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Just Starting to Deadlift

38 y/o male, 5’9, 167 lbs, herniated L4 and L5 vertabraes (for over 20 years), just re-started the Shugart HST program. The first go around, I didn’t do deadlifts. Like squats, due to my herniations, I’ve been scared to death of them. However, being my strength gains with the HST program ended up WAY higher than expected, I feel now as if I need to do deads to prevent injury. I did do the squats for the first 8 week HST cycle, though. I stayed pretty light with them though. Started at 95 lbs week 1 and ended at 155 at week 8. My question is how light is too light to where it’s not even worth doing? Would it serve a purpose to add reps at lighter weight to first condition my chain rather than to drop reps for added weight? Tonight’s DLs went like this: 2x10 @ 50lbs, then 3x10 @ 90 lbs. Yeah, I know it’s next to nothing weight, but I’m strict form checking every rep. Hoping to talk to someone that has or had similar injury and can discuss a good DL incorporation for me. Thanks all! Brian

Nothing wrong with starting ultra light. You might be better off doing 10 sets of 3 rather than 3 sets of 10. That will help with your form dropping off as the weight goes up.

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Great point! Would I up the weight for the 3x10 format? The 90 lbs didn’t feel heavy in the least bit, but the movement itself is messing with my head.

It depends a bit on what you’re hoping to get out of adding deadlifts to your routine.

What’s the goal here? That may lead to better answers for your question.

I don’t think there’s such a thing. What I’m trying to say is that even if you just use an empty bar, if it allows you to focus on form, then it’s worth doing. Just depends on your mindset towards it I guess.

The goal is to strengthen my post chain. If I gain some size in the process, I’ll obviously have no complaints. I’m more or less forcing dl’s into the routine because other than back ext’s, I have never done any lower back exercises out of fear of injury. As stated in OP, I’m assuming the gains throughout the rest of my body are going to require a stronger core if I plan of furthering those gains. Would it be smart to ease up on the rest of my body while I focus on bringing the post chain up to par?

So a couple of thoughts here. Please bear in mind as you read that the deadlift is my absolute favorite exercise and the one which I work hardest on:

  1. you don’t have to deadlift conventional-stance from the floor to work the posterior chain if you don’t want to. If you’re not competing as a powerlifter, you don’t have to do this, ever. You can find other ways to work the posterior chain.

  2. if you do want to incorporate a hinge movement, you can pull of pins or blocks; use Romanian deadlifts or Dimel deadlifts; do kettlebell swings or cable pull-throughs.

  3. I’m a huge fan of deadlifts and think they can be performed safely and effectively by most lifters, but I think some folks just start lifting and think “man, I really should deadlift” without considering whether it is the most effective tool for what they want to achieve (that’s why I asked a few prodding questions).

If you are not primarily concerned with chasing maximal strength, but want to work your posterior chain, at least give some consideration to alternatives & why you’re adding them before just assuming you have to start with deadlifts from the floor.


I love this answer. I will look into the variations. I know the bell swings are out. Have tried them for a few weeks mid last year, and they accentuated the sciatica pain like no other. I use a power rack at home, so I will definitely give the pin method a fair shake. Y’all are awesome, and the reason rookies like myself come here for guidance. Thank you very much for the advice and support.