Don’t buy another supplement until you read this: CLICK HERE


The Deadlift and Your Lower Back: Harmful or Helpful?

Don’t forget to follow Muscle for life
Share this article!
Share this!
The Deadlift and Your Lower Back: Harmful or Helpful?

For some, deadlifting is synonymous with low-back pain. Is this fact or fiction?


In the ‘70s, top powerlifters like John Kuc, John Cole, and Don Reinhoudt had outstanding deadlifts, with personal bests around 900 pounds. The deadlift was considered the king of compound exercises.

These days, many powerlifters choose to compete only in the bench press, and for those that compete in all three (bench press, squat, and deadlift), the deadlift takes the back seat because of assistance gear that can add hundreds of pounds to their bench and squat, but nothing to their deadlift.

Well, the fact is the deadlift is, hands down, one of toughest—and most rewarding—exercises you can do. It’s the ultimate full-body workout, training just about every muscle group in the body: leg muscles, glutes, the entire back, core, and arm muscles. Anything that’s involved in producing whole-body power is blasted by the deadlift, and it’s an integral part of any serious strength training program.

Oddly enough, it’s also one of the most neglected compound exercises by both guys and gals; the unfortunate victim of the long-standing myth that it’s “bad for your back.”

At first, it would seem to make sense that lifting hundreds of pounds off the ground—putting all that pressure on your back, particularly your low-back and erector spinae muscles (also known as the spinal erectors)—would be a recipe for spinal disaster.

Anecdotal evidence is ambivalent: we all know or have heard of someone that “messed up their back deadlifting,” yet also know that many serious strength trainers, bodybuilders, and powerlifters swear by it.

So, is the deadlift bad for your back when performed properly?

Let’s turn to a series of scientific studies to learn more about this oft-feared, oft-revered lift.

The Science of Deadlifting

Let’s start with a study conducted by the University of Valencia to determine the most effective way to train the paraspinal muscles, which run down both sides of your spine and play a major role in the prevention of back injuries.

Researchers had 25 people with no low-back pain perform two types of exercise for their backs: body weight exercises like lumbar extensions, forward flexions, single-leg deadlifts, and bridges; and two weighted exercises, deadlifts and lunges, using 70% of their one-rep max weight. Muscle activity was measured using electromyography, a technique of evaluating and recording electrical activity produced by muscles (the more and harder a muscle contracts, the more electrical activity takes place inside it).

The result: deadlifts most activated the paraspinal muscles. And it wasn’t even close. The deadlift’s average electromyographic muscle activity was 88% and peaked at 113%, whereas the back extension produced an average activity of 58% and peak of 55%, and the lunge an average of 46% and peak of 61%. The rest of the exercises’ average activities rang in between 29-42% (the supine bridge on a BOSU ball was the least effective, in case you were wondering).

Thus, researchers concluded, the deadlift is an incredibly effective way to strengthen the paraspinal muscles.

Another study conducted by the University of Waterloo set out to determine how much low-back flexion deadlifting caused, and thus how much strain it put on the vertebrae and lumbar ligament (as there were many claims that the lift put these things under tremendous strain, which could lead to injury).

Researchers used real-time x-ray imaging (called fluoroscopy) to watch the spines of elite powerlifters while they fully flexed their spines with no weights, and while they deadlifted over 400 pounds. With the exception of one trial of one subject, all men completed their deadlifts within the normal range of motion they displayed during full flexion. Ligament lengths were unaffected, indicating that they don’t help support the load, but instead limit range of motion.

So, as we can see, a proper deadlift effectively strengthens your entire back, including your erector spinae muscles, and doesn’t force anything unnatural in terms of range of motion. And in case you’re wondering, the major “no-no” in deadlifting is rounding your back, as this shifts much of the stress away from the erector spinae muscles to the vertebrae and ligaments…and this is what’s bad for your back.

Two Useful Variations of the Deadlift:
Sumo and Hex

While you can’t go wrong doing a full-range conventional deadlift, there are two useful variations that you should know about.

The sumo deadlift uses a wide stance (1.5-2 times the width of your shoulders) to shorten the range of motion and shearing force on the lower back. It also can feel more comfortable in the hips than a conventional deadlift, depending on your biomechanics (if you walk with your toes pointed out, the sumo may be better for you).

The downside of the sumo deadlift is the reduced range of motion, which results in less work done, which means less muscle development. Nevertheless, give this variation a try if you lack the flexibility to do a conventional deadlift, if it just feels very uncomfortable (certain people’s bodies are better suited to the sumo deadlift), or if it’s causing low-back pain.

