T Nation

Deadlifts Hurt!

I love Deadlifts! Why? Maybe because I think they are the best overall exercize. Or maybe because it’s my 3rd heaviest lift, next to Leg Presses and Shrugs. (No I’m not doing Leg Presses anymore, and yes I can do Shrugs with more than I can Deadlift!)

So here’s the problem: after my first set of Deads today, I start to get pain in my lower back. Not like the pain from a muscle getting exhausted, but uncomfotable pain. I have trouble standing up straight. And I have 4 more sets to go!

I don’t Dead with a weight belt, but today I put it on AFTER I was finished. I did this so I wasn’t in so much pain while puttng the weights away. After going on to other exercizes the pain does go away.

I think this pain is limiting my Deads. I should be able to lift more, but my back is too spent. Am I using incorrect form? I have read “The Dead Zone,” but that didn’t answer my question.

Well, if “The Dead Zone” didn’t answer your questions…hmmmm…

Could be an issue of a weak lower back and hammies. What have you been doing for those? GM, glute-ham raises, reverse hypers - hopefully these are what you’ve been doing, too.

Sadly, the only way to get through this problem is to strengthen your lower back. You could do some good mornings, some straight leg deadlifts, whatever. Also, remember to stretch your lower back before deadlifting. It might also be your program, it seems like your doing a lot of sets. I find what works well for me is to 3 sets,1 of 10,1 of 6 and one of 4. I dunno. Just rambling

For hams, I do Stiff Leg Deads. For lower back I do … well … Deadlifts. I haven’t been doing any lower-back specific exercizes since I started doing Deads again.

BTW I don’t think we have anything I could do a reverse-hyper on.

I work out at a “fitness center,” so it’s not like I can have someone watch my form. The only other guy I’ve seen deadlift is twice my size but uses about the same weight(?) In The Dead Zone, it describes good form, but I’m not sure if I’m doing it or not.

If you have pain other than tight erector spinae, there is something wrong. How do you pull, sumo or conventional? Have someone assess your hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors to see if they are tight. If they are, they could be causing your pelvis to tilt. A lot of times, people don’t even realize it, but the natural arch in the lower back that should be present isn’t, and they are doing deads with a rounded back. Have someone check your form to see if your low back is in the correct pulling position.

I agree with Patricia. You need to be doing the exercises she mentioned.

a few more pointers [no order]
1- Warm up properly [use small jumps]
Ab exercises alway help me get ready for deads. Try pulldown abs and or leg raises hanging from a chinup bar.
2- You need a strong stomach
[Don’t neglect the obliques!]
3- Condition your lower back.
It could very well be that your lower back is just out of shape. Pull throughs, Db swings, med ball scoops would be great to strengthen and condition your back.
4- If your doing multiple reps I suggest you reset your form each time.
5- Use your stomach! if you need more help with this try doing zerchers. They will teach you to use your stomach in a hury.


You can surely find someone who knows the difference between an arched low back and a rounded one. Just ask them. Or better still, have someone take a picture of you DL’ing and post it.
It may or may not be a weak lower back. For instance, my low back is very strong, but if I do not stretch for a while it will round regardless. Also, I would strongly advise against stretching your low back before deads. Dynamic warm up and sveral warm up sets, yes. Save the stretching for post workout.

T-Matt-16, I’m doing a variation of Joel’s 5X5. Today was Deads, Chinups, and Bar Curls. I’m doing triples for the Deads, though.

Sully26, I do conventional - Feet about shoulder width apart. I wouldn’t be surprized if my lower back is rounded. I try to arch it, but don’t know if I am or not. Where am I going to find someone to evaluate my “parts” to determine if they are tight? I’m not sure if anyone in my gym would know anything about deadlift form or muscle tightness.

i know exactaly where your coming from bro. anytime i perform any exercise that involves the low back i want to scream it hurts so bad. the only thing that really helps me is hanging from a chin up bar or whatever in between each and every set. just hang there and hold your legs in various positions for a good 30 seconds each set. that usually helps me.

