Workout Tips

Lift Doctor: Deadlift Techniques and Muscle Recovery

The Doc's workout prescription for improving training performance and results.



“I am recovering from back surgery. What suggestions do you have to lessen the chances of injury when I start deadlifting again?” – Matt Mar

After you’re cleared by your doctor, you have to start slow. You also need to do some work on finding ‘why’ you got injured in the first place. Did you get out of position on the last rep? Did you lose your tension when locking the weight out? Was it too much weight or too many reps at that weight? Do you have a weakness that affects your ability to be strong throughout the lift?

Some simple things to think about when you’re deadlifting are position and tension.  

Basically, can you get into a good position when the bar is on the floor and before you even do the first repetition? Your back should always be straight (neutral), your head should be looking forward or slightly down, and your knees should be as close to the bar as possible. If you can get into this good position, you are more likely to be able to finish in a good position and be safe.

Now, when you get into a good position, the more tension you can create the stronger you’ll be (i.e., lift heavier weights) and you’ll decrease the likelihood of injury. You can create tension or torque in your shoulders by pulling up on the bar prior to pulling the weight. And creating tension at the hips is done by driving your knees outward against your arms. Remember, the more tension you can create, the stronger you’ll be.

Core Strength

Finally, having a stronger core will always help with any compound exercise. A favorite core exercise to improve my deadlift strength is the ab rollout. Ab rollouts reinforce a straight back and teach you how to create a large amount of tension across the entire torso. They also strengthen the lats and move the shoulders through a great range of motion, which will help improve your lockout strength.

Doing a little detective work and working on your technique before you start deadlifting again will help you prevent an injury from happening in the future.

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