The hex bar—or trap bar—deadlift is a great way to learn to deadlift, because it doesn’t require as much hip and ankle mobility to get to the bar, and it puts less shearing stress on the spine. It also allows you to lift more weight than the conventional deadlift, which may make it a more effective exercise for developing overall lower body power. That said, the conventional deadlift is more effective in strengthening the erector spinae muscles and hip muscles, because the hex-bar deadlift is more like a squat due to the increased load it places on the quadriceps.

So there you have it: deadlifting isn’t “bad for your back,” and to the contrary, is actually a great way to protect yourself against back injury and low-back pain. I think it should be included in all workout routines, and feel free to try all three variations to see which you like best.

And while someone who already has low-back pain or a disc injury will need to do a rehabilitation program of some kind before they can perform conventional deadlifts, this will often include sumo and/or hex deadlifts to gradually strengthen the erector spinae muscles and restore structural balance.

Oh and before I sign off, a caveat and comment:

Some people advocate deadlifting on unstable surfaces like the BOSU ball. Don’t bother with this—it decreases the effectiveness of the exercise.

Some people don’t deadlift because they believe regular squatting makes it unnecessary. They’re wrong. Research has shown that these two lifts train very different sets of muscles.


So, do you deadlift? What’s your favorite style? Have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!


How to get lean and build serious muscle and strength, faster than you ever thought possible…

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my books.

You see, depending on how you eat, train, rest, and supplement, building muscle and losing fat can be incredibly simple or seemingly impossible. I've learned this the hard way, making every mistake you can imagine.

I've also learned a lot about what DOES work, and I wrote Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger to teach you EVERYTHING you need to know to build the body you've always wanted.

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
Leave a Comment!
  • Lancifer Miller

    I Deadlift. Standard Deadlift and Sumo style to hit my legs more. When done properly I am fine. Makes me work tho. I love it!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome. Glad to hear it. Keep it up! :)

      • Lancifer Miller

        Thanks for your books! I have The Shredded chef, Cardio Sucks and BLS. Excellent reads and the workout routine and calorie guidelines got me from 290lbs of not so hotness to 239lbs from June 2012 to Now April 2013! So thanks for the book and reply!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Really glad you like my work, and great job on your weight loss so far! That totally rocks. Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Henry Morecroft

    I think issues arise due to poor form. All too common seeing guys in the gym trying to impress people by dead lifting too heavy, unable to maintain good form. Arched backs and ‘bouncing’ the weights off the floor are a sure way to cause injury when deadlifting.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup, you’re totally right. This is one of the exercises that do NOT play well with ego lifting…

  • Rob Noyer

    I got to love the deadlift over my first two phases of BLS (and got up to 315 as a personal best!) but unfortunately I had a mishap a few months back while experimenting with the switch grip and my form was off during a heavy set. I paid the price with a low back sprain on my right side. I’ve since been dealing with some early morning soreness and unfortunately I’ve had to shy away from heavy sets for a while. I’d love to get back to where I was pre-injury but I’ve been hesitant about loading on the weight. Great article Mike!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Rob,

      Great job on the getting to 315. I’m sorry to hear about the sprain. That’s no fun. I mildly sprained my low-back on the Leg Press years ago, so I know what that’s like.

      Anyway, definitely work your way back into it. Isolation exercises like hypertensions are great for building the area back up, too. And the sumo/hex variations could be of interest for you.

      Anyway, glad you liked the article and let me know how things go on this…


  • Paul

    I have always struggled with deadlifting. It always seems to make my lower back hurt and I’m not sure what it is but I keep coming back to it since I know it is so good for the Back and the whole body. I guess I just need to perfect my form in order to get the most out of it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Paul,

      Proper form is crucial, but maybe you could try sumo or hex deads for a bit? These are great ways to work into the conventional deadlift.

      Just an idea!


  • Robert Greene

    Great articles!. Deadlift is my all time favorite compound interest. At first I got pain in my lower back but I kept doing it with lighter load. I agree with good form and avoid ego lifting, deadlift is the most effective exercise and after some time I never got problem with my lower back again. Thank you for writing this articles, it encourages me as deadlifters. I rarely saw people doing free-weight exercise in my gym nowadays as they stuck into machine.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Robert,

      Thanks! Yeah I love the deadlift. That’s great you were able to handle the lower back pain with it. It’s one of the best all-around back strengtheners.

      Keep up the good work!


  • Pingback: 10 Exercises That Suck and What to Do Instead | Muscle For Life

  • Vládimir Borges de Araujo

    Mike, first of all thanks for your patience and to link me to your article. Very elucidating. I think u r right: I must be hyperextending, that could be the cause of the lumbar pain. I sure want to insist on dealifts, since your book it really improved my body gains.

    I’m 5,74ft tall and close to 164 pounds. My charge at deadlifts is at about 264 lbs (if I converted everything properly)… and really felt stronger after deadlifts, but de lumbar pain did concern me.

    Your brazilian buddy,


    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Vlad,

      Thanks! I’m really glad you liked the article. If you’re over-arching your back at the top, it can definitely cause trouble. Try lightening the weight and focusing on form.

      Let me know how it goes!


  • Pingback: The 3 Most Common Weightlifting Mistakes and How To Prevent Injury -

  • edward

    Hi mike! thanks for the detailed explanation! I’m a beginner to lifting. I actually just hurt my back a week ago from deadlifting and it was my first deadlift not using the smith machine (i know, smith machine was all i had at the gym of my apartment…). long story short, pretty lady walked in, forced the weight, and hurt my back. I then realized I have always had weak lower back ( it hurts when i do crunches, or when i bend over and pick up heavy weights.) I couldnt walk properly for a week since the incidence, couldnt work out either. Do you think it’s normal? If it is i will definitely follow your advice and try to do other versions of DL to strengthen my lower back.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Edward! I’m glad you liked the article.

      Sorry to hear about your back. I guess you learned your lesson. ;)

      If you’re still in pain, you may want to see a doctor and ensure you didn’t injure a disc. If it’s just muscular, it will heal up (you can use the simple RICE protocol to help it heal).

      Once you’re better, it sounds like it would be smart to do hyperextensions for at least 3-4 weeks to strengthen the low-back so you can actually deadlift without worry.

      I hope this helps!


      • edward

        thanks mike! loved all your books by the way. planning to add cardio sucks to the collection!

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks Edward! I really appreciate your support!

  • Pingback: | Project NEXT

  • Danny Shell

    Hi Mike

    Just finished week six of your program, my deadlift has gone from 110kg to 132.5kg but my grip is now letting me down and I find straps awkward on this exercise. Should I just continue with the bar at 130kg and work on my grip strength? I imagine grip strength is primarily driven by your forearms, can you suggest any exercises that would help!

    On course to hit 12% body fat in about 8 weeks following your advice in the year one challenge, then onto some serious lifting while I’m bulking.

    Wish I’d found your book earlier!

    All the best, Danny

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Danny,

      Great job on your progress! That rocks.

      Yeah grip can become a problem with deadlifting. What I did was buy a Gripmaster and use it every day until it was easy (I think I got the red and black one), and from that point on I didn’t have any issues. Your grip will naturally get stronger as you continue to dead as well, so you can always up your reps to the 6-8 range and then try to move up weight and go back to 4-6 and see how your grip does.

      Let me know once you hit your body fat goal! I hope you’re taking pictures–I’d love to feature you in the successes section of the site! :)

      Talk soon,


      • Danny Shell

        Thanks Mike!

        I’ll give your suggestions a try with regards to the rep range and gripmaster.

        I am following the year one challenge to the letter, so I have taken the initial photo at the start of the program and will take another at the next interval. The fact I may appear on the successes section is an added motivation.

        I’ll keep you posted, cheers Danny

        • Michael Matthews

          You’re welcome! Definitely let me know how it goes.

          Great on the pictures. Definitely keep me in the loop on your progress. Talk soon!

  • Greg Foertsch

    I’m a tall guy and a youthful 44, but I’ve had some minor back issues in the past. I’ve foregone the traditional deadlift for the Hex (trap) bar deadlift, which I find is much more comfortable on my back because it keeps me more centered. It also allows me to hit some shrugs at the top on my last rep of each set. Do you think that’s a good or bad idea? Thanks a bunch love the ebooks I’ve gotten…great stuff.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for commenting Greg! Yup hex deads are great if you have lower back issues, and sumo deads are as well. Check out this article I wrote on deads for more info: /the-deadlift-and-your-lower-back-harmful-or-helpful/

  • Pingback: Why You Shouldn’t Wear a Weightlifting Belt | Muscle For Life

  • Balu Prakash

    Hey Mike, just wanted your opinion on something. I ended up doing the romanian deadlift with improper form(with the bar way too forward) and ended up hurting my lower back. I took a week off from working out(not only because of the back issue, but I also caught a cold). It’s been a week since the injury, the inflammation is gone, but there is still an ache in the lower back. I was thinking about getting back to the gym this week, is that a good idea? Do you think I should keep doing deadlifts(I have corrected the knowledge on form)? If yes, I start with lowered weights right?

  • Balu Prakash

    Hey Mike, just wanted your opinion on something. I ended up doing the romanian deadlift with improper form(with the bar way too forward) and ended up hurting my lower back. I took a week off from working out(not only because of the back issue, but I also caught a cold). It’s been a week since the injury, the inflammation is gone, but there is still an ache in the lower back, and it tends to act up when I’m sitting. I was thinking about getting back to the gym this week, is that a good idea? Do you think I should keep doing deadlifts(I have corrected the knowledge on form)? If yes, I start with lowered weights right?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m sorry to hear that. You should definitely lay off the deads until your back is fully okay again, and then yes you can ease back into it with lighter weights to ensure everything is okay.

      • Balu Prakash

        Thanks Mike, looked all around the internet for answers but couldn’t get anything solid, except from here. Awesome article by the way, learned a lot from this. :P

        • Michael Matthews

          YW and thanks! Really glad you like my work. :)

    • Simon

      Hey, your spine may be out of alignment by a bit. you would feel it when you rotate at the lower back. if that is indeed the case, a bone-setter (forgot what they’re called) is not a good idea. an acupuncturist is the best idea, following whatever they tell you not to do. Two visits of acupuncture (and a massage along the affected areas) put my spine back in place (was out of alignment in 3 places), and cost less than a western doctor would (price varies between acupuncturists).
      It works by releasing the tension holding the spine out of alignment (which also causes internal organ issues that you might not notice), and allowing the energy to flow freely, which allows the body to put the spine back in correct alignment by itself.
      If the injury stopped hurting without treatment, the injury did not go away! In fact, your body just got used to it, and grew accustomed to the new alignment. There are still organ issues. When your back shifts, everything else also shifts! That’s how important your back is. If you see an acupuncturist, your back pain will return, but that is good because it means you are on your way towards healing. While this is occurring, it is best to stay away from all forms of back exercise till you are fully healed.
      All this comes from my experiences of: pulling out my lower back when I incorrectly tried to pull myself up a wall, incorrectly did a deadlift, tried to do a handstand but instead screwed up my middle back and upper neck (on the spine). In fact my spine is acting up again, probably due to the bad forward roll I did last night =[ (I practice martial arts).
      Good luck

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for the tip!

  • Travis Tackett

    I love deadlifts and have found that the increased lower back strength built by them makes lifts such as squats and bent-over rows much easier to complete with good form. I can recommend that you don’t do drop sets with deadlifts. I let a friend talk me into this once and ended up straining a muscle in my back. You just simply can’t keep good form, and that makes you prone to injury. While completing my deadlifts either slow/controlled or explosively (with good form), I have never had and injury -even with weights of 400 lbs+.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah me too. Yeah, I would never do drop sets with deadlifts. I never do drop sets period though, haha.

  • mdringler

    I injured my back deadlifting. Took off months to recover, increase my mobilization, perfect my technique, etc. While slowly increasing my weight (still below body weight) I injured my back again. This was after video taping my form and perfecting my technique. Its so frustrating that I think I’m done trying. I did everything right and still hurt my back. My hip and ankle mobility does appear to be lacking, but not enough to destroy my deadlift form (at least my back stays straight). Are there any alternatives I could try? I suppose I could try the hex bar, but at this point I’m nervous to axial load my spine at all. Thanks,

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry to hear about that. :(

      It might be due to a structural problem or a mobility/flexibility issue.

      The hex is great for reducing shearing force on the spine, which is the problem. That said, I would personally see a good physio for at least a consult so you know for sure what’s going on…

      • mdringler

        Thanks Mike. Do you have any recs regarding lifts to do instead of deadlift for strengthening core? For example: leg raises, plank, ab roller, reverse crunches, superman, barbell good morning, romanian deadlifts, etc…?

        • Michael Matthews

          Sure, the barbell row is a great overall back exercise and hyperextensions are great for strengthening the lower back. Squats hit the core hard too.

        • Paul Kent

          a good physio should recommend the lifts to use in lieu of the deadliest, as it sounds as if you have something strange happening with your biomechanics. get assessed before you hurt yourself, maybe by a few different people. let them know your goals.

          • Michael Matthews

            I agree if you’re dealing with some sort of injury.

  • Mike

    Mike, when I dead lift I try to control the weights all the way down to the floor . Some guys let it ‘drop’ quicker and claim that its better on the back . I find when I try to release it and let it go down quicker , it hurts the back. I perfer to let it drop slower with more control. Which is more effective ?

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. I keep it under control too as I’m not trying to hit one-rep PRs.

      That said, my descent IS faster than my ascent.

  • Ignacio Colautti

    Can you share a video showing proper former?

    • Michael Matthews
      • Ignacio Colautti

        Thank you :)

        • Michael Matthews

          YW :)

      • Milica Kozomara

        Great vid! Dropping back 10lbs to work on form. This helps so much.

        • Michael Matthews

          Nice! Glad to hear it. Form>weight always.

