T Nation

I'm a Deadlift Sissy

Help! I’ve decided to start a 5x5 strength program using lots of compound movements. I had always done deads in more or less a low-weight high-rep program. I did some “heavy” (for me anyway) reps yesterday, and I’m lucky I’m walking today. First of all, when I did it, it felt like my lower back was about to explode when I began the pull- and I was consciously trying to keep it straight and pull up with my legs and hips. Is there such a think as keeping the back “too straight”? I’ve read all the descriptions of a proper deadlift, but can’t seem to find any pictures or video of a proper lift. Anyone know of any good sites? My lower back is sore as hell today- normal soreness, or was I lifting wrong and stressed out the wrong muscles? Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Did you warm up your lower back and hams. I would also suggest stretching before and after you lift. See Ian Kings “lazy Mans Guide To Stretching”

Make sure that you’re getting your hips low enough and “lifting with your legs” more. As the previous poster said, it could be a flexibility issue.

But yeah, DL will kill your low back. It’s good for you!


Make sure that you’re getting your hips low enough and “lifting with your legs” more. As the previous poster said, it could be a flexibility issue.

But yeah, DL will kill your low back. It’s good for you!


Welcome to the world of Deadlifting! There are two schools of thought out on form here. Ian King and Dave Tate styles. I guess it really comes down to what your goals are. I have used both of them and had success with each. ALWAYS stretch before-during-after to maintain and increase flexibility.

As aleady stated warm up the back first. Second I disagree that you want to make sure your hips are as low as possible…Your deadlifting not Squating, but with that said, make sure that your not overly rounding the back. You need to probably do some Good mornings to help strenghten that low back of yours…Deadlifting is extremely brutal, so as long as it is not injury pain, then your pain is probably alright…

Deadlift- GREAT exercise, and everybody should do it at least some of the time IMO. Easy too-just pull the weight off the ground! Nope…Couple of mind games might help though-

  1. Once in the set position (legs slightly bent, eyes pointing slightly above head height, back straight/slightly arched), then REALLY concentrate on squeezing the TRICEPS, and the GLUTES before initiating the lift. This has 2 functions

    -it takes the "“sag” out of the lift before it starts to come off the ground (the time most likely for back rounding to happen);

    -It forcibly reinforces (?!) the back straightness- TRY IT NOW IN THE MIRROR- you should see your traps/delts pulling backwards even before you’ve started lifting.

  2. Think of you body as a pendulum- the weight should be rocking backwards, so all you are doing is leaning backwards! Try this in the mirror too with just the bar.

  3. A final thought. Are you performing reps? If so, you need to release the weight on the ground at EVERY rep, and reset your position before going again. This has been the single best factor in improving my form. It is difficult for the body to maintain that arched position on the lowering part of the movement, so I found (and you might be finding) that the 1st reps good, but the rest go to s**t.

    Hope this might help some. SRS

Thanks for the awesome advice everyone. My back does feel better today, so I guess it was normal soreness as opposed to injury soreness. I will try the glute/tricep tighten, SRS. I am doing them for reps and there was a good thread here around a week or so ago debating whether or not to set the bar or keep the tension, and I don’t think a consensus was ever reached (surprise). I think setting the bar would help with my form and prevent me from rounding my back too much- I’ll give that a shot next time around. One other problem I seem to be having is smashing the bar iinto my shins on the way up because I’m trying to keep the bar as close to me as possible and keep my shoulders behind the bar, as recommended in the T-Mag print article. Are bloody and/or brusied shins just a nice fringe benefit of deads, or should I be doing something differently? Thanks again for all the great advice!

You said there are two styles or schools of thought when it comes to the deadlift…what are they, or could u provide links to the articles? thanks in advance

Powerlifter: I didn’t say “hips as low as possible” I said “hips low enough”. I agree–it’s not a squat! I just had this image of him trying to straight-leg the bar off the ground using all low back and hamstrings. I know I definitely benefitted by thinking about “sitting back” into an imaginary chair while deadlifting–this got my hips to the right level.

Nick–most of us start with lighter weights, just make sure you get the form down–for me, it helps if I tighten every muscle in my body against the weight on the bar before initiating the pull–resetting after each rep also helps with form–and as a couple of people stated, don’t drop your hips too low–

good luck–deadlifts are the best

Nick - re the bloody shins: The purists would say that grazed shins are par for the course, so put up with it. Check the points on form given by the others earlier on as your problem might be there (SRS: Great idea about tensing the tris and glutes - I guess I learned about doing that the hard way, and you are right, it’s a great help). The easiest choice would be to wear tracksuit pants, but I found I still ended up with blood soaked pants and grazed shins anyway. I solved the grazed shin problem by building a rubber sleeve from pipe insulation, covered it with cloth, and sealed the edges with velcro. The tube rolls around the bar, doesn’t slip off, and I can drag the bar over my sticking point, which is just below the knees. I find it works really well.

Awesome. Thanks again for all the replies, everyone. I guess I’ll either build that contraption or continue with the bruised shins. I thought I had my form good by starting off with lighter weight, maybe as soon as I tried the heavier weight my form went to crap just trying to get the bar going. I’m definitely not stiff-legging it, my starting position is almost where my hams are paralell to the floor. I guess I’m having the most trouble making the distinction between doing it “right” and “squatting it up”. I know your legs are supposed to play a part in getting it up there, but how much? I’ve tried google search on deadlift pictures and/or videos to no avail. Thanks again for everyone’s advice. I’ll be trying again on Thursday with the same weight that nearly crippled me this weekend incorporating your suggestions, and we’ll see how it goes. Any additional advice would be much appreciated. Thanks again!

For proper from;

Issue 39: Ian King “Question of power”.

Issue 194: Dave Tate “The dead zone”.

Great info. from two of the top guys in the biz.

Below is site for mini video of Deadlift:


Make sure your shoulders are behind the bar when you set up. Another tip for keeping the glutes tight is to tighten your sphincter muscles as you tighten your glutes. Tighten your transverse abs too. If you’ve suddenly moved from lighter weights and higher reps to heavier weights, using a 4 inch weight belt may help eliminate the back pain. For that bloody shin problem, go to a store that caters to soccer and rugby players and buy some inexpensive shin guards. Voila! End of scraped and bloody shins.

As far as the bloody shins, I have talked about this in the past, and I disagree with those who say to keep the bar as close to the shins as possible. If the bar is too close, there is very little chance that you will be able to keep the shoulders behind the bar, which is vital to a good lift. Obviously I am a follower of West Side Barbell, and I deadlift using their style. However I will not argue the point, because there are some great deadlifter who keep the bar really close. I keep the bar about 4 inches away from my shin when I line up to lift. I am currently a world champion in the deadlift, and this is how I choose to do it. I would just read everything you can by Dave Tate on deadlifting, and try it, and then decide for yourself which way works best for you…Good Luck!

Yeh, well I would agree with Powerlifter even if he didn’t happen to be a champion!
Forgot to talk about keeping the shoulders behind the bar. I also always remember Pavel T.'s advice to start the movement with the bar OVER THE TOES. With the above 2 considerations you can’t help but use the “fulcrum lean” technique to stand up straight. SRS

Once again, awesome advice from everyone, thanks very much for your help!