So there is a recent trend in the physical therapy world that, “there are no bad movements, only poorly prepared positions.” The idea is that there is no such thing as “bad” technique from an exercise perspective. The human body can adapt to whatever technique you choose to use over time if you are slow and progressive with your loading. This would mean that deadlifting with a rounded lower back is “a ok” as long as you work slowly into this technique and give time for your spine to adapt over time.
Now, while I agree with this to some extent, in some ways I don’t. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of lifters utilize “poor” technique like excessive butt wink in the bottom of the squat and a fairly rounded lower back during deadlifts and not suffer any lower back injuries over time. Keep in mind that everyone will get some spinal flexion in the bottom of a squat or deadlift so in a sense, everyone is loading their spine with a degree of flexion (back rounding).
I’ve also seen the opposite. I’ve had several athletes come in and tell me they hit the bottom of the squat and had to drop the weight due to pain and radiating symptoms down their leg. Lo and behold they were lifting with quite a bit of lumbar flexion. I’ve seen the same thing with the deadlift. For these folks it can take a long while before they can tolerate any amount of lumbar flexion again, let alone flexion under load (deep squats and deadlifts).
So what gives? Who’s right? I’m honestly not completely sure but my gut tells me that both of these factors matter (technique and progressive loading). I really think we need a more balanced approach when it comes to this issue. I made a video below to help shed some light on this question and hopefully guide you when deciding whether or not some lumbar flexion is OK in the bottom of squats and deadlifts:
Ultimate, technique choice should come down to your goals. In general sports have a “most ideal” technique you’re shooting for from a performance perspective. Some techniques increase stress more on one area then another. There are risks that come with exercise and unfortunately sometimes we don’t know how much is “too much” for a given athlete until they end up breaking down.
I hope this cleared up some confusion on the old technique debate. If you enjoyed this short clip then I wanted to let you know it’s part of a much longer webinar series included with subscription into my Fitness Pain Free Insiders Online Mentoring Program:
I created this series because coaches and personal trainers everywhere are working with athletes in pain every day of the week. This series will tell you exactly what to do (and what not to do) with these athletes so they can continue working towards their goals and prevent injuries in the long haul.
10+ years of rounded back deadlifts and I’m not dead yet,
Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF L1
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