  • Pingback: How to Prevent and Recover From Workout Injuries | Muscle For Life

  • James

    Hi Mike, I’m from Brazil, bought your book here and love it!
    One question that it’s not clear on the videos I’ve watched: when I do a rep, should I lower the bar all the way down till it touches the floor?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks James! Yes, lower it all the way down.

  • Mike

    I use a 2 sec up 2 sec down cadence with this one..all how you use the weight..form first..increase weight gradually as you careful if you have any current back issues or other concerns..may need to work around your injuries and not do this one..make sure to warm up

    • Mike

      Great site Mike..ty again!

      • Michael Matthews


    • Michael Matthews

      Great tips.

  • Pingback: How to Build an Athletic Body That “Shows and Goes” | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: 5 Huge Fitness Mistakes That Nearly Made Me Quit | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: The No-BS (And Only) Way to Get “Six Pack Abs” | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: The Ultimate Back Workout: The Best Back Exercises for a Thick, Wide Back | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: The Deadlift and Your Lower Back: Harmful or Helpful? - Stormfront

  • Pingback: Like Abs | How To Do The Perfect Deadlift

  • Pingback: Why You Should Never Peel An Apple | Honest Panic Away Reviews

  • Pingback: How To Do The Perfect Deadlift - Nashville Fitness Equipment | Nashville Fitness Equipment

  • Pingback: 11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press | Muscle For Life

  • Mateen

    Dear Mike, I am the guy that healed my spinal disc injury by deadlift and squatz. Now I feel much more confident. Deadlift and squatz are two greatest exercises that have been invented by humanity. Totally agree with your artice.

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s awesome! Great job!

      • Mateen Khalilli

        Mike, I have a question though. I am doing squats and deadlift at the same day. Starting from squats first, then moving to deadlift. The reason of doing two hard compound exercises the same day is to let the back to rest full week or more, and felt that my deadlift goes well after squats rather than doing it separate day. So, what do you think, is that ok?

        • Matt

          Hey! I know i’m not the author of this article bit since its a few months old you might not get a response. Anyway i squat and deadlift on the same day twice a week. It’s fine! Of course if you max out both lifts twice a week for a few weeks you’re going to burn out. but i you train smart your body will build work capacity to easily do both in the same day.

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks for sharing Matt! Keep up the good work brother.

          • Mateen Khalilli

            Thanks a lot Matt. I am doing them once a week. I feel good and sure so far, and feel high and enjoy the feeling :) after the workout due to soreness, for two days.

        • Michael Matthews

          You can squat and deadlift on the same day but as you know, it’s HARD. Check this out on the frequency:

  • Mateen

    I do these exercises with 70-75 percent of max, 10-12 reps. It pays off a lot.

  • rich

    Hey Mike,
    Whenever I deadlift I also do a a few sets of “good morning” as well. I feel that it aids in strengthening your spinal erectors, gultes and hamstrings and in turn increases the safety of the deadlift and squat. What are your thoughts of adding good mornings to back or leg day?

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! Honestly I’m not sure we need more lower back training between deads and squats but if you like it, keep it up.

  • halevi

    The deadlift is exhausting!

    • Michael Matthews


  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    I want to start doing deadlifts but there is a problem: only the 20kg weight plates in my gym are tall enough to get the olympic bar high enough off of the floor in order to do perfect form. The 10kg plates are just too small therefore I round my back at the bottom. As doing a 40kg deadlift is too heavy for me to start with because I am a beginner, how would I get strong enough to even start doing deadlifts in this case? Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      You can just stop the dead at the proper bottom. You don’t have to touch the plates to the ground.

  • donald

    Hi Mike can you explain a bit more on the two phases, from when i lift the bar from the floor to knee caps and then the hip drive to extend my body into standing position? I mean the cues to keep my form right, whether i should utilize a push or pull mechanism, thanks!

    • donald

      Reason is my lower back (spinal area) hurts so bad from flexion and extention after 4 days

      • Michael Matthews

        If you’re new to deadlifting it will be quite sore after workouts for the first month or so.

    • Michael Matthews
  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    When a PT showed me how to do the deadlift he started me off on 20kg plates on each side of the barbell so 40kg in total and he made me do 5 reps. For 4 weeks after I couldn’t properly bend my back, hurt like crazy but then the pain eventually went, but I was just thinking as this injured my back is it more susceptible to re-injury if I start doing the deadlft again? Do you think doing 5 reps of 40kg would have caused long term issues with my back? (Fucking PT’s man!)

    • Michael Matthews

      Arg, that’s lame. I doubt you injured yourself seriously enough to not be able to pick it up again. People use deads to rehab some pretty nasty back injuries.

