T Nation

RDLs Safe for Low Back Rehab?


As the title suggests, I'm recovering from a low back injury. I got cocky with the weight and tried to conventional deadlift more than I could and felt a pull on the left side of my low back. I don't have any of the associated leg pain/severe constant pain that would suggest a herniated disc so I've been attempting to rehab it while continuing to work out.

After it happened I took a week off and came back to my usual routine involving some heavy work in complex movements at the start of the workout followed by lighter weight high rep assistance work, traditional 4 day BB split. I also purchased a belt and used it when I did heavy work, and foam rolled religiously.

I'm currently taking another week off after about a month of my last routine, and when I start again I have an entirely new workout consisting of no heavy work, and all lumbar friendly exercises, emphasizing strengthening the whole posterior chain to avoid this in the future (glute bridges, back extensions, chest supported work wherever possible [rows, etc]) as well as some speed work and paused reps to still build strength through sticking points of the big lifts. Also front squats rather than back squats.

What I'm wondering is if I could include Romanian deadlifts with a light weight and higher reps for some dead lifting benefits without the risk of reinjuring myself.

In the month that I resumed my normal workouts my back has gotten consistently better but it would still be stiff after a workout (I removed deadlifts all together) and just the other night in one of my last workouts I did a few conventional and sumo deadlifts with no more than 135 just to see if I could without pain, and it seemed fine, but as you may be able to tell I don't want to risk hurting it more. So, are RDL's safe?


It’s a tricky question, and everyone’s different. However, I have read (and seen on a few people) that RDL form tends to be much, much better than “off the ground” deadlift form, even through a full range of motion. I think it’s because a lot of people like to pull themselves into the correct deadlift position and sometimes they just don’t get there and end up trying to pull maxes without the lumbar spine set. That tends not to happen with a lifter doing an RDL who has the hip mobility to not wink the butt at the bottom.

Have you read Ben Bruno’s classic on Back-friendly Leg Training?


Thanks for the article, was an interesting read and gave me some ideas/reinforced some of my own. Single leg RDL’s might not even be a bad idea either because that would again be even less weight. I think I might try a few weeks without to make sure I can actually heal up first while doing this new plan, and then slowly add them in and maybe use them as a way to work my way back in to deadlifts. It’s been long enough now that I’ve been trying to progress while injured so I’d rather just heal completely and bulletproof my back before hurting it anymore