“Deadlifts Are One of the Worst Things You Can Do For Your Spine”

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Deadlifts Are One of the Worst Things You Can Do For Your Spine

Yep you heard it here first – according to a local exercise physiology TA:

Deadlifts are one of the worst things you can do for your spine.

Last week one of the readers of this blog emailed me and couldn’t believe what he had just heard. He walked into class and overhead the TA talking to another student.

They said “something something deadlifts something something”, and since I love the deadlift like a fat kid loves cake, I asked what they were talking about. At that point they said “its one of the worst things you can do for your spine”. I talked about how a proper deadlift with a good flat back is great for you, and that a shitty deadlift will hurt you (a shitty anything will hurt you). They were un-swayed, and he mentioned how someone had him doing deads off of a 6 inch box and “it destroyed my back…not in a good way.”

Oh where to begin. I don’t quite understand the mentality of some people today. Between squats being too dangerous and making our inner thighs flabby and deadlifts being one of the worst things we can do to our spine, what are we left to do: Easy stuff like Pilates and leg presses? Both of which are the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off in your spine?

I know many of the political pundits out there like to go on and on about how we’ve fallen into this “wussification of America” mentality (everyone gets a trophy, there are no winners and losers, kickball being banned, can’t say Merry Christmas without offending someone), and after reading stuff like the above, I couldn’t agree more. We ARE a bunch of wussies.

So, lets try set the record straight and see if we can hit this TA over the head with a bucket of idiot sauce.

Point #1: Wolff’s Law and Davis’s Law. You can’t discount physics. The former states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads it is placed under. The latter states the same thing, except with regards to soft tissue.

Deadlifting = strong bones + soft tissue. You need a minimal essential strain (MES) in order for tissue to adapt. Likewise, in order to strengthen tissue, you need to load it. Sorry, but your cute little leg extensions and leg curls aren’t going to get the job done.

Point # 2: If we were to take a peek at the Nachemson Chart, which is a measure of intradiscal pressure (pressure on spinal discs) in response to compressive load, we’d see that PROLONGED sitting in a slouched position (you know, what you’re doing right now as you read this) places almost as much compressive load as a deadlift.

As a matter of fact, my good friend Bret Contreras had these zingers to say on this very topic:

Obviously regular sitting wouldn’t give you more intradiscal pressure than really heavy deadlifts, but I would definitely agree that prolonged sitting is more deleterious on the spine than deadlifting. You’ve got prolonged intradiscal pressure, plus sitting decreases glute activation by several mechanisms : compression on the tissue, neurological reciprocal inhibition of the hip flexors, and mechanical inhibition of end range hip extension due to adaptive shortening of hip flexors.

Point # 3: I’m biased. You’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise that the deadlift isn’t one of the best overall exercises for hypertrophy, not to mention the best functional exercise you can do with respects to posterior chain strength, core stability, glute activation, power development, and transference of force throughout the entire body. And lets not forget: a heavy set of deadlifts will make any woman within a two-block radius spontaneously conceive. True story.

And if that doesn’t convince you, one of the smartest guys in the industry, Gray Cook, produced an entire dvd on why EVERYONE should include deadlifts in their programming. Are you going to say that lifting a bag of groceries off the ground “is one of the worst things for your spine” too?

Point # 4: I’d agree that deadlifts, when done incorrectly, are horrible for the spine. However, as myself, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Bret Contreas, and countless other coaches have noted: when coached correctly – with a neutral spine and with a proper hip hinge – they’ll do more as far as “bullet proofing” the body than any other exercise. Furthermore, as Bret noted, deadlifts teach the glutes to share the load which spares the spine.

Point # 5: And while we’re at it, there’s this guy who’s kind of a big deal, Dr. Stuart McGill, who’s essentially the world’s ninja when it comes to lower back research. He wrote two books, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance and Low Back Disorders (you should check them out), and in not so many words noted that the trunk extensor muscles (longissimus, iliocostalis, erector spinae, etc) do a really good job of counteracting shear force on the spine.

Point # 6: Since Bret Contreras is more of a research geek than I am, I asked if he’d send me some words of wisdom/studies that would help debunk this nonsense.

Granhed et al. (1987) found that powerlifters were able to sustain 4,824 lbs of compressive loading during the deadlift. Theoretically this load is too high for the spine to handle. According to the authors, “the study showed that intensive training will increase the bone mineral content (BMC) to an extent that the spine can tolerate extraordinary loads.”

Karlsson et al. (1993) showed that weightlifters possess 10% greater total body bone density and 13% greater lumbar bone density than controls. Studies by Sabo et. al. (1996), Granhed et al. (1987) and Bennell et al. (1997) confirm this research. A study by Karlsson et al. (1995) suggests that these increases in bone density are maintained for many years following cesation of lifting.

