern to:


  • Why do I want something 
  • How do I get 
  • What do I need to do to get it 


This will make your goals more meaningful to you and others. Based on this it will be more likely to achieve them. If you are not convinced yet check out Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case using the story of the Wright brothers. 




The deadlift is one of the most iconic exercises you can do in the gym. The most commonly known variation is the conventional barbell deadlift. 


The deadlift is part of the three big compound lifts. Together with the barbell bench press and barbell squat, it forms the backbone of most free weight programs. 


The main areas trained by the deadlift are your hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Use the deadlift in a 2 - 6 repetition range for this purpose. If you want to do more repetitions try the sumo deadlift or machines. Form tends to break down on sets with more than six repetitions and this is especially bad for the deadlift.


The deadlift starts with the bar on the ground and the aim is to pull the barbell up to your hips. Most people fail the deadlift either off the ground or at lockout. If you fail off the ground you are simply not strongman enough to move the weight. If you fail at lockout you either were not aggressive enough or lacked technique. Failing at lockout is usually a result of taking too long to move the bar up and your grip giving in. 


To perform a good conventional deadlift think of the following steps


  1. Place you midfeet under the bar 
  2. Grip the bar at the beginning of the knurling 
  3. Your legs should be close to your arms 
  4. Lower your hips 
  5. At the same time turn your elbows in as if you squeezed oranges in your armpits 
  6. Be patient off the floor and make the bar bend before initiating leg drive 
  7. Once the bar bends push the floor away from you with your legs 
  8. Move the bar up and towards you while pulling 
  9. Squeeze your glutes to lock out 


When you train pay attention to these details one at a time. Ask your trainer where you need the most attention. With this, you should be lifting big in no time. 


The biggest advantages of the deadlift are its promotion of raw strength and manliness. There is just something very satisfying about picking heavy things off the floor. 


The biggest disadvantages of the deadlift are the high risk of lower back injury and its limited suitability for bodybuilding. It’s just not build to do a lot of repetitions in a healthy way.


Lower back 


Lower back training is often overlooked. The two biggest weak chains for the deadlift are your grip and lower back.


The lower back is most often the area where wear and tear shows first when you lift heavy a lot. If pain persists consult a doctor. 


The thing with your lower back is that it will always feel uncomfortable when you move weights with impact. Unless you are already in a job that demands a lot of activity you will not be able to balance out you spent hunched over at a desk. 


The following exercises will help you to build a stronger lower back:


  • Hyperextensions
  • Good Mornings 
  • Glutes Ham Raises 
  • Weighted back raises 


These are all exercises which you should avoid to load heavy unless you have a lot of experience with them. You are putting yourself in very disadvantaged positions to isolate the lower back here. 


The advantages of lower back training are that your core gets stronger and you are less likely to fail big weights because of instabilities. Think of it like a can of coke. If it is intact you need a lot of force to crush it. If it is already bulged and shows a weakness on one side you will a lot less force to flatten it. 


The biggest disadvantages with lower back exercises are the risk of injury and the ineffectiveness of the movements. If done wrong lower back exercises can do harm quick. Err on the side of caution on these ones even more as with the compound lifts. You also get a very good bang for your buck. A set of 20 squats takes approximately as long as a set of 20 good mornings. The good mornings train fewer muscle groups. 


How to combine deadlift and lower back


There are many ways of doing this. I personally prefer to pair up lower back days with heavy squat and deadlift days. Let us say you do 2x2 or 3x3 on a peaking cycle. The last thing you want to do is back down sets with similar weight. In fact, you want to manage volume down to peak on meet day. On these occasions,s you can throw in low intensity lower back exercises. 


If you don’t like to use the gym and barbells for lower back training I also found that Yoga in the mornings is a great help. I usually do this as a warm up at home before I hit the weights in the gym. 


Further reading 



Topics: Lift stronger, Deadlift, Fitness, Strength