DEADLIFTS – Best Back Exercise or Worst? FIND OUT!

DEADLIFTS – Best Back Exercise or Worst?  FIND OUT!

Are deadlifts dead in your current workout
routine? If so I think we need to take a closer look
because I might be able to change your mind today. What’s up everybody? Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.COM. As we started last week a little series here
that I have put together for Men’s Fitness magazine, the November issue. We talked about some of the exercises that
are maybe relegated to the, what I call the Iron Graveyard, meaning, they are not good
for us, or people perceive it to be dangerous. And it was up to me to determine, ‘Do they
belong there or are there ways we can make them a viable option in the workouts that
we do’? Last week we talked about the Upright Row. This week I want to talk about one of the
biggest back injury exercises out there, the deadlift. Now hold on a second, I know I have a lot
of deadlift fans out there that are going to say ‘Wait, you are totally off base.’ And you know what? I am, because the deadlift itself is not a
dangerous exercise, it’s not one that we should get rid of in our programs. I’m going to explain why as I start to demonstrate. The fact of the matter is the deadlift – done
wrong – belongs in the Iron Graveyard. Because it will destroy your low back. The shearing forces that you put on your lumbar
spine, the compressive forces that you put on your discs are terrible if you do it incorrectly. So, there’s one thing I think that takes this
exercise and it flips a switch and it makes us think about it differently to take it out
of the Iron Graveyard and put it back where it belongs. Which is in your program as a great posterior
chain strengthening exercise, as a power exercise, as pretty much everything we need in a lower
body exercise, ok, and upper body. It’s a total body exercise. Now here’s what we’re going to do. The first thing we have to do is look at what
happens when we get into the deadlift position. The wrong thing you’re doing is disengaging
the lumbar extensors, disengaging the…we call them the paraspinal muscles…along the
spine because that’s where you go from having very little force, shearing force directed
out from the spine to all the shearing forces when you let that go. And I’ve talked about it before, presetting
the back. So, when we get down into this position for
a deadlift, the preset is getting into this natural lumbar curve down here, getting the
shoulder blades back, the shoulders pulled back and the head looking up because if you
don’t look up, the first problem is if you start to look down the body usually follows
where the head goes. So, if I start looking this way, it tends
to roll my shoulders forward and tends to bring the rest of my spine with me which is
going to go down into the low back. And now I’ve lost all the stabilization which
again is the difference between whether you experience the shearing forces or not. So, when we get down into this position, we
want to have the flexibility through the hamstrings, the hinge in the hips, to be able to get down
into this position here and then initiate. Now, here’s your second key. The deadlift, for it not to be an exercise
that belongs in that Iron Graveyard, but one that belongs in your program, needs to be
a pushing exercise, and not a pulling exercise. I want you guys to make sure you get that
straight. Ok. The deadlift should be a pushing exercise,
and not a pulling exercise, not primarily, at least, not initially. Initially, it’s got to be a pushing exercise. So, let me explain. When we’re in this position here, when we
get down, you’re going to see that obviously to get from this position and come out of
that, come out of the hole, the mistake is trying to pull too much because as soon as
you try to pull and you hit resistance, what happens even if I have a perfectly set back. I pull, I hit resistance, phew, I blow out
the back, right? I have to pull this way to kind of cheat it
up. Don’t make it a pulling exercise. The pulling comes at the end. What we want to do is make it a pushing exercise. So, as you see here, the base is through the
leg. Ok. The base is going to be through the leg. Got a good strong foundation here from the
leg so that when we come down, the first thing is pushing through the leg. So, once I have this, my head’s up, my back
is set, I push through the legs and then drive through pulling back my upper back and my
low back together at the same time. Reverse the direction. Ok. As I come up, I push through my heels. It’s a leg exercise, and then I pull up at
the top. Push and then pull. It’s a completely different sensation. We don’t even feel that strain through the
back. Again, I can load that bar up as I need to,
as I get stronger, but the fact is you won’t feel that strain through the back if you’re
initiating with a push and if you’re setting yourself up correctly in the beginning by
getting the stabilizers of your back set, the low back set, and getting your head up
and pushing with your legs. Guys, it’s changes like this to certain exercises
that can take and exercises that you had long ago relegated to one that you’re not going
to do because even if you haven’t gotten hurt, some of your buddies have. And believe me, one of the biggest exercises
to cause people to get hurt on the gym floor when they’re doing it, is the deadlift, but
that’s because most guys aren’t doing the deadlift correctly. At AthleanX, I try to show you guys how to
do things correctly. Again, a priority of mine as a physical therapist
is to show you guys how to strength train and condition and get you in the best shape
of your life, but to do it safely so you can continue to come back and do your workouts. AhtleanX is a program that you do for life,
not just for 90 days, but you do it for life because you are capable of working out for
life because you are getting stronger every day. Guys, I’ll see you over at In the meantime, if you haven’t already, come
join us on Team Athlean, grab the 90-day training program. See what it’s like to train smart, to train
with the right exercises, and to do them in the right way so that you get the most out
of them and you don’t forego things that really could help increase your gains in the gym. Guys, I’ll see you back here in 7 days. In the meantime, have a great week. Make sure you leave your comments below. I’ll talk to you soon.

99 comments on “DEADLIFTS – Best Back Exercise or Worst? FIND OUT!

  1. c174 Post author

    just use a "trap-bar"… it gives you the best of both worlds from a squat without compressing your spine and a deadlift without putting that pressure on your lower back…

  2. Eddie Lancelot Post author

    I already did these things, but still found deadlifts not to be a very satisfying exercise. I full squatted 60 lbs more than I was able to deadlift, and my max peaked way too low for a guy of my weight.

  3. Dan Post author

    Not really a good back exercise. Good for legs but not so much the back. You will still eventually compress the spine and injure a disk usually from the L1 to the L5. Every dead lifter I have known whether just performing the exercise or competing in the deadlift has had an injury. Worst case is compressing the disk and causing sciatic nerve to be injured. This when the fluid between the disk is squeezed enough to bulge out and create pressure on the nerve causing numbness and tingling in one leg. I guarantee that ounce you experience that pain you won't be performing a dead lift again and if you do it will be very light weight. Ounce you can't walk for 6 to 8 weeks you will lament about the exercise and realize how much pain it caused you. I know the serious dead lifters don't want to stop but they will when it happens to them. Personally I think that there are better exercises for the back. Do legs on leg day and back on back day. Simple as that.

  4. iHave NoName Post author

    The fact of the matter is…when you lift, pull or push heavy weights it' s potentialy dangerous for your health

  5. abc ezas123 Post author

    I was dreading watching this, as I like deadlifts but for once I was doing something right.

  6. Platano Power Post author

    great video and the deadlift is my FAVORITE! I actually take my shoes off so I can really feel the weight on my heels as I push to do the movement. men should really study the deadlift more because the benefits are so rewarding on so many levels. MEN, MAN UP AND DEADLIFT ?

  7. marcus revil Post author

    i really like your videos its very informative and you really know how to teach people or deliver infos that are easy to follow. Thank you! ?

  8. RyanFGNM Post author

    His deadlift looked slightly different than the starting strength deadlift. Dr Austin Baraki were doing dead lifts were you were less upright. Allan Thrall had them on his channel Untamed Strength.

  9. Chris G Post author

    should I deadlift with two herniated discs??? I have back pain every day but I can live a kind of a normal life. so the pain and problems aren't enough to have a surgery.

  10. eric maurer Post author

    Why deadlift anyway? At least guys. Why do you want a huge meaty ass and a thicker waist? Let's get real, most people just want to be healthy and look good. Deadlift ruins esthetics and CAN SEVERELY and PERMANENTLY injure yourself. It's NOT worth it IMO.

  11. Micah Billingsley Post author

    But the back squat is discouraged ? You can perform a back squat correctly , just like this exercise !

  12. Martin Post author

    Deadlifts are potentialy deadly. The simple alternative is low back extensions. No disk compression.

  13. Annie B Post author

    One of my worst injuries was a pulled glute that took about a year to really heal from doing deadlifts. I think my form was decent, but I was not stretching and warming up beforehand and I'm 46 years old. Make sure you warm up well before any lifting!

  14. john Stetson Post author

    keeping it old school i do deadlifts t bar rows and bent over barbell rows every back exercise

  15. Steven Schuster Post author

    Mark Rippetoe says its a pull exercise and not to push with your heels. This guy says the opposite? Why can't these all these popular fitness guys all get together at some conference and sort this stuff out.

  16. GIboy1990 Post author

    Back squats done wrong I feel is the primary cause of my APT and thusly my lower back pain.

  17. Lee Victoire Post author

    I'm actually confused whether to add this to back/biceps day or legs shoulders day. Should I change it altogether and train back and legs on the same day?

  18. RNZIRBATT6XCOY2002 Post author

    As usual Jeffo is 100 % correct, I fucked my back with poor form a couple of years ago and have been extremely cautious ever since because the pain crippled me to the point of being hospitalized.
    Big shout out from Townsville Australia cunts ?

