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The Deadlift and Your Lower Back: Harmful or Helpful?

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

deadlift lower back pain

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

deadlift lower back injury

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.

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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!

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Leave a Comment!
  • 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!

    • Awesome. Glad to hear it. Keep it up! 🙂

      • 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!

        • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!


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  • 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,


    • 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!


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  • 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.

    • 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!

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  • 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

        • 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:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com /the-deadlift-and-your-lower-back-harmful-or-helpful/

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  • 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. 😛

        • 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.

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  • 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 can..be 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.

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  • 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…

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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  • 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…

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  • 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.

  • 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. 🙂

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  • 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.

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  • edd

    Great article and site to clear out the tons of stuff on the web that makes your head spin! So, I’m a gal doing TLS and if I haven’t done deads in a while cuz I’ve been out of the gym, I get really sore in my lower and middle back on the sides–not in the middle where my spine is. My lower back pain is not all the way down but more in the middle of my lower back. The pain feels kind of like bruising. It only lasts a day, two at most. Each week that I do deads, the less the soreness and the quicker it goes away. Is this the normal kind of muscle soreness? Is this just from starting over or can I expect it from time to time?

    Thanks! (Looking forward to getting the new TLS!)

    • Thanks so much!

      It sounds like normal muscle soreness, yes. Is there pain referring to any other area or just general soreness?

      • edd

        Just general soreness. Not affecting any other area.

        • edd

          I mean, not referring. 😛

        • Cool. That’s not an issue. Soreness gets better in time.

          • edd

            Thank you! 🙂

  • LifeForMuscle

    hey mike! guess what another question 😀

    i havent been deadlifting when i started lifting as i was scared it would effect my back. however after i knew your website and workout i chose to deadlift AND OMG MY BACK GREW AS FUCK! my middle back started to pop-out and my back day became my favorites (after chest… ofc) anyway to the point!

    in the last two weeks i had trouble dead lifting because i get coccyx pain (tailbone) after i finish the deadlift set! im scared about this the most because its part of the spine (im ONLY 16). i cant tell my father cause he will ban me from the gym forever (cant risk it.. gym is my life).so i come to you seeking help! what can i do? what SHOULD i do? please help!

    thanks alot mike 🙂

    • Haha nice man. Glad to hear it.

      I’ve had that before. Just back off and let it get back to normal. I’ve felt it squatting too. Annoying.

      FYI weightlifting at your age isn’t dangerous BUT make sure you’re very strict on form. Don’t try to impress your friends with stupid antics…

      • LifeForMuscle

        Yeah it also occur in my squats! Glad that you know my problem cause it’s annoying what can I do instead of the squatting and dead lifting while I heal? And how long you think the healing would take?

        Thanks a lot mike! Srsly don’t know how to thank you… You helped me in everything. Every question I post is replied by you.i am Sure you will help more in the future 😉

        Keep up the good work!

        • See if front squats bother it. If so, try hack squats (sled) or leg press.

          Mine went away in a couple of weeks.

          Haha my pleasure. 🙂

          • LifeForMuscle

            what about deadlifts? what are some good alternative that doesnt effect my tailbone and hit my lower back?

            thanks mike!

          • No great alternatives to be honest but barbell rows are good.

          • LifeForMuscle

            ohhh man!! the pain is not decreasing!!! each time i sit down it pains even more! cant squat and deadlift now! maybe squat while pushing through the pain… what did you do to fix the problem? PLEASE HELP!!! THIS IS ANNOYING I WANT TO SQUAT AND DEADLIFT PROPERLY GOD DAMN IT!

            sorry for the caps lock but im resting it. but when i sit it increases it… i cant tell my parents because if i did they would not let me lift my whole life, and lifting is my life!!

            thanks for taking your time with me mike , your the best!

          • What’s going on exactly? You need to back off the exercises my friend. You don’t want it to get worse…

          • LifeForMuscle

            you seriously need to start checking the replies earlier XD

            yeah i do also have the pain on my squat too! but what do i do to workout my legs? i dont have hacksquat , only legpress! and that is not enough for a full leg workout (btw i cant do lunges due to toe injury) :(.

          • Honestly you gotta do what you can. Leg Press, hamstring curl, what else?

          • LifeForMuscle

            so leg press , hamstring curl and quad extensions? (tho this will be very bad for my knees :/)

          • Leg extensions are kinda shitty unless you stick with light weight, which is kinda shitty…

          • LifeForMuscle

            i agree with you! leg extensions give alot of pressure on my knees gives me a feeling it would snap any minute (but no pain tho). idk what to do XD! i guess i will stick to light weight squatting for 15 reps a set that would decrease the pain. what do you think?

