Two Common Causes for Back Pain from Deadlifting

Posted by David Wang 1 year, 9 months ago Comments

I will attempt to illustrate the 2 most common causes of back pain from doing the deadlift, seen from the novice to intermediate levels. Most commonly, you are experiencing pain due to having tissues being compressed. The compressed tissue is either the lumbar discs or the paddings of the joints (E.X. SI joint & facet joints). At other times, you can have pain from tissues being over-stretched, and in this case, it is either your muscles or ligaments being over-stretched.

For illustrative purposes, curl your index finger and sit on it. This is the equivalent of joint compression under flexion. Tissues between your finger joints (the cartilagenous padding) get irritated and cause pain, followed by inflammation if you irritate it enough. The same concept can be applied to the lower back. Thus, you can also imagine how over-stretching can occur in similiar fashion by hyper-extending your fingers.

Each of these two injuries can be severely debilitating and can take you out of the gym for weeks. At worst, it can even cause permanent disabilities.

Compression and over-stretch injuries from deadlifting happen often, and these injuries can be narrowed down to 2 major causes:

  1. insufficient core pressure
  2. improper hip hinge

1. Core pressure provides straightness and rigidity to the lower back. This cannot be stressed enough. You need to learn how to produce maximum core pressure, so that you can hip hinge. If you are unfamiliar with core pressure (or bracing at the core), then you won't be able to hip hinge. If you can't hip hinge, you shouldn't deadlift.

2. Hip hinging allows you to exert maximum strength and lift from the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles. You never want to lift from the lumbar erector muscles. That is not a deadlift. If you cannot hip hinge properly, stop deadlifting.

How to brace at the core:

  1. Stand straight with your feet hip width apart.
  2. Check to see if your tail bone (your booty) is lifted too high or tucked in way too low. Find a neutral place and call it neutral pelvis.
  3. Stiffen up your abdominal walls (image there is someone about to punch you at the belly).
  4. Pull your belly button back towards your spine while keeping your abdominal walls stiff.intra-abdominal pressure with core bracing
  5. Poke around the front and sides of your abdominal wall to make sure there is rigidity.
  6. Now you are bracing at the core and core pressure is at its maximum.
  7. Learn to breath while maintaing core pressure.
    *Practice often with the intention to become very comfortable at activating core-bracing.

How to hip hinge:

  1. Always begin by bracing at the core. When the core is braced, the entire lower torso is rigid. It prevents bending forward or back at the lumbar spine.
  2. Keep both knees unlocked, soft and constantly directly above the ankles.
  3. Reach back with your hips (your booty) and lean forward with your upper body.

  4. Maintain both knees above the ankles and don't bend them. If your weight is on your toes then you've moved your knees. Keep your body weight balanced on your heels.
  5. Continue pulling your hips back until you can feel a big stretch at your hamstrings.
  6. Check to make sure constant core pressure, check that your weight is on your heels and check that you are counter-balancing your upper body with your hips.
  • If your back is rounded, then you've lost core pressure.
  • If your back is hyper-extended, then you've lost core pressure.
  • Practice hip hinging throughout the day until you are comfortably incorporating the maneuver into your daily routines. (I.E. bending over to brush your teeth, picking up a box, vacuuming, etc.)

So to sum up the article, start by learning to brace at the core, and then learn to hip hinge properly. By the time you are proficient with these two techniques, you can then begin deadlifting safely.

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