CaliSpine specializes in lower back pain relief and over the years we have come to truly understand that patients must practice proper lifting techniques. Deadlifts are a fundamental motion in our daily movement and it is critical that we understand how to use it without hurting ourselves. We hear all too often that “deadlifts are dangerous”, or “my back popped on my last set of deadlifts.” When we ask patients to demonstrate their “deadlift,” roughly 95% of them execute it with terrible form! Therefore their deadlift is indeed dangerous.

In this blog, I will talk about the ideology behind the deadlift and why it is needed in your daily life. The next blog will demonstrate proper deadlift technique to protect your low back!

What is a deadlift and why should I care?

The deadlift is the most powerful technique for lifting an object from the ground. It uses the powerful hamstring and glute muscles to bring the body from a horizontal to a standing position. Traditionally, the deadlift refers to someone lifting a heavy barbell off of the floor, but in terms of our every day population, the deadlift is a technique used to pick up objects like grocery bags, toys, bricks, bags of fertilizer, or the phonebook on your porch (do those still exist?).

Although people think of the deadlift as an exercise done at the gym, it is something you execute daily whenever you pick up most objects from the floor. Without even seeing your deadlift form, I can probably guess that you round your back whenever you pick something up from the ground. This type of movement pattern will catch up with you over time and eventually lead to injury.

The Injuries we see from Improper Deadlifting

People who round their back during a deadlift dramatically increase their chances of bulging their lumbar discs. This injury can take weeks and months to rehabilitate and is usually improved with tissue work and corrective training. If you overly arch the back when lifting, you risk jamming the joints of the lumbar spine or the sacroiliac join. This injury is very common and often requires a few adjustments and corrective training.

The Do’s and Don’ts of a Deadliftthe dos and donts of deadlift

Keep it simple… don’t round the back and don’t overly arch the back. The back should stay as flat and neutral as possible through the entire motion. The more movement in the spine, the more risk of injuring yourself. You know you are doing a proper deadlift when you feel tension and stretching in the back of the thighs(hamstrings) and glutes. Unlike a squat, the deadlift does not require your hips to set low. Keeping them high allows you to use your hamstrings efficiently. Maintaining vertical shins is essential when picking up and object, not just a barbell as shown in the image above.

The next blog will go over, in detail, how your deadlift should look… even when you are picking up something light like an apple that fell to the floor!