          • Haha yeah you can do them but keep it high rep. 15ish should be fine.

  • Jess

    I am fairly new to lifting (female, started in January) I hurt my lower back doin deadlifts which caused me to stay out of the gym for 4-5 days. This was most likely due to bad form, and too much weight. Any recommendations for other excersizes to strengthen the lower back to improve form for a proper dl?

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  • I love this article Mike! I’m guessing that sitting all day in the office is probably harder on your back than properly executed Deadlifts. Personally I love doing Deadlifts. Especially since I can do more weight on Deadlifts than I can with bench or squat.

    • Thanks! Haha yeah sitting sucks. I’m going to write an article on it soon.

      Glad you’re doing well!

      • Nice, I look forward to that article! My office might be getting one of those easy adjustable desks so I can stand or sit when I want. Hopefully sooner than later.

        • Yeah I want to get one of those as well. Currently I just stand up and stretch every 30 min or so.

  • Manavdeep Singh Brar

    Hey! Mike i have started deadlifting from last three weeks. Actually i am new to gymming. After i do deadlifts , there is some soreness in the lower back. It feels more when i extend my back pushing my hips inside and head backwards making a ‘C’ shape on the backside of my body. Moreover, i think i performed deadlift properly. Is this soreness normal? Or if it is not, what shall i do? Any back strengthening excercise?

    Thank you brother

  • Jonas

    I urge everyone to be very skeptical to an article written by someone who hasn’t even posted credentials within the area of medicine, fitness or health. Always be skeptic and look for real research. This looks just like any ripped dudes advice..

  • bıttım sabunu
  • matt

    Hi Mike I currently suffer from mild lower back pain and was wondering if I should squat and deadlift with a lower weight to work on form and maybe it would help with the pain? I want to start your bls program but am concerned for my back.

    • It may help yes but if you’re dealing with any types of injuries check with your doc first. You don’t want to make it worse.

  • Vince

    I have had lower back pain for ages so I always thought dead lifts would be too hard on my back and would injure it instead.

    About 3 months ago I started doing dead lifts and could not believe the positive effects it had for my lower back.
    I was getting stronger and was feeling great with little back pain throughout the day.
    Apparently dead lifts are a miracle exercise for the lower back when done properly, so I kept on adding weight, but not too much.

    Unfortunately, for some reason, the next day after having increased the load on my dead lift, my left ankle was in pain.

    Now it has been almost 3 weeks and my ankle is still giving me issues and my lower back has started to suffer again since I stopped doing dead lifts.

    Do you know of any exercise I can do without standing on my ankles that activates the paraspinal/lower back muscles in the same or very similar way to a dead lift, but can be done without loading your ankles?

    I was thinking maybe sitting on a bench with a pair of heavy dumbbells and doing good mornings from the hip just leaning forward.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Hmm hyperextensions are the only thing I can think of.

      Have you found out what’s going on with your ankle?

      • Vince

        Hi Michael. I have not been to the doctor about my ankle, but I fear it has something to do with the way one has to flex the ankle when doing deadlifts. Somehow I must have torn or bruised something since I feel it bruised more than anything.
        A lot of ibuprofene and rest is all I am doing at this moment.
        As for hyperextensions, they do work but nothing as the muscle activation from deadlifting. I can say that goodmornigs on the bench with weights are the best next thing that I have found though.

        • Ah okay. Well I hope it heals up properly and quickly.

          Yeah hypers aren’t the same even with weight added. GM on the bench would make sense.

  • newy219 .

    Hey Mike, I would like some input. I am 32 with a terrible lower back (from 6 years of having a desk job) and for the first time in my life I’m doing deadlifts. And I’ve never done squats low enough until now either for that matter. I’m 6’2 170 looking to gain about 15 pounds and at the same time strengthen my back to help out my lower back pain. I started out light but at 155 lbs 5 reps doing deadlift threw out my back (actually it was right after deadlift while doing lunges) but I normally do lunges so assumed its from deadlift. Granted-I forgot my belt that day so maybe I rounded my back. Anyways after 3 weeks off from that I’m back at it…starting REALLY light at 125 and plan to add 10 pounds each time. I’ve heard a theory that at first you need to strengthen your neurological system which is why you start low. Muscle wise I feel I could double the weight but I know I would throw out my back…anyways my question is with my current situation should I be focusing on higher reps lower weight for quite a while or should I stick to 1×5 and keep adding weight? I am looking forward to deadlifting heavy weight but don’t want to throw out my back doing it. Any suggestions?

    • Cool on what you’re doing.

      You really need to be careful with your form. NO lower back rounding and no ego lifting.

      You could definitely go lighter and work in the 8 to 10 or 10 to 12 rep range until you’re comfortable and then move up.

      • newy219 .

        Ok thanks, that’s kind of what I was thinking-sucks because it’ll take longer to make gains but can’t afford to injure my back.

        Also, have you seen any ectomorphs make real gains after age 30 naturally? I’ve been 160-165 my entire adult life and always questioned if it is even possible to add 20 pounds or 30 pounds.

        I’ve been eating 4k plus calories a day…I’ve gained a little bit of weight and I’ve pretty much matched the highest I’ve ever weighed at 171 now…

        I plan to keep going but wonder how possible it is for someone like me to hit 185 or 190.

        • YW. Yep. You gotta be safe.

          For sure on making gains as an ecto. If you’re having trouble, this will help:


          You will just have to keep eating (lucky). You’ll get there. 🙂

          • newy219 .

            Thanks again, I’ve been eating about 4500 on average and will probably drop it to about 3500 to 4000 here shortly. Before I was eating roughly 3k to 3300 and the gains were incredibly slow if at all. Since I’ve been closer to 4500 I jumped 8.5 lbs in about 8 weeks. Which is within the range you listed, so I guess I can just eat like crazy lol.

            Of course since I can’t really go 80% for 5 reps on deadlift and squats just yet I know I’m not going to be gaining muscle at a fast enough rate to keep gaining a lb a week.

            It’ll happen eventually like you said, because of my back issues it will probably take a little longer-I’ll post my results in a few months.

          • My pleasure. Yep, that’s solid weight gain. DAMN that’s a lot of cals haha.

            Keep up the weight lifting, the gains will come.

            I look forward to seeing your results.

          • newy219 .

            So yeah, did that whole deadlift thing for a while…very light weight, and still every time I have back pain-so just dropped it from my workouts, which sucks but fuck it maybe not it’s not for everyone.

            I’d consider myself worse than most people with back pain though…can’t sit like normal people, always have to have a pillow behind my back, can’t sit upright, etc. SUCKS.

            Anyways on a positive note I’m now 180-and have increased bench, squats, pullups-overall strength is way up. I’ll keep eating 4500 cals until I hit 190.

          • Arg. Have you looked into mobility work that could help in general? You may have some really tight/stuck tissues that are aggravating the entire area.

            Enjoy the food, haha. Bastard. 😉

          • newy219 .

            Yeah eating 4500 calories a day isn’t actually all that great lol…you have to fucking gorge yourself day in and day out. I’m at 183 now though so have slowed to between 3500-4000 so that’s MUCH better.

            But I thought I would get on here and let you know I found a solution…the answer is not working haha, I took off 2 weeks for paternity leave. And instead of everyday chronic pain my back felt fine, so I tried deadlifting after 2 weeks off and my back felt fine afterwords.

            So basically it’s just the daily stress on my back, sitting for 6 to 8 hours a day that fucks it up, and while I’m in that type of pain I have no business deadlifting. I think I need a career change.

          • I know, actually. I’ve ended bulks at 4,000+ per day and actually couldn’t stand eating anymore, haha.

            Yup sometimes rest is all it takes. Do you take a deload week every so often?

  • saveourskills

    I was having a bit of low back pain and tightness and after 3 heavy sets of RDL today I feel 100% better. So in my case it made back pain go away 😉

  • Mike C

    Thanks for this article. I don’t quite know what my problem is. I’m 35, 6’1″ 175 lbs, long 34″ pants length legs. I have a problem with my big toe joint which I think has caused problems going from my feet up. I have something called functional hallux limitus, which simply means that you have decreased range of motion in your big toe joint. This causing pronation when walking, and incorrect toe-off. This coupled with a desk job, I believe I have anterior pelvic tilt in my spine. I’ve always been extremely inflexible in the calves and hamstrings even though I try to stretch them out every day. I tried doing the Stronglifts 5×5 program, but failed due to back pain after the 2nd or 3rd week. I get very confused because I can’t touch my toes, yet they say people with APT have very loose hamstrings. So now I’m just trying to do leg presses and leg curl machine to try and build strength in my glutes and hamstrings, but I don’t know if that’s a lost cause or not??? What type of doctor/specialist should I see about this? Phsyical Therapist, Orthopedic, etc?

    • Hey Mike!

      Wow I’ve never heard of that so I’m really not sure what to recommend there.

      Personally I would see a PT that works with athletes and see what he/she says.

      • Mike C

        that’s what I’m thinking too, will seek out one and go from there. Not a great fan of podiatrists…

  • Allan

    I hurt my back doing deadlifts with a round back. Beginners need some instruction on how to do deadlifts with correct form.
    Did some research and I think my problem is my hamstrings are too tight to get in the correct starting position.
    I’ve taken deadlifts out of my training until I can stretch my hamstrings and do them properly.
    If your not sure if your deadlifting correctly STOP until you learn to do them properly.

  • James

    Great Article – thanks for this. I tweaked an erector about 2 years ago deadlifting, and it never really healed. It isn’t a spinal problem, which is good. My form is now solid, but I still have nagging pain in that area. Any suggestions?

    • Funny timing because I strained an erector a couple days ago deadlifting so we shall see, haha.

      I’m just going to follow a standard protocol of rest, stretching/mobility, and slowly reintroducing the deadlifting.


      Are you doing anything to continually aggravate the muscle?

  • Davey McCrazy

    Hey Mike!

    So, I tried a hex bar the other day, for the first time ever, and literally thought “Hex bar… Where have you been all my life!?” I didn’t particularly notice that it was more quad & less glute based… To me, it still felt like a deadlift… Just an incredibly ergonomic one, where everything felt perfect! Definitely gonna keep that one in my repertoire, assuming I end up at a gym that has one – I’ve been a gym vagabond for a while now, scrounging trial weeks and doing cheap drop ins, ha!

    Anyways, two questions…

    1. The hex bar I tried, had handles on it that protruded about 2″ up, therefore eliminating that distance from the ROM… How critical is that, and what muscles are primarily engaged in the first 2″ of a DL? I’m contemplating using a 2″ riser to compensate…

    2. Would adding in straight leg deads, after hex bar deads, be enough posterior chain work to compensate for the decrease posterior activation in hex deads to convectional deads?? Or is that wishful thinking?

    • Haha nice!

      1. I believe that’s how most hex bars are so it just is what it is.

      2. Yeah a good idea!

  • Dustin


    Do you have any thoughts on using belts for this? I feel like I have very good form and i’ve never had issues, but i’m not sure if the risk of injury is higher when you start dealing with more weight?

    • Good question Dustin. Check this out:



      • Dustin

        Good points. Im really surprised by my deadlift gains. I think because it’s such a huge compound exercise, it allows for quicker gains since each muscle group is pitching in. I’ve gone from 165 to 265 in a month

        I did have to switch to an over/under grip because it’s hard to grasp, but going well so far. Thanks for details on form

        • Thanks!

          I agree. That’s a big improvement my friend! Great job.

          Totally fine on the grip.

          My pleasure! Talk soon.

  • Bryan


    I recently just found out that I have Spondyloslisthesis on my L5 vertebrae which is essentially a fracture of the bone that because of it’s placement, will never heal. Because of this, I have been told to stop deadlifting and more or less avoid any weighted exercises that extend my back in that motion. I have been following BLS but now I have a hollow spot 2 out of my 5 days of workouts where deadlifts used to reside. Any suggestions of what to add to those workouts to try to make up for some of what the deadlift gave me?


    • Sorry to hear that.

      Cool you’re rolling on the BLS program! Have you tried sumo or hexbar deadlift? If those aren’t workable, how about hyperextensions?


      • Bryan

        Those are all the types of motions that I am supposed to avoid. I CAN do them, but I have been told that I shouldn’t in order to keep that bone fragment from moving forward and causing serious harm requiring surgery. Any motion where I am bent over and straighten up is probably not the best idea. I figured I could do leg curls to make up for the hammy workout, but maybe there is nothing I am going to be able to do in order to work out that lower back area.

        • Ah okay.

          In that case, I’d just do extra sets of barbell row or weighted pull-ups.

  • Glowfsss xaxa
  • E_H

    This was very helpful. I’m currently in therapy for lower back pain and they’ve informed me that the problem is muscular and not any of the discs (thank God). So I’ll definitely be incorporating the hex bar deadlift until healthy enough to return to conventional.

    • Happy to hear it. That’s great news!

      Sounds good. Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Joe Veltre

    Mike unfortunately i did rupture a disc doing a bad dead lift several years ago. Without insurance to pay for surgery or pt, it is up to me to do what I can to Fix it. Is there any specific exercises I can do to strengthen the muscles around this area to support my spine without deadlifting? I am hoping that by strengthening my back with alternative methods, the disc will heal enough for me to get back to power lifting. Thoughts?

    • Damn, sorry to hear that. There definitely are but it really depends on the severity of the injury. My best recommendation is to find a good sports doc/chiro in your area and just schedule a couple sessions where he can show what you need to do and you can go do it.

  • Derrek

    Mike, what videos do you like for proper form? I always seem to round my back slightly when lilfting heavy. I do get lower back pain. Any advice?

    • Derrek, if you try to keep your chest “up and out” and pulling your shoulders back, that’ll help reduce the rounding. You can also check out Scott Herman’s vids. He has several that cover the various aspects of the deadlift.

  • Frank Flores

    Thanks for your article. I couldn’t agree more. The only activity that I have found to completely eliminate my chronic low back pain is the deadlift. (I’ve tried yoga pilates, stretching regularly. I prefer the hex bar. It requires way less thinking than the regular deadlift. I have not a deadlifter with back pain. In fact they have the most stable “back core” of most athletes. I highly recommend this vital exercise to all back pain sufferers. Start with low weight and work with strict form. Do not do this exercise tired at the end of your leg workout.

    • NP, and glad to hear it. Hex bar is a great option and can take some load off the lower back.

  • elias

    hi mike
    thanks for this article and other article
    today i trained my back and i did deadlift but my lower back annoyed me
    i lifted about 55 pounds, its much for me and my lower back annoyed me a lot so i stopped doing it
    i just want to make sure that deadlift isn’t BAD or HURTFUL for back
    how can i make it annoy me less ?

  • Sly

    Hey Mike, quite an age. I was recently diagnosed with Spondylosis and it’s big brother Spondylithesis Cervical and Lumbar, L5 to be precise lumbar wise, I used to deadlift and found no issue so I had no idea I had Spondyanything until I was rear-ended by an incosiderate muppet late last year (less said about him the better). Anyway I’ve started doing a lot of work to strengthen my core, Pelvic Tilts, Glute bridges e.g. and actually tried Rack pulls today with 70K, can’t even equate what percentage of my max that is but I found I was too scared to proceed so as not to hurt my back any further. So I do Seal Rows instead which work fine, Pullups aren’t bad either but I haven’t tried Bent OVer rows yet…

    • Sorry to hear that. 🙁

      Those alternatives are solid though! No need to risk further injury with rack pulls are barbell rows. You can still get a great back workout with pull-up/chin-up variations and seal rows.

  • Ezequiel Julian

    Hey Mike I am doing your 1 Year challenge for men program and I was wondering if it is alright to use overhand underhand grip on dead lifts (like every time).

    Also I find it hard to not round my back while lifting 4-6 reps. Any good advice? Thank you!

    • An alternating grip is no problem! Check out this article if you need help strengthening your grip:


      If you’re rounding your back, try to keep your chest up-and-out, and your core tight/flexed. If that still doesn’t help, then drop the weight to a more manageable one.

  • Heath

    When working back into conventional deadlifts, is there a progression that is recommended? Like Hex bar to Sumos to conventional? Maybe hit a certain percentage or wieght with one before moving over to the next?

  • Noah Papafagos

    This has been on my mind lately, what do you think about leg day, then immediately followed by back day with conventional deadlifts? Is this too much stress on my lower body? I’ve been going very heavy both days, and although I can still deadlift after squats the next day, it definitely is harder and I feel progression will be slower if I continue this way or possibly overtraining may occur. What do you think?

  • Jeff

    Hi, I have a question. After doing squats, lunges, and hip thrusts for years, and more recently, the kettle bell swing, I finally decided to give the deadlift a try. However, I’m feeling the strain mostly in my lower back, and I’m lifting light to start with. I think my form is decent. The bar moves up and down along my shins, my back isn’t rounded. The way I rationalize it is: my glutes and hamstrings are more developed than my lower back because of all the squats and lunges I’ve done. So I should keep going until my back finally catches up with the rest of my posterior chain? I’d appreciate any input.

    • Hey Jeff, sounds like your form could use some work. Your back does take some load, just, but if you’re lifting like you would a Good Morning, that’d definitely place a lot more load on your lower back. I’d confirm your form and technique are on point first.

  • Matthew Boux

    I have suffered from lower back pain for months now and actually injured my lower back squatting. The recovery is not fun but I’m getting better every day. I had a major issue with my lower back rounding while deadlifting, which I am working on fixing now. Right now I can deadlift 225 pounds for 7 reps with good form.

    • I’m glad to hear the recovery is going well! Using proper form is key

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