I agree with Jackass. Good advice there, abs and obliques are important. If no one in your gym knows, like I said, have them snap a pic. Since you pull conventional, I suspect you are probably not arched enough.

Be carefull! If you are experiencing low back pain other that muscle pain stop immediately. I ruptured a disk in my low back about 3 years ago, and my back will never be the same-it has been an incredible struggle. You must get your form checed out and find out what the problem is. I am not a careless lifter who had it coming. It was caused by a slight form problem combined with pushing myself to the limit time and time again. Please get it checked out and STOP when it hurts. I’d hate for anyone else to go through what I have, only while they are trying intensely to improve themselves.

I don’t have too much to add to the general common sense of previous posts (warm up, smaler jumps etc) so i’ll relate my old deadlift issue. My legs were so weak that I practically ahd to stiff leg it. An old back injury made this suicide. I couldn’t even do bent rows as the static pressure was too much (ask NIOSH how bad it is).
I dropped deads (temp) and started doing my bent rows over an incline bench to offer some support. Week by week my back grew stronger. When I could bent row pain free I started deads again. By then since I had squatted well within my limits my legs had gotten a bit stronger . I paid exceptional attention to form for a further 8 weeks.
Progresson may be all it is unless you gave yourself some kind of acute injury. Anything remotely new done too much too soon = injury. What treatment or consultation have you sought?

, I was thinking about doing singles. Might that be better.

Sully26 , I could try to find someone to tatke a pic of me. I guess I’d feel weird asking. It wouldn’t be until next week, anyway.

Fire, ok you’ve scared me enough to take this more seriously. Sorry to hear what hapopened to you.

O’Shea, my legs are certainly not weak. As far as treatment or consultation - Treatment? I’m not sure I understand. As far as consultation, there’s this thread.

You are experiencing this pain after only one set?


Joel, Yeah, after the first set, my back starts to hurt. Not like a pump. And my lower back gets real stiff. I think this is limiting me on the other sets. Once I moved on to my next set of exercizes, my back feels better. My the time I leave, my back feels fatigues instead of in pain. What do think of singles?

As scary as this seems, I guess I’ll ask one of the fitness trainers to watch my form next week. Or maybe have them snap a pic.

Just thought I would throw in 2 cents.

  1. Sometimes I’ll get a pinched nerve in my lower back that will cause the muscles to tighten all the time. resulting in lower back problems. A deep tissue massage will often loosen the muscles. Sometimes a quick trip to the chiropractor is necessary to un-impinge the nerve.

  2. Do you have a wallet? Do you put it in your back pocket like 90% of men do? Well, don’t! Every time you sit down it skews your spine just enough to cause back problems. On the advice of an applied kinesiologist I replaced my wallet with an elongated one I keep in my side pocket and my back problems virtually disappeared, except for minor ones like above. (Thanks Dr. Bob, for that bit of advice!) Never sit on your wallet!

  3. We don’t have a reverse hyper machine at my gym, so I take an extra wide decline bench and lay on my stomach with my legs way off the end to do reverse hypers. The range of motion is reduced, and it looks a little silly, but it works fairly well.

yorik, what you said was real interesting. The pain starts more on the right side of my lower back. Wow, maybe it is my wallet!

I didn’t read all the responses, but you should see a doctor man. Pain that keeps you from standing up straight that is not muscular is a very bad thing™.

Pain is warning that something is wrong. Don’t ignore it.

If the prblem is due to bad form, a weak lower back, or tight hip flexors, this is nothing a Doctor would be able to help me with. He would tell me not to Deadlift and send me on my way!

The pain is only during and shortly after doing Deads.

Jeff, I was referring to the proportionate weakness of my own legs not yours. I was describing steps to combat my own condition, some and obviously not all of which you might be able to use. Try the supporting bench when you rehab the injury.
The consultation I was referring to was some sort of specific physician and not a GP before you say anything.
No one can give an accurate diagnosis of such a potentially complex problem over the net. Anyone who claims they can should be steered well clear of.