Squats and deadlifts are the 2 most common exercises for causing back pain and problems… However if done right, these exercises are also 2 of the most effective ways to build muscle and strength. The muscle pain you experience is because you are doing something wrong. This article will give you a few pointers as to how to avoid some of the common pitfalls when doing these exercises!
A lot of people experience back pain even when doing simple things at work such as moving boxes or heavy items, so by training your back muscles you can help avoid this and improve your overall well-being. Obviously the first thing to look at is the weight you are using — as a beginner you should try and build up rather than go for something really heavy straight away. Also as with all exercises, frequency can really affect people – you should always have one rest day to avoid overdoing things.
There are more nuances that can make these exercises more effective and less dangerous, however if you are exercising within the correct time frames, weight ranges and good form — you’re pretty much set up with all the defenses against problematic back!
Starting with squats, there are 3 key things to remember if you don’t feel 100% confident that what you are doing is quite right — this should help this exercise work for you rather than hinder your progress, now we wouldn’t want that would we?
- Bar height
The first thing to consider is the height of the bar. (As positioned behind your neck.) When using a high-bar (holding the barbell just where the neck ends) or a low-bar (slide it down a bit, make sure not too much as to not have it have you on the ground) variation you need to use different positions for both. Back injury is caused as you are doing the “sitting” part of the exercise with the high-bar variation like you would do with the low-bar variation (leaning forward to achieve balance), rather than coming to a straight “sit”, with your back straight and not leaning forward. Holding the barbell on the topmost spot / just where the neck ends, doesn’t require for you to lean in order to keep balance, on the contrary in such a position it puts much pressure on your back compared to if you slid it down and effectively did the low-bar variation!
- Squats too deep
Another thing, that really affects your back, performing this exercise is squats that are simply too deep. Sitting too deep puts much stress on your back. Instead, favor lowering yourself to a position where your upper legs (quads & hams) are parallel to the ground, or maybe a little bit lower, if that’s what does it to you.
- Help from other muscles
Last thing to keep in mind when doing squats is how much, in companionship to back muscles, you are using your abdominal muscles and gluteus or “glutes”. By utilizing these muscles when doing the exercise you can take some of the pressure off your back. Squeeze your buttocks real (!) hard when lifting yourself up to starting position, be aware though that excessive squeezing may produce unwanted stains and foul odors.
The Dreaded Deadlifts
Now for deadlifts, the muscle pain caused by this exercise is often due to these 3 factors:
- Not using legs to push
You’re not utilizing your legs to push the weight. Instead of pulling in a deadlift, pushing through your feet will actually be more effective. You basically straighten your legs, effectively helping your back get to a straight vertical position.
- Barbell far from you
Imagine having the bar a foot away from you, leaning forward and then lifting — it surely will put a lot of unhealthy strain on your back to keep you from face-palming yourself in the ground. You are also making the exercise less effective if the bar is farther away so ensure you have it in close proximity to your legs.
- Hips not low enough
Last thing on the checklist is to make sure that your hips aren’t too high — give your legs more work and take away some of the pressure on your back too by lowering your hips. Remember, hips don’t lie.
Is This You?
If you are one of those people who experience back pain after a squat / deadlift workout, then by bearing these tips in mind when you next hit the gym or when picking up the weights at home, you can stop this from happening and allow you to progress in your bodybuilding journey injury-free!