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Can Deadlifts Mess Up Your Lower Back?


I was in the gym doing deadlifts today, and it was the first time i was going relatively heavy as i was deadlifting my body weight, which is a measly 125lbs. In the middle of one of my sets a pretty big dude told me to be careful with DL's and said that i should resist the urge to really go heavy because it messed up his back when he was younger and now he has chronic pain in his lower back.

He said that at my age (14) i might want to lay off those until i fully grow, which would be about 17-18 years old. I thanked him but continued to finish my DL sets.

He told me that i did have good form though.

I was always under the impression that through deadlifting as well as other exercises my lower back would get stronger and be able to handle more weight.

So i guess what im asking here is should i lay off the deadlift even though it is a great exercise? And also can it really injure my back if im doing it properly, lifting heavy but not ridiculously heavy?


The chance that deadlifting would mess up your back, if you are using correct form and know what the right weight to use is, is very, very, very low, and there is no point of waiting until you are 17-18.


I messed up my back for three or four months doing them, but it was because I f'd up. I got half way up on a second rep with a pretty heavy weight (for me) and decided I couldn't do it, but didn't just drop it, like your supposed to do. I let my lower back round, and really messed myself up for the next few months. I had back pain all the time, and it really sucked. I still do them now, but I am very careful to not go too heavy, or too close to failure, which is probably why my progress hasn't been optimal.

So yes, they can be dangerous, if you don't respect them. Just know that they have the potential to mess your back up, so always try to have decent form. My form on my last sets is usually not perfect, but I don't round my lower back--that is a big no-no.


Form: keep it tight, keep it right

Deadlifts will either bulletproof your back, or ruin it if form sucks.


i think dead is the best lift ever. alas, a year ago i got distracted while doing 95%max and fucked up my back. still can't go heavy on deadlifts. i'm still working my way back to where i was before.
always pay attention, always stay focused.


If you deadlift with good form and use a belt there is limited chance of injury, although if you dont wear a belt and do heavy weight with poor form then yeah you might get hurt. Just dont over do it and keep in mind that correct form is better than tryin too look like a tuff guy in the gym.


Q: Can Deadlifts Mess Up Your Lower Back?

A: Yes they can. So can squats, rows, presses, and a host of other exercises. However, if proper conditioning (strength) and technique are present for every rep, the risk is drastically reduced to the point of not needing to freak out over it.

With that said...

::cue car brakes screeching to a halt::

How many push-ups, unweighted squats, lunges, and pull-ups can you do? How long can you hold a plank (top push-up position)?

My standard recommendation is for kiddos such as yourself to build a foundation by solidly handling two sets of their age in reps (that'd be 2x14) in basic bodyweight exercises before progressing to free weights. Waiting until you're 17-18 is overkill, especially since you won't necessarily be "fully grown" by that time anyhow. Condition your entire body beforehand, by mastering those bodyweight exercises, and you're good to go.

Basically, yeah. The point of progressive resistance (increasing the weight used from workout to workout) is to gradually strengthen the muscles throughout your entire system... as long as good technique is used, which is not always the case.

My vote is to try this workout, using picture-perfect technique on each rep:

Squat 2x14 (No weight, keep both feet flat on the floor.)

Push-up 2x14 (On your toes, go until the chest almost touches the floor.)

Lunge 2x14 (Alternate legs, 1 rep left/1 rep right.)

Chin-up 2x14 (either palms facing you or palms facing each other.)

Plank 2x15-count (Hold the top part of a push-up, on the toes/arms straight, keep the whole body straight. Count to 15.)

Burpee/squat thrust 2x14

If you can handle it with not problems whatsoever, then I have no problem with you using a basic free weight plan that includes deadlifts, as long as you're avoiding muscular failure.

An injury can definitely occur with low weight if technique is off. Disrespecting an exercise just because "it's only 65 pounds" (or whatever) is dumb, and it's an invitation to trouble. A common saying among powerlifters is that you treat your warm-up sets like max lifts. Same attention, same focus, same technique. Stick with that, and you should have no problems.


Deadlifts won't be bad for your lower back if you go heavy provided you also do a couple of other things. One, you should be stretching your hamstrings, glutes and calves a lot. Two, you should also be doing a lot of hip mobility work like glute bridges and bird dogs. If you do these things and maintain a full range of motion in the hip area, you should be fine going heavy on deadlifts if you also use good form.