Research by Brinckmann et al. (1989) and Granhed et al. (1987) support the notion that the axial compressive strength of the lumbar spine is directly related to bone density. Researchers showed that the greater the annual loads lifted, the greater the lumbar bone density adaptations.

Still think deadlifts are bad for the spine?

Here’s what I think happened. This TA did his 135 lb (HINT: that’s not a lot) deadlifts from a six-inch box (something I would only have ADVANCED lifters do), with atrocious form. He tweaked his back and all of a sudden his n=1 conclusion was that ALL deadlifts are bad. Ehhhhhhhh. Wrong, thanks for playing.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • “Are Deadlifts Dangerous and or Overrated Exercise???” « Harold Gibbons

    [...] blog, written when someone’s deadlift slandering rubbed Tony the wrong way.  Original post HERE.)  (Name droppin’ hurricane [...]

    January 25, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Anonymous

    Great piece, thanks for writing it. On a related note, this shows the importance of not necessarily trusting all the information you get from an exercise physiology class (especially when it comes from a teaching assistant.)... they *might* be right, but it's important to run their statement through the filters of scientific literature and the current evidence-based fitness community!

    February 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Arrrms

    "can’t say Merry Christmas without offending someone" This has never happened to you or anyone else. That said, nice article.

    January 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jacob Maddocks

    very insightful, i've never done deadlifting before for fear of damaging something, but i'll definitely look to include it now!

    February 15, 2013 at 6:37 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hey Jacob - Might not be a bad idea to find someone to show you the ropes on how to do them correctly. But outside of that, you're going to love them.

      February 18, 2013 at 8:28 am | Reply to this comment

      • Eugene

        I really love the article. But I've been looking for advice and I injured my lower back by doing heavy deadlifts (385 lbs). And I've been looking for a solution for the longest time. It's been a month since my injury and I can lift things fine like deadlift 225 no problem for reps without pain but I just don't understand what can I do to stop this stressful feeling deep inside my lower back.

        May 7, 2013 at 2:53 am | Reply to this comment

        • Anders

          it is possible, that your back, is not READY, for that extra weight, just yet... many bodybuilders, ends up, BREAKING their biceps muscle, because they overtrain. the biceps, is a VERY very small muscle, and therefore, it and its TENDONS, can't evolve very quickly.. my suggestion to you, is that you should train, with the same ammount of weights on, at least 3 times, before adding MORE weights...! and you also need to remember that, depending on hOW, hard you train it, it can take more, than just a COUPLE of days,for your muscles to evolve! depending on the ammount of good sleep, that oyur body gets, all in all...:) hope that helped you.

          May 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Eugene - I'd suggest two things: 1. Go get see a good manual therapist - preferably one that does ART or Graston or both. 2. Hire someone to check your technique on the deadlifts. Send me a video if you want, and I'll take a look.

          May 8, 2013 at 7:22 am | Reply to this comment

  • movn_up

    Would love to get some advice on this. I love deadlifts. I believe they are about the best exercise there is, but here's my problem: 3 years ago I was rear ended by a garbage truck, suffered a herniated disc in my L5 S1 vertabrae and had surgery. Never been the same since. Squats are out. Did some deadlifts about 3 weeks ago with light weight (135 lbs) and strained my lower back. All is good now, but I'm reluctant to start deadlifting again. I'm not sure that deadlifts will work for me, but I hope to return to them sometime.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply to this comment

    • Af

      Just a super quick note because I feel I have to... As a clinician with a bachelors in Ex Phys, doctorate in physical therapy, and 2 years of studying under a biomechaninal engineer re the forces on the Hunan body during ex, I would advise any patient to hold off on deadlift following a disc herniation. Crucify me if you want, but I can promise you the anterior spinal compression created during a deadlift is a BAD thing for a spine with posterior deficit (ie your herniation). Somewhere along the line people decided even though there are bachelors, masters, and PhD's in exercise science, anyone can be an expert if they read enough articles. I wish it were true, but unfortunately it isn't. It's my passion to teach and keep my patients/clients/anyone else safe but the Internet education people receive sure makes that difficult

