T Nation

Deadlifting and Safety


I've thrown out my back a few times last year. Scans found no evidence of unusual damage, but I was completely bedridden for weeks after. The first time it was a regular pull workout and the second time back squats. Needless to say, I'm scared of that happening ever again.

I recently started to lift again, having moved towns and gyms. I got some nagging discomfort in the problem spot of my back which lingered for a few days, despite precautions.

Since I already did what I could to prevent it, it seems to me my options are either going on and hoping it does not come back or quitting lifting altogether.

Lunges (deemed safe) and all the machine work are not doing anything for my hamstrings and deadlifting seems risky but ultimately necessary.

I'm thinking one option would be to limit the ROM at the top, stopping short of groin level so the hams get hit a fair bit but the limited ROM would perhaps provide some protection for the back.

Another thing I'm thinking of is the snatch deadlift. Before, I used to go extreme with them, grabbing the barbell as far as I could, near the plates (my armspan is 5'10) which necessitated low weight. I don't find this particularly risky, but the exertion is largely concentrated on the hands and arms and the grip gives in first.
Narrowing the grip to a regular snatch style might be an option, still allowing me to use lesser weight. Have not tried it as of yet.

Any suggestions or experiences to share?


My first question is what do you do for CORE exercises?? The Core is the STAPLE of any lifting, people become to dependent on belts and suits. Personally, I NEVER wear a belt unless Im doing a heavy 1 rep Max single.

My first step would be evaluating your core work brother.

If you had an MRI of your back and it showed no structural damage this is most likely a soft tissue issue. Spasms when bad can be COMPLETELY debilitating and almost worse then something more serious.

Find a nice deep tissue massage therapist. Hot Stones would be a help as well for the target spot your having problems with.

Since your MRI was clean I would find a good chiropractor. Any Chiro worth a piss will require a set of XRays and they can give another perspective.

Stretch, Ice, Heat, Hot Tub, Sauna.

If it hurts dont do it but from you post I get there is no Disc problems, or anything else that I would deem serious.

My next question for you is who did your Back MRI or CT? Was it a general Orthopedist or a Spine Specialist??? If it was a general orthopedist I might ask them to send it on to a Spine Specialist.

If you have any other questions Im not an MD but have worked in Ortho Clinics and Surgery for 8 years with Rehab and Therapists so I can maybe help in pointing you in to the right direction.

Good Luck.

Keep lifting man.


Reinforce your technique, stretch everyday, do core work. Also, I do leg presses to help push through the floor and am pulling 2.6 times my bodyweight.


Do lots of exercises like back extensions or reverse hypers (if you have access to them) that provide almost no risk to the back while still strengthening the area. At the same time keep working on your SQ and DL, but start with ridiculously light weights and do the movements perfectly. If you need feedback on technique, then post some video to get things squared away.

As you strengthen the back with the assistance work very very slowly over time to increase your SQ and DL poundages. By the time you reach any SQ or DL poundages that are even remotely challenging you will have strengthened your back significantly. Also work on hamstring and hips flexibility with some stretching and mobility work every day.


I think you need to be extremely patient.

Start with extreme light weight. Check that you'r form is spot on. Then gradually work your way back up. It can take months and months. Just be patient. It's happend to me too. Was a pain in the ass. Check if you can do front squats with no pain.


Thanks for the replies.

Lifting is getting better. Pain is minimal. Still have not seen a day of hamstring soreness but whatever.


I've had a few back spasms that put me out of commission for several days, (all back squats), but nothing as bad as OP has. I think everyone has covered all the logical bases, but something that I do is I like to hang on the chin-up bar for a while in between my deadlift sets. It's probably mostly mental, but my lower back starts to tighten up quickly when I deadlift, and I find that just hanging there helps out big time. Also, try walking around for a few minutes w/ a band around your ankles a few times a week, it'll strengthen your hip flexors and lower back.


It doesn't sound like deadlifting is your problem. It sounds like really bad form and even worse programming is your problem.


My back is truly damaged, limited clearance between L4 and L5 I believe. Since I started training again last year, it's remarkably better than it's been in past years.

I squat and pull heavy and I don't encounter any pain, so I would agree with STB in your form being shit for starters.

Next, I agree with whoever mentioned core/abdominal work. I occasionally encounter tweaks, usually out of the gym and now almost never with my lower back. I see a chiropractor who practices ART and he gets into my abs with this painful massage gun to get the muscle(s) to let up. The theory here is that often times weak or unbalanced muscles will pull shit out of whack...I can't argue with the results.

-Find someone to check your form / post videos here
-Strengthen your abs.
-Find an ART practitioner (active release therapy)


Have you ever tried putting a band through your lifting belt and through your feet and walking around like that? Usually I'll put another band around my knees and do box squats like that to warm up and for recovery workouts.