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3 Keys To No Back Pain Deadlifts

Ultimate Sandbag exercises

No matter how much fitness professionals want to proclaim the solution to back pain is more deadlifting (sorry, I can’t help but think of the old Will Ferrell SNL cowbell skit), there are those that have low back pain when they deadlift. I’ve helped not only a lot of personal training clients, but also fitness pros solve a lot of their back pain and deadlift issues with these 3 keys. Even if you THINK you have great form, many of these ideas will help you!

The Keys Of Technique

One reason I take teaching the deadlift slowly to someone who has a history of low back pain is because there are A LOT of nuances of technique that are essential to nail to make sure we don’t experience low back pain. The first is to obviously make sure the weight stays as close to your body as possible. With the barbell people do a decent job of this part, but when it comes to kettlebells and Ultimate Sandbags, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the weight start by the toes or even in front of the toes.

With the Ultimate Sandbag the weight needs to be against the shins and the kettlebell needs to be in line with the arch of your feet.

back pain

Then we want to make sure our lats are helping create core stability and positioning our body the right way. With the barbell that is trying to “break” the bar when you grab a hold, with a kettlebell it is similar but can be trickier because the hands are closer, and with the Ultimate Sandbag it is trying to pull the handles apart. Often the Ultimate Sandbag can be the easiest to learn this on because the more open position of the shoulders and the width of the handles give people more freedom.

Finally, one of the most important foundational cues is not to focus so much on lifting the weight up as much as pushing your feet down. This simple change in focus allows people to really use their lower body and more effectively use the glutes and hamstrings while sparring the low back.

Use Deadlift Progressions (Not Talking Trap Bar)

As someone who worked with and has dealt with low back pain for a long time, I don’t actually find the trap bar deadlift the best solution for those that struggle with back pain. Why not? Listen, some may find it helpful and that’s awesome. My overall personal and professional experience is that people often struggle because the trap bar has handles the make it hard to engage the lats and use the core properly. Yes, being more upright and having the center of mass moved closer to the center of the body can be helpful, but it is a crazy balancing act that doesn’t always yield positive results.

Instead, when we use deadlift progressions that because of the increased stability demands FORCE the lifter to use their lower body, we can get better results. This isn’t just my opinion either, research has shown that the closer we get to single leg training the more lower body we use and the less of our low back that we stress.

back pain

Of course the challenge is how do we successfully progress our deadlift to more single leg versions? Below are some important options that can be used and the feedback from the tool and how we progress the instability of the body plays a huge part!

Don’t Deadlift Yet!

I know, in today’s fitness landscape what I just suggested is heresy!!!! You HAVE to deadlift right? I’ve even heard coaches say you should fire your client if they are too afraid to deadlift. I’m sorry, but that is just lazy coaching and goes against to an important concepts we have taught for a long time in DVRT, “you don’t have to do any one exercise, you have to do the RIGHT one!” Sounds great until that is an exercise that you THINK is right, but isn’t working for that person.

People with low back pain can often suffer from three challenges. The first two have to do with the brain which is kinesiophobia (the fear of a specific movement) and predictive coding (where the brain starts to predict pain from past experiences and starts to create pain when the movement is performed). There are solutions though, foundational education about these issues has been shown to help (I recommend Dr. Howard Schrubiner’s “Unlearn Your Pain” because there is great information and practical strategies people can use) as well as treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy.

As far as exercise goes, mind-body practices have also been shown to help in research, “Many interventions for CLBP, such as mind-body, exercise and cognitive behavioural treatments, appear to share similar mediating pathways via shared psychological mechanisms such as pain cata- strophising, kinesiophobia, self-efficacy and distress.”

This is partly why our Myofascial Integrated Movement (MIM) program can be such an important component of any training program. Along with additional evidence that people with chronic low back pain could have problems with the fascia moving correctly which MIM helps as well. Finally, research shows that people with chronic low back pain also often have issues with hip mobility, guess a good solution too? Yup, MIM can help!

That means if we can’t implement the first two points, or if we can but we want to keep setting up people for success, we can dd MIM movements like the one’s below into the training program. Having more tools is nice, but knowing WHEN to use different tools is what makes all the difference in the success of the individual. That is why in DVRT we have many ways to find solutions for common problems like the all too familiar issue of low back pain and deadlifting!

You can find out more and save 30% on our L.I.F.T. Hip Hinge Module (HERE) and Myofascial Integrated Movement Programs (HERE) with code “spring”. Don’t miss our upcoming Foot & Knee Mechanics Masterclass is having the early bird only for a limited time longer, check it out HERE