Lower Back Pain in the Deadlift? Try These 4 Drills!

Picture this: the ‘workout of the day’ is 21-15-9 deadlifts (225/155), box jumps, and bar over burpees. You cruise through the first round of 21 without any problems and then you start in on your set of 15 deadlifts. Immediately, your lower back starts to get tight and you have to drop to singles. What happened? A common result of doing deadlifts, whether it be fewer reps at heavier weight for strength building or more reps in a workout with lighter weight, is pain or soreness in the lower back. Many people just accept this fact as an unfortunate casualty of doing deadlifts, but in reality, this should not be the case. How often is your core sore the day after you’ve done deadlifts? If the answer is no, and the soreness is in your lower back, then you are probably pulling with your lower back instead of keeping your core engaged and letting your hips do the work. So, here are 4 drills to help you fix this:

Hip Bridge

  1. Start by lying on your back with your feet pulled in close to your glutes. You want to flex your feet (keeping your toes off the floor). Make sure your lower back is touching the floor (exhale all of your air in order to feel this) and your core is engaged (but not crunched).
  2. As you start to bridge up, you want to think about driving through your heels (this helps recruit the posterior chain) and keep a braced position throughout the entire movement (your hips up to mid-back should be working together as one unit). 
  3. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the bridge and then press your hips down as you return to the starting position, maintaining an engaged core and keeping a neutral spine.

Tall Kneeling Hip Bridge

  1. Start by kneeling on the floor with your toes directly underneath you, knees hip-width apart and heels pinched together (this turns on your glutes). Hold your arms straight out in front of you or across your chest. 
  2. Blow all your air out so that your rib cage is pulled down towards your belly button and keep your core braced throughout the entire movement.
  3. Initiate the movement by sending your hips back towards your heels (this should be a very small hip hinge). You want to think about stabilizing your spine (this part of your body should not move) and only pushing your hips back (this is not a squat!). 

Kickstand Deadlift

  1. Start by standing with one foot flat on the floor and the other about one foot behind with the toe pointed on the ground to stabilize. Hold a light weight dumbbell or kettlebell in a suitcase carry position on the same side as the foot that is flat on the floor. The other arm should mimic the arm that is holding the weight throughout the entire movement.
  2. Initiate the movement by sending your hips straight back(arms will stay pointing towards the ground with shoulders over your hands), keeping your balance centered and maintaining a braced core (don’t let your torso twist or lean to the side that has the weight on it). 
  3. To stand back up, drive through the heel of the front foot (there shouldn’t be any weight on the back foot). You should feel the hip of your front foot working throughout the movement. 

Wall Deadlift

  1. Start by standing about one shoe-length away from a wall with feet hip-width apart. 
  • Lay a foam roller across your quads and actively press your arms (with thumbs pointing forward) into the foam roller. OR –
  • Hold an object (medball, backpack, plate, etc.) in front of you and think about flexing your core against the object.
  1. Send your hips back towards the wall until your glutes make contact with the wall. Then, drive your hips forward, keeping your ribs pulled down toward your belly button.