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Long Term / DL's on Back: Negative?

What are the long term effects of deadlifts on your back??

This highly educated, not to mention ripped, physical therapist was telling me that deadlifts are the worst thing for your back and that you shouldnt do them. You joints suffer in the long run and your back wasnt meant to do that type of heavy lifting in that type of motion… i need some enlightenment.


Just look at the history behind olympic lifting and powerlifting, years of doing deads or dead-like movements hasn’t seemed to harm anyone in those sports.

You could also ask him to explain how the spine was meant to lift heavy loads. I can’t imagine too many other ways of picking something heavy up off the ground.

And remember, being highly educated does not exempt someone from being ignorant.


[quote]DeterminedNate wrote:
What are the long term effects of deadlifts on your back?

This highly educated, not to mention ripped, physical therapist was telling me that deadlifts are the worst thing for your back and that you shouldnt do them. You joints suffer in the long run and your back wasnt meant to do that type of heavy lifting in that type of motion… i need some enlightenment.


Depends on whether on not you do them safely.

Sorry that sounds like a stupid answer, but it’s true. If you keep your back locked in a neutral posture it should easily bear the forces of deadlifting. Ideally there shouldn’t even be motion in the spine, all bending should come from the hips and knees, and if you can’t manage this lower the weight and/or work on flexibility.

My opinion comes from reading Stuart McGill, the world’s foremost expert on the spine. He does not have any particular problems with the deadlift but stresses safe form and is concerned that in practice people lack the flexibility and technique to go out there and perform the lift safely.

If you flex or extend the spine under load you put yourself at risk, and that goes for any exercise. Lots of people say “deads are bad for your back” or “deep squats are bad for your back” when they should be saying “exercize Y is bad for your back if you do it with screwed up form that puts your back at risk.”

My personal rule is no back rounding on deadlifts, period. If the form starts to break, the weight or reps go down. I realize I can lift a bit more if I do sloppy deads but I don’t compete and I’m not getting paid, so it’s not worth it.


Look at the reality of the situation. If you don’t DL, what are you going to do? Are you looking for an excuse to not DL? Or are you seeking info in support of DLing? I have lower back / hip problems stemming from my childhood. I DL and squat - they seem to be the best way for me to maintain back alignment and health. (Granted, proper form and stretching are mandatory.)

That guy being ripped has nothing to do with this thread. Most lean people are that way naturally and not because they are some freaking gurus.

Bastard F*ck Guy

Some of the long term effects that I have encountered are increase muscle mass and overall body strength. I agree how the hell am I supposed to lift heavy objects off of the ground then?

Deadlifts are a hip dominant exercise. Yes they hit the back also, but it should be mostly hips. If you are going to do then like a back extension, then yeah you’re going to get problems. Do them right and they’re unquestionably one of the top 3 exercises out there.

I have a pretty severe lower back deformity; my lumbar vertebrae never seperated from my sacrum, so I have significantly reduced flexibility in the back extension. It’s not unusual for me to experience debilitating back spasms…

But–and this is big–I’ve rarely had any problem with the deadlift or the full squat. As a matter of fact, it’s my belief that they’ve restored my back. At the same time, however, I do have a little less flexibility in the hip and glute as well, so if I bend too low on a deadlift, I do strain some of those muscles in the lower rear hip or upper glute–but this is only a problem when I use standard, rather than olympic, barbells and weights. I actually had a chiropractor, shady as he was, tell me that squats and deadlifts were going to be less of a problem than a lot of everyday activities. Considering that I’ve never been sidelined by a deadlift, but I have answer the phone…

I’ll give the same hackenyed advice as everybody else here. Do the deadlift and do it heavy, eat your vegetables, and watch your form.

On about 10 years ago, I tore up the connective tissue in my right lumbar region. And, a couple of times a year, I’d get back spasms that were almost but not quite debilitating.

I started lifting a few years ago, including deadlifts.

I’ve not had a problem since.


By the way, DeterminedNate, nice Avatar!

If there was anyway you could get your PT to explain the details to us for a proper debate, then this could become a pretty good thread. So far, it’s pretty one sided.

Being a PT student myself, I’m prety biased towards his opinion, but maybe there is a caveat to his side of the story.

I never did DLs until a couple of years ago, when my chiropractors encouraged me to do them. Guess they don’t worry about the long-term effects too much.

Deadlifts can be dangerous. So can toasters - it all depends on how they are employed.

Deadlifts can be bad:

  • If your body isn’t warm and loose before you do them.
  • Your technique is improper.
  • You don’t consistently stetch.

Bookmark this site for proper technique:

You may also wish to review the appropriate section of this article (full-disclosure alert: Mike’s my trainer, so naturally I have a lot of faith in anything he says):

I’d suggest trying sumo DLs at first.

Keys in my mind (nothing that hasn’t been said elsewhere):

  • Keep the bulk of your bodyweight on your heels - as a result, you may find the bar in fairly consistent contact with the front of your legs, which is fine.
  • Find that perverbial spot on the opposite wall about 1-2 feet above your head when standing up, and look at it through the entire movement to encourage a straight back.
  • Help your back out by squeezing your shoulder-blades together. Now, some people may argue with this one, saying you can move more weight not doing this, but given your priority for back health, give this way a try…
  • The sensation you on the up-move is to lift your chest up and back. Stick that chest out.

Finally, while injury prevention should be a primary goal in anyone’s program (if you’ve read Coach King’s stuff, you know it’s his #1 priority for all his athletes), chances are you will likely tweak several somethings during your training life. Learning is trial and error, and there’s a good reason the “error” part it in there. We’re not omnipotent, we’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes lead to injuries. Don’t let that fear (which is legitimate and reasonable) freeze you. Think diligently, ask questions as needed, then act with verve and joy - you’ll do just fine.

Hope this helps - good luck.

T.E. Young

The maxx, since you are a PT student maybe you could give us some more explanation as to why DLs are bad. When i originally posted this i was looking for any possible rebuttal, cuz it would give me excuses to do more dead lifts. Dead lifts are probably my favorite lift, and it woudl really really suck if i had to stop doing them.

oh yeah, i got the avatar from something, I believe it was, NateDogg, who posted it. :wink: