The Deadlift: Friend or Foe?

The deadlift is one of the best large compound exercises that you can do to target major muscle groups throughout the body. It would probably be easier to list the muscles a deadlift doesn’t work as it is such a great overall body exercise. Major target muscles are:


– hamstrings

-erector spinae

– quadriceps

– adductors

….as well as other stabilizers such as the:

  • trapezius
  • latissimus dorsi
  • rhomboids
  • rectus abdomens
  • abdominal obliques,
  • gastrocnemius

…. And so on…. you get my drift.

However, research has shown that as one progresses, it is also one of the compound exercises that is most likely to cause injuries, especially low back pain, sciatica, sacroiliac joint pain and facet joint sprain. 1.

At Waterloo Chiropractic Clinic we see a lot of both casual and experienced gym goers that suffer from some form of low back pain or sciatica following an injury involving deadlifting.

Your form when doing a deadlift is extremely important, as is warming up and choosing the variation that works for you. Bracing your core and making sure you avoid rounding your lower back by keeping it flat, avoiding rounding your shoulders and keeping them back and tight, and hinging from the hips are integral to avoiding injury.

With new training styles like CrossFit and F45 where rate of performing an exercise are faster it is even more important to choose a gym where trainers can make sure you aren’t sacrificing form to push out the reps you need for that activity. 2.,3.

Some symptoms of low back injury following a deadlift are sudden extreme pain in the lower back while performing the lift or immediately after, or pain that gradually comes on as your muscles cool after a training session. This may be local low back pain aggravated by bending backward and standing up straight which is more suggestive of a joint or muscle injury or low back pain more aggravated by bending forward with accompanying leg pain (sciatica) or pins and needles, this could be due to a disc injury in the low back.

Although it is tempting to consult Dr Google for “quick fixes” or home remedies it is recommended that you consult a professional such as a chiropractor who can assess your injury and suggest an appropriate management program to get you back in action as soon as possible and give you the tools to prevent further injuries.

At Waterloo Chiropractic Clinic all our chiropractors have experience working within the sports chiropractic field and are skilled in both assessing your low back injury as well as assessing your deadlift form to give recommendations on improvements, rehabilitation exercises and appropriate treatment of your condition.

Our Waterloo clinic is open 6 days a week with both early morning and late evening appointment options. Early and appropriate management is the most important step following any injury and can make all the difference in avoiding long term pain and disability.


1. International Journal of Sports Medicine. Injuries and Overuse Syndromes in

Powerlifting. J. Siewe1 , J. Rudat, M. Röllinghoff , U. J. Schlegel , P. Eysel , J. W.-

P. Michael. 2011; 32(9): 703-711

2. Rehabilitation process and outcomes. Identifying the Most Common CrossFit Injuries in

a Variety of Athletes. Kirill Alekseyev, Alex John, Andrew Malek. First Published January

22, 2020

3. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The nature and prevalence of injury during Crossfit training. Hak, PT, Hodzovic, E, Hickey, B. 2013

4. Strength and conditioning journal. Exploring the deadlift. Bird, S. Barrington-Higgs, B. 32

(2): 46-51, April 2010

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