Mastering the Deadlift: Does It Really Strengthen or Strain Your Lower Back?

Deadlift workouts are the most misunderstood exercise among people. Since they don’t know what muscle groups it targets particularly. But we see a lot of people especially powerlifters love to do it.

You would have seen a lot of videos of gym enthusiasts deadlifting using a belt and putting a lot of weight on the bars. What is the use of it? Well, it depends on your exercise routine and the model that you follow. The art of using your upper body to hold the weight while the lower body raises it is the proper form of how deadlift workout sessions are being done.

Does deadlift workout lower back
By Anastase Maragos, Unsplash Copyright 2023

1. Introduction

Deadlift workouts are done using a loaded barbell or bar. Where you see a person lifting the weight from the ground to the hip level with their arms straight before they put it in the ground. This is deadlifting in simple terms.

This has a lot of effects on the structure of your body. The contraction and expansion that takes place during this process is what the result is. Deadlift largely depends on the extension of your knees, hips, and shoulders. The joint movement of these three are the main components that come into play in the deadlifting process.

This exercise has the best crossover with your day-to-day activities like grabbing your bags from the back of your vehicle, and bent-over position activities. This not only helps in muscle mass but also improves the athleticism and metabolism in a person’s body.

2. Does a Deadlift Workout Your Lower Back?

When you see deadlifts as a workout. It comes under the involvement of posterior chain exercises which consist of parts like gluteus maximus, hamstrings, calves, and lower back muscles.

These do not come under the category of muscle groups which are overlooked for looking good in the mirror like abs and chest. But strength training of posterior chain exercises is so important. The strengthening of the entire posterior chain helps you to not fall into many categories of people who suffer from low back pain.

Doing deadlifts is a great way to work your lower back muscles. But there is a proper way in which you should do it. Just having the power to lift many weights and whining that you don’t get any results does not help. This is one of the main reasons why some people see deadlifts as kind of pointless. The reason is they don’t understand how it works. There are involvement of various muscle groups combined which has the purpose of its own.

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By Anastase Maragos, Unsplash Copyright 2023

3. Muscle Groups Involved In Deadlift

3.1 Trapezius

Trapezius muscles start from the base of your skull to mid back. Throughout the lift, these muscles need to work hard to make sure that your shoulder blades are in place. Deadlifting helps in the stability and movement of these shoulder blades.

3.2 Glutes

Glutes Maximus which is the back muscle has the largest part called the gluteus maximus that performs hip movements. Deadlifts work the glutes at the very end of the process where the weight is being put down. This helps in hip extension of your body and creates a platform for hip hinge which relaxes your body. The glutes are the largest muscle group in your body.

3.3 Hamstrings

These are located at the back of your thigh. It is an important muscle during the deadlift process since you need stability in your knees and extend your quads. Having stronger Hamstrings will help you stabilize your bar position and transferring power will be easier. Knee extension is also an important feature of these leg muscles.

3.4 Spinal Erectors

Spinal erectors or erector spinae help you to strengthen your back muscles and keep your spine in a more upright position. Uneven pressure while lifting weights might cause serious problems. So, it is always important to maintain a neutral spine.

3.5 Lats

Latissimus dorsi works throughout the process of deadlift. It helps you keep the bar close to your body and works every muscle in that process. This wing-shaped muscle connected from the side of your spine to the back of your upper arm keeps your spine extended and keeps you holding the bar in the right way.

4. How To Do Proper Deadlift

Deadlift is a compound exercise that involves proper movement of your body. If not done properly there are major chances for you to get injured. So, you need to understand the proper technique before doing this exercise.

If you are a newbie then try with lighter weight to get the feeling of it. Also make sure that your muscles are not tight while you deadlift. Proper stretching of your muscles would help you in that. Stand behind the bar with your legs shoulder-width apart and your knees locked.

Ensure that your hip hinges up as you come to the starting position. Try to squeeze your butt and push your hips forward as you push the ground. Grab the bar with your overhand grip and make sure that your palms face downwards to get grip strength. When you lift your chest you should definitely work your shoulders back and down.

All your core muscles will be engaged as you feel the weight moving and lift it up. The bars should be close to your shins and your abs should be squeezed. The final joint movement which is crucial in the whole process is the shoulder extension to bring the arms backward.

Important note: Make sure that your back is straight to create less pressure on your lower back muscles.

How To Perfect Your Deadlift | Form Check | Men's Health

5. Deadlift Variations

5.1 Romanian Deadlift

This deadlift variation focuses on working the hamstrings. This method is quite different from other variations as they focus on the back muscles. While doing this deadlift you have to make sure that your knee is straight and not bent like in others.

How to Perform Romanian Deadlift - Hamstring Leg Exercise

5.2 Sumo Deadlift

Mostly people with long legs try this variation. As sumo deadlifts work in a way that you need to extend your legs longer than usual by gripping the bar inside the knees. Sumo deadlift helps in working your lower back, quads and hips.

sumo deadlift
By Alora Griffiths, Unsplash Copyright 2023

5.3 Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff-legged deadlift technique uses hip extension but it lowers the hip with your knees locked and down to the floor. You need to hold the bar while you lean forward from the waist. A strong core is necessary to perform this deadlift variation.

How To: Barbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift

5.4 Trap Bar Deadlift

Rather than a conventional barbell deadlift, a trap bar deadlift will consist of a trap or a hex bar which is a hexagonal-shaped barbell that helps you to distribute weight evenly. It makes you squat even more than usual and trap bar deadlifts put more emphasis on your quads.

The Trap Bar Deadlift

5.5 Conventional Deadlift

A conventional deadlift is the traditional method of deadlifting where you are standing at your hip width and have your hands outside your feet. This variation helps in working your lower back, calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads and traps.

Build A Bigger Deadlift With Perfect Technique (Conventional Form)

6. When To Deadlift?

Deadlifts have numerous implications for working your back and other muscles. Then you would be confused about which day you can deadlift. Is it during back or leg day? Well, it depends on the training program you are in and your fitness goal.

You can choose whether you are deadlifting during a leg day or back day. Since both are important muscles that are being used. To get the weight moving and initial power. Everything relies on your legs. You do leg exercises like squats using barbells to warm up. So, if you choose to deadlift on a leg day you should do it in the end since it takes a lot from you.

However, you can also do it on a back day. Since back muscles are the primary target of this exercise. But you should start at the very beginning of the session since you need to get more volume on your back. You can also incorporate other back exercises or lower body exercises with deadlifts in the same workout session to create a form.

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By Victor Freitas, Unsplash Copyright 2023

7. Conclusion

A deadlift is a type of exercise that demands full body movement and makes use of free weight implement as a barbell to create a sense of feel. This has some major benefits like building muscle, posture, and bone density. However, you need to follow this proper method to see the results that you want. In the majority of the variations the knees are slightly bent to maintain tension on your hamstrings which is one of the three muscle groups deadlift mainly works.

Remember, even if you are a powerlifter, avoid heavy lifting and do not flex your spine. Heavy deadlifts involve a lot of weight and mental strength. So, it should be only done once a week. Your whole body comes into play while you engage in this activity which is the beauty of it. Different variations of deadlifts provide different training stimuli. Well, the choice of these variations depends on your fitness goals.

The process of going into lifting heavy bars will take time. It’s not that easy to be a powerlifter. But understanding these dynamics that your body goes through is important.

Hemkesh is an experienced writer having written many articles across globe educating readers about leading a healthy life and gives fitness tips to keep their body fit. He has a great knowledge in fitness and health related niche. Education: Pursuing…

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