The Effects of Deadlifts on the Spinal Discs (Cons & Pros) – Dr Mandell

Deadlifts is an excellent strength exercise for the buttocks/glutes, hamstrings, core, erector spine, and upper back muscles. Although this exercise can become dangerous particularly to the cartilaginous structures of the disc (annular fibrosis), commonly leading to degenerative joint disease, disc degeneration, bulging disc, herniated disc, and pinched nerve.

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77 comments

  • Pedro Sttau

    Would be great if you could make a video on what adequate deadlifting form looks like. One of the things that I have heard from PTs is that before lifting we should breath in, brace and keep the core tight. I have however been told by a physiotherapist that by holding my breath when lifting I am creating too much pressure in the spine.

    • Jason Swartz

      Pedro Sttau the point of what most people refer to as a back belt is a weightlifting belt that should be used to tighten your core muscles in your stomach against while doing a heavy deadlift

    • hamada nada

      motivationaldoc
      one Question Dr. i am 40 years old and i can lift 500 pounds in corrective way of deadlift position and i been doing that for more than 20 years , is that healthy or dangerous

    • hamada nada

      Haris Samim
      Thank you for replying me and concern ☺

    • Craig Crawford

      Wrong answer dude. You obviously don’t lift.

  • Bourbon

    Would you agree having strong glutes would help prevent any damage to the lumbar area ?

  • Jason Li

    due to the amount of conflicting opinions on how to carry out a deadlift, could you possibly give a form example?

  • Gila Bola

    i had history of lowback pain from pinched nerves for years, although at first i was a sceptic, but deadlift routine got rid off my backpain problem. I was bedridden every 2-3 months, but now its been 5yr of pain free lowerback since i took up deadlifting. What i was wondering, if deadlift is bad for my spine, how come my pinched nerves issue is gone now? For those who want to take up deadlift. IMPORTANT: go to a professional who will teach you proper form, otherwise you prob gonna make it worse

    • roadstar499

      Gila Bola same for me…proper smooth form and not over doing it or going to heavy is the trick…

    • Rico illiano

      Gila Bola try using a reverse hyper machine as well

    • pezz6570

      I am the same, most unexplained back pain is muscular, deadlifting and stretching has eliminated my back pain. I started of deadlifting off the safety bars of my power rack at just below knee height and gradually lowered the bar and increased the range of movement till I was lifting off the ground. Coupled with hamstring, psoas, adductor and abductor stretches was a recipe for a healthy pain free lower back. I’m nearly 50 and suffered back pain from 17 -38 years old and then started lifting. The only time I have ever injured myself deadlifting is when I was fatigued during sets and exhaled accidently during a 400 pound lift hence losing abdominal tension.

    • msa1985

      Becauae youve sgrengthened your back.muscles and core, tsking the edge off your pinched nerve, likely from a disc bulge. Disc problems dont just affect people who are physical, any stupid thing can move it out of place, and if you bend over to tie your shies imroperly every single day for year, eventually you’ll be doubled over in pain. Then you fight through the pain, thinking youre a real.man, but yiure just damaging it further.

      Stretching, strengthening surrounding muscles, and surgery are the only fixes.

    • Belicose777

      talkhtw55 belts are actually only beneficial when properly bracing via the valsalva maneuver to create intraabdominal pressure to stabilize the core/spine.

      Other than that try your best to focus on PERFECT form and to understand where your body is in space and in relation to the rest of your body so you have body awareness.
      If you understand how everything is suppose to work from a mechanical perspective and make sure your body is in the correct position at all times you’ll be putting yourself in the perfect place to get healthier and better.

  • vrmkk

    all bs, my posture is a lot better with deadlift. all one needs is proper form

    • Lohe221

      vrmkk question: when you deadlift, do you pin your shoulder blades together, like in a bench press?

    • V Shred

      Lohe221 No, you don’t pin them. We want thoracic extension (keeping the chest up) but not scapular retraction, as that unnecessarily increase the ROM and has no benefits.

  • david wagner

    The picture behind him is of straight leg deadlift not a regular deadlift.

  • William Patrick

    This video inspired me to start deadlifting when I watched it last year. I’m now up to deadlifting 185 lbs 10 times for three sets. My back and whole body feel more capable than ever. Thanks for the video.

    • Bhammer4264 B

      Nice man, you should try 5 or 3 rep sets. Increase your strength.

