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Low Back Injury and an Alternative to Deadlifts

So today I did my deadlifts with 130kg for sets of 5, which is like a 10rm, so the reps were really smooth and nice, on the fourth rep on the second set a sudden low back pain, like someone stabbed me with a knife, dropped the barbell immediatelly, mourned for a few minutes and then procceded with my next exercise which was heavy OHP, had no pain so I hope I will be able to squat in a few days.
This is the second time this has happened, two years ago I had to drop the deadlifts for like 6 months, was able to squat after a few weeks or so, but the pain was there for 6-7 months, and at this point I am really scared of deadlifting again.

Has anyone of you guys had experience with this pain and what other exercise could I do that comes even close to the deadlift for the posterior chain, besides squats?

I’d get right back into it myself.

Deadlift from blocks so the ROM is shortened and dont push it too hard and really focus on back position/keeping tight. This is going to suck balls for a week or two. Use a belt from the start.

You may want to look at sumo. Also make sure you are walking around a bunch.

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I had similar pain at 29, kept squatting and ultimately, had surgery. Pain has returned 2 times since and I learned to sleep on floor nightly until pain subsided (no mattress is hard enough to help here), walk for miles everyday, and use a “wet” heating pad to relax the low back while lying on stomach watching tv. Sitting and driving are your enemies.

Post pain, I have squatted and deadlifted comfortably ever since.

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walking around really does do the trick, walked 2 miles in the afternoon felt quite good in the back, and sitting is terrible for me. Tomorrow is main decision day, I will attempt to squat with very low weights and see how it feel. Have trouble bending as is but I tried bodyweight squatting just now and it felt fine. Good thing is I do the high bar squat, will try and leave ego at the door for tomorrow’s workout.
I’m also really considering transitioning to sumo deadlift one my pain hopefully goes away.
Thank you for very helpful replies guys.

Try doing this plus bodyweight deadlifts a few times per day (say when you wake up and before bed) - sets of 8-12. Again, don’t push it.

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Pain isn’t a diagnosis. It’s a symptom which is common for many causes of back pain.

Treatment/Rehah/Prehab is different for different patterns of back pain e.g. you’d treat a spinal erector strain differently to a muscle spasms secondary actual injury or as your body’s protective mechanism against potential injury. At times aspects of treatment/rehab are completely opposite e.g. with disc herniation you avoid spinal flexion while with stenosis you avoid extension. SO shooting out random treatment approaches is not the best approach.

See a qualified health professional e.g. physical therapist/physiotherapist for a full examination, get a proper diagnosis and treatment/rehab instead of having us guess at shit.

In the mean time do what you can without aggravating symptoms. At worst a bunch of glute and hamstring isolation stuff could keep your lower body jacked and tanned while your back heals up.

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I will go see a doctor if the pain gets worse or stays with me. Waiting list for MRI scan in my country is terrible, you have to wait for months, so even if I went by the time my appointment was up my back might have healed on its own. I could go to a private clinic but I dont feel like spending half my salary to it, unless and hopefully it will not get worse.
Today I actually went to the gym and did my regular upper body workout, but in between the sets I took and empty bar and squatted very very slowly, like tempo squats. It was fine with the bar so I kept on adding and to the end of the workout I actually did a set of 5 with 80kg, wearing a belt, painless, so I really hope that is a good sign, bending and sitting still hurt but now less.
Tomorrow is a test though, I have to drive for 12 hours on my job, hope it will be fine, maybe I’ll adjust my seat to be like in half lying down position.
Still have to think about this deadlift problem of mine, maybe it is the flexibility issue, I know my form is not the best especially with heavy loads. Here’s a video of the third set or so a few weeks ago. I am thinking of trying sumo as strongmangoals suggested once I get to deadlifting again, might be easier on the back.

Sumo is worth a try but it’s not as easy a fix as you’d think. Most people when they first switch over end up with a similar torso angle, back rounding and bracing as they had before essential still pulling conventional just with a wide stance. Takes a bit of time and practice to get the benefits of sumo you are looking for.

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Like guineapig says it takes some time and effort to actually get a good technique going with sumo to take some emphasis off your back.

From your vid it may be worth changing your conventional deadlift form including starting position with a neutral spine and learning to brace and lock in that neutral spine. Drop the weight maybe to 1 plate if you can tolerate it, take off the belt because you seem to be hinging on it so I suspect it’s not doing the job for you and learn how to lock in and brace your torso.

Maybe post up a formcheck with a few different angles and percentages of 1RM.

Whatever you want to do it’s probably a good idea to avoid aggravating movements/loading and take 2-3 weeks off deadlifting to kinda wait out that acute phase of the injury before doing as suggested.


Look at this thread you can see the guy is still pretty much pulling conventional. There’s also some good video tutorials in the replies if you want to learn sumo. May as well work on positioning and mobility now while you wait until you are ready for some loading.

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Read what khangles said again.

Another week or two of healing may keep you from turning an injury into a bad injury. Over the course of 30-40 years, it’s a tiny speck of time.
When it comes to the lower back, the whereabouts of pain isn’t the best indicator of the actual problem.
Bodyweight squats, step ups, leg curls, glute bridges, etc. until you get it figured out would be my suggestion.

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Thank you all for very helpful and kind replies. it’s been a weeks since that deadlift session and I am happy to say my back is feeling pretty good. the pain is there usually in the morning until I get myself moving around, and a bit while sitting or lying on a bed in other positions beside on the back.
This kind of feels like the last warning sign before anything serious happens. I am still very much scared to even try deadlifting, today between my upper body working sets I tried setting up for the sumo with single plates on the bar, and pulled a few painless singles but it just felt so weird, and actually amazingly hard to get into position. I think I lack quite some mobility, maybe that is the main problem: I never stretch, not before or after the workouts. It’s never been a problem on the squats, it somehow comes really natural for me, but on the deadlifts even conventionals feel kind of weir getting into the position.
I’m gonna check out those videos that are on that other thread you guys pointed me to, but in the mean time I am going to completely stop regular deadlifting for a while. If my next lower body workout is ok, which should be on wednesday, and it’s squat session, I might try doing some RDL’s or some other friendlier on the back type of deadlift. Also, will have to do a lot of mobility work to fix feeling weird when in deadlift position.

Pain update: so it’s been 3 weeks since the injury and I’m feeling great. I am back to heavy squatting without any issues or pain but haven’t tried deadlifting, am thinking of attempting RDL’s tomorrow to see how it’s treating me.
Atm I’m really thinking of never doing similar deadlift progressions and working my way around it, hitting my posterior chains in other ways

Khangles was spot on with all of their comments. You are (in my opinion, as a practitioner who treats Low back pain, not as a sports coach or lifting coach) getting too much lumbar flexion. Particularly doing whatever you’re doing with the little rock/dip right before you pull. As noted, lumbar flexion (rounding the back), especially under load is the grim reaper as far as lumbar disc health is concerned.

Seriously consider getting the $10 book treat your own back from McKenzie. I can tell your from personal and professional experience that back pain is both recurrent and progressively worsening in nature. It’s not going to be “if”, but “when” this will happen again. Manage it properly and you can buck the trend. Don’t and you will enter a system of healthcare for treating low back pain that is a mess and not very effective. Some simple fixes now will go a long long way for you.

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