      July 25, 2013 at 5:56 am | Reply to this comment

      • TonyGentilcore

        I respect your advice doc, but you do realize that there are A LOT of people out there who walk around with disc herniations who are asymptomatic, pain free, and can perform deadifts just fine right? If you took an MRI of most people's backs the likelihood you'd see a disc herniation at one level is something like 52%, and 38% at two levels. And plenty of people are pain free. Likewise, just because someone IS pain free, doesn't mean I'm going to walk them in day one and perform max effort deadlifts. As I told another recent commenter.....it's about taking them through a thorough assessment and properly progressing people. I think deadlifts are a fantastic exercise, but I certainly know enough to know when they're appropriate. In the meantime I can have them perform single leg work, pull-throughs, deadbugs, birddlogs, etc.....with the end game coaching them to eventually perform a pain free deadlift. Besides, who says we HAVE to load the deadlift heavy. In the grand scheme of things, if someone is coming off a chronic back injury, I WANT to teach them how to properly hip hinge and protect their spine. Coaching a proper hip hinge and keeping people out of flexion will go a long ways in terms of long-term health, right? I've been coaching people for over ten years, and have coached thousands of people. How many people have you coached? I certainly don't walk into your office and tell you how to read MRIs and treat your patients? I wish you'd offer the strength and conditioning community the same courtesy.

        July 25, 2013 at 7:26 am | Reply to this comment

      • movn_up

        I really appreciate your comments and fully respect your experience and credentials. Do you feel that deadlifts should not be done by anyone? If so, what other exercises do you recommend?

        July 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Steph1

    Pilates is easy?? Please I'd rather do deadlifts any day( yes I do them) You obviously have never done pilates a day in your life if you think it's easy and wrote it off. Granted I do the hardest form of it but thats rude of you to assume. Just like those guys at the gym that assumed that spin class was easy and for girls. When we invited him to join in it turns out he couldn't even complete the class because he was too top heavy to do stands. Try it before you knock it!

    June 10, 2013 at 6:56 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I'm not one to gloat, Steph, but I actually HAVE taken a pilates class. BOOM: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/tony-takes-a-pilates-class/ And, I have also taken a yoga class, spin class, and pretty much everything else I have an opinion on. Maybe you should take the time to read more of my stuff before you try to rip me a new one....;o)

      June 11, 2013 at 8:25 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Also, if you DO read more of my stuff, you'll understand that I often take a "tongue in cheek" approach to a lot of what I write. Don't take things so literally.

      June 11, 2013 at 8:26 am | Reply to this comment

      • Mark Ryan

        This guy thinks because deadlifts suit him they must suit most people. Welcome to the real world where most people sit in office chairs and it may not be good to do deadlifts. I do deadlifts with perfect form (well as perfect form as my tight hamstrings will allow) and mark my words it is not good for me. Type in ‘deadlift back pain’ and the internet will light up with results. Are you saying that all these people with back pain are doing the deadlift incorrectly or overloading the weight? Rubbish. I have probably watched more vids on deadlifts and read more articles on glutes than you have ever and I can guarantee you if you are not physically suited to deadlifts do not try them. You happen to be physically well suited to deadlifts, lucky you. If you are, I do not advise not doing them if they wuit you because they are an excellent compound movement, one of man's most basic movements. Other posters, if you are not physically suited to them and they are damaging your lower back in spite of good form, stay away from them. Do not follow this guys advice of carrying on with them regardless. And as for Bret Contreras, just because he reads a lot into glutes etc doen’t make him intelligent. Stay away from his advice. He nit picks the bits out of articles that suits his theories. Well done to him.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:27 am | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Mark - I appreciate your insight and experiences.....which is why, if you read more of my stuff, I ALWAYS state that not everyone is meant to deadlift from the floor on day one, or squat deep, or, well, think of any other exercise we want to throw into the mix. When someone walks into my facility with chronic back pain, I assure you I'm NOT having them deadlift. I'll take them through a proper assessment, find out what their weaknesses are, watch them move, and then ascertain what the best approach will be moving forward. Most people move like shit - yes. Some people aren't suited to deadlift. I get it. But that wasn't necessarily the point of the article. It was really to counterpoint the blanket statement that deadlifts are bad for EVERYONE.

          July 25, 2013 at 7:16 am | Reply to this comment

          • Mark Ryan

            We appear to be batting somewhat in the same ball park. Both you and I appear to agree that deadlifts can be good or bad for the back depending upon the physical attributes of the person's body? However, I did not get that from your article. It appeared from my reading of it that deadlifts, if done well, are good for your back. I would disagree with this. They are good for your back if done correctly AND you have the physical attributes AND range of motion to allow for a sound deadlift (i.e. pelvic region/back/core are all in good order). Otherwise, you are wasting your time and adding unnecessary shear forces/stress on your back muscles. I also disagree with the comments directly above that some people are not suited to the deadlift. MANY people unfortunately are not suited to this compound movement. They quite simply don't have the correct neural patterns and/or mobility given the sedentary lifestyles we live nowadays. If after training various techniques using good form with the deadlift, it continues to worry your back, GIVE IT UP. I am also unsure as to why compression to the spine is discussed at length in this article and why compression on the spine in a deadlift versus compression sitting down is compared. I wouldn't be worried about compression when undertaking deadlifts, shear stress on the back is the concern. Likewise, I wouldn't be concerned about shear stress on the spine when sitting down, I would be more concerned about compression over long periods of sitting down. You won't get any shear stress sitting down and the potential for a ALOT of shear stress on deadlifts. This comparison of compression on the spine sitting versus deadlift is like comparing the acidity in vodka and the acidity in apples and concluding that because the acidity in apples may be stronger than that of vodka, than that is a sound basis for drinking lots of vodka instead of apple juice! The comparison is that weak. I not a fan of nit picking the theories that support one's argument as appears to be the case when compression on the spine is compared on a deadlift versus sitting down, as above.

