I work with a lot of people with lower back pain. Typically deadlifts can be very challenging to get back to after a lower back injury. There is no secret to getting back to deadlifting. Our initial goals after injury are to unload the spine and then simply reloading stress on the spine slowly and progressively over the course of time. Check out the video below for a few of my favorite exercises:
In these 3 exercises we’re manipulating 2 variables.⠀
Torso Angle and Load:
As the spine inclines forward and the load increases the stress on the spine does as well.⠀When we’re looking to rehabilitate back to deadlifting (which is typically quite stressful on the spine, albeit in a good way) we want to use exercises that are progressively more challenging over time. I’m a big fan of incorporating more single leg strength work into your training with lower back pain because it is generally well tolerated.
Think about it. In a deadlift typically the limiting factor to a bigger lift is the lower back. In a single leg exercise this is more often the leg musculature. So first step, unload the spine with single leg training. However, we can’t do just single leg training forever, we need to progress back! ⠀Here are some reasons behind choosing these exercises:
1) Reverse lunge (Inclined torso): Upright lunge variations are generally well tolerated in athletes with lower back pain. As we start pitching the torso forward the stress on the spine goes up. This is a nice first exercise to start pushing this angle.⠀
2) Single leg deadlift: This is the first true hinge exercise on our list and is getting our torso angle the same as what we’ll need for a regular deadlift. However, balancing on one leg and utilizing dumbbells will decrease the load the athlete will be able to handle. This is good because initially the spine may not be ready for heavier loading.⠀
3) Kick Stand Barbell Deadlift: This variation is my favorite final single leg exercise to prepare athletes for the deadlift because the load is much heavier and the torso angle matches a regular deadlift.
There it is, 3 exercises to help you get back to deadlifting after lower back pain. What do you think? Good exercises? Bad exercises? Let me know by responding in the comments section below:
Gotta love back pain,
Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS