A deadlift is a complete workout that allows you to work on multiple muscles simultaneously. It is one of the most productive workouts used by CrossFit athletes to build muscle, get more muscular, and improve body posture. However, you must know about some of its hitches with all these benefits.
As weights are usually involved in deadlifts, there are chances of some overuse injuries. You can minimize these injuries by taking proper precautions. Here is the list of common deadlift injuries.
If you’re interested to know more about common deadlifting injuries, keep reading!
Common Deadlift Injuries
1. Back Injury
Deadlifts are essential to building a solid muscular back and responsible for a back injury. The initial position of deadlifts puts a lot of shearing force on your spine. The spine is not intended to endure that force, so your muscles work hard to support the spine and maintain it stiff.
While bending your spine, more space is created between your vertebrae due to an intervertebral disc. This disc provides some flexibility to your vertebrae.
With the increased distance between vertebrae, the shearing force also increases on your spine and causes the risk of damaging one of these intervertebral discs. The more you bend your spine, the more are the chances of muscle tears resulting in back injury.
To avoid this back injury, make sure your spine is neutral, and all your standard curves must remain the same even while leaning forward or lifting the weight.
Deadlifting with a rounded back is the leading cause of the back injury, so it is best to avoid it. The other damage caused is leaning backward, so always stand up straight at the top of the deadlift.
For relief in deadlift back injury, there are some measures you can take at home. Apply ice for 15–20 minutes every two hours for the first three days, then apply a moist hot pack for 15–20 minutes on the fourth day.
This will not help if you do not take time off from physical activity. Visit a physical therapist for relief.
2. Biceps Injury
There are usually three ways to grip the bar for deadlifts: with straps, a double overhand grip, or a mixed grip.
The safest way to deadlift is the double overhand grip, but it’s also the weakest, so most lifters use either straps or a mixed grip. One hand is supinated with the mixed grip, and the other is pronated to avoid rolling the bar.
During a deadlift, the biceps on the supinated side is subjected to a lot of stress that can cause injury. This injury could be as minor as a bicep muscle tear or as severe as a bicep torn entirely away from the bone, requiring surgery to fix it.
You can minimize the risks of bicep injuries by either avoiding mixed grand g powerlifting training before deadlifts warm up your biceps. Never bend elbows, and keep your arms straight during a deadlift.
Strengthening and stretching your bicep also helps avoid the risks of a bicep injury.
3. Knee Injury
Knees are involved during deadlift for lifting and supporting heavyweights. The heavy deadlift can result in meniscus and tendon knee injuries.
It is essential to know that these structures lack blood vessels and thus require a longer time to heal than other injuries.
Typically, knee injury occurs due to poor squatting form, especially when heavyweights are involved. If you have an old knee injury, it can cause another injury.
To avoid knee injuries, you should practice the correct positions. Stand shoulder-width apart, as a vast stance exerts more force on your knees.
Never mix deadlifting with squatting, and don’t start too low. Try to use your hips more than your knees.
Try not to lift the bar too fast as it increases the forces on your knee joint. It would help if you locked your knees precisely at the top of your deadlift. Never drop in or out of your knees during the lift.
4. Hip Injury
The stress on your muscles in deadlifting causes an increase in the size and strength of your muscles.
At times, when you exceed this stress above the structural capabilities of your muscles can result in deadlifting injury. Injuries to the muscles are generally mild and can heal within a week, but injuries to the tendons or weak muscles take a longer time.
During deadlifting, all your muscles originating through the hips and femur work hard to lift the weight. It involves your hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, and hip-related muscles, including psoas. During this procedure, the acetabulum is put under a lot of stress.
The most common hip injury happens due to extreme stress in the acetabular. It occurs when you overuse stress by doing tons of high-intensity deadlifting.
To avoid hip injury, try to work upon heavyweights gradually. When the bar is close to your knees, tighten your glutes and push your hips forward.
If you are experiencing hip pain that doesn’t feel the muscular origin, you must get your hips checked by physical therapists.
Lastly, do not do heavy deadlifts, squats, or bench presses until your hips feel better.
5. Hand and Finger Injuries
Your hands and fingers create a firm grip on the bar for deadlifting but sometimes get injured. Torn calluses are the most common hand injuries.
Calluses are the thick and challenging part of the skin, while the surrounding skin is soft. Due to this, it is quite possible to rip a callus off in part or whole.
Hand injury is a painful injury, and mostly torn calluses bleed profusely. It even takes a long time to heal.
It is suggested to regularly trim and fill your calluses to minimize the risks of hand and finger injury. Use lifting chalk to create a grip on the bar that prevents it from slipping off your hands. Do grip-building and finger extension exercises.
6. Burst Blood Vessels
You may have seen athletes get nosebleeds during heavy deadlifts, squats, and bench presses in World’s Strongest Man or a powerlifting competition. Burst blood vessels cause nosebleeds. Some weightlifters experience bloodshot eyes as well.
Blood circulates in a closed system throughout your body. When you lift heavy weights, your muscles constrict your blood vessels, preventing blood flow and raising blood pressure.
This high blood pressure can cause tiny blood vessels to rupture, resulting in nosebleeds and bloodshot eyes.
Blood pressure fluctuations can also cause headaches, dizziness, and fainting.
To prevent nosebleeds:
- Try to exhale whenever you are near the top of each rep.
- Between each rep, reset your core and breathe.
- Do not lift heavy weights for low reps.
If you have high blood pressure, consult your doctor before deadlifting.
Common Mistakes in Deadlifting Causing Injuries
Deadlift might look easy, but it has complicated movements that lead to mistakes. These mistakes then cause deadlifting injuries. Let’s take a look at common errors in deadlifting.
1. Not Warming up Properly
The most common mistake people make is not warming up properly. Walking on a treadmill for a few minutes is not enough to be ready for the deadlift. You should do exercises that involve the movements and stretching of all your muscles engaged in deadlifting.
Before performing a deadlift, make sure your body and mind are ready for it. A good warm-up exercise involves general, dynamic stretches, mobility exercises, and activation exercises.
Some people make this mistake because they are either unaware of this or don’t have much time to warm up their bodies.
However, there is no harm in spending extra 10-15 minutes on warm-up exercise because this makes your body prepared for the deadlift and avoids deadlifting injuries.
2. Bad Foot Placement
Another common mistake people make is lousy foot placement. Remember, for an effective deadlift, proper foot position is critical.
If you place your feet too far, your lower back will be overloaded and cause leg pain or pain in the lower back when you try to lift the bar.
On the other hand, if you place your feet too, it can lead to bruising shins. Your feet should be placed so their front part remains under the bar.
For deadlifting, it’s essential to adopt the correct stance. The common mistake with outlook is spreading your feet too wide—a broad view results in poor deadlifting and possible spine injuries.
For an ideal stance, your feet should be hip-width to shoulder-width away from each other.
3. Bending Back
Bending your back while deadlifting can result in lower back pulls, strains, and spinal injuries. You can easily avoid it by applying the proper techniques.
When you hold the barbell, your chest should be elevated and straight. Always lift the bar by using the strength of your legs instead of your hips.
If you are a beginner and focusing on leg strength seems complicated, try imagining that you push the floor with your feet. This technique helps in maintaining the proper posture and using the correct force.
A flat back is your savior in the deadlift. Both round forward or arched back positions can cause stress and excess pressure on your back, leading to deadlift injury.
4. Hyperextending Lower Back
Not just bending your back but hyperextending your back is also very risky. The hyperextending of your back mostly happens when you try to lock out the weight at the top of the lift and make an excessive movement with your lower back.
This attempt can lead to a hernia, so avoid doing this. Once you have lifted the weight and stood up straight with locked hips and knees, start lowering the weight.
5. Wrong Hip Position
People make this mistake in two ways: either they place their hips too low or too high. Your hips should always be just above your knees.
Remember that you are about to deadlift and not squat or bench press. If your hips are too low, you’ll feel the pull in the quadriceps rather than hamstrings and glutes.
On the other hand, raising hips will lock out knees before the upper body rises.
6. Gripping Bar Incorrectly
The grip of the bar is very crucial in a deadlift. If the grip is incorrect or uncomfortable, it can lead to injuries. It would help if you chose the style of grip that suits you so you can efficiently perform a deadlift.
Double-overhand, mixed grip, and gook grip are three options of grip. A mixed grip can result in muscular imbalances.
The grip width also plays an essential role in saving you from injury. If you grab the bar too narrow or too wide, that will result in poor activation of muscles.
Grab the bar outside the hip width for the correct grip width. 2 to 3 centimeters more than the hip width is ideal. You can practice it during training sessions.
7. Pulling Instead of Pushing
If you see or talk about deadlifting, it is considered a pulling movement, but you will realize that it is more of a pushing exercise when you do a deadlift.
If you attempt to pull the weight, then there are chances that you won’t be able to lift that much weight, or you may hurt yourself by applying too much strain on your lower back.
So, when you deadlift, imagine that you are pushing the floor using your legs and feet. If you practice this in the correct position of the rest of your body, you’ll notice that it puts less stress on your lower back and generally feels precise.
Using this technique, you can save yourself from lower back injuries, thus, decreasing the injury rates.
8. Turning the deadlift into a squat
These two exercises have similarities, and that’s why people often mix them and try to squat during deadlift exercises. They start deadlifting with their hips below parallel like they are at the bottom of a squat.
If the hip is below parallel to your knees, it can result in banging the knees and causing injury. To avoid this, you should start your movement in a semi-squat position, where your hips are slightly above parallel.
9. Contracting Shoulders
It is an unconscious behavior but quite dangerous. The maximum force should apply to your leg muscles. Otherwise, you’ll end up hurting yourself.
Do not contract your shoulders throughout the movement, and make sure that your back is flat and firm.
If you contract your shoulders or bend your back during a deadlift, it will cause a stabbing pain in your lower back, and you won’t be able to attend the gym for at least a week.
10. Not Pushing Your Hips Back
While making a position to start the movement, make sure that your hips are pushed back. Your hips should be slightly above your knees and a flat back behind your feet.
It helps you use your leg muscles to push and flex your glutes to move your hip forward and gradually lift the bar.
11. Bending Arms
Do not attempt to bend your arms during a deadlift, even for a second; otherwise, it will tear your bicep, a devastating injury.
You can easily avoid this deadlift injury by keeping your arms straight throughout the movement and keeping your elbows locked.
Keep in mind that in a deadlift, your arms are like hooks to grab and hold the bar, don’t try to lift the weight with your arms actively.
12. Starting From The Rack Instead of The Floor
Stiff-leg and Romanian are two forms of deadlift that start from the rack, but you should always lift the weight from the ground for a regular deadlift.
If you start raising the importance from the shelf, the lift gets tricky, and you won’t be able to lift much weight. Moreover, it gets difficult to treat the pushing movement so try to avoid it.
13. Shins Too Far Forward
Engaging the hamstrings and glutes becomes problematic if the shins are too far forward. If the barbell is too far forward, you have to use extra strength to pull the bar backward to return it over your feet.
This mistake results in more stress on your lower back and can even cause injury. Don’t angle your shins forward, resembling a squad, and keep it as vertical as possible.
14. Not Putting the Bar Down After Each Rep
Deadlifting is lifting a dead weight from the floor. Some people try to lift the weight back up by using momentum, but that’s not what a deadlift means.
It is acceptable to pause between reps and check your grip to ensure that you have a solid form.
15. Poor Eccentric (Return) Phase
Lifters have an urge to squat on the way down and bend their knees too soon, putting you back in the incorrect position and forcing the bar away from you. This mistake results in putting pressure on your lower back.
To avoid having to “reach” the barbell around your knees, hinge your hips backward until you pass the knees, then continue straight down.
The downward path of the barbell should now be almost entirely vertical, and you should finish it in the same position you started.
Essential Hints to Initiate the Lift
If you follow the following hints, you can perform deadlift better and even avoid injuries caused by deadlift.
- Imagine your arms and grip as hooks and use them only to hold the bar and don’t try to lift.
- Before beginning your lift, engage your lats.
- Consider wrapping the barbell around your shins to engage your lats.
- Raise your chest, flatten your back, contract your lats, and brace your core before beginning your lift.
- Push your feet against the floor and drive the floor away to start the bottom half of your deadlift.
- Maintain constant pressure on your shins with the barbell.
- When the bar is close to your knees, tighten your glutes to propel your hips forward.
- Stand tall at the end of the deadlift, but do not hyperextend or arch your back.
Tips for Deadlift
Many people feel that their grip gives out even before they experience the burn in their hamstrings or glutes.
A weak grip can prevent you from making progress in your deadlift by preventing you from completing the prescribed sets and repetitions. In this situation, the only solution is to increase your grip strength.
A firm grip can help you improve your performance in all exercises, not just deadlifts. Here are some tried-and-true methods for improving your grip strength:
Thick Bar Training
If you can find a gym that has a set of thick barbells, then you are in luck. Comprehensive bar training significantly improves grip strength. You may have to use less weight than usual at first, but you’ll quickly notice a difference.
Use Alpha Grip
If you don’t have any access to thick bar training no need to worry about it, as a set of Alpha Grips is the next best thing. You can attach them to any barbell and train your grip just as well as you could with thicker bars.
Use Grip Focused Exercises
Some exercises can help you improve your grip strength. Include the dead hang, farmer’s walk, barbell forearm rolls, and pinched-grip plate hold in your repertoire.
Use of Proper Equipment
Even though we advocate performing the deadlift in its most natural form, there are a few pieces of exercise equipment that can provide protection and improve performance:
- Squat Pad: To keep your shins safe from bar burn
- Abdominal Mat: To stop the weight plates and guard your floor
- Weightlifting Belt: Set a wall for your abdominals to push against during the deadlift
- Wrist Support: Wrist-focused equipment such as lifting straps allows you to continue raising even after your grip fails
No doubt, deadlifts serve great benefits to your body and are a part of practical exercises. But if you do not practice the proper methods, you might get hurt.
Unfortunately, if you are suffering from any injury due to deadlifting, you must focus on the cause of your injury. If you can figure out the cause of your problem, that is half of your solution.
Moreover, always warm up your body before doing any exercise. Respect your body’s limits and need for rest between workouts.
If you liked this article, you might check our other articles at ExpertFitness.org.
Nathan Lloyd, MSc
LICENSED PERSONAL TRAINER
I’m a personal trainer, based in Boulder, Colorado.
I service clients physically in the Boulder area, mainly in the ONE Boulder Fitness Gym, but am also available for online consulting and coaching.
If you’re interested in my personal coaching programs, please contact me via the contact page.