            July 25, 2013 at 8:54 am

          • TonyGentilcore

            Everyone can deadlift. Depending on what's found in the assessment, not doesn't mean everyone should deadlift. Can we hug and make up now?....;o) Remember: that original post was written just to counter the point that someone else made that deadlifts were just bad for everyone in general. Which is absurd.

            July 30, 2013 at 5:50 am

    • Rob

      Depending on your instructor and how hard she/he pushes you Pilates is not easy at all, he probably took one of the easy classes once and thinks he knows about it.

      August 15, 2017 at 8:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Dave

    Well written article. I'd change the title though. Sends kind of the wrong message when you just look at it in a set of google results.

    June 14, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Reply to this comment

  • nogoodnews

    I used to avoid the deadlift for two reasons: (1) They looked boring - I mean, nothing really exciting about bending down to pick something and (2) I heard it was dangerous. Then, after reading about how to do them CORRECTLY, I have since fall in love with the DL and it is one of my most FAVORED moves. In fact, about twice a month, I'll do a strictly DL day: DL with a barbell / dumbbell / Olympic bar / even body weight. It is a KICK BUTT move for the ENTIRE body and it is one of the moves that has me sweating harder than many other "fancy" weight moves.

    July 25, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Workout scenes in the movies are why I have trust issues | Lift. Laugh. Live

    [...] want a really extensive look at why you should include this in your exercises, read this article by Tony Gentilcore. The dude is [...]

    August 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm | Reply to this comment

  • expert

    Increased bone density, great. Don't think the vertebrae increase their density though. They just smush together and herniate.

    August 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Colubrious

    Don't forget the psychological side to this. I have been doing deadlifts with my trainer, slowly increasing the weight and staying comfortable for about 6 months. I was not lifting really heavy stuff, I had progressed slowly from 80lbs to 90 to 100 etc. I was up at about 140 and felt this was enough at this stage. My trainer advised that I should go to 160lbs and I agreed to try it. Inwardly felt nervous as I thought this was too much but alas I said nothing. The nervousness turned itself into tenseness and guess what. The combined nerves and tenseness made me screw up my technique and now my back is screwed and I can't work out at all for weeks. So it is not all physical guys. If your mind is not on the case. Deadlifts are dangerous.

    September 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Clark Kronowski

    Thank you so much for this article. I love dead lifts and was getting nervous because of some of the articles that I had been reading otherwise.

    September 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • David Stuart Purkiss

    I am 68yr have a arthritic lumber region and currently lift 379lbs x5 aiming for 400lbs by end of month

    September 7, 2013 at 8:43 am | Reply to this comment

    • michael

      Mr. Purkiss, good job and thanks for the inspiration. I am 67yrs. Two years ago I suffered a herniated disk at work. After resting for a year and a half, I began weight training about 5 months ago. I have been deadlifting 1 day a week for the past 2 months and am currently 2 weeks from pulling my target single of 315 (2x body weight). Related: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=132410823

      May 4, 2014 at 1:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Blanco

    You really scared me there with the title, I love deadlifts, so I was very relieved after reading the the article.

    September 13, 2013 at 6:36 am | Reply to this comment

  • pickle

    I will be honest I used to skip leg day, yeah i know i know. Anyways I wanted to get moving in the right direction so I got a trainer. started dead lifting, squatting, overhead squatting, lunges,box jumps,leg pressing. My Dead lift started at 135x5 for max, and 2 months later its 365x5 max. long story short I can bench more, jump higher, do more pull ups, my ass has grown and i don't do crunches but my abs have become shredded. Dead lifts are the shit and when i become swoll the ladies get wet. don't be a pussy. I understand if your old, or fat as fuck. but no pain no gain.

    September 18, 2013 at 4:49 am | Reply to this comment

  • MissStatement

    I have a history of chronic low back pain and herniated lumbar disks. Babying my back got me nowhere. I began deadlifting a couple of months ago, and in conjunction with a full body workout consisting of compound free weight exercises done to failure or near failure, my back and core have never been stronger and I am free of the pain that was almost a daily thing. Not to mention I can already see changes in my physique that I never got with any other form of exercise. As a middle aged woman I have many good reasons to do them.

