DONT BE AFRAID OF DEADLIFTS. MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU

Varun Sharma
Varun Sharma

 | 1 minute to read
Exercise Science

Yesterday I had three appointments in noon and all had one thing in common. All of them told me that they don’t like to do deadlifts in spite of two of them given in their plans. Reason of not doing was they were scared of back injuries and pain. So it's imperative we understand and know few things about deadlifts and then make assumptions like these.

Why Deadlifts in the first place? Can’t I I manage with just Back extensions. Firstly let's understand the definition of the word. Deadlift means “picking up a dead or immobile object from ground”. Now by definition, you are already deadlifting things at home like 1) picking up that heavy Flour or Rice Jar(Dabba) and putting it on the kitchen slab. Wouldn’t it be cool if you ladies do it better than calling your husband? 2) picking up your baby once he/she starts crying on his play-mat. Did your doctor asked you to first squat and sit and then pick the baby. The reason is you don’t deadlift lady! 3) Changing tyres. How do you lift the tyre and put it back in your car’s trunk. 4) Want to move that sofa? Let's call neighbour waale bhaaisahab. All these minor inconveniences can be assisted with a simple but no so simple exercise called.. yep you guessed it right! So yes you can manage with isolation exercises also but if you have healthy backs why not work on this lift? But articles/My gym trainer/Friends tells me that this exercise can hurt my back? According to this systematic review by British Journal of Sports Medicine (https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/4/211.info) Athletes injuries incidence is as low as 1-4.4/1000 hours of training session. Now compare this to any other sport and its almost half. Read the research above to compare it with other sports like football. Also less than half of these concerns lower back. Which makes it to 0-2.2/1000. Also consider the fact that we guys nowhere train with the intensity these athletes train like as they have to set new records and thus have less fatigue and lesser chances of injury. Injury can happen in any sport and there is no evidence that chances in this particular sport let alone be deadlift are more. Can't stop playing everything. Can we? So why such a big hype on deadlifts injury? To get a basic idea Deadlift is a closed chain exercise(limbs on grounds) which means force to move the load is channelled through the body into the immovable object. To be specific our legs(pushing the ground) transfer the force to our spine ( when we extend our hips) which moves the object up. So the key here is to maintain a neutral spine by resisting lumbar flexion. Remember all the queues, play the sport by its rules and you’ll only get stronger not injured. I myself started doing deadlifts after my first ESS workshop 2.5 years back and touchwood still going strong. What happens in lumbar flexion(rounded lower back)? 1. Since the back is flexed there is low load on leg muscles. So in a compound lift you are inefficiently using half of the muscles to make that lift in the first place, hence defeating the efficiency and purpose of lift overall. 2. A fully flexed spine(end range of motion)is associated with high anterior shear force. Ligaments(Longitudinal) up to an extent only can withstand this shearing force. When we neutralise our spine with spine erectors it cancels out this with posterior shearing force. 3. Repeated lumbar flexions to end of range of motion is a risk of disc herniations or bulges(Ref. McGill Low Back Disorders 2ndedition). Imagine a burger with bun between two pieces of bread and on squeezing the sandwich from one side the bun slips out. Same thing but less fun! 4. There had been many pro lifters who did thoracic rounding or even slight lumbar rounding(refer image 2) and this has been a controversial discussion however I can safely say that beginners should, by all means, maintain neutral back at sub-maximal loads while they are still beginners and leave the techniques of thoracic rounding for later stages. So should we totally avoid spine flexions in daily life movements too?? We should and have to use segmental round backing or back flexion in daily life unless your health physician/physiotherapist have advised you otherwise. Imagine tying your shoelaces without that, doing a set of crunches or picking up a ball off ground. Difference is these activities does not have high vertical pressure under high loads and flexion comes naturally in low/no loads and is essential. What if I feel pain after doing deadlifting? Pain is a very generic term but few points here to check are 1) Is my technique(form and execution) and queuing to the point? If not get it checked and learn the lift properly. If the lumbar was allowed to bend too much under load repetitively it can strain the bent area of spine and inflammation. 2) Start doing it with minimal weights and progressively overload as you get better.Do not ego lift even if the guy next to you is lifting a lot. Remember you are there for yourself. 3) Is the pain soreness like other muscles. DOMS like any other muscle groups effect back as well. Its common to be sore 2-3 days after a good deadlifting session. But you should know the difference between soreness and injury. 4) Are you resting properly. The number of training sessions, rest between sets and other fatigue management variable should be checked once. Takeaways: 1. Even if you don’t deadlift at the gym you still do lift dead(immobile objects) at home. Deadlift just makes those movements better. Keep side other technical benefits of compound lifts which will make this article a lot more technical. 2. Learn the lift properly to make your life easy and also so that you lift your stuff yourself(without calling a stronger guy). 3. Lumbar flexions are not always dangerous if done with low loads for a healthy back. However, if you are lifting heavy its important you maintain neutral spine. 4. Neutral spine doesn’t mean straight spine or hyperextended spine. Know the difference. 5. Learn the difference between soreness and pain and take your recovery, nutrition and hydration seriously. 6. If in pain consult a physician/physiotherapist and try to understand the cause rather than making assumptions on your own. 7. Consider learning the lift properly once and not from bros. Consider taking ESS workshop or learning from a good tutorial. Keep working on technique as its a skill and always gets better with practice. Happy Lifting!!! References: Stuart McGill Low Back Disorders – Evidence-based prevention and Rehabilitation https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/4/211.info https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25559899

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