Protect Your Lower Back By Creating A Block
Today was a good day for me…
And that is because I set a new PR for my deadlift this morning – one of my favorite exercises.
Now this is an exercise that a lot of people have trouble with. The form is reasonably nuanced and it is easy to get injured.
Hurting your lower back is one of the biggest risks when deadlifting – it is incredibly easy to do if you don’t maintain the proper intra-abdominal pressure.
Now if you’ve read my article on common deadlifting mistakes, or my other article on lower back pain while deadlifting, you’ll know that one of the key things to pay attention to is NOT rounding your lower back.
If you round your lower back, you are inviting a hernia – or at the very least a punishing soreness that lasts for many days!
Instead, your back should be strong and flat throughout the entire exercise; however, this is obviously easier said than done.
Many people already know that they shouldn’t be rounding their lower backs, but do so anyway simply because they aren’t sure how to actually prevent it from happening.
The truth is, when you’re trying to lift heavy weight off the floor, you need a clear methodology that you follow for every single set.
So, in the interest of helping all of our readers with their deadlift, and avoiding needless back injuries, here is a simple 3 step method that will insure your lower back never rounds when you lift heavy weights.
Now let me be clear here – I didn’t invent this method…
It is actually a fairly standard approach, known as ‘blocking’, which is clearly outlined in the excellent Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier (definitely worth picking up a copy – it’s a great reference guide overall).
What follows is an outline of the basic 3-step blocking method described in this book.
Step 1: Expand Your Chest
The first step when creating a block is to properly expand your chest.
You can do this by taking in a deep breath, and then holding it in your lungs.
This helps to support the rib cage during heavy lifting, and prevents your chest from collapsing forward, which can often lead to lower back rounding.
Step 2: Tense Your Core
The next step in the blocking method is to firmly tense your core.
To do this, simply contract your abdominal muscles as hard as you can – this will help increase intra-abdominal pressure, which is essential if you want to avoid your lower back rounding at any point during the lift.
Step 3: Contract Your Lower Back
The final step of the blocking process is to contract your lower back.
This will create a slight arch, which is fine – however, you don’t want to create too much of an arch.
If you do this correctly, it will position your spinal column in extension, helping to further protect your lower back.
The end result of this should be that your back feels straight and tight, putting you in the safest position to begin the lift.
In this end, this process is fairly simple to do once you get used to it.
However, once it becomes part of your preparation for each set of deadlifts, you’ll find that the entire exercise suddenly starts feeling a whole lot safer.
And as a bonus, you’ll often find that you’re able to lift more weight as a result, since your entire core will be far more solid and stable.
By doing this blocking method, you are essentially doing with your body what a weightlifting belt would help do for you; that is, increasing your intra-abdominal pressure so as to flatten your entire back and prevent your lower back from rounding.
If you do this correctly, it should mark the end of lower back pain after deadlifting, and allow you to progress to heavier and heavier weights without incident.