Deadlift & lower back pain

deadlift technique physio

Deadlift & lower back pain

A deadlift is a full body movement that requires the use of a barbell or dumbbells to perform the lift. It is commonly used to strengthen the posterior chain of the body. Some clients may present with lower back pain when performing a deadlift. 

Why are deadlifts associated with low back pain?

One common issue that can cause lower back pain during or after deadlifting can result from inadequate production of tension around the core and prime muscles movers. Another issue that may arise is pelvic position relative to the deadlift. A poor pelvic position can put the lower back in a compromising position which may lead to lower back pain.

Primary muscles used in a deadlift:

  • Gluteal muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Core muscles
  • Back muscles (latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, erector spinae)

How to prevent lower back pain during a deadlift:

Creating tension through your core muscles by adequately bracing can help keep the spine and posterior chain in a better position to perform a deadlift. Providing adequate tension to the core can help assist an individual with maintain correct form and stabilise load throughout the lift.

Why is bracing important?

bracing side view dor deadlift

(Figure 1. Side view of bracing)

In figure 1. you can see the results of bracing and how it affects the ribs, spinal, and pelvic position with correct bracing strategies. When bracing correctly, the ribs pull down into the stomach, whilst the pelvic muscles are being pulled up to create a cannister of tension to maintain proper technique when doing a deadlift. As more weight is being pulled with a deadlift, the more important bracing becomes as it prevents the body from collapsing during the deadlift.

How to effectively brace:

  1. Tighten your stomach
    • Imagine tightening your stomach muscles to take in a punch
  2. Breathe into your stomach
    • Whilst your stomach is tensed, push your breath through your stomach.
  3. Breathe into your side
    • Imagine breathing and expanding the side of the ribs. You will notice that your bracing sensation will now reach to your sides and even the back, creating a 360-degree feeling on tension

When to perform a Deadlift:

 A great indicator for prescribing a deadlift to a client is when they present with lower back pain or require general strengthening of their posterior chain or core muscles.

deadlift technique physio

How to set up for a Deadlift:

  • Neutral foot alignment with hips and foot
  • Mid-foot under bar (Shoelaces are a good position to help achieve a foot placement)
  • Hips and knees behind the bar
  • Knees and shoulders should be in line with each other (shoulders should not be more forwards or backwards)
  • Grab the bar
  • Shoulder blades in back pockets (helps activate back muscles to create tension in back)
  • Chest slightly forward
  • Inhalation with bracing (see how to brace effectively above) to create tension to help assist the lower back throughout the lift
  • Lift bar


If you are experiencing lower back pain with deadlifts, or you simply want to improve your deadlift technique, wait no longer and book in now!

Post by: Physiotherapist Ray Palencia