    October 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ben

    I pretty much agree, with one exception: far more often I see people get offended by "Happy Holidays" than "Merry Christmas" ;)

    November 5, 2013 at 3:14 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nathan Clay Rogers

    A very good piece. We will have to share with the guys who are utterly convinced that deadlifts will ruin their spine due to previous advice they have been given by "some professional".

    February 16, 2014 at 11:57 am | Reply to this comment

  • Bob Gorinski

    AMEN Tony! This...coming from a physical therapist who made a (local) name for himself by regularly working with average joes and athletes coming to rehab for back pain. Don't get me wrong - we're not jumping right to dead lifts when people are in acute pain or have significant peripheral (leg pain, numbness, etc). The resistance may be minimal. We may do a suitcase lift or some other variation. But make no mistake, in the final phases of rehab I'm teaching them to dead lift in order to spare the spine. In my experience, the problem comes when us iron addicted junkies see how awesome and miserable and rewarding dead lifts truly are. We experience how they make you look and feel and perform like most people simply cannot look and feel and perform. And so we're ever so eager to up the ante on the risk:reward ratio. In reasonable doses dead lifts are great. It's not just dead lifts...it's human nature to push the limits.

    February 16, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Random Monday Musings and Spine Health. | Wild Geese Fitness Training

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    February 17, 2014 at 6:54 am | Reply to this comment

  • Meggen Lowry

    1) Your attitude and arrogance makes for an unpleasant reading experience. 2) Pilates uses limb loading, and can create significant loads through your spine but tends to be done in better postures and positions that support the spine and reduce downwards strain on the pelvic floor. Try it. You might find it isn't for wussies. 3) Osteogenesis (bone adaptation by means of increased bone laydown) in response to loading is not a phenomenon unknown to researchers and physical therapists. 4) The problem with 'educators' like yourself is that you use the collective terms "spine" and "back" when talking about individual components of those structures. Deadlifts do not strengthen your whole spine. They are not good for your back. The erector spinae will be strengthened (and possibly injured) with a dead lift, nobody is denying that. The vertebral bodies themselves will experience adaptation and increase in density also. The intervertebral discs, however, will suffer. Under such huge compressive forces the nucleus pulposis will be 'squished' backwards and the annular fibres of the posterior portion of the disc will tear under strain. Those discs are not replaceable.... 5) Intra-abdominal pressure is far far greater with a deadlift than any other exercise you mentioned, and increases even more if the person holds their breath. Intra-abdominal pressures of that magnitude cause significant detrimental strain to the abdominal wall, predisposing it to herniation. Even worse, it causes even greater strain to the pelvic floor, stretching and weakening the pelvic floor muscles and predisposing them to urinary incontinence and prolapse. Until you show me some research (preferably not 20-30 year old research) demonstrating intervertebral disc and pelvic floor adaptations to dead lifts, proving that the annular fibres of the discs are not broken under strain and the pelvic floor is not weakened and lowered, I'm still going to advise my clients against them.

    April 27, 2014 at 4:30 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Meggen - Clearly you haven't read my blog for long and don't quite "get" the sarcastic nature of my writing style. I do plan on responding in a more thorough fashion soon - I have to go to work and coach a bunch of people for seven hours and ruin their spines. Just to save face. I actually DID take a pilates class. Cause, you know, I actually like to experience the stuff I write about. You can read about it here: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/tony-takes-a-pilates-class/ So, um, when was the last time you coached someone how to deadlift again? Train anyone to prepare them for a long competitive season? Talk soon.

      April 28, 2014 at 9:11 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Here you go Meggen. Hope you read it: http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/a-response-to-anyone-who-feels-deadlifts-are-destroying-everyones-spine/

      April 30, 2014 at 8:43 am | Reply to this comment

  • Ways to Improve Your Workout | TO LIFT, LIVE, LOVE, LEARN, AND LEAVE A LEGACY

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    June 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm | Reply to this comment

  • David

    Smart articles like this are the reason I frequently visit this site while I have forgot about even thinking visiting others.The biggest danger is allowing your back to bow forward this is the biggest disadvantage.Good work Tony.

    August 14, 2014 at 12:19 am | Reply to this comment

  • How Often Do You Deadlift - HappyForever168

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    May 24, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Reply to this comment

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  • Rob

    This article is painfully idiotic, full of bro opinions and dumb bravado and doesn't take into account personal circumstances. There are plenty of very valid reasons not to deadlift, in fact there are more reasons not to than to do it, but sure dude, if you don't deadlift you're a pussy and if you do you're superman. Were you a kid when you wrote this?

    August 15, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Of course it comes down to personal circumstances.....ANY competent coach will do an assessment to ascertain if the movement is a good fit. And from there, if it is, the right variation based off ability level, anatomy, injury history, goals, etc. The whole point of the article was to showcase that blanket statements aren't doing anyone any favors. To say ALL deadlifts are bad for EVERYONE is just as bad as saying you're a pussy for not doing them (which I never said).

      August 16, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Also, and since when is quoting research a bro opinion?

      August 16, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TBCT

      Of course there are personal circumstances, but in general the deadlift is one of the best exercises for overall strength. Of course there are (personal) reasons to and to not lift. However, don't be daft on the benefits, bud.

      February 10, 2018 at 3:05 am | Reply to this comment

  • Peacekeeper

    Ronnie Coleman destroyed his back doing this, I guess he just didn't know what the hell he was doing huh?

    October 31, 2017 at 1:58 am | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      Right, because taking an outlier like Ronnie Coleman - a guy who could DL 900+ lbs for reps - and comparing him to everyone else makes total sense. Still doesn't explain why there are an infinite amount of people who deadlift everyday and never hurt their backs. Besides, how do you know it was the DL's that "destroyed his back?" Maybe it was some sort of aberrant pattern he was doing everyday that caused it? Maybe it was something else in his training? Maybe taking one person - or several, or hundreds - and drawing correlations to everyone else is absurd? I don't know.

      November 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Reply to this comment

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  • oliver James

    Bottom line - beyond pros and cons - it's not necessary. It has zero athletic value - can't help you win any sport other than that sport. It doesn't help in real life dynamics (lifting boxes, shoveling snow, fighting). Maybe it looks cool - massive weights being lifted for seconds.... And anyone can have great muscle mass, body tone and awesome strength, win competitions, be super athletic - without ever doing a dead lift. I would never train folk to do this nor suggest people employ this in the workouts, training and daily exercise regimen.

    December 18, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Timothy B

    I just read through this article and loved the research/empirical evidence behind it. Now, as someone who does unfortunately work a desk job, how can I safely work deadlifts into my routine? Also, what are your thoughts on sumo deadlifting? I'm an amateur golfer and boxer, and the deadlift translates to both of those sports. With both sports, there are stresses placed on the lower back. Is sumo a good alternative to conventional?

    March 21, 2019 at 9:58 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shawn Wilson

    Great article! I have y active older adults do them (just with hand weights or bands) and we call them laundry basket movers. It's just like picking up a laundry basket with good form! Some of us have heavier baskets than others though.

    August 3, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Goardwalk

    Fuck you bro, deadlifts are way overrated keep fucking up, your spine I'll enjoy life at 60 while your in a wheelchair and bedridden you rat

    August 15, 2019 at 2:42 am | Reply to this comment


    Deadlifts will lead to spinal injuries in the long term. Not because correct form is bad, because you can't always do correct form, wait for that day when you look at a flying bug at the peak of your lift and tear something in your neck, may take 10 years or more BUT ITS GONNA HAPPEN! :) Stick to real world lifting not power lifting. Look at power lifters after 50, all of them are a joke.

    September 20, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Reply to this comment

  • priyavrat narula

    Great article and en eye-opener. One question though. Are single-leg deadlifts are equivalent to regular deadlifts or not? Do they both work on same muscles?

    November 11, 2019 at 4:46 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Mr Answers & Comments

    I found that IT IS dangerous if you're 5'10 or taller doing dead lifts. Honestly, I've done deadlifts maybe 5 times in my life. Never liked it. Always hurt. Personal trainer spot and guide me too saying I'm doing Correctly each time. Don't like it. I'm 6 ft tall. All my friends and people I've heard & seen hurt their back are 5'10 or taller. They all done deadlifts for years. Not many of them do them super heavy either but..... they all had back pains or tweek their backs somehow, some time from deadlifts (All age between late 20s-late 30s and all taller than 5'10) I guess they just need to elevated the bar bit more but I think is the taller you are, the center gravity from your abs, mid back & knees just too long & lumber to lift that heavy/do deadlifts. Human/Tall bodies wasn't design to lift heavy deadlifts. That's what we think anyway. Lot of has stopped now. Can't do them. Don't want to them anymore after numerous injuries with back & knees. Is quite sad too, I look up to these guys all these years from doing good deadlifts forms and weights (wishing I could lift like them). But is sad to see them in pain & out for 2 months+ all of a sudden, come back. Start from light & then they'll hurt it again from deadlifts. Hear it from one person after another is quite sad news to take and I want to narrow it on why is this happening. So we just think anyone that's over 5'9-5'10 height just be careful or elevate the bar before lifting

    February 18, 2020 at 11:29 am | Reply to this comment

  • Tyler

    I agree with everything you said and I love doing dead lifts myself, wont ever stop. my only question is how will it affect me at an older age. i just posted a vid of me deadlifting well over 400lbs and had a guy say every old person he knows that used to dead lift has a bad back. i personally think i have good form.

