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Best Deadlift for Person with Back Problems


I've had some back issues in the past that have slowly healed but I doubt I'll ever be 100%. Namely a bulging disc and herniated disc in lower back. After 18 months I could deadlift some light weight. I've got 3 options and I was wondering which would be the best.

Rack Pulls
Trap Bar Deadlifts
or Conventional Deadlifts.

How would you guys rate the 3 in order from least stressful in the spine to most. I've never done trap bar but I definitely feel rack pulls are a little easier on the back. It'd be great to hear anyone elses experience with this.

Also I'm not looking for single legged work as an alternative.



Technique can take a ton of load off of the lumbar area as well.


How about DC style deadlifts on the plate loaded shrug machine? My exercise form and lower back pressure is the best when doing that.

I never used trap bar so I do not know.

For the same amount weight, Rack pulls are easier on the lower back than conventional deadlifts.

However, when I used to do rack pulls I would go for heavy singles that put A LOT of pressure on the lower back, way more weight than on conventional/sumo deadlifts from the floor.



I say this because the loading will probably be 10-20% greater on the trap bar than on the conventional dead, plus I've never noticed any carryover on the trap bar to anything else I care about. Granted, you can rack pull real heavy too but it has so many benefits:

  • less technical
  • demands less mobility because of start position, hence less rounding in lower back
  • has good carryover to full deadlifts
  • more posterior chain work than trap bar


One of my gyms has that machine, buts a seated one so there's a stupid chair in the way. Not sure if I could work around. Who the fuck needs to sit down to do shrugs anyway?


The machine I do it on has the seat as well, but has 2 sets of handles, one for seated and one for standing.
I grab the lower set of handles and do the deadlifts.

Similar to this:


I've switched to sumo to take stress off my lower back. I suck at them but my back thanks me. I've never used a trap bar. It depends with rack pulls...below the knee will still hammer your lower back, above the knee is more of a upper back / trap movement.


I also have disc issues. I haven't deadlifted with a regular barbell in years.

I'm a big believer in the trap bar for deadlifts. It takes pressure off the lower back.

Regarding rack pulls, I haven't done these in many years. However, I plan on trying again soon. I will likely try rack pulls starting above the knee.

Again, the trap bar is great.


I would focus on sumos with slightly higer reps in the 8-12 range. I used to have the same problem. Every time my back would start to feel better, I'd go heavy again which caused pain. Also accessory work like back extensions and pull throughs might be in order.


Whichever the doctor says is ok


Doctor wouldn't know the difference between the 3. I'm sure if I described the 3, he would tell me not to do any of them.


buy a belt.

dont do deadlifts.

theres no point in deadlifting if youre going to use light weight, be real.

use cable rows, pull downs, even 1 arm rows and other various machines to build your back.

i would say trap bar is least painful on lower back but its also least effective for building the back. rackpulls are good but you can still fuck your back up on those. truthfully i dont get why you want to do exercises taht will fuck your back up if you have a fucked up back already. makes no sense. like i said, stick to machines and cables for your heavier shit, you can use CHEST SUPPORTED T-bar too.


i have back problems...ive been doing sumo with good success lately, rack pulls are also fair game for me...but i don't plan on doing convential anytime soon


I've done all those exercises and more. But none of them seem to hit my lower back like the deadlifts and rack pulls. The closest thing that does it is hyperextensions. So what I'm trying to do is strengthen those lower back muscles without hurting them. That'll actually help me keep my back healthy as long as I don't go to heavy and injure them.


You need to figure out how you hurt your back or what caused the injury and fix that issue before you even think about deadlifting heavy again...

whether it is technique related or a structural weakness/flexibility issue...

There are a ton of guys who just go back to what they are doing and re-injure themselves because they didn't fix the cause of their injury...


Sam, I've had two spine operations at L5S1 (major ruptures) and my experience has been that rack pulls from just above the knee coupled with Romanians replace the effect of full conventional deads pretty well. Do the racks with scapular retraction at the top (Mike Robertson / read the current back training article on this site) followed by RDLs and I think you will still see some progress.

I'm 45 and 8-10 years out from surgeries and can still deadlift however probably will never impress anyone with the weights I use but they still work to a degree. It can be done (sometimes) so keep working at it. Form is obviously critical.

I have better form now than I ever had due to the fact that injuries are very proficient teachers! Learn what you can do and work with it. You may have to redefinr your goals a bit but keep trying. Good luck.


i dunno man, for a while i was thinking, man i need to strengthen my lower back after my injury, but honestly, i think its better not to try and directly target it. when ever i do any deadlift variation i try to keep my lower back out of the movement as much as possible, and im feeling grea these days. So maybe its best to just to stick with hypers


That's a valid point. Sam stated that he healed up and that is a critical point! If you are healed up then you may want to proceed with caution. If you aren't healed up, as I suppose is the case with Grind, you may want to follow his advice and leave things alone until and if they ever heal. The back is definitely not to be messed around with. I'm sure that's what led to my ruptures (not letting the back heal and continueing to use it and with terrible form!).


if you want to strengthen your lower back do pull throughs and hypers you can even give RDL's a shot.

do exercises where the lowerback is isolated or just targeted the most.

the thing about compound movements is they will only be as strong as the weakest link so i dont understand why you would immediately jump into deadlifting because you wont benefit any other muscles doing them as the load will be haltered via your weak lower back.

this reminds me of an instructional day at Bally's.

this head trainer fuckwad is trying to explian why a deadlift+ shoulder press is so fantastic because its "one movement" yet i couldnt understand why you would attempt to deadlift with a weight you can shoulder press. granted both are compound movements but you would do a closer job of isolating focusing on one at a time.


It's been a lingering injury since I was 15. I'm 33 now. I got bridged playing b-ball. I used to get up high so it was at least a 5 foot drop flat on my back. I've been involved with at least half a dozen auto collisions that I can remember off the top of my head. Probably more.

I tried chiro/physical therapy for almost a year. It didn't help much. My insurance company even cut it off since I wasn't making significant progress. It only started feeling better when I started lifting weights. It hasn't healed 100% yet and I highly doubt it will. I've been getting a major spasm once a year for over 10 years. In the past it would heal 100%. The last one happened Jan 2008 and I haven't been 100% since then.