5 Deadlifting Mistakes that Decrease Your Performance and Increase Your Injury Risk

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Uncategorized

deadlift_mainGuest post by Rick Kaselj, M.S. and Co-creator of Fix My Back Pain.

I have been waiting for it for year.

I finally got to meet Jay.

It was March 8, 2013 and I introduced myself to Jay and got to say thanks for all of his great stuff (emails, articles and products).

We exchanged a few words. Then it was off to enjoy OC (Orange County).

Then I got to see him again in Vegas on Friday the 13th of September.

This time, I got to hear him share his story in fitness.

It was memorable, entertaining and very educational.

The thing that stuck with me the most, was the 4 BEST things that he has done for his own personal growth over the last five years. (I will Jay share what they are.)

Now, I was going to do an article on squatting but after endless negative reference to lame squatting articles in Vegas from Jay, I thought I would take on deadlifting instead.

Now lets move onto deadlifting.

Let me go through 5 deadlifting mistakes that are affecting your performance or leading to injuries, especially back pain.

#1 – Sorry, I Got To Say It

Details mater!

In your mind and how things feel, you are doing the perfect deadlift.

To the real world, you are full of energy leaks and injuries waiting to happen when you deadlift.

Always get feedback on your deadlift technique. It is hard to screw up the big things in the lift but often times we overlook the details.

This one thing will improve your performance and fend off injury.

Take it serious and always work on perfecting it, like anyone that is a master in his or her craft.

Keep reading, I got a few more tips, which are less obvious.

#2 No Midnight Mambo

At a course I had an instructor tell me, “You need to teach your clients the difference between the midnight mambo and a waiter’s bow.”

I was, like, what the….?

He continued on, “When your clients are moving from standing into a squatting position, all the movement happens in the hips and there is no movement in your lower back.

Keep all the lower back movement when you are doing the midnight mambo with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

Okay, I got it.

The same applies to the deadlift.

Your spine always stays in neutral. There is no mambo going on. You are only doing the waiter bow or deadlift bow.

In the next point, I cover something most people don’t think about but it is a huge cause of injuries.

#3 The Deadlift Marathon

Most people don’t get hurt on their first deadlift rep.

Often times it is the 20 or 30th rep that leads to a tweak in the back or some other kind of injury. Especially if you doing a barbell complex.

This highlights the endurance side of things of your lifting.

It can be the endurance of maintaining perfect technique. When technique goes, what you can lift goes and this put your joints at risk of injury, especially your back. The poor endurance can be because you are not lifting in the movement, had poor recovery, been slacking in your nutrition or your program design. Tweak these things for the better to a better deadlift and a long life a pain-free deadlifting.

The second part of the endurance equation are the stabilizers. It can the stabilizing muscles in the core or the shoulder, that help protect joints from undo stress and injury, have poor endurance. Excessive reps or poor programing design leads to fatigue of these stabilizing muscles and a greater risk of injury.

#4 Look at the Sumo

We can yell and scream at what is better, the sumo or traditional deadlift. The sumo squat requires less flexibility, less effort and targets the quads more.

It does not matter, what is better, it is what is best for you and your body. If you are a person that has poor flexibility in the hamstrings, shorter in size and a sensitive back, you might want to give the sumo deadlift a go (Escamilla 2000). Your back will thank you.

One more comment on this.

I don’t like hiding behind the research but sometimes the research can explain things that we see and feel in more of an objective way.

This was in a paper done by Dr Stu McGill in 1991:

“The sumo deadlift style resulted in a 10% reduction in the joint moment and 8% reduction in the load shear force at the L4/L5 level when compared with the conventional lifting style.”

So, the sumo sealift put less stress on the back.

#5 Put Skin on the Bar

Keep the bar close to you. I know, this is obvious but after you rape your shins with your bar a few times and are bleeding all over the place, you start to avoid the bar. As the bar moves away from you it will affect performance and your risk of injury (Escamill 2001).

As the bar moves away from you, performance decrease and injury risk skyrockets.

In Summary

Now wrapping things up.

If you have had performance or injury issues with the deadlift look at these five things. Get another set of qualified eyes to look at what you are doing. No mamboing, only the deadlift bow. Look at the endurance your muscles have in holding your technique and if you have issues work on your endurance or stabilizing muscle endurance. Whatever your opinion, try to sumo deadlift technique, your back may thank you and lastly keep the bar close, even if you lose a little skin.

There you go, give those 5 things a go to help with deadlift performance and injury avoidance.

Feel free to leave a question or comment below and I will make sure to get back to you.

Rick Kaselj, MS

*Rick Kaselj is the co-creator of Fix My Back Pain. Click here to check it out.

Now for the geeks, here is some deadliest research:

Cholewicki J, McGill SM, Norman RW. (1991). Lumbar spine loads during the lifting of extremely heavy weights. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991 Oct;23(10):1179-86.

Escamilla RF, Francisco AC, Fleisig GS, Barrentine SW, Welch CM, Kayes AV, Speer KP, Andrews JR. (2000). A three-dimensional biomechanical analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jul;32(7):1265-75.

– Very interesting stuff. Some might want to focus in on the sumo deadliest, some might want to start mixing in the sumo squat with the traditional deadliest.

Escamilla RF, Lowry TM, Osbahr DC, Speer KP. (2001). Biomechanical analysis of the deadlift during the 1999 Special Olympics World Games. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Aug;33(8):1345-53.

– Yes, this was research on special Olympians but most will lift more than you or I.

Fisher J, Bruce-Low S, Smith D. (2012). A randomized trial to consider the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar extension strength. Phys Ther Sport. 2013 Aug;14(3):139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2012.04.001. Epub 2012 Aug 16.

About the Author

Rick Kaselj is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in designing exercise programs for clients recovering from injuries and pain.  Rick has trained thousands of clients and completed his Master’s of Science degree focusing on injury recovery.