    March 2, 2020 at 6:32 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Kevin

    Hey Tony, Thanks for the article. Given how popular strength and performance based training has become (and the increasing number of benefits recognized by the scientific community) in the years since you wrote this article is certainly a testament to your understanding of this field. In the present day and age, I think there is still a question of whether the risk/benefit ratio of deadlifts is worth it, but against different competition. Traditional deadlifting is unquestionably a foundational movement in some sports, bu how does it compare against targeted hip hinge movements for other groups. As an example, for most people who don’t need that top end strength, why not favour trap bar DLs as a primary hip hinge for safety? Thanks, Kevin

    April 13, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Neckman

    You know back in the days I used to read these sort of articles on tnation follow you and whatever crazy shiit thibaudeau was on. Of course I kept deadlifting when really my priority was bodybuilding. I was always maxing out feeling better and better about myself. There is no better feeling than after a max deadlift. I was doing about 500 every week for like sets of 1 reps that was my max. I weighted about 200 and did no belt all raw. I did on hamstring day I would do stiff legged dumbell dead and ham curls after for hypertrophy. I thought my lower back was unbreakable after reading articles like this. Well one of those day while doing 405s I heard 2 pops. Herniated 2 discs L3-L4-L5. And once you get that injury it's for life. And yes my form was good. I had watched countless tutorial and read every article possible. I recorded my set-up and studied it. I had been deadlifting since 23 and I was 29 when I got injured. 4 years later still isn't healed. Don't believe everything some moves are just hard on the spine and once your discs are gone they gone

    May 7, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Are Deadlifts Dangerous??? - Never Too Old to Lift

    […] “Deadlifts are one of the worst things you can do for your spine” – Tony Gentilcore […]

    June 2, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shane

    I'm 38 yo and I've been doing deadlifts for almost a year now and agree with what you've said. The very first thing it has done is fix my posture and back pains. Admittedly, sometimes I get a little worried I might not be doing it correctly and will pull my back out - but that's when I pause and check my stance before lifting anything. I have never done one on a box, but can certainly lift more than 135lb about (265lb is my current max). I'm in no way an expert but from my experience and observation, I think that if you do it properly (and do not rush), deadlifts are best strengthening exercises you can do.

    July 23, 2020 at 5:06 am | Reply to this comment

  • David D.

    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with your opinion on deadlifts. First of all, deadlifts are far more dangerous than any other exerice because it's much easier to break your form when you go heavy on them, and the smallest form break on heavy deadlifts will snap your back. Benefits that you get from doing deadlifts are not worth the risk that you're taking when you do them, and you can get all same benefits from other exercises that are much safer and more effective. Pull ups and rows are much better for upper and middle back development than deadlifts, and they are safer. Hyperextensions and GHR-s isolate your posterior chain better and they are also much safer. For your grip strength and traps, farmer walks are far more superior and much easier on lower back. Deadlifts can be replaced and they are not a 'must do' exercise unless you're a powerlifter.

    September 30, 2020 at 7:54 am | Reply to this comment

    • Tony Author

      1. All the more reason why using the appropriate variation (and load) based off one's injury history, ability level, leverages, and goals is important. 2. I never said deadlifts were superior for upper back development. Do they help? Sure. But I never said they're superior. 3. Deadlift = hip hinge. Everyone deadlifts to some capacity on a daily basis. I agree...NO ONE needs to deadlift a straight bar from the floor unless they're a competitive powerlifter. That said, there are a myriad of ways to train the hip hinge/deadlift that has a ton of carryover to everyday activities, and then this comes full circle to why it's so crucial to assess and figure out what will be the best fit for each person. Pull-ups and rows, while great for training the upper back don't train the hip hinge......so, yeah, not a valid argument on your end. Nevertheless, it all comes down to context, using appropriate progressive overload, etc.

      October 5, 2020 at 9:51 am | Reply to this comment

  • Gomez Pachinko

    Your comment that “you can’t discount physics” makes no sense at all.Physics has many controversies and is very unsure. Descriptions are not explanations and for all of the hubris of people (scientists) and their super fancy descriptive only mathematical equations we still do not even remotely understand time , gravity, (what they are, what causes them and if time even exists at all) and much more. We are a very primitive species. Nobody knows the origin of the universe , nor the origin of life. In every case throughout history scientists have been wrong when we thought we figured out the universe. Physics is extremely controversial and laws are the inventions of people NOT mandates imposed by us upon nature or some dictate nature must follow.What we think or call “fundamental “ changes all the time-it is anything but... What we call fundamental is a best GUESS. The fitness industry is laughable. Contreras is a very low intelligence praon as is Lyle McJerk.

