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Deadlift Alternative for Back Pain?


Hi CT and company:

I’m a 21 years old boy from Spain (so i have to say sorry if my english is not as good as i would like), and i’m a regular reader of T-Nation articles, especially yours.

I am a rugby union player, and I play in the position of 8 or flanker. I train rugby 3 times a week, and some weekends we have a match, so I workout in the gym 3 or 4 days a week, and i like to workout with fullbody routines and high frequency ( 3 or 4).

Since the last year, my doctor detected that i have an injury on the L5-S1 in my lower back called in spanish “Listesis”. So my doctor told me to change the position in the field (I was a second line), and to avoid some exercises at the gym.

For all the exercises that i was doing that couldn’t do anymore i found another exercise (Squats changed for Front Squats), but for Deadlifts i couldn’t find an exercise that could work as well as it. I have tried Sumo deadlifts, Rack Pull and all give me some back pain, so my question is: Which is the exercise that works similar to deadlift that can avoid me from back pain? I always train Strength and Power.

Thank you.


Sled dragging, back extensions , unweighted reverse hypers. glute ham raises even leg curls.


sorry didn’t realise it is for Chris. I would clear the exercises with your doctor first.


No exercise has to be necessarily done no matter how great of a lift it is. Just consider the muscles involved in the deadlift (hamstring, glutes, lower back, quads, hand strength)…you can break this down into many different exercises to hit the same area which might not be as effective but would still work the muscles.

I would try romanian deadlifts which are great for the posterior chain firstly. Trap bar deadlifts might also be a compound option if the don’t bother you. Glute ham raises and 45 degree back extensions are also options. There are more but again just consider the list of muscles an exercise works.

Above all else be safe its not worth injuring your back further being stubborn.


You can try some other variations like Romanian or stiff-legged deadlifts. Also if you have a trap bar in your gym, that could be a viable option as well. If you simply can’t do any deadlift variations, can you do power cleans?


Thank you to all for your answers, i’ve read them all. I can’t do any movement of deadlift and any variation, like the romanian or stiffed-legged. I don’t have a trapbar in my gym, so i can’t try it. I already do hang power clean and hang high pull with snatch grip (Both under 5 reps always). I’ve thought about working the Hip Thrust and some Snatch Shrugs as an alternative to the deadlift, so I’ll be sure that the main muscles will be worked. What do you think about?
Thank You


Well you already have high pulls and cleans there so if you feel the need, add weighed hip thrusts there. Not sure about snatch shrugs but if you like them and they don’t interfere with anything, crush them all you want.


So do take the bar from a powerrack or blocks. I find snatch /clean shrugs valuable but not every session.
I would seriously consider the back extensions , leg curls perhaps with bands while seated or furniture sliders on the floor. Glute hams area difficult exercise and also stressful to the back . But you can make them easier with bands.


THIS X 1000!!!

There are no mandatory exercises nor is there a need to find a variation of that exercise to replace it. An exercise is only there to load certain muscles to make them stronger. If you can’t do the deadlift simply find a way to strengthen the lower back, glutes and hamstrings using one or several other exercises.

Plenty of athletes got big and strong without deadlifting. In fact I will say that even though it is a good test of strength, it is a below average muscle-builder and too much of a leverage lift.


What about box squats? I imagine if you set the box about 10-15 cm above parallel that’d keep your back reasonably happy. It’d be similar a feeling to a sumo deadlift if you had a wide stance, but you can also use a narrow stance.


I personally never liked box squats. And if the original poster has back trouble, the potential for injury from a box squat if not done properly is pretty high.


I stand corrected. My suggestion came from my own experience with box squats which is that my back has to work hard, but doesn’t feel strained doing it.



Refering to the box squats, i can say that every variation of squats that go under 1/2 Squat depth for me is stressful for my back and i feel a lot of pain.
And to the deadlift, i’m not talking about variations of it, i want some alternatives to it, because it was an exercise that i used to do a lot, and now without it i feel like in my workout i dont work enough the hamstrings and glutes (now with the Hip Thrust i work the glutes, but i feel like i hit so hard quads because i do frontal squats and bulgarian squats, the glutes with the Hip Thrust but i dont feel that i work the hamstrings. I understand that if I wanted Hypertrophy i could do Lying leg curls, but i’m not sure that this exercise will work for power and strength).

I feel like i need to reinforce my lower back and to work more the hamstrings.
Thank you.