The deadlift is one of the most important exercises you can do because it teaches you to safely lift things off the ground. It's important to protect the lower back when deadlifting because your spine is the weak link in this movement.
This article will discuss proper technique for the deadlift and provide cueing tips for protecting the lower back.
Why Protect The Lower Back During The Deadlift?
Proper technique in the deadlift is to distribute the load evenly across the muscles of the posterior chain: The hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and mid and upper back. If you have structural imbalances, high amounts of force can be placed on the lower back, putting you at risk of injury.
What Is The Goal For The Lower Back During The Deadlift?
Anytime you are performing exercises that engage the lower back you want to maintain a neutral spine to prevent excess stress on the vertebra that make up the spinal column. The lower part of the spine is made up of the lumbar vertebra, which need to be stabilized to allow the joints of your lower body to move efficiently. Proper alignment of the lumbar spine is known as “neutral posture” and it occurs when you have a slight arch to the lower back.
To protect your back during the deadlift, here are some useful cues that can help:
#1: Set Up Properly
When setting up, pinch your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Keep your chest up and your hips down.
Maintain a neutral spine with the upper back flat.
#2: Get Into Position By Squatting Down, Not By Bending Over
Never set up for the deadlift by bending over and rounding the spine. Instead, start in a standing position, achieving the proper back position. Squat down until you can grasp the bar with both hands.
#3: Start By Pushing Your Feet Through The Floor
Your power comes from your lower body. Your hamstrings should contract first and you should push hard through the floor, keeping your spin in neutral.
#4: Keep The Bar In Contact With Your Body
Keeping the bar close to your body helps protect the back during the deadlift. Start with the bar touching your shins and keep it in contact with your body as you pull up.
#5: Raise Hips, Shoulders & The Bar In Unison
The upward motion should be smooth and coordinated. Avoid jerking or pulling with your upper body.
Who Needs To Be Extra Cautious of The Lower Back When Deadlifting?
If you have back pain or a previous injury, you need to rehabilitate your lower back prior to deadlifting. Anyone who has limited range of motion in the posterior chain (for example, if you cannot squat properly) needs to do preparation work prior to including the deadlift in their program. Structural weaknesses or tight muscles can also compromise deadlift technique and should be addressed.
The deadlift is one of the best exercises for strength and mobility. With these tips you can perfect this most important exercise and protect your lower back while deadlifting.