  19. Melinda Jones Post author

    want to keep your back safe? Trap bar deadlifts are the way to go. And low weight, good form, higher reps.

  20. Dale C Post author

    As a 'mature' guy, Trap Bar Deads are my primary leg exercise. None of the extremes of the traditional deads and squats.

  21. Isai D Post author

    Good advice, but how can avoid passing out from doing this move since I usually like to lift heavy weights? It's never happened to me at this point, but I've seen cats passing out in youtube,com from doing these in the past and I don't want it to happen to myself.

  22. Sebastian Duran Post author

    Hey man, I did get bulging discs, and I know it is because of bad form. My butt winks in the bottom of squats and deadlifts, I can't keep my pelvis in the right movement. I guess I should just focus on getting the flexibility and mobility in my hips before I get to deadlifting again, yeah?

  23. lummers12dub Post author

    I joined a crossfit gym a year ago. I'd never heard of the deadlift before. It's a tough one to get used to there is no doubt about it. It took me months to learn how to do it right. At the beginning of every lift I always felt like I was gonna snap my back. All about the set up and totally agree here it's a pushing exercise. When you do it right you KNOW IT. If you do it wrong you also know it unfortunately

  24. Zandrix Estinor Post author

    my back keep straights when im doing deadlift , but after a set, i can feel my lower back, is it because im doing it wrong ? or just because im a beginner

  25. grandboubou Post author

    The problem with deadlift is when people do it to total muscle failure. Especially in the beginning, with some muscle imbalance. Give yourself time to adapt and start light weight.

  26. 666ofdoom Post author

    Great I will deadlift on back day. Monday is chest tues is back and we'd is leg or should I spread them through the week? I because after I do my deadlift on Tuesday will my squat suffer the next day we'd because I didn't fully recover from deadlift on Tuesday?

  27. mr. P. Post author

    I fractured a vertebrae when I started lifting again doing them improperly , now I'm scared to even try it , I can bent over row like a beast but ?, this video struck sheer horror into the very soul of my being

  28. Trugaming21 Post author

    Why is showing us a tutorial of deadlifting with 95lbs. Every good deadlifter knows that no matter what or no matter how strong u are u always start with 135

  29. David Bruce Post author

    This is probably the best and most important video I have ever seen on the subject of fitness. It’s so important, the advice that he gave us here. I have never ever thought of this exercise as of pushing exercise. Thank you so much, I will try this! I am 6‘5“ tall, 53 years old, lean and somewhat fit, and I have scoliosis, so my dead lift has gone way down over the years.

  30. Anicool Singh Post author

    You don't feel the strain in the back? How can this be possible?
    There's hip extension in the last part..

  31. Ceiling Fan Post author

    Even though I don't have the education you have I feel that deadlifts have too much risk per reward. I greatly prefer trap bar deadlifts, and Jefferson dead lifts, and weighted hyper extensions to target the lower back. Dead lifts are a good exercise but there is too much risk.

  32. Herakles Post author

    When I train back-I have more back muscle soreness even I. The upper back / lats if I do deadlifts compared to not inclideong deadlifts
    I especially like doing at end of back workout light – just 225-275 for reps

  33. Abhijeet Singh Malawat Post author

    Deadlift is not good exercise becoz it gives you damn lower back pain?

  34. Balu 978 Post author

    I wish I would have watched this a week ago…hope I can get back to doing it right….?

  35. pingufromindia Post author

    Deadlift is a pushing exercise as in you have to push through your legs INITIALLY….tht doesn't mean tht you should turn it into some kind of modified squat…

  36. Stingerbillion Post author

    I love deadlifts. Though i feel it in my back. I do it as Jeff, but i still feel it in the back vs the legs. I try everytime to push through the legs. What am i doing wrong?

  37. sheephead3 Post author

    You didn't even talk about bracing the core before the movement, which is a very important aspect in protecting the lower back.

  38. Ian Reed Post author

    deadlifts are the only thing i feel comfortable doing, i heard its the best for tall skinny people

  39. james sponsler Post author

    i do my deadlifts a little different, i lift from the rack instead of the floor. I still go 2/3 down the shin, i do not like how it feels lifting from the floor. constructive criticism is appreciated, would like a response from Jeff but, he's a busy man.

  40. Anita Vaughn Post author

    I have a ruptured disc and I'm working on strengthening my back. I want to do deadlifts.

  41. Shaun Post author

    I call them the ego lifts because it's drilled in your fucking head to lift more each time.
    And when say your hamstrings and arse are toasted (e.g. from the "leg day") you'd more likely keep the wieght and compensate with your form.

    I only use a wide stance and call it "a squat from the ground".
    So if the legs can't contract to move the weight then. nah fuk it.