      That said, proper form is everything…

  • Pingback: Debunking the Myth of Weightlifting and Joint Problems | Muscle For Life

  • Richard Servello

    I’ve been doing fine, but I recently did one bad rep and tweaked my lower back. Now I have to make sure I straighten up entirely before I stand from a seated position or I get pain and it hurts if I’m sitting. I have had to cut deadlifts out of my routine for 2 weeks now while I heal. When I’m back on track I plan on once again reducing my weight to very little to get back on track. Any advice in the meantime on anything I can do to speed up recovery?? I train to gain strength and mobility, not lose it.

    • Michael Matthews
      • Richard Servello

        Ill read those when I get a spare moment. Thanks! I don’t like to just stop anything when I hurt myself…I just work around it until I heal. I twisted my previously injured elbow a few weeks ago. I just lowered weight on that arm for a couple weeks until it was back to normal. Now I’m 100% better and didn’t miss a day. Last week I did wide grip chin ups in place of dead lifts to try and stretch my back instead of compress it. Seems to have helped a bit…I think by next week I should be ready to get back into it.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! Enjoy.

          Same here. I never stop completely. I just work around things. Fortunately I don’t get hurt often.

          Keep up the good work.

  • Andrew

    Hey Mike, quick question; I am one of those people that is better suited for the Sumo Deadlift. For some reason I cannot keep my lower back from rounding doing a conventional deadlift with my legs closer together, but the with the wide stance of the sumo deadllift I don’t have much of a problem keeping it neutral. Is this due to an imbalance? Even sitting straight up in a chair, if I bring my knees together my low back rounds no matter how much I try to keep the slight curve in the lumbar spine. I have been told it may be tightness in the glutes but was wondering your thoughts. Ps I do a lot of martial arts and in my fight stance (which I spend a lot of time in) my hips are externally rotated with toes pointed out slightly, not sure if this would contribute to the imbalance since I feel I have a lot of restriction when the hips are internally rotated

  • Harry

    Hi Mike. I wanted your opinion on romanian deadlift. I was doing the other day (in good form) when a more experienced lifter told me to stick to normal deadlits only. He warned me that romanian deadlift puts a lot of pressure on the back as you don’t bend and lift with your legs much.
    I found that strange because I think the opposite is true. Certainly I feel my back more when I do standard deadlift. What’s your take on this matter?

    • Michael Matthews

      I like the RDL. Some people don’t do well with it and some do. For those that don’t, the straight-leg DL is a good alternative.

      RDL is very different than standard dead. The former is mainly for the hammies while the latter is mainly for the back.

      • Harry

        That’s what I thought (or feel in the gym). Thanks. So definitely RDL is not bad for the back

        • Michael Matthews

          Np. RDL is kind of controversial but if performed correctly and if you have a strong lower back, it’s totally fine.

  • Suresh

    Hi Mike, I have had a bilateral groin hernia surgery two month back. I am back to doing almost normal work-out now except the thigh workout. Can I start the deadlifts?

  • Suresh Shukla

    Hi Mike, I have had a bilateral groin hernia surgery two months back. I have started working out almost normally now except the squats and deadlifts. Can I start these exercises now?

    • Michael Matthews

      Check with your doc on this. Really depends on your situation.

      • Suresh Shukla

        Thanks Mike for replying. However, I found out that most doctors don’t know much about work-outs. My doctor said I can do anything i want one month after surgery. However, when I checked on many body building websites most people seem to think that we should take it easy after surgery. I have no pain whatsoever. So, I just wanted to confirm from a weight training professsional.

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah okay. I’ve never had a hernia so I’m not sure TBH. From speaking with others that have, they often spend 3-4 months grooving back into heavier weights.

          • Suresh Shukla

            Thanks Mike…..really appreciate it…:)

          • Michael Matthews


  • stdez

    What do you think about working 2muscle parts at the same day and only working out 3 to 4 times a week instead of every day?

    • Michael Matthews

      Totally fine so long as your volume and intensity are correct.

      • stdez

        Thanks for
        responding. I`m staying under 70 reps perweek for each muscle and i can usually do it in less than an hour and 15 minutes .

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay good. Keep it up!

  • Pingback: Fly Spear | How to Do the Perfect Deadlift

  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Mobility Exercises: Improve Flexibility, Function, and Strength | Muscle For Life

  • scot

    Hi Mike
    Whenever I do deadlifts my inflammation gets crazy bad.I’m only 38 and had to stop doing them because the pain was so bad especially 3 to 7 days later when it was the worst. It would take about 2 weeks before the pain would go away. I usually work out 2 to 3 days a week. Any thoughts?

  • Gunner

    Hi Mike,I’m 20 years old and i started going to the gym 2 weeks ago.
    I’ve never performed a deadlift before out of fear for my spine,but now that i have read this article i want to start doing it.
    What’s the best weight range to lift for me? I weight 140 pounds for the record,not skinny and not fat,average body.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! You can start really light to learn form–95 pounds is probably a good number.

  • Pingback: How To Do The Perfect Deadlift - TOTALENTER10

  • Pingback: The Best Forearm Workouts to Increase Grip Strength | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: Confused About Muscle Confusion Workouts? Here Are the Straight Facts | Muscle For Life

  • Julia Irmis

    Hi Mike, great article, thank you! I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my DL as of late. I threw out my back a few months ago DL-ing… I’m usually quite meticulous about my form, but my hands were slipping terribly that day, so I think my form suffered and I ended up throwing my back out pretty awfully, which was my fault. But I rested it for weeks and went back to it (with some liquid chalk), was fine with it for a week, and when I came back the next, I threw my back out again. This pattern has been continuing for awhile now, and I’m really weary to go back to it, as when I do throw my back out it means I can’t RDL on leg-day or even leg-press (the pain is too severe for even the pressure on the back then, though it’s fine a week later). Do you think DL-ing just isn’t in the cards for me, or should I try some of the variations? I’m only 22, so I really am not keen to do permanent damage since I do seem to struggle (though I never had before), but I do love the DL, it’s my favourite exercise next to squats, and I really don’t want to give it up. I’m also not DL-ing a massive amount, about 170lbs, and the weight doesn’t honestly feel like loads. I’m usually fine for one set of eight reps or so, but when I put it down on the eighth and straighten up, that usually has to be it. Do you be any chance have any insight? Thank you again :)

    • Michael Matthews


      Arg I’m sorry to hear that.

      It sounds like you need to back off and see a good sports doc to see what’s going on. You may need to build back up using rack pulls, sumos, hex bars, etc…

  • Pingback: 6 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: back workout including deadlift | Fitness Motivation

  • Neofolis

    I have a weakness in my lumber spine, that I assume is either muscular or fascia related, because I know it’s not structural. Deadlifting with proper form seemed like the best way to strengthen this area, but I can’t increase the weight beyond a certain point without causing ongoing lumber pain. My Doctor said to avoid weights and strengthen my core before attempting weights, but I don’t seem to have any problems doing core exercises. Do you have any suggestions? I thought maybe doing Sumo or Romanian Deadlifts with lower weight and increasing the weight very slowly over a few months to the point where I have previously had issues.

    • Michael Matthews

      I would definitely try Sumos and/or Hex Deads and see how those feel. Let me know.

      • Neofolis

        I’ve actually gone back to doing romanian with lighter weight, concentrating on form and using the top as the starting position and not over extending. I will increase the weight and range of motion very gradually and see how it goes.

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay cool. LMK.

  • David

    Deadlift is the most effective exercise for building the core strength that supports all other major muscle groups it supports the body in almost every movement and position
    Deadlifting Will Not Get You Laid But It Will Make You Awesome.This is why deadlift is the true King of Exercises.

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree. :)

  • Pingback: Why You Shouldn't Wear a Weightlifting Belt | Muscle For Life

  • Pingback: Back Workout Including Deadlift | Fitness Tips and Health Tips

  • Pingback: How Training to Failure Can Help You Build More Muscle (And How It Can Hinder It Too) | Muscle For Life

  • natheriot

    I hurt my back doing deadlifts last year. Took about 2 months for the pain to really subside. I found that kettlebell swings help a lot in lower back injury rehab.

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m sorry to hear that. I’m glad you’re better now though…

  • Eugene

    Hi Mike,

    I was wondering what you would prefer… Touch-and-go deadlifts or dead-stop deadlifts? I tried both and dead-stop deadlifts are much harder since you can’t build on the momentum going back up, but it’s better for your form since you reset at the bottom. Touch-and-go are easier and I heard in the internet that they may be better for building muscle. I was just wondering which ones you do/prefer.



    • Michael Matthews

      Good question.

      Lot of conflicting opinions on this but I prefer the touch-and-go because as you said, you can squeeze out a couple more reps. That said, it can lead to poor form if you don’t ‘really pay attention.

  • David Cairns

    Hi Mike, great article as always. I was one of those guys who neglected deadlifts for years because I was uncomfortable with form and felt I was going to do myself injury. But since starting the bls program and reading becoming a supple leopard book you recommended, I’ve come to love deadlifts. In 45 weeks I’ve went from 80 kg to 140 kg,and I’m 73 kg,5 ft 5 ” in height . Thanks for showing me the way Mike.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s awesome man. Your physique is going to reward you! :)

      • David Cairns

        Thanks Mike, yeah I’m feeling good about how my trainings going. Planning to start cutting in march. Unfortunately didn’t take before pictures When I started the bls program but I’ll be doing that before I start cutting. I’ll let you know how it goes, and once again thank you because it’s more than just physique that’s improved, cheers.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great on what you’re doing and cool just keep me posted brother. Glad to hear you’re kicking ass.

  • Telmo

    Hi Mike,

    I’ve read your book (BLS), and it’s really amazing. I’ve used to train almost like you explain in your book 15 years ago and had amazing results. I was 18 at the time, now with 34 I had even better results, 12kg gain in 12 months. But now I’m very worried because I had an injury making tricep kickback (stupid exercise) 3 months ago and never recovered completely, went to the doctor, made an x-ray and he saw i have a slight degree of scoliosis and the spacing between the vertebrae is smaller than it should be. My question is, will the deadlifts and all “standing exercises” affect this due to the compression forces? I can’t get any trusted source of info on this, and don’t wont to stop deadlift or squat. My doctor (not a specialist) told me to cut all weights in half…that was a real joke, because he didn’t even knows what exercises I do, omg.


    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! Great job on your gains!

      Hmm it’s hard to advise in situations like this because it really depends on your individual circumstances. I would personally see a good sports doc…


      • Telmo

        I guess i should really go to a sports doctor. Anyway thanks for your reply. Haven’t readed your second book yet due to this issues, not sure if I can continue training with heavy weights, or if I have to change my routine to focus more on “non-standing” exercises to avoid creating too much pressure on my spine. Now that I was so excited with my gains…oh well…let’s see.

        • Michael Matthews

          I think that’s the best idea. Let me know what you find out. I can help you once I know what is okay and what’s not, you know?

          • Telmo

            Yes, I understand Mike, and thanks alot. We sometimes come to you for every kind of problems, when we should consult our doctor of course :). That’s how much we respect your work here. I’ll keep you posted when I have more info if you don’t mind, I hope I’ll get your latest book, that would mean everything is ok :).

          • Michael Matthews

            Haha yeah sometimes I just don’t think I’m the best person to advise, that’s all. :) Let me know brother. Merry xmas.

  • CDK

    Mike, my wife is experiencing lower back pain while doing the conventional deadlift. She does everything right, as far as I can see. She engages the core to lock in the T-spine, she retracts her arms to keep her chest upright and spine straight. She drives with the legs and locks at the hips at the end. Her scapulas are over the bar, her shins against the bar. She STILL experiences lower back pain. I do NOT understand. A physical therapist said she has pretty long legs- would she benfit from the sumo deadlift for now?

  • Austin

    Hey Mike I have had difficulty building strength consistently for a long time and so I went to a chiropractor and it turns out I have lordosis, a pelivic tilt, my left shoulder is higher then my right which causes me to lean to my right and my neck doesn’t line up all the way with my spine. This has also affected my musce growth as my left arm is about .5-.75 inches smaller then my right and my left shoulder is smaller. So she recommended a roughly 3 month treatment to put everything back in its proper place but it will cost me almost a grand out of pocket. So my question is will getting this stuff fixed likely allow me to consistently build strength and muscle? I have read some stuff saying that when even one of those things is off it can really affect muscle recruitment and you expend way more energy just keeping stable. I would assume it would but since you know a lot I figured you would be able to answer. Do you think it will help in any meaningfull way?

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m not all that knowledgeable when it comes to spinal deviations and such but I’ve worked with a few people that had similar issues and once they were corrected, it made a huge difference in the gym…

  • Austin

    Hey Mike sorry if you got this but I posted as a guest and on my end it isn’t showing anything. So I have a difficult time building strength and muscle and I am pretty sure it is my skeletal structure. I went to the chiropractor and I have lordosis, a tilted pelvis, my left shoulder is higher then my right and my neck doesn’t line up properly. Now this as you can imagine this REALLY affects stability and form and I use a lot of energy just ensuring those are correct. It has also caused my right arm to be nearly .75 inches bigger then my left and my right shoulder is bigger then my left. Anyways are these issues likely to seriously affect strength I would assume so and the chiropractor agreed but she didn’t say how much it would affect it. From your experience Mike have you ever encountered a person with similar issues that fixed them and strength shot up?


    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      I’ve run into issues like this and people have seen great improvements working with a good chiro to correct.

      I remember a few guys that had nerve pinching that was DRAMATICALLY reducing strength on one side of the body and once it was corrected, the strength issues completely disappeared.

Sign in to Muscle For Life
Sign in below to access your account Connect With Facebook
or use your MFL Account
Enter your email below to learn what most people will never know about getting lean, building muscle, and staying healthy.
No thanks, I don't want to know how you transformed your physique