How to Prevent Bending the Lower Back During Deadlifts

Lift properly for a safe and agile lower back.

Lift properly for a safe and agile lower back.

If deadlifts cause you to say, “Ow, my aching back,” then chances are your form is off and in need of fixing. Executing deadlifts properly can lead to a strong, toned and sexy back, though when executed incorrectly, they can cause your lower back to hunch or over-arch. Eventually, the stress placed on the lower back from the bending can lead to pain and injuries. Focus on your form and let deadlifts help rather than harm your back.

Items you will need

  • Barbell
  • Weight plates
  • Clips

Step 1

Warm up with five to 10 minutes of light bodyweight exercises, such as pushups, lunges, jumping jacks and squats. Cycle through the movements of a deadlift without using any form of resistance to prepare your muscles for the exercise. Place the appropriate amount of resistance on the barbell; the clipped-in-place weight plates should allow you to reach, yet not surpass, your targeted number of repetitions with proper form. Place the barbell on the floor in front of your feet.

Step 2

Stand sideways next to a mirror to view your posture and form. Position your feet to be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and press the shoulder blades down your back; square the shoulders and stack them over the hips. Keep the butt neutral, or even slightly extended back to avoid tucking the tailbone and rounding the lower back.

Step 3

Position the barbell to be aligned over your shoelaces, just below the toes. Bend your knees and extend your hips back to squat down to the floor. Grasp the bar with an alternating grip; one hand overhand and the other underhand. Lift your chest, keeping your head in line with the spine. Gaze either straight ahead or slightly upward with your eyes; maintain the head position throughout the exercise.

Step 4

Push through your heels as you straighten your legs and rise to the top of the exercise. It can be common to think of the deadlift as a pulling exercise, however, it is actually a combination of pushing through your heels and pulling. Focusing just on the pulling, or lifting the weight, can cause your back to round in response to the stress.

Step 5

Straighten your hips and knees at the same time as you come to a standing position, similar to the movement in a squat. The tendency may be to straighten the knees first or possibly even to only straighten the knees and leave the hips extending backward; however, the legs should be engaged when lifting heavy weight. Placing all of the responsibility on the pulling can put stress on the back and cause it to round.

Step 6

Elongate the spine, lift your chest and push the shoulder blades down your back. Maintaining proper alignment in your upper body can help to keep your back in the right position. Injuries can also be reduced when using proper form and alignment. And engage your abdominal and core muscles to support and flatten out the lower back.

Step 7

Shift the hips back and down as you bend the knees. Keep the knees behind the toes as much as possible as you lower toward the floor. Maintain the abdominal engagement, elongate the spine and keep the shoulder blades pushing down your back to keep the spine or lower back from rounding. Touch the barbell to the floor to complete one repetition. Continue immediately to the next repetition. Aim to complete eight to 12 reps.


  • Maintain the bar at around 1 inch away from your body to increase leverage and decrease back strain. A bar that is too far in front of you can cause your shoulders to rise and pull the upper body out of alignment. The closer the bar is to your body, the easier it is to maneuver.
  • Focus on form before resistance level or number of repetitions. Once you master form, gradually increase the resistance, reps and sets.
  • Ask a personal trainer evaluate your form if you are not able to keep your lower back straight.


  • Discontinue the lift and seek medical attention if you feel pain in your lower back while performing this exercise.
  • Check with your health-care provider before beginning an exercise program for the first time or if you have been away from fitness programs for a while, or if you have any chronic health issues.

About the Author

Based in San Francisco, Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis," "American Fitness" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.

Photo Credits

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