That being said, it is very, very hard to use good form on any compound exercise when you're using close to your one-rep max. Deadlifting has so many different components to it that it is one of the hardest to maintain proper form when going super heavy (squats and cleans are the only ones harder in my opinion).

At your age and experience level (I'm assuming you're a beginner based on your age and strength level) you should be more concerned with building good habits and technique rather than building bigger muscles. If you want to get bigger and stronger, you have to go heavy, but you need to go heavy with a weight you can handle with proper form. Keep this in mind: for beginners, size gains are best made with a rep range of about 12-15. Lifters with a bigger base strength level and more experience will experience the best size gains with 6-8 reps. You aren't even at the point where you will see the best results from going heavy yet, so why bother risking injury at this stage of the game?

Like Bruce Lee said, a bigger muscle is a stronger muscle. So while going heavy with good form on deadlifts will not screw your back up, at this point in your lifting you can better accomplish your goals using a much lighter weight and performing 12-15 reps on deadlifts. Until lifting your body weight on deadlifts is a weight you can easily handle while warming up, you should consider a heavy set about 10 reps.

You won't be moving a lot of weight doing 15 reps on deadlifts, but let's be honest, you won't be lifting a lot of weight right now even if you go for a 1rm. Use a lighter weight and build up muscle memory in the proper movement, then start going heavy on occasion. It may take you a long time (probably almost a year) before you even think of going for a 1rm or start doing 6 sets of 4 reps, but you're young, you've got all the time in the world to put some serious weight up, and it'll only take you longer if you keep tweaking your back due to bad hip mobility and bad form.


Thanks for the answers i really appreciate all of them. I will not stop deadlifting and i don't think im going too heavy.

To chris colucci, that workout is way too easy. I think a lot of you are assuming im a complete beginner to working out but ive been working out for a year before incorporating deadlifts and squats into my program. I have seen great progress and no injuries.


What kind of numbers are you looking for people to have before you recommend them using a free weight plan? (purely out of curiosity)

Also, isn't a plank on the elbows?




I think people might be assuming your a near total beginner because of your weight.
Just saying.

But to the point.
Everyone else has said good advice and i dont have anything to add.
but maybe if you really want to see your form and whether your doing anything wrong or whatever, film your lifts?


When someone at the gym tells you to be careful it normally means they're in pain just from looking at what you're doing! So be careful with your form, lifting a heavy weight at all costs isnt the really what you need to be doing.

I'd like to add that it's not just about form and that good form does not guarantee that everything is going right when you lift.

One common example is where people with good form still get injured on the deadlift because they lack flexibility in the hips and hamstrings. In that case your form will be fine but you wont notice the damage you're doing until some muscle in your back or arse just tears on you from being loaded incorrectly and overused.

Just take your time to learn the lift, make sure you maintain your flexibility too and take care of your back even when you're not at the gym.


Well, first of all, if you get sciatica with a weight you can handle for 3-4 reps, then use a weight you can handle for at least 6 reps. Secondly, you probably need to create more mobility and flexibility in your hams and glutes. Do glute bridges and birddogs, stretch the hams and glutes a lot, before during and after deadlifts, and also work on stretching out your calves. The source of pain is rarely caused by a deficiency in that particular area. If your lower back and upper glutes hurt, you need to create more mobility and flexibility in the areas around it, especially your knees, calves and hams.

For good form, there are all sorts of cues, but to be general:
-keep the bar up against your shins at the start
-arch your back, keep your chest up and out and keep your head looking forward or upward, never downward
-at the top, squeeze your glutes together for a couple seconds to strengthen them even more
-drive up with your hips and down into the ground with your feet rather than try to use all back
-don't be afraid to pull the bar up quickly. why make the movement last any longer than it has to? don't try to jerk it off the ground, but once it leaves the floor, explode through the movement




I got one of my worse injuries ever from.. a bicep curl. So yes anything can fuck you, but if we worried about that we'd get nowhere. DO it right, but boy if you want to get big, you better do it.


Overloading too fast and/or shit form will get you injured. However, practicing good technique and progressing gradually will help you avoid injury.


My avatar says something to your avatar.


