Q: I get lower back soreness after I deadlift, especially with lower reps and heavier weight. I’m pretty sure my form is good but I also want to make sure I’m not injuring my back. Thanks for your help!
A: This is a great question and one that I literally get weekly, so I figured I’d devote an entire blog post to it.
The first questions we have to answer are:
“What are your goals? What are you trying to achieve by deadlifting?”
The goal when deadlifting is to keep the back flat, or in its neutral alignment. For my fat loss clients, I really don’t want them rounding their back whatsoever – after all, what’s the point?
After all, I don’t think an extra 10 pounds on their deadlift is going to expedite their fat loss goals all that much!
Now, when we’re talking about true strength-focused programs, that’s a different can of worms. Any time you start to push the limits of your strength, even if your goal is to maintain perfect technique when the weight gets heavy, things will get a little more fuzzy.
People often get sore in their lower back when they’re using too much lower back when they deadlift. Instead of getting their hips down, their back flat, and using their legs to generate the power, they get a lot of strength from their lower back. This repeated lumbar (low back) flexion and extension is the reason their lower back gets so sore.
Now keep in mind, too, that simply arching hard can cause a lot of soreness in the lower back. For example I know when I used to arch really hard when bench pressing my back was more sore after a heavy bench workout than a heavy deadlift workout!
Just because your back is sore doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it wrong, but it could mean you’re doing it wrong.
Nothing like being vague, right?
I would suggest one of two things:
- Ask a qualified coach to watch your technique and give you feedback.
- Videotape your lifts yourself and then watch in between sets.
Again, if your goal is to move heavy weights and get stronger, you will probably lose your arch very slightly somewhere during the lift – this is normal.
Stuart McGill has often cited that powerlifters may flex more than most in an effort to move maximal loads, but they know and understand intuitively to stay out of the last 2-3 degrees of lumbar flexion, where their chance for low back/disc injury goes up significantly.
I know this was a bit drawn out, but I hope it answers your question.
Good luck and good training!
P.S. – If you want/need more information on deadlifting, be sure to check out my Deadlift blog post – it’s pretty all-encompassing in this regard!
(Lead Photo Courtesy of Ramsey Everyday)