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Back pain when deadlifting? Top 3 causes & their fix!

Do you experience back pain when deadlifting?

This blog post is relevant for anyone who experiences back pain when deadlifting in the gym, or when bending over to pick up shopping.

Read on below so we can educate you on the several reasons behind why you could be experiencing pain, what structures could be inflamed and causing the pain, and how to fix the problem.

Before we start, what actually is a deadlift and what muscles does it use?

A deadlift is physically lifting a dead weight from a bent over position to a standing position. The deadlift is traditionally referred to as an exercise, but in reality it actually just describes a type of movement. Imagine bending down to pick up a pot plant, or even to pick up your child from the ground - the position your body travels through is a deadlift position. It requires the knees to be bent, the hips to be pushed back and the spine to be relatively straight. It’s pretty straight forward in theory!

Whether doing it in the gym as an exercise, or being in that position due to activities of daily living, the muscles used in the deadlift are the: hamstrings, glutes, upper - mid - lower back & your arms. The reason why some of us experience pain in these positions typically boils down to a lack of flexibility & strength through the hips, knees & spine. This can cause a cascade of compensatory movements which normally results in too much force going through the lower back. And thus, this can cause back pain!

What are the main causes of back pain when deadlifting?


One of the most common causes of back pain when deadlifting is due to poor biomechanics/technique. Whether you do weighted deadlifts, or just bend down to pick up something from there ground, there is an ideal way to deadlift for each.

Two common errors we observe with poor biomechanics are:

  1. Rounding of the spine as you bend over - this is known as spinal flexion. As the spine rounds, there are increased forces placed through the back. This is because a flexion dominant position with your back doesn’t allow the larger muscles around the hip to activate correctly, therefore your back muscles & joints are excessively loaded. If this repeatedly occurs, this may very well cause back pain.

  2. Poor hip hinging - if you push your hips back to the wall behind you as if you’re sitting down onto a toilet, this is known as a hip hinge! If you hinge correctly, your glute & hamstring muscles work best in this position. If your hips are tucked in/under your pelvis, otherwise known as a ‘flat bum’ posture, other structures such as your knees & lower back take the brunt of the force when deadlifting. This is not ideal!

The strength of your core

If there is not adequate strength through the core, this will place an increased demand through your spinal column. In other words, if your core/trunk is not strong enough for the weight that you are deadlifting, then your spine will have less stability/support. This can result in more force being placed through the spinal joints, and can thus result in back pain.

Your hip & spinal flexibility

The ability to hinge your hips whilst keeping the spine neutral/straight is also highly important to allow more evenly distributed loading through the entire body/spine. Typically if the hips are tight, the spine will artificially create the flexibility to bend down into a deadlift position - this is not a healthy compensation as it will most likely round the spine, thus causing excessive loading through the back again!

How to fix this!

The good news is that the above causes can be directly resolved through exercise therapy.

If you are one who rounds the spine when bending over or have a lot of stiffness in the back when in a deadlift position, press here to straighten up your back!

On the flip side if you feel like you have a weak core, then try this.

If your hip’s flexibility is not the best, then you’ll likely need this or this!

(Click on the blue hyperlinks above to access the videos)

Who to see for this issue

If you are currently in pain and are yet to see an appropriate health professional for diagnosis, the best person to see is a sports physiotherapist. Click below to learn more!

If however, you have been having repeated occurrences of back pain whilst deadlifting, the best person to see is an expert in exercise and movement coaching (no, not a personal trainer). This is an exercise physiologist. Click below to learn more!

Struggling with this injury and in need of some help? We have 4 clinics in Sydney conveniently located for you to choose from - Sydney CBD, North Sydney, Chatswood & Mosman.

Alternatively, if you’re not from our area we have an online rehab platform available, suitable for anyone based anywhere in the world. Click the hyperlink text above to check out our page!

Hope you enjoyed the read!


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