Stop Doing Extra Low-Back Work

by Paul Carter

In most cases, it won't help you increase your deadlift. In fact, it could be the cause of your problem. Here's why and what to do instead.

The spinal erectors have the longest recovery time of any muscle group. The deadlift and squat both tax the low back to significant degrees. And if you’re also doing things like front squats and stiff-legged deadlifts or farmer’s walks or… well you get the point. There’s literally no reason to tack on direct low-back work like hyperextensions and such.

In fact, doing such work could be the very issue with the deadlift plateau you’re experiencing. This is why I suggest squatting and deadlifting on the same training day during the week. It gives the low back ample recovery time during the rest of the week.

Do This Instead

Build your upper back, lats, and hams. Show me a guy with a big deadlift and I’ll show you a dude that can chin and row big too. Sure, there will be some really fat guys that can pull big and not do chins, but the average dude will need to build strength in the entire upper back if he wants to deadlift big weights.

What lifts should you use for your lats and back? Pick ones that allow for a high degree of progressive overload and ones you really enjoy doing. It’s up to you to figure these things out through experience.

As for hamstrings, I went with the stiff-legged deadlift (from a big deficit) and the good morning during my powerlifting career.

Stiff Leg Deadlift From Deficit

Good Morning

I trained these with completely different modalities. I found that the stiff-leg deads were something I could push the loading on, but I kept the good mornings light and focused on the stretch.

No other lift built my posterior chain like stiff-leg deads from a 4-inch deficit. From the upper back to erectors to hamstrings, this was my “go to” for total posterior chain smashing. I eventually worked up to over 600 pounds for reps on these.

With good mornings I kept the loading in the 185-225 pound range, even when my deadlift was consistently over 700. That’s the contrast in how you should be approaching loading if you choose to include these two lifts as part of your deadlift program.


1 Like

I know this is an old article, but goddamn does it have some great info in it. I especially love this piece

I, legit, had a poster refer to me as “evil” for even suggesting that this was possible for a trainee: that I was creating unreasonable and false hope for recovery abilities. I have to really chuckle about that given the context, haha. It makes SO much sense to just blow it all out on one day and spend the rest of your time recovering vs just hammering yourself over and over. We see this with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 approach as well: he talks about “owning the movement” for that day and training it just once a week with BBB and many other programs. The alternative would be to use Dan John’s “Easy Strength” approach, where you’re never pushing the loads even CLOSE to failure so you can accumulate a lot of quality reps. But trying to walk in between that is poison.

The deficit SLDL and the good morning DEFINITELY need more love in training. These are some old school moves that built some old school strength, and have fallen out of fashion over this fear of safety that really seems to misunderstand the real risks out there in training. A back CAN be strong in these positions: especially if we train it to be that way.