    I'll circuit with cable rows then D/L up to a MAX of 140kegs.

    It's how i picked up furniture at work, and i am definitely a normal (80ish kegs) lean build. Far from a specimen.

  42. Lee Cox Post author

    I just wonder whether Jeff prefers Romanian deadlifts, since his technique seems to be indistinguishable from that of the Romanian deadlift. I don't think I've ever really seen him do a straight-leg deadlift.

  43. Avin R Post author

    This doesn't work for me and I'm not alone in that. When I put my head up my lower back rounds bad the other way. I need to keep my head DOWN in order to get my back straight. Try it.

  44. Shad G Post author

    I'm gonna make this comment bc alot of people deal with it but dont speak on it. Deadlifts has helped me with heroin addiction and depression, so when I see this guy talk about deads I cant help but to get emotional like I said maybe I'm wrong for talking on things I've been through but I know itll help others. So get in the gym and get your form right.

  45. carmel bugeja Post author

    I always thought deadlift is the best exercise if done correctly , and the worst exercise if done wrong. its the exercise that involves almost all our muscles.

  46. Jeremy Bork Post author

    The best explanation I have ever seen, or heard. This will be applicable to even outside the gym. Great video!!

  47. guilty ostrich Post author

    I’m really confused. I always primarily use my hamstrings and glutes to pull the weight. Should I be engaging my quads more and pushing?

  48. Justforkicks Post author

    If you are not comfortable doing them, just dont do them without a pro teaching you the correct form. Its that simple. Just look at all of the different advice being given right here on this thread. Fuck up once, and be in a world of hurt. Potentially have a nagging injury for life.

  49. Kojitsu Post author

    I did heavy deadlifts with a gym partner 1-2 days per week for 2 years and before we started working out together he had lower back issues he was dealing with and he was seeing a physical therapist who cautioned him about attempting deadlifts(he had never done them before this point). We learned how to do them properly–constantly monitoring and adjusting each others form until it was perfect–and it never caused issues for his back, in fact, his lower back got a lot stronger without any issues and he had less back problems after doing heavy deadlifts for 2 years than he did before he started lifting weights. I don't doubt that his physical therapy played a part in his recovery but one thing is for sure deadlifts never ruined his back.

  50. Gains Marathon Post author

    Hey Jeff, are deadlifts with a hex/trap bar just as good as deadlifts with a typical straight barbell? Can you do a video comparing the two with pros and cons? I’m on IG using the hex/trap bar for deadlifts at: gains_marathon

  51. onestandhand Post author

    thumbs up XD ty for making me understand that i was n t stronger i was actually doing out off instinct after many failure s ,a correct push and keeping my back straight i didn t do deadlifts until now since from what i could tell you need a belt and have a clean slate with you r apendix ,well since at work with correct form i can actually work all day {until hungry } with a correct form i will give it a try after this comment plus i only have weight around 40 kg so it s small start but good for reps off stand ups around 50 or 40 {lol ,like i said i never did so i am expecting to not be that energy taxing b cuz off my daily routine at farm }

  52. Professional298 Post author

    K im feeling like some arent capable of doing a deadlift properly, whether its physical or mental and everytime it comes up on my workout routine it kills my motivation. And i think it might be true for all exercises. I just cant do deadlifts without fewling an unsafe amout of back pressure no matter how hard i try and no matter how light the weight is

  53. jarry Dee Post author

    I am 45, have stenosis and pinched nerves in my lower back. Started going to the gym about 6 months ago. was afraid of DL's because of my back. I finally got the balls to try it, went fine the first few reps, then SNAP! Swore i would never do them again, took 2 weeks to get back into the gym. A few days ago i try them again, went fine. Today I do them again, SNAP! It was only 160 pounds, was not even hard to do, but still took my back out. I am done with DL's until I find someone to help me IN PERSON, to figure out what is going on. i try to follow all the Q's, but I can not have this keep happening,

  54. new account Post author

    This is the wrong form of the deadlift. Not everyone can squat the bar up. The deadlift is a posterior chain exercise. It is not a pushing one. Yes, the quads are going to be used to push the ground through the feet, but the deadlift is a pulling exercise as well as a pushing exercise before the bar passes the knees. Once the bar passes the knees, it's a hip movement.

    Either way, the way Jeff is showing the deadlift here is not possible for many people, that is, people with shorter arms and longer legs (bad deadlifting proportions). If you want to squat the weight up, then squat.

  55. S4h4r4 Post author

    Never pulled my back but that looked scary ?
    Although i am deadlifting twice my weight which im proud of.


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