Dead lift and lower back

Hello all. I’m new to the forums but I’ve been reading T-mag for a while. Great site, I hope the forums are as helpful.

On to the question. I am adding deadlifts to my routine along with squats since they are the best lower body exercises out there.
Everytime I deadlift I am feeling it in my back. Not really lower back either, but below the shoulder blades right about where the ribs end. Is this normal or is my form off?
I had my girlfriend watch, and I am keeping my back straight and my shoulders back. Am I possibly bending at the waist too much or is this just part of building up my body?
I’m fairly tall (6’3") so maybe my midsection just needs to get whipped into shape. I started lifting seriously only a couple months ago so I’m pretty new to this.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to get as much detail in there as possible.

you are fine.

The dae lift, for being a pretty simple excecise concept in general, can me manipluated greatly by the subtlest of differences. Hence, there are actually many valid ways to do daed lifts. The most common way is back very strait and using your legs to get the weight up. This is what most people wuld call right and is more fundamentaly for you legs than your back. I personally perfer to not sqaut as far, and lean over using my back to pick up the weight. The weight has to be lighter but the effect on the back is remarkable. You will feel it through out you back and under your shoulder blades. To answer your question this is probably what you are doing. The differences are slight and prbably not noticalbe to somebody who is not in the “know”. Especially look on somebody who is doing them it is tough to pick up the differences between a back emphasis and a leg emphasis.
If it really bothers you, lower your weight and practice form. Go “ass to grass” when doing them, this will keep the focus on your legs. That’s my $.02. May be worth less but it works for me.


Jigga what? Ass-to-grass in deadlifting? It ain’t a squat.


You’re probably fine. As I tell everyone that I teach to deadlift (five and counting) the deadlift will relentlessly seek out and destroy any weak parts of the chain… and there are a lot of parts in the posterior chain.

Make sure to pressurize your abs. Brace your midsection as if you are going to take a punch. Physically chop yourself in the stomach and feel your abs cramp up. Hold your breath,or force it out with a “tsss” sound (make sure you have no counter-indications like high blood pressure first). Do this as you lower in your deadlift stance (obviously not as you’re trying to lift the weight). Make sure to keep your head up–eyes on the ceiling. This may help your back pain–the midsection must be pressurized to keep the low back safe.

Make sure to read “the Dead Zone” article from Dave Tate. It’s excellent, and I reccomend it to all deadlift beginners.

Anyway, as Goldberg says, you’re probably fine.

Dan “Snappy Quote Here” McVicker

I agree with Dan “Whoever the hell he is today” McVicker.

Whatever weak links you have will be brought up over time. Keep form good, keep deadlifting and just be patient, it won’t happen overnight. Bring the poundages up gradually so you don’t get injured.

Thanks for the help guys. I suspected that it was a weak link showing up considering my height and the fact that I’m new to lifting.

On a related note, how much is a good deadlift? I know that if varies from person to person, but what % of body weight qualifies for T-man status? I read the article on ratios and all it says about deadlift is it should be your strongest lift along with squats. But how much stronger than flat bench for example?

Im not really sure what the ratio is… Im new to lifting as well - I started about 7 months ago, and my poundages are fairly wimpy:
In comparison, my flat bench 1rm is 195lb, but my 1rm Deadlift is 310lb (going up fast)

I just started deadlifts about a month ago. You will notice the poundages go up QUICK.

Its funny too, In 7 months of 4 day/week training I have never, I repeat NEVER seen another person do deadlifts or cleans. However, I have seen plenty of dorks doing curls in the rack.

It is not uncommon at all to feel a little sore in the area of the back you mention. Don’t think of the deadlift as a “lower body” exercise. It works everything except for maybe your pecs/delts/tris. Everyone I have ever met with a thick back was a big deadlifter. Someone mentioned the Tate article as a good reference and it is. Keep in mind that everyone’s biomechanics will be different depending on height, body mass, etc… Just work on increasing tension thorughout your body, and keep your back tightly arched. Also, look up! Simply looking up at the ceiling will help a ton. As far as starting position, only squat down as deep as you need to get a solid grip on the weight, and stick your ass back (like you are sitting on a chair) with the right tension techniques this will load your glutes and hams and help you pull. Good luck with the king of weight training exercises (in MY book anyway!)

my lower back is absolutely SHOT after deads. I too started doing thema few weeks ago and the poundages go up quick. My lower back hurts so much that I have to sit down after each set. The two ‘stalks’ running up from just above the ass (i guess they’re the erectors) are so fired up. Is this normal? My lats also get really fired up doing deads too. I used to feel them in my traps, mid back, and shoulders when I first doign them but last few workouts havent felt anything there. Does any of this sound right?

also, I don’t feel much in the hams during the workout

trying to get big -
it is hard to say without seeing you do the exercise. from what you describe it sounds like you are not loading your glutes/hams enough. visualize sitting back in a chair as you descend to grip the bar. also, (and this is something that lamar gant uses) try to build tension as you descend to lift the bar. think of your body as a tight spring compressing as you lower yourself to the bar, grip it, build up tension and slowly grind the bar all the way up. I would also flex your tris as you grab the bar and try to increase tension throughout the body. look up as you lift and don’t let your hips rise before your shoulders. STAY TIGHT! also, keep your reps low, i would say 5 and under. begin with a light weight (maybe a 10RM for 5 reps) and work on form. perfect your form with the lighter weights and when it comes time to bend the bar you are less likely to get hurt. while it is nice to move bigger weights, spend some time perfecting it with the lighter load. there are plenty of resources on deadlifting form. good luck man. dip, grip and rip!