    • Brandon May

      Bhammer4264 B It depends on your goals and where you are in life. I’m a long time lifter, played football for many years, and boxed at heavyweight so power has never been an issue for me. Being a bit older now the weight is not really important but what is important is agility, endurance, and overall wellness more than big weight. Currently I am working on a German Volume Training program with my deads that has me doing 10 sets of 10 with only 60 seconds rest between and it is brutal even at lightweight. My normal DL in the 2 to 3 rep range is about 545 (depending on how good I feel for that workout) but doing 10×10 I’m working at 185 and trying to crawl up to 275 on it. That rep scheme is incredibly taxing on cardio and I get more soreness doing it than I ever did at high weight but to me the biggest benefit is it is significantly easier to keep my form tight at that lighter weight. No issues with rounding or anything else. Point being neither is right or wrong its all about what you are after.

    • Mike B

      I remember doing 275×1. Did 500×1 the other day and I primarily squat. My lower back was so weak before to DLed , that all the basketball I played just killed me.

    • CleanMusicHD

      Jesus Christ he’s probably telling the truth. People who are naturally built stronger can easily pull off that in a year. I mean heck my squat went up 140 lbs in about 6 months, my body apparently is one of those that can get strong naturally really fast. 205 for my 1rm to 345×2 for my Max. So I’d calculate out at about a 355 1rm squat. I’m 16, 190-195 lbs so that’s crazy progress for me.

  • Dude Laser

    Hex bar – will save your back by making it possible to deadlift with perfect posture the whole time as you dont need to go around your knees.

    Game changer for me

    • x00p3

      I think it sometimes depends on your body type, how long or short your arms, legs, or torso is. I’ve done very heavy straight bar deadlifts for over 40 years and the only time I strained my back was once when I over extended at the end of a personal record. I had to take it easy for about a week and I was OK after that.

    • Chooong7

      Who says deadlifts and squats are the only ways to get gains? LMFAO. Those are pissing contests disguised as weightlifting exercises. You dont NEED to do them, especially if you’re not an athlete. Even big time athletes dont even do them that much anymore.

    • x00p3

      Chooong7
      The dead lift is a practical lift used in everyday life. You grab the weight and lift it off the god damned floor. It’s natural.

    • Chooong7

      x00p3 im not saying its not. Im just saying its not the only way to “actually” make gains.

    • Tschād Erdström

      You don’t need to go around your knees in a conventional deadlift, and especially not in a sumo deadlift. So many people deadlift wrong…it’s easy to do. There are a lot of things you need to do to be in a safe and strong position, and once you do, you don’t even think about going around your knees, because they aren’t in the way.

  • Rafy Koby

    in my gym 90% do them wrong

  • Ref Tu

    I don’t want to admit but this is the truth. You see many old time lifters are not very fond of the ‘conventional’ deadlift, not very often at least, because chances are they’ve already experienced some kind of minor spinal discs.
    Ofc in 20s, 30s, hell even in 40s if started to lift in later ages, this might sound not so problematic because they will not have any serious pain or symptom, but it WILL accumulate and WILL damage your back.
    You don’t have to trust me on that, just look for the famous online lifters who can deadlift a descent amount of loads, and are honest about their conditions like jonny, alan, omar.
    Believe it or not they ALL had back injury but each took a different approach. Jonnie’s rehabbing(doing sumo), Alan just went easy on his training for a week or two and got back to his routine, for omar IDK he doesn’t seem to suffer from back injury but who knows.
    My point is, conventional deadlift even with a pretty descent forms like those famous youtubers still can cause spinal discs especially when your form breaks down or enough loads are on the bar.
    So I suggest instead of doing conventional deadlift for every training session, do sumo instead. IMO sumo’s a much better overall choice in the long term. Just do conventional deadlift only few times a month and you’ll be fine.

    • Squibby

      I agree with whats said in the video in the aspect of form being the most important factor.
      Thing with sumo is, its not the answer. The stress on the hip joint is much greater in a sumo style deadlift, the rotational stress on the knee joint is also much greater in sumo. All that added to the fact that the average joe has nowhere near the mobility to do a “perfect” sumo deadlift ( if you wanna minimize back stress, you have to be as upright as possible), you still have your lower back involved.

      Which brings me to another point:
      a) this video completely disregards the aspect of adaption on bone level. Its been pretty well established that bone density increases as a result from progessive overload.
      b) second and probably most important of all is the lack of evidence. Most of this knowledge comes from PTs and Doctors which have to deal with low back problems as a consequence of shitty form. There is no evidence that supports a correlation between good form and back pain.
      c) im going to pose a question, as im really not sure why this happens, but thinking logically: if Deadlifts cause long term damage in the spine, why does over half of the therapeutic field uses them to rehab back injuries? Yes the load is reduced and the reps are higher, but given the fact that stress is a consequence of volume, you still would run a major risk in doing it that way.

    • NintendoCereal

      No. I hate sumo style. Causes hip problems.

