Last week I talked about the deadlift stance. This week I want to cover another significant error I see in deadlift technique that can lead to injury and give this great lift a bad name. Properly performed deadlifts are great for strengthening the lower back and glutes. Performed poorly they can lead to significant lumbar injury.
When starting my strength training journey in 2010 I injured my lower back by making the foolish mistake of adding too much weight to the bar too soon, causing my lower back to round partway through the lift. Bang, my back went into spasm. I sheepishly put away the weights and limped to the shower and was forced to take a few weeks off to recover. Since then I have been meticulous about working on my deadlift technique.
After I recovered I spent months drilling the technique by having my training partners hold a broomstick along the length of my spine while I would perform my deadlifts. The goal is to keep three points of contact with the broomstick:
- The back of your head
- Your midback between the shoulder blades
- Your tailbone
This drill will help you stay aware of what your back is actually doing during the lift and not fool yourself into thinking your form is good.
Filming yourself during deadlift sessions is paramount when starting out, and even for more advanced lifters to keep an eye on your form especially during your heavier sets. Review the footage between sets and don’t keep adding weight if you notice your form is looking rubbish!
Excessive rounding of the lower back, technically called lumbar flexion, puts a lot of strain on the back of the discs of your spine. Repetitively loading your spine in a flexed position is a great way to increase your risk of a disc herniation. Repetitively loading the spine in a neutral position (within a properly designed training program) is a great way to strengthen the spine and reduce low back pain and injury risk.
So grab a broomstick and a camera and work on your technique so you can build a strong, healthy spine!
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