Put Your Back In to It: Doing Deadlift Exercises For Strengthening Lower Back Muscles

One of the unsung heroes in athletic workouts, when in comes to strengthening lower back muscles, are the forgotten deadlift exercises. Although they may recall old school training to some, they should not be taken for granted.
photo courtesy of Phil Hirst

When I think of exercises that are used across the board by the majority of athletes as part of their training only a few come to mind. Of course there’s the typical bench press and squats, but the deadlift is always in their routine.

Basketball players, baseball players, football players, Olympic athletes all use this one exercise for conditioning and athleticism. Because this is a compound exercise and as such targets more than one muscle group and builds explosiveness the benefits are huge.

In my years of working out I can probably count with two hands the number of people I have seen doing this exercise at the gym. Why? The two most common excuses are, a) it looks to tough and b) I don’t want to hurt my back.

I won’t lie, deadlifts can be challenging but the rewards are great. The important thing to consider is to use a weight that is not too heavy and proper form is used.

For those who may have a concern that they might hurt their back the importance of form is big. However, as with any exercise always use proper form and you will greatly reduce the risk of injury.

For anyone who may have a concern with injuring the lower back my advice is to start working on those lower back muscles! The lack of lower back muscle development is the reason why these injuries in the first place. With this said, always start with very light weight and work your way up.

If you are focused on strengthening your lower back there is no better exercise than a deadlift. After a couple months of doing this exercise you will see the difference in the lower back and in your core. Remember that core exercises are important in avoiding lower back injuries.

There are various versions of the deadlift:

Romanian Deadlift
Stiff Legged Deadlift
Bent Knee Deadlift

I recommend the Bent Knee version since it will target your entire lower body (leg muscles) up to your core and lower back. The important things to remember when performing this exercise are:

1. Use a wider than shoulder width grip and keep the arms straight. Legs stance should also be shoulder width apart.
2. Do not round your back. Bend at the waist and keep the back flat. Always maintain your lower back firm.
3. Use the strength in your legs when lifting and push from the heels.
4. Do not look down when lifting, instead look straight ahead and keep your chest out.
5. Do not overarch your back when you come up to a standing position.
6. Do not use your lower back when pulling the weight.
7. Keep your abs tight when lifting.
8. Keep the bar/weight close to your body. The bar should be touching your shins when you start and touching your thighs when you come up.
9. Come down slowly and controlled motion as your hips bend first followed by the knees.

In the beginning perform 3 sets of 6 to eight repetitions. Move up to 4 sets after 4 weeks. Only do this series once a week preferably on legs day. Barbells or dumbbells can be used and you can switch it up but start by performing them with barbells.

If you perform this execise on a weekly basis get ready to see an overrall increase in body strength and a stronger lower back as well.