    • Ref Tu

      You do you. But do consider Omar and Jonnie are only in their 20s and still had some major back injuries.
      Of course there’s no doubt your lower back will be perfectly safe doing conventional as long as your form doesn’t collapse. But watch this.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnqggNm7g0Q
      As you can see in near maximal effort or above 90% of your 1RM, the form will most likely break down. Not only that you’d know that when you get exhausted doing some heavy sets and reps your form inevitably breaks down. THAT is when shitty things happen because unlike squat, bench, overhead press your torso is bent over unable to keep completely straight back which transfers all the loads you can’t handle to the lower back.
      So my advice is just don’t go too wide doing sumo unless you have a quite decent hip mobility and take your time at lift-up phase focusing on activating muscles.
      If you want to train your posterior chains consider doing RDL instead. Cheers.

    • NintendoCereal

      I’ve only injured myself doing sumo. I’ve never occurred an injury doing conventional. I’ll continue to do what works for my body.

    • Lukas Nielsen

      You are forgetting about the part where Jonny and Omar both got injured by the squat, and the fact that when Jonny got injured he mostly did sumo.
      So this kinda makes most of your point irrelevant.

  • Bhammer4264 B

    Dr Mandell do you even lift brah?

    • Jonathan Norris

      NOPE

    • Ovidiu Kilingher

      Capacity to lift heavy weight =/= capacity to understand what is happened inside of your body when you lift. Now,question: when you are injured are you go to a doctor to a fitness guru from internet?

    • Bhammer4264 B

      Ovidiu Kilingher just do the movement correctly and you won’t need to see a doctor. Picking something up off the ground is a very basic human function. Throw away the belt, and get on a 5×5.

      Cheers.

    • TheonE

      😂😂😂😂😂😂

    • Belicose777

      Bhammer4264 B there’s an entire sport dedicated to 1rm lifts lol.
      There are people like Stefi Cohen (whom is a Dr) that still perform the deadlift as powerlifters.
      There’s another guy that powerlifts with a ridiculous deadlift that is a Dr as well.

  • Robert222 Lewis

    well this was a huge waste of time lol

    • SirDiplomat

      Thought it was just me lol! 5 minutes I’ll never get back

    • The bright sun

      I read the comments first.. Thanks for your comment..

    • KSQ

      just seems like an opportunity to show off his model spinal column, and use of fancy biomechanical jargon, and perhaps an attempt to be recognised as some ‘expert’. The points being made fail to adequately address the complete spectrum of pros and cons of deadlifting, and is simply an exercise of ego and fishing for views. this video is somewhat informative, but on a whole disappointing and pointless.

  • Daniel Welch

    I thought you were jim stopanni

  • Simon John Hinton

    I slipped a disc in my lower spine when dropping some heavy boxes at work and the pain was unreal, like being stabbed with a hot knife and then having it twisted. I wouldn’t wish that agony on anyone. Years of incorrect lifting and not taking simple steps to look after my back cost me over 2 months of rehabilitation. It’s been 10 years now and apart from an occasional episode of sciatica I’m fine. So my advice is don’t take your back for granted, it’s one of the most important structures in the human body that has to deal with a lot of stress on a daily basis..

    • iraqi atheist

      So do deadlifts or no?

    • winzfeld1

      You can’t “slip a disc” the prolapse over time and eventually will herniate. You will have had a disc bulge over a long period of time, just those boxes were likely the last straw before you impinged or compressed nerve roots through advancing the prolapse or herniation

  • Clay Vintson

    Soooooo…….do them? Keep doing them? Don’t do them? WTF over?

  • Ariel Valenzuela

    How did your neck got so long?

  • TheOmengod

    Well for starters deadlifts are primarily a glute movement and your spine should not be bending during the lift; its called a hip hinge.

    • uniaguilar

      TheOmengod I push through the heels… and try to put as much pressure as possible through my hams and glutes… but without a strong back it’s just not happening.. it is clear that the back is used

    • TheOmengod

      Yes the back is used but its not the primary driver! What do most great deadlifters have in common? Great glutes!

    • TheOmengod

      Youre doing the lift wrong Doug!

    • Doug Perkins

      Agreed. Just came here to point out your original misstatement that the deadlift is a hip hinge. It cannot be only a hip hinge for the reason I stated earlier, but also consider that the bend in the knees and quadriceps recruitment is required for a strong pull especially to get the bar off the ground. No one would ever suggest deadlifting with a kyphosis is healthy; however, a neutral spine is ideal and a little flexion is even advocated for advanced lifter. Reason being, the spinal extensors are stronger in flexion (assuming the lifter has sufficient core strength to stabilize the pelvis and lower spine under the given load).

    • Doug Perkins

      For more info on this, read “A Strong Case for the Rounded Back Deadlift” by Bret Contreras.

  • SUB ZER0

    Thanks steve jobs you are very wise

  • John Pymn

    Go to the Starting Strength website to view a video on how to perform the deadlift with proper form

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