T Nation

Lower Back Strengthening Exercises


#1

So, today I had just about the only trustworthy pt in the LA Fitness I train at check my deadlift at my most recent tested 1rm (335). He said that my lower back caves in a bit when I start the pull.

Now, this week's deadlift session was significantly more challenging than last week's deadlift session. I couldn't get my planned 3 sets of singles today at 345. The moment I initiated the pull, I just felt my lower back give out and I instantly knew following through would be very bad for my back, so I didn't bother. The 335lb went up well last week, but the one I showed the PT today was a struggle. I think my week of poor sleep messed with me? I don't know. Today just didn't go as planned.

Anyways, I've more or less pin-pointed that my lower back is my weak-spot for the deadlift now, besides my weak posterior chain that I am working on with wide-stance squats and a lot of good mornings, and I'm wondering what kind of exercises can I specifically do for my lower back?

I've been trying to do reverse hyperextensions on a bench, but adding weight is a huge pain and I don't think that's a good long-term plan as of now. I'm alternating between rdl and good mornings, but they both tire my hamstrings and glutes out a lot more than my lower back when I try to do them with as good a form as I can manage.

Is there anything more that I can do, or should I just start taking the weight increases on the deadlift more slowly and wait for my lower back to get stronger via the exercises that I am doing right now?

Thanks!


#2

The lower back will almost always the weakest link in your deadlift, so maybe it's just time to be patient. Good mornings already strengthen your back a fair bit, so don't just throw more stuff onto the pile.


#3

There always comes a time where we can't add any more plates. With the squat it's when you start to lean forward. With the deadlift it's when your back starts to round.
So what to do?

Well you should already be training in cycles or blocks etc... so it's time for you to go back to 5's.
Make the first week fairly easy but really be critical of your form. Make sure you do everything perfect and work up to a perfect set of 5. The next week you add 5kgs then work up to 5 and so on.
When you get to your last week of 5's where your form goes a bit then the following week do triples.
Again just work up adding 5 kgs each time using perfect form. On the lighter weeks work on form and speed. You really want to press your feet through the floor and thrust your hips through etc... watch a video on Dave Tate's or Andy Bolton's site to see what I mean.

When the form on your triples starts to go then it's time to try some singles again.
I pretty much guarantee that your 1 RM will be a lot more then it was previously with this approach.


#4

Texas Method uses regular hyper extensions. I believe 5 x 10, so obviously weighted. I find when I go slow and don't rely on the stretch reflex, I really can't add all that much weight.

I would imagine KB swings would be an obvious choice as well.


#5

Would I look like an idiot if I try doing reverse hypers on a regular hyperexstension machine?

I think I'm going to start doing 5/3/1 for my deadlifts. It'll depend on what happens next week, but I'm already doing 1 deadlift session a week, and 5/3/1 will add in much better structure and gives a clear and consistent progression.

And would rack pulls at the lowest point (so way below my knees and just above my normal start-point position) help any for strengthening the lower back add making it more resistant to possible injuries?


#6

I honestly imagine that it's a technique issue rather than a strength one, since it happens at the start of the pull rather than in the middle of it. Nothing wrong with also strengthening the lower back, but I would bring the stance in to get better leg drive, which tends to eliminate lower back rounding in my experience.

Reverse hypers done without the machine just aren't the same movement. You'd be better off just doing regular hyperextensions if that's what you have access to.

Rack pulls are honestly garbage in my opinion. They position you pull from is too alien from anything you'll actually do in a deadlift, and the bars hitting the pins is very jarring. If you can, set up for block/mat pulls instead. Similar premise, but far better carryover.


#7

Wouldn't it be the case that my lower back is simply not strong enough to maintain the good lower back position the moment I initiate the pull, and so my hip starts to rise before, causing my back to round?

That being said, my technique can certainly get better. I think I need more hamstring flexibility.


#8

As some one that been doing deads for a month I don't know a great deal but this was happening to me becasue i wasnt pulling my shoulder blade back i found once i focused tucking those bad boys back my lowr back didnt cave this may or may not help


#9

Seems everyone has different recommendations so I'll contribute my two cents. I've had similar trouble in the past and resolved it with isometric strengthening (planks, back extension holds) and improving my hip/glute flexibility. If nothing else works then its worth a shot.

It's been said before, but it could also provide an opportunity to back off the weight and put a great deal of focus on your form. Over emphasize everything during your warm-up sets.


#10

I think it's less the case that it's too weak, and more the case that you aren't putting it in the correct position to be strong.

It would be like saying your pecs are the weak point in the bench press because you can't feel them engage and then it turns out you are military pressing. You gotta set up correctly to be able to use the muscles.


#11

=D

Point taken.

But with the inability to take videos of my training, how do I know whether I'm using proper form or not?


#12

post a vid. side on.


#13

if you can't take a vid how do you expect people on the internet to be able to help you??


#14

I go by feel. I don't like using videos. I'd say if you aren't experiencing pain or injury, your form is good.

Try bringing your feet in and see what happens.


#15

=(

k. When I deadlifted 335 two weeks ago for singles, my back felt fine. I think I was just tired and not at optimal condition on last Saturday then, cause the 335 was hard.

I think I'll keep at this weight for a bit and try to really arch my upper back more though the next time I deadlift.


#16

Arching the upper back sounds like a recipe for small deads and injuries. I think the upper back should be rounded personally, or at least kept neutral.


#17

So, you think it should be rounded, or not? This is one of my biggest probs (tall guy, w/ height in the torso)... it never feels like I'm going to hurt myself, though.


#18

I personally use a rounded upper back. Using an arched upper back means that your hands are further away from the bar, which means using more ROM.

I posted this in another thread, but this is how I deadlift


#19

I see what the major difference between your deadlift and mine is.

I think I just need to continue working on hamstring and hip flexibility. Because my hip is way up there.

I think I also pull without using my legs all that much. I actually did watch your video recently and tried the rolling thing. It definitely helped me get into better position and use more leg, but it felt a little weird, largely because I would sometimes set my hips too low. More practice will probably help.


#20

So, I did the rolling technique today. A couple of things I learned-

1) My back feels completely fine if I do it, and all supposed flexibility issues disappeared when I had an actual bar to hold onto to let me sit back more.

2) I could feel my hamstrings and glutes a whole lot more. Previously, I wouldn't feel them until I went up to 300+. Now, I felt them when I pulled 135. The weight came up significantly faster too, so I assume that I had more muscles working.

3) It's hard to get the weight onto the heels. I've always pulled with the weight distributed more to the outsides of the feet than the heels, and the sensation is obviously different.

4) My hamstrings and glutes are really weak. I felt my hamstrings and glutes working up to 255, whereupon I didn't feel them at all when I pulled. Even when I did the rolling, I think I subconsciously just prevented myself from using my posterior chain because it's simply not strong enough to handle it. Now I have no idea what muscles I was using to pull the weight up when I did 315+, seeing as how my posterior chain apparently isn't a major part of it (T3hpwnisher's comment comes to mind).

I think I'm going to completely reset my deadlifts and do them a whole lot more frequently. Instead of the assistance lifts I've been doing (good mornings and rdl), I'll just do squats and deadlifts 3x, with the deadlift more to feel the muscles and get them activated and learn the form better while the squat is the major strength builder.

Is this a good idea?