The 7 Deadly Sins of Deadlifting

Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the best total body exercises, but it is often performed wrong which can lead to potential back problems.   Here are the most common mistakes and if you can avoid these, it will help reduce your risk of injury.

1) The weight is too far from the body.  If the object is small, then line it up between your feet.  If you are lifting a barbell, a good rule of thumb is to have it cover the top of your shoes laces.  If the weight is too far from the body, it will place extra pressure on the back.  The solution: Keep the weight close during the entire lift.

2) The knees straighten before the hips. When the knees lock out before the hips extend, it can place all the load on the low back and tension can be lost.  The solution: Try to extend the knees and hips in unison.

3)  Setting up for the lift with rounded back.  Once a person sets up in a poor position, it can be tough to reorganize the back into a good position.   The solution:  There are two ways to properly set-up for a deadlift and get the spine organized.  The first one begins with a hip hinge.  Grip the bar from a solid hip hinge position with a neutral back.  Then load the hips and hamstrings while maintaining tension in the upper back.  The second setup is useful if there is trouble in reaching the bar due to lack of mobility in the hip hinge position.  It begins with a hip hinge, just like the first one, but if you can’t reach the bar, let the knees move forward while dropping into a squat position.  Create tension in the upper back and then load the hips and hamstrings.  Maintain tension in both these starting position for safe and effective deadlifting.

4) Lifting with a rounded back.  If a person sets up poorly, it usually leads to this common mistake.  This usually occurs when the hips remain too high and the person flexes their low back because they lack hip mobility and or/ lose tension.  This can be extremely dangerous position for your back while lifting a load and could lead to a potentially catastrophic injury.  First, improve your set up position by using a technique above.  Then make sure you are completely competent in hinging from the hips and keeping the back neutral.  The solution: Improve your hip hinge.  Hold a dowel behind your back that is in contact with the back of your head, upper back, and glutes while you perform the hinge.  Allow the hips to move back and keep the chest up.  Have somebody watch you perform the movement or if you are by yourself, execute the hinge while standing sideways to a mirror so you can check your back position.

5)  Allowing the back to round after completion of the last rep.  I have seen this one way too many times.  People finish their last rep and no longer adhere to the rules of good technique.  They relax their back as they put the weight back down.  The solution: Don’t relax or lose tension until you are completely finished with the lift and the weight is out of your hands.

6) Looking up at the ceiling or the top of the wall with the chin up.  This old school technique emphasized eyes up, which can accomplish the goal of keeping the back in neutral.  However, sometimes it actual puts the back in a position of hyper-extension which can also cause back problems just as flexion can.  Having the neck extended can actually put you in an overextended position and you lose stability.  The solution: Use the hip hinge drill with the dowel to learn the proper alignment of the head and neck.  If the dowel isn’t in contact with the upper back, your chin is lifted.  Think of it as having a kink in a hose or a break in a circuit.

7) Whipping the weighted object up from the ground.  If you don’t create tension by pulling on the bar and loading the hips and hamstrings before executing the lift, it can place a lot of force on the back.  It’s also possible that your positioning will be off and your spine flexed.  The solution:  Create tension by pulling on the bar before you begin the lift and load the hips and hamstrings.  Start slowly.

Eliminate these mistakes and you can almost guarantee yourself strong and injury free deadlifting.  Remember, deadlifting is an important exercise because it’s a movement we perform often in our lives.  Whether it’s picking up our children, a bag of groceries, or heavy boxes, you can feel confident in performing these tasks by practicing good technique in the gym.