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The Deadlift: Top Mistakes and Reasons for Lower Back Pain

We’ve all heard of DOMS right? Well if you haven’t DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness- in other words this is the muscle pains and aches we feel from one to two days after an intense workout. While DOMS is normal, it’s important to know the difference between regular aches as your muscle recover- and pain during an exercise that is a predictor of injury.


With every exercise in the book, pain during and straight afterwards is not normal and in most cases this means you’re doing something wrong! With the deadlift, due to the various muscle groups involved in the motion, the chances of injury and performing this movement with incorrect form are pretty high. This article should explain some of the top mistakes when deadlifting and reasons why you may be feeling abnormal lower back pain.



1. You’re Pulling with your Back Instead of Pushing with your Heels and Glutes


When thinking of the deadlift you may think this movement is a pulling exercise that is solely performed to target the back muscles- in fact you should consider the deadlift a push exercise! Start by pushing the ground through your heels, squeezing the glutes and moving the hips forward as you pass your knees. If you allow your glutes to get lazy this will put a greater emphasis and level of stress on the lower back- so make sure you engage your glutes and hips during the movement and PUSH! Not pull.



2. Your Hips Are Too High to use your Legs


Another common mistake when performing the deadlift is allowing the hips to start to high. High hips means you can’t use your legs throughout the motion- meaning your back will have to compensate for this lack of power. Avoid excess stress on the lower back and check your starting form before even thinking about performing the deadlift.



3. Starting With Your Hips Too Low


So although its important to make sure you are engaging the legs and avoiding having the hips too high- it’s just as important to make sure your hips are not too low. By keeping your hips too low you’ll find the bar will be often be too far in front of you and I’m guessing if this is the case, your shins have taken some good bruising. Lifting this way will not only give you some bruises on the shins- but also puts greater strain on the lower back- deadlifts are not the same as squats- so don’t try and get your ass to the grass!


4. Looking Up


This is by far the most common mistake- that even i’ve done out of habbit. Often enough the advice to keep your chest raised and head high is took too literally and many people look to the ceiling of the mirror when performing the deadlift. However, by doing this your hips are likely to be too low and your head and neck will not be in line with the rest of your spine. Try keeping your chin tucked in instead of raised.



5. Rounding the Lower Back


Its easy to bend over, round your back and pick something up- but in reality this is harmful to the spine even when picking up small items- never mind during a deadlift. By rounding your lower back you’ll most definitely stress your spine which can not only cause back pain but also a hernia. Your back should be straight with a neutral spine throughout the deadlift movement- practice your form before your lift weight.


6. Hyperextending the Lower Back


So you know you’re not rounding your back- but are you so conscious that you’re hyperextending? By hyper extending the back you’ll be doing just as much damage as rounding the spine- which can again damage the spine, cause pain and hernias! Keep a straight and neutral spine.



7. Your Lifting the Bar too Far Away From Your Body


By keeping the bar close to your body you’ll be able to have more leverage and power when lifting- if you’re deadlifting with the bar too far away, the chances are your be using your upper back to pull the weight- rather than your heels and posterior chain to push the weight.


8. Rolling Your Shoulders


During the deadlift your shoulder blades should be wide- a common mistake when deadlifting is to squeeze your shoulder blades together or roll the shoulders- a big no no! the deadlift is not designed to target your shoulders this way- use your glutes and hips!


9. Standing Too Wide


The sumo squat often involves standing with a wider than normal stance- but be careful during any deadlift variation not to stand to wide. By standing too wide you’ll decrease the room and motion available to your arms and actually make the lift more challenging.



10. Hitting Your Knees


This is a common deadlifting mistake that we’ve all most likely made- and felt a bit of pain from. You should not be hitting your knees during a deadlift and if you are- this is a sure sign you are not pushing your hips back in the movement and are bending your legs far to early.


11. Deadlifting In Running Shoes


If there’s one thing I love to buy, it’s running trainers- but don’t let these babies just be used for the gym. Deadlifting in running shoes is a common mistake, and is not advised because running shoes have a compressible sole- meaning it is unstable and likely to reduce your stability and power. There are specialised shoes for deadlifting but try deadlifting barefoot- the flatter your foot to the ground the better- just make sure you’ve got a clean pair of socks on!


12. Wearing Gloves


When it comes to dumbbells gloves may seem like a good idea- but not for the barbell deadlift. By wearing gloves you’ll actually reduce your grip strength. Instead use a chalk or deadlifting straps!



A Take Home Message


So above are some of the common mistakes witnessed when performing the deadlift and although you might get away with wearing fancy running shoes and high tech gloves- you should ALWAYS think about performing the deadlift with proper form and in the safest way possible.


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Writer and expert

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