I checked your log (which, by the way, is all screwed up. Don't take this the wrong way, but you're not smart enough to design your own program right now. You'll progress farther faster if you don't tweak a plan that's already laid out for you):

Anyhow, I think you're under-estimating the workout I listed.

Youngblood, you are a beginner. A - you're 14 years old. B - even though you've been "working out for a year", you're just now including basics like deadlifts and squats into your plan. C - your overall strength level is absloutely beginner-level.

Progress is great, of course, but...

Is your shoulder feeling better?

Are your back and hips loosened up?

Not trying to pick on you, I'm just pointing out that part of the reason I start younger guys with that bodyweight program is that it builds strength and flexibility throughout the body. It also gives an early indication if there are any issues or problem areas that should get extra attention (and because there's no external resistance, like a barbell, technique can be perfected and the chance for more damage is avoided.)

Relevant side note: How much has your bodyweight increased in the last month or two?

I like using two sets of "age in reps" as a general (admittedly-arbitrary) goal for teenagers and younger kids before progressing to a predominantly-free weight program. It has to do with, as I said above, building total body and core strength, as well as developing a basic sense of "this is what an exercise routine is like."

With adults, it's easier and safer for them to jump right into free weight training, so there's really no comparable pre-requisite. Though if you can't hit double digits on unweighted squats, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups, or burpees, it's something you should probably address.

Traditionally, yeah, but I first learned it (way back when) as just being the top part of a push-up. I find that it's easier to explain it that way. Also, "my" version is slightly easier than being on the elbows/forearms, since your center of gravity is shifted, so once that's "easy", you can progress to the elbow/forearm version.


yeah chris, my shoulders fine and my hips are loosened up, tight hip flexors arent an injury.


I pretty much agree with this.

I absolutely 100% disagree with this.

Starting beginners with higher-rep work is an old school line of thinking that doesn't take advantage of, as Mark Rippetoe has said, "the period of time when you can make the most rapid, easy progress." That is, being a beginner who's brand new to weight training. Just because almost anything will work to make a beginner bigger and stronger, doesn't mean they shouldn't still maximize their training.

My other posts explained that I believe the dude should start by learning basic bodyweight exercises, but for a beginners weight training program, working in the 12-15 rep range doesn't take advantage of the potential for building strength.

Also, and more importantly since it contradicts your reasoning, higher reps actually make it harder to learn good technique. You ever used one of those paddle-ball things with the wooden paddle and the red rubber ball attached to a string? Why is it so hard to get more than 10 or 15 smacks in a row? Coordination and, to a lesser extent, fatigue. Same thing with weight training.

Is it going to be easier to do 15 bench presses with a weight that causes muscular fatigue (not failure, that's a different story) at rep 10 or 11, but you're still pushing through and finish with some reps that are less-than-perfect? Since the entire body is less conditioned, general fatigue is more likely, especially in the untrained stabilizer muscles.

Or would it be better to perform 5-8 reps with a weight that causes fatigue at rep # 7 or 8? Which will ingrain proper technique in a more fresh mental and physical state? Charles Staley has also made the interesting point that, by learning new movements with fewer reps and more sets (as opposed to the reverse), the beginner can learn the entire exercise (rather than just the performance of individual reps) such as setting up/addressing the bar, how to enter the rack/bench, how and where to grip the bar, more chances to learn foot placement during leg exercises, etc.

Wait... what? Bruce Lee, like, Jeet Kune Do-Bruce Lee? What in the name of Kareem Abdul Jabbar's sunglasses does his opinion have to do with anything we're discussing here? (And in any case, it's not always true, so it doesn't help your point.)

12-15 reps of deadlifts with a light weight are pretty close to a waste of time and energy. Again, especially in a beginner with undeveloped stabilizer and core muscles, a big move like that done for high reps is an invitation to fatigue, that's an invitation to loose form, and that's an invitation to injury.

Light weights build "muscle memory"? Huh? First of all, "muscle memory" is usually a term that describes somebody who built a decent amount of muscle, and then lost size then for whatever reason, and when they begin serious training again their "muscle memory" allows them to progress much faster than if they hadn't built that size in the first place. (Kevin Levrone's recent transformation is a great example of this.)

Secondly, if you're mean "muscle memory" as in learning proper technique, I explained my take on learning exercise technique above.

This part, I do agree with. So see, we started and ended on the same note. It's just that middle part getting mucked up. :wink: