20 years ago trying to convince people that the deadlift would help one’s low back would have caused people to think you are crazy! Fast forward to today, if you disagree with the idea that the deadlift can help your low back, now you are crazy! Funny to see how just a change in time completely alters how we look at the SAME thing. Of course the question becomes, “who is right?” Kinda both, but only if we are willing to look deeper.
Let’s look first at why the deadlift can help one’s low back. The BIGGEST thing about the deadlift is to teach the movement of the hip hinge. Learning how to use the hips, NOT the low back to lift weight from the ground can be game changing for most people. However, it isn’t JUST getting into the position, but also how we cue the movement.
Sometimes people want to rush through really owning the deadlift because once you gain the understanding of the movement, you are able to quickly lift more weight fast! Those are both a product of learning and your nervous system becoming more efficient. However, rushing into “more and more” isn’t ideal in using the deadlift to ensure people own the movement, understand how to use their body effectively, and can replicate these strategies in more demanding circumstances.
As we build up strength in the foundational deadlift (yes, we want to go heavier first), we have options in making the deadlift smarter. First we go changing our holding position and then we go into changing our stance. What you see me do here is use our front loaded good morning (which is just another hip hinge) to encourage greater activation of the lats and core which are essential for stronger hip hinges. The use of the band gives me feedback to make sure I understand how the upper body is essential in creating proper tension for control in the movement. You see how I can use the same strategy no matter what body position I begin to use.
That takes me to how those that think that the deadlift causes issues in the low back is also right. In the world of sports performance, there is the idea of “optimal strength”. This is a term that is used to describe that getting stronger at a particular lift doesn’t have carry over to the performance of their sport. Of course if you are not an athlete, you can wonder if this doesn’t apply to you. Well, it still does.
Instead of thinking about performance, let’s go with the idea of risk versus performance. If all we do is aim to go heavier and heavier, we put so much more on our body. You might think, “no problem, my body is resilient”, if we look at powerlifters a pretty strong review of the sport (you can read HERE) showed that THE most common injury has to do with the low back. Not shocking, but in an era where we believe more load leads to greater strength, it may be surprising to some.
Plus, we forget what the point of the deadlift is really about. It is actually about teaching how to use the ground correctly with the feet to help stabilize the lower body while the hips produce force and the trunk maintains a plank throughout the movement. If we realize this and what to stress the movement and muscles like the glutes, then we have to realize that moving to less stable environments may stress the body better and with less risk than aiming to just go heavier. After all, when was the last time you heard someone hurting their low back on a single leg deadlift?
The glutes work to both stabilize our pelvis and extend our hips. Most of the time in the foundational deadlift people only work the glutes one way!
The counter to that is HOW do I get people to perform the single leg deadlift well because that is tough! People have come up with all sorts of strategies, but they actually don’t work like I explain below.
We actually have way more options to create progression to the single leg deadlift than most ever think! Now, it isn’t just using random tools either. When we use either the Ultimate Sandbag or kettlebells we do so with great purpose. Turn up the volume to hear how I break down how we are using the Ultimate Sandbag as another coach below…
What most people fail to realize is that in each deadlift we are showing we want to spend time using more load, building up confidence in the movement, and get strong in these positions. In each one, we can use strength and power to build up the ability to go to GOOD single leg deadlifts. When you see the series below, you get to see everything from strength to power to as foundational as we get by applying these principles to the most basic hip hinge, the hip bridge. Understanding the system available to us allows us to build better solutions and actually have the RIGHT exercise that makes us not only strong, but FEEL our best too!
Find out how we do it with our DVRT system or see the power of our Ultimate Sandbags with code “fall” HERE for a limited time!
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