How to Prevent Back Pain While Doing Deadlifts

I did not follow the "quality over quantity" rule when I first started adding deadlifts to my strength-training routine, so every set came along with lower back aches and pains because my form fell by the wayside.

According to Olivia Amato, a Peloton instructor and NASM-certified personal trainer, the deadlift is a powerhouse move that can strengthen all the major muscle groups, but without proper form, like in my situation, it can also set you up for irritating back pain.

That's why Amato says it's "so important to master the fundamentals of the movement before adding in weights, like kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells."

For a refresher on deadlift steps, check out Amato's detailed instructions below.

  • Start with feet hip distance apart and parallel. The palms of your hands can face in toward your body and lay on top of the quads.
  • Pull your shoulder blades back, and slide the palms of your hands down your thighs as you hinge at your hips (aka pushing your hips back).
  • Your back should stay completely flat, and your chest should move toward your thighs as you continue to push your hips back. You will start to feel a stretch down your hamstrings.
  • Your knees should stay over your ankles, and your feet stay in the exact same position as how you started.
  • Once your hands meet your shins, come back up with power, and squeeze your glutes at the top. The pull on the way up is straight up against gravity no matter if you are doing the move with bodyweight or with additional weights. Control the movement on the way down, and power on the way up.

To prevent back pain during this staple move, try keeping these three tips at the top of your mind, too.

Don't Look in the Mirror

Nope, not even to check out your form, Amato says. "Instead, look at the bottom of the mirror or floor. This will help keep your head in a position that doesn't cause your back to round."

Strengthen Your Core

In addition to helping you maintain proper alignment, strengthening your core can help you stop rounding your back during a deadlift, which can also cause back pain, Amato explains.

Watch Your Feet Positioning

When performing a deadlift, your feet should be hip-distance apart and parallel, Amato says. "This is not a squat, so make sure your knees and toes are not pointed out."

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