T Nation

Deadlift Assistance Work Problem

Hi Jim,

My back gave way today while deadlifting. I’ve just started 5/3/1 and today was my first squat day. I was doing deadlifts at 50% of training max for my assistance work as outlined in Big but Boring. My back was fine while squatting. The first set of deadlifts was fine and was done at a brisk ‘touch and go’ pace. On the second or third rep of my second set I felt pain at my lower back.

Nothing extreme as I could still walk around. After that my back generally just felt sore, with the pain only coming when I bend over while standing up. It seems to be less painful bending over while sitting in a chair.

This has happened before about almost a year back. It cleared up within a few days and I rested for a month but it re-occured when I tried deadlifting again. I saw an orthopedic specialist who just told me to stop squatting or deadlifting and could not offer a concrete diagnosis but ruled out a slipped disc.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this tends to happen on sub-maximal lifts especially when they are for higher reps. I did stronglifts 5x5 3 years back and never had any issues with my back. Last week while establishing my 1RM for 5/3/1 I mainly did singles and it felt great.

It seems when I’m pulling heavier loads I tend to be more stiff which I can’t seem to get right when pulling lighter weight for reps. I was wondering what recommendations you would have for deadlifts as assistance work in my case.

#1. Get healthy and rested. 2. Try using a back brace to do so, even using it to hold ice on the sore spot w. Pressure will really ease the pain and help it heal correctly. If you like lower reps- I do 3 sets of 3 from a deficit using 90 percent of the top 5/3/1 set of the day- as my assistance.

Get on to youtube and search for Brian Carroll and Stuart McGill. Carroll was having some bad back issues as well and he visited back specialist and researcher Stu McGill. There are several videos discussing the treatment process. Among other things, they discuss getting tight: using the lats to lock in the back, taking time to get tight before pulling–stuff like that. Very informative.

What was your rep-range with that 50% deadlift? If it was a high-ish range then maybe some aspect of your core might lack endurance. In McGill’s work he talks about the core musculature is made up of slow-twitch muscles and is thus best trained in an endurance fashion. Just some thoughts.

Thanks for the replies guys. Will look into the suggestions. Is there anything I can do to check if it’s a core endurance problem?

The rep range was 10 reps for 5 sets at 50% of my training max. The pain occurred early in the second set forcing me to stop the workout.

[quote]TheCapedCrusader wrote:
Hi Jim,

My back gave way today while deadlifting. I’ve just started 5/3/1 and today was my first squat day. I was doing deadlifts at 50% of training max for my assistance work as outlined in Big but Boring. My back was fine while squatting. The first set of deadlifts was fine and was done at a brisk ‘touch and go’ pace. On the second or third rep of my second set I felt pain at my lower back.

Nothing extreme as I could still walk around. After that my back generally just felt sore, with the pain only coming when I bend over while standing up. It seems to be less painful bending over while sitting in a chair.

This has happened before about almost a year back. It cleared up within a few days and I rested for a month but it re-occured when I tried deadlifting again. I saw an orthopedic specialist who just told me to stop squatting or deadlifting and could not offer a concrete diagnosis but ruled out a slipped disc.

One thing I’ve noticed is that this tends to happen on sub-maximal lifts especially when they are for higher reps. I did stronglifts 5x5 3 years back and never had any issues with my back. Last week while establishing my 1RM for 5/3/1 I mainly did singles and it felt great.

It seems when I’m pulling heavier loads I tend to be more stiff which I can’t seem to get right when pulling lighter weight for reps. I was wondering what recommendations you would have for deadlifts as assistance work in my case. [/quote]

Before you do anything, you must have your back examined and diagnosed to find out what is wrong with it. Then you must take the appropriate steps to rehab your problem.

I am not a physician and prescribing/diagnosing and giving rehab advice is very tricky over the internet, let alone in person. I highly recommend you look towards professionals that you can work with and that are willing to work with you.

I assume you are already doing a ton of GM’, back raises, RH, squats, rows, dumbbell rows and tons of weighted and unweighted ab work - if not, you need to do these all the time. There are no magical assistance exercises, only the application of sound principles regarding main lifts and strengthening smaller areas with simple exercises (shown above).

Strength is not built with circus style assistance work, rather it is built over time with hard, consistent work that is many times littered with short comings. Those who work through these tough times and come out stronger are the ones that succeed.

Sometimes I believe that those who become strong are simply the ones that don’t give up when a plateau happens, continue to believe in their path and constantly work hard.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the response. I will get my back checked up. I’m doing Boring but Big so was looking to do deadlifts and abs as assistance on squat day. Would you say I should instead do those exercises you mentioned (GMs, back raises, rows etc) instead of deadlifts as assistance once my back is okay? Or should I do them in addition to the BBB template?

[quote]TheCapedCrusader wrote:
Hi Jim,

Thanks for the response. I will get my back checked up. I’m doing Boring but Big so was looking to do deadlifts and abs as assistance on squat day. Would you say I should instead do those exercises you mentioned (GMs, back raises, rows etc) instead of deadlifts as assistance once my back is okay? Or should I do them in addition to the BBB template?[/quote]

You need to first get your back looked at/diagnosed.

From there, you run 6 week cycles…so…

BBB for 6 weeks
5x5 for 6 weeks
FSL for 6 weeks
and so on…

I"m not sure if you are locked into ONE way of training but you need to expand your training and do what is necessary to reach your goals. If you are having back problems, the last thing I would recommend is BBB.

You need to first get your back looked at/diagnosed.

From there, you run 6 week cycles…so…

BBB for 6 weeks
5x5 for 6 weeks
FSL for 6 weeks
and so on…

I"m not sure if you are locked into ONE way of training but you need to expand your training and do what is necessary to reach your goals. If you are having back problems, the last thing I would recommend is BBB.

I hear you Jim. What would you recommend to start with, instead of BBB, once I get the all clear to resume training? 5x5 and FSL or something else? I’ve never had any back issues with squats or anything else if that’s of any help. I’ve just gotten back to training again after a lay off and appreciate you taking the time to respond so I’m all ears as to any recommendations you may have. Thank you for your help.