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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? I’d love to hear from you at my site,!


I’m Mike and I believe that every person can achieve the body of his or her dreams, and I work hard to give everyone that chance by providing workable, proven advice grounded in science, not a desire to sell phony magazines, workout products, or supplements.

Through my work, I’ve helped thousands of people achieve their health and fitness goals, and I share everything I know in my books.

So if you’re looking to get in shape and look great, then I think I can help you. I hope you enjoy my articles and I’d love to hear from you at my site,



Alternative to Deadlift

For one reason or another, athletes and gym-goers may want to skip the deadlift. Whether it’s out of safety concern, or local gym rules, some will seek alternatives to the deadlift. The bottom line is that THERE IS NO ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE for the deadlift!

Weightlifters of all varieties cannot afford to skip out on this exercise. No other exercise offers so many benefits in such an efficient movement. Furthermore, there are some misconceptions about the deadlift that athletes have been misinformed with.

Deadlifts have been revered for decades as a solid compound lift that strengthens a plethora of muscles while adding functional strength that transfers to other lifts. Deadlifts develop the spinal erectors, traps, lats, calves, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and other muscles in the posterior chain. Having these muscles well-developed will result in a strong and functional body.

There are countless benefits to deadlifting. Among them are:

– Development of explosive strength, also called rate of force. This transfers to other explosive movements such as power cleans and the vertical jump.

– Quickly adds muscle mass. The deadlift and the squat are championed as two of the best compound lifts for bodybuilders and lifters to gain mass quickly. Engaging so many muscle groups at once, the deadlift will quickly develop the upper back.

– Forearm muscles and grip strength. When gripping a heavy, loaded bar, the lifter develops a powerful grip. Once again, this transfers to other lifts as the athlete will require a strong grip for other exercises such as the squat, bench press, and overhead press. Grip strength also serves an important function in many sports where physical strength and coordination are germane. No other lift will develop grip strength this quickly. Once again, there is no alternative to deadlift!

– Little equipment required. The deadlift can be performed with just an Olympic barbell and some plates. No bench, rack, machine, or other peripheral is required to perform the deadlift. This characteristic should also speak volumes about the functionality of the deadlift; it is very useful in hauling heavy items in day-to-day life.

– Safety. The deadlift is commonly regarded as a “dangerous” lift. This is erroneous; the deadlift when performed correctly and with proper form is a very safe exercise. By using good form and following the natural biomechanics of one’s body, the lifter does not expose himself to any safety concerns.

Some useful tips for deadlifting safely:

– Begin with the bar in the mid-foot position. The bar should “cut” your foot in half.

– Grip the bar tightly, and push through your heels

– Throughout the movement, keep your chest up. However, do not squeeze your shoulder blades together.

– It is natural for the bar to drag along your shins/thighs. However, you need not scrape your shins and/or rupture the skin along the leg.

– Use chalk or wrist straps to improve your grip.

– Use a leather weightlifting belt to protect your lower back and improve your strength capacity.

It bears repeating again; there is NO ALTERNATIVE to deadlift! No other lift will provide so many benefits to the lifter. If you are weightlifting at all, you must include the deadlift in your routine!

There is no alternative to deadlift! If you’re looking to develop brutal strength and explosive power quickly, then you must get your hands on the essential guide for deadlifting! Go to this site immediately: megadeadlift

Bench Press Your Way to 300!

So you want to be able to bench press more. Maybe even get up to 300lbs! I don’t care if you are almost there at 275lbs or can barely do 135lbs, you are going to need the right program. The right technique, weekly workout program, sets and most important diet. This article will give you structure for your program.

Here is the one important rule to increase your bench and gain muscle max you need to lift heavy! You need to push your body every week. This why I highly recommend especially for safety reasons to always have a spotter. The other important rule to remember is recovery, you need the right diet to recover and protein is key. Make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet especially on lifting days for recovery and growth. Most trainers recommend at least a gram of protein for each pound you weigh. Make sure you are getting all 22 of the Amino Acids in your diet. This is when a protein shake that has at least 25grams of protein in a scoop along with all the Amino Acids. You are going to need a good protein shake mix along with a good multi-vitamin. Remember you need to eat big to be big and to lift big!

Now let’s start on the right program for lifting. First thing is to find out how much you can currently bench. If you know you can bench 135lbs (or even if only the bar) do that first and figure out how many times you can bench. Use an online max rep estimator calculator based on the amount of reps you did for that weight. Now test yourself and see if you can bench it, if you can see if you can do more. If you can’t do less and see what your real one rep max is. Remember to use a spotter. Once you know your one rep max this is key to setting your program up.

You want to start off in your first week with a warm up set with a weight you can do 12 to 15 reps of. If you can do 135lbs around that amount just start off with 135lbs. Even if you can do a lot more reps don’t bother, save your energy for heavier sets, remember this is just a warm up set to get your blood pumping and so you don’t pull any muscles. Now that your warm up set is done you are going to do four more sets. For your first set do 30 percent of your 1 rep max 10 to 15 times. Make sure it is more than your warm up set. You then want to do two sets of 40 percent of your 1 rep max about 8 reps. Now you want to do your 60 percent of your 1 rep max for about 6 reps. For your final set you want to semi-max out it should be about 80 to 90 percent of your 1 rep max for 3 to 4 reps. You do not need to max out every week but once a month as a test of strength you can.

Now for the first couple of months you want to increase the weight by 5 to 10lbs from the amount you had the week before on those sets. Some people recommend benching only once a week. Others will say three times a week or even every other day. I say as a good rule of thumb is twice a week and if your body recovers quickly you can do three times a week but no more than that. After you have had that routine for a couple of months you want to switch your routine up for more muscle growth.

Focus on heavier weights and less reps for your sets. Remember you have to lift heavy to increase your bench and to gain serious muscle mass. Still do your warm up set but instead do about three to four sets ranging from 60 to 80 percent of your 1 rep max. Start off with the 60 percent about 10 reps then go all the way up to 80 percent for 3 to 4 reps. If you are finding yourself doing way more reps than listed you need to increase the amount! You need to lift heavier for your next set or next week, add 20lbs on if you have to. Even if you add to much weight for your next set and you don’t meet the number of reps it is fine you are aiming for failure by challenging your muscles they will grow and eventually you will get to that amount.

In addition to bench pressing you should do other chest workouts on chest days (the same day you bench). This includes incline bench press with dumbbells and pectoral flies. You also need to train your triceps another main muscle you use in your bench. Your triceps could be holding you back as it is a small muscle than your chest and the chest is obviously stronger. Triceps extensions and other various triceps workouts can help with this. You can do it on your chest days or other alternate days.

With the right workout and a good protein intake your one rep max will increase! If you are starting off at 135lbs follow this program and are consistent about workouts and proper nutrition chances are in a year you will be at or near 300lbs!

I am a Suffolk University graduate with a degree in Marketing. I currently work in the field of Real Estates sales and maintain a daily blog on the side.  View profile

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