    April 5, 2021 at 6:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Big Dog

    Who are you to be giving such advice? Some people, including myself and a friend who played in 3 Super Bowls, should not do dead lifts. Everybody's body is different and exercise that might be good for some people might leave others in a wheel chair for life. I played football in the Big Ten Conference and in my first year there we were doing deadlifts with some pretty serious weight. After a couple weeks of doing that I found myself unable to move for a minute or so after standing up after sitting in a chair. Our team orthopedic surgeon, who was not just our team orthopedic surgeon but also the orthopedic surgeon for a professional team and the U.S. Olympic Team, told me that I had the same congenital anomaly as my friend and that we should not do dead lifts. The rest of the team kept on doing the dead lifts but we were forbidden to do so. I'm sticking with that doctor's advice, not yours.

    May 9, 2021 at 1:50 am | Reply to this comment

  • Deadlift for life

    Reading Comprehension seems to be lacking in many people posting here. Deadlifts are as safe as any exercise. Tony is clear as day if you have any can of reading Comprehension. He does not just start anyone on deadlifts (read what he has written). He takes intelligent steps to make sure his clients are ready to deadlift ( hip hinge correctly) before any deadlifting. In most cases people who get injured deadlifting do so by not programming them correctly. Ronnie Coleman injured his back first during a football game in high school and then again during squatting 500 pounds( he heard a loud crack in his back on rep 5 but continued to rep 10). I been deadlifting for 30 years and never any back problems. All my training partners and friends (some elite lifters, pro athletes) all deadlift. None of them have any kind of back problems. In fact, one my friends was in a motor bike crash (told he would never walk again) guess what exercise he used to walk again. That right he used the deadlift (after rehab to get his body to relearn how to take steps).

    July 14, 2021 at 11:33 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Deadlift for life

    So the doctor must have told you no squats too? Did he allow you to leg press? Your answers to these question will tell a lot about how good his at his job.

    July 14, 2021 at 11:42 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Ryan W

    Everyone needs to read this article. Glad to see science beating out scientism for once. Deadlifting is the king of all exercises, and it is incredibly easy to set up. While in college I would always deadlift in my 3rd floor apartment. No rack required, just a piece of plywood on the ground and a barbell with some weights on top of that. Make sure to control your eccentric (drop the bar slow to ground) to avoid damaging the floor and you're golden to deadlift to your hearts content. Too often "I don't do deadlifts because I'm scared of getting hurt" is a mask disguising a person's general unwillingness to actually have a hard workout. Just fucking deadlift damnit. And if you are getting unwanted pain from it, the solution is simple, FLEX HARDER. I know this sounds like stupid advice, but if you flex harder then more of the load will be supported by your MUSCLES rather than your TENDONS & LIGAMENTS. When I first started deadlifting, I noticed that I would get some unwanted tendon/ligament pain. After lowering the weight and paying more attention to my body, I realized that there were parts of my body that I wasn't properly flexing. It's not just that I couldn't flex hard enough, I didn't even have the proper mind muscle connection to know that I should have been flexing that part of my body. So rather than my muscle taking the load, my tendons/ligaments took the load. After I learned how to flex every part of the kinetic chain correctly, deadlifting no longer brought me any pain. The only pain I ever got after that was a lower back pump, and that pain would quickly subside after a short rest. In many ways I was lucky to start training alone so I could figure things out on my own. I have heard so many people explain that they avoid deadlifting completely out of concern for injury. But my question to those people is "Were you even trying? Did you even give it a fair shot? Are you seriously convinced that picking some weight up off the ground will damage your spine regardless of how good your technique/form is?"

    August 18, 2022 at 1:24 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Sifter

    I found Suitcase carries were destroying my hips. Over tightens the QL big-time, and jams the posterior hip into the socket, and no, it wasn't heavy, 40 lbs. A lot of these guru unconventional lifts, IMO, have long term consequences.

    November 2, 2022 at 1:55 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brawn

    Here, I must express my confusion with the notion that deadlifts are one of the worst things for the spine. Point #4 underscores the importance of proper form and coaching in performing deadlifts safely. Respected coaches like Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bret Contreras have consistently emphasized the effectiveness of deadlifts in strengthening and protecting the body when executed with a neutral spine and proper hip hinge. Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned authority on lower back research, has also highlighted the role of trunk extensor muscles in counteracting shear forces on the spine.

    July 5, 2023 at 8:29 am | Reply to this comment

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