Most of you know that feeling the day after a deadlift workout. “Hey G2, my lower back is killing me. Any suggestions to lose it up?” Why yes. Yes, I do. Work on your hamstrings. Strengthen them, stretch them and USE them!
Here’s what I mean. First, the likely culprit of your back pain is that you were using your stabilizing spinal erector musculature to help you lift the weight off the ground for a million reps. These muscles aren’t supposed to flex your spine or be eccentrically loaded a bajillion times. They are meant to isometrically (statically) keep your lunar spine in a single position, and that’s what they do for the majority of the day. But when you come in and crush “Diane” with a heavy load and use these muscles to lift the weight, you are taxing them in a manner they are not accustomed to and today they are screaming at you. I can’t blame them to be honest.
“So what can I do to fix this G2?” Well, 2 things will eventually get you to where you will experience less back pain from deadlifting, cleaning, or snatching. Lengthening your hamstrings is likely the first and quickest thing you can do. And when I say “quick,” I don’t mean overnight, but over a couple of weeks & months. Stretch them every day for a few minutes and over a few weeks you should begin to notice a change. One way that you can notice this change is that it will likely be easier to get into a start position for a deadlift or clean, while keeping the lumbar spine straight. That is the first step towards not hating life after deadlift or clean days.
The other thing you can do is to strengthen your hamstrings (and midline, but I’ll leave that for another rant). You can do this in a multiple of ways. Doing more deadlifts, cleans and snatches is definitely one way to get there. Another way is to do some accessory work a few times a week either before or after class. Accessory work doesn’t need to consume a lot of time. Just do 3-5 sets of an exercise for 8-12 reps and call it a day. This could include good mornings (weighted or banded), Romanian deadlifts (my favorite), glute-ham raises, and there is also this cool contraption in our gym called a reverse-hyper that is currently collecting dust and peoples’ water bottles and phones during workouts. Use it! You will get a big bang-for-your-buck if you use it a few times a week.
By stretching your hamstrings and strengthening them simultaneously, you will be on the fast-track to less back pain, but you will also likely see a lot of your lifts go up… if you begin to use your hamstrings to lift the weight instead of your back. When we pull objects off the ground we should be trying to use the most musculature to do so. On the posterior side of our body (posterior chain, in case you didn’t put that together) our main movers are the back, glutes and hamstrings. By using your bigger glutes and hamstrings to pull a weight off the ground, you are going to recruit more muscle and thus be capable of moving more weight (whether that means for more reps, or literally more weight) and save yourself the pain you currently associate with deadlift days. I hope this will provide some help in alleviating your distaste for deadlifts (or cleans or snatches), and turns it into a day you look forward to.