Deadlifts: Good for Low Back Pain?!

Young Woman lifting a barbell

Have you had a sore back and been told not to bend or lift, and in particular to stop lifting weights? We hear this all the time. Jay McGuinness unpacks the scientific research which tells us that deadlifts my be part of your back pain recovery plan!

When you have lower back pain, you are commonly told “don’t bend and lift”. Weight training and deadlifts in particular are quite often singled out as dangerous and to be avoided when you have lower back pain. HOWEVER, research has shown us this is quite the opposite! Deadlifts have been shown to make your back stronger and healthier. Deadlifts are the ultimate “functional exercise” as the exercise looks a lot like activity we do every day: pick stuff up off the ground!

A recent study looked at the effects of a 4-month free-weights training program on people suffering with lower back pain for greater than 3 months. These individuals lifted heavy weights, including deadlifts (between their 6 to 10 repetition maxes). The results of this study were improvements in back muscle strength and quality of life and a 72% decrease in pain.

A second study looked at people with greater than 3 months of lower back pain and split them into 2 groups. One group did 8 weeks of deadlift training and one group did traditional “core activation” exercises. At the end of the 8 weeks both groups had significant decreases in pain intensity and increases in strength and muscle endurance. This study did find that deadlifts were helpful for all those with mechanical lower back pain but particularly for those with <6/10 pain and with better lumbar spine endurance pre-training.

So what does this mean for those who suffer lower back pain?

  • If you are currently deadlifting, GOOD! Keep deadlifting!
  • If you are avoiding deadlifting, START DEADLIFTING!

We suggest if you do not have any experience in performing deadlifts or feel your technique needs work, then contact us for a full technical breakdown and deadlift tutorial. We can examine your mobility and back muscle endurance to see if you meet the minimum standards identified to gain the most benefit from starting deadlift training with a sore back. We can also show you a number of variations to help ease you into lifting safely and confidently again. Your back will thank you for it.