Is Heavy Deadlifting Bad for Your Knees?

Lift with good form to avoid knee injuries.
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The deadlift can be one of the finest exercises for a Nestie. While deadlifting often conjures up images of stubby, wide-bodied men pulling ridiculous weights from the floor, deadlifts provide tremendous value for women. They hit all those important areas -- your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and abs. You may fear though that heavy deadlifts can have a negative impact, particularly on the knee joint.

Joints and Weights

    When you lift correctly, you can actually help prevent injuries and strengthen your joints, which also reduces your risk of osteoporosis. Deadlifts don't really focus on your knees too much either -- the main joint recruited is your hips. While squats and lunges place strain through your knees, a deadlift should be all about your hips, butt and core. A heavy deadlift can be anything above around 80 pounds for a 148-pound untrained Nestie, 70 pounds if you're just around 120 pounds or 95 pounds up if you weigh 181 pounds, notes the fitness site If you're an advanced or elite lifter, you can probably deadlift about twice as much.

Hamstring Strength

    Women tend to have wider hips and narrower knees than men, meaning they get more knee injuries, especially in team sports like soccer and basketball. If you’re a Nestie who loves team or even individual sports such as running, your quads may become overdeveloped in relation to your hamstrings. The good news for both concerns is that by increasing your hamstring strength, you actually help to stabilize your knee joints. Get your thighs and booty stronger to create hamstrings of steel and keep knee injuries at bay.

Form and Risk

    As with any exercise, there is a certain amount of risk involved when deadlifting. The main risk however, is lifting with a rounded back, which places extra stress through your spine. You may feel increased tension through your knees if your deadlift with your weight on your toes, so sit back, keep your weight through your heels and keep your head up to avoid knee pain.


    As a truly functional movement, deadlifts provide good carryover into daily tasks and sports, notes female powerlifter Nia Shanks. If you do feel knee pain when performing heavy deadlifts, try another variation, such as stiff-legged deadlifts, dumbbell deadlifts or deadlifts with a hex or “trap” bar -- a hexagonal-shaped bar with elevated handles. Stick to three to four sets of five to eight reps using perfect technique and only attempt to go heavier when you're confident enough to. If you do experience knee issues, consult your health-care provider.

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