I can barely believe the words as I reread that title out loud. A strength training advocate like myself recommending people stop deadlifting, blasphemy! To further explain I would like to introduce you to the risk to reward ratio and how it relates to exercise.
There are very few outright bad exercises in the fitness industry. You love performing burpee after burpee to deplete your entire energy reserves, no problem. You love sitting down deep into the full overhead squat position, outstanding….. as long as your structures can support these movements, and you execute them with the correct technique, these movements may be important in your exercise arsenal.
You may of missed that caveat though, for emphasis….. as long as your structures can support these movements.
If you have a lack of mid-section strength, i.e. you struggle to hold plank positions or maintain the natural curvature of your spine in prone positions, then dynamically loading this position with your own bodyweight, like in a burpee, may not be a great idea. Does the risk in this movement outweigh the reward? Perhaps.
You have been sitting at a desk for many years, there is a very good chance there will be some restrictions in some key areas of your body, ankles, hips, thoracic spine. This may halt your Olympic Lifting career before it has even begun. Does the risk in this movement outweigh the reward? Most likely.
So what does all this have to do with the title of this post???
The traditional deadlift where the arms are positioned just outside the legs as you sit into the start position, places a lot of stress through the lumbar spine. As we descend and the hips move further and further away from the bar, we create what is called a moment arm at the hips, the bigger the moment arm the move stress on the joint involved.
Another example is if you stand up and hold a dumbbell in your hand and it sits next to your body, directly underneath your shoulder. You could hold a relatively light dumbbell there for hours probably, however if you raise your arm to the side like you would in a lateral raise, we have now created a moment arm between the shoulder and dumbbell and this position is much harder to maintain.
Returning to the deadlift and reviewing this movement using the risk to reward concept, if you have a lower back injury/issue and you perform the traditional deadlift you are placing stress through the lumbar spine. Now this could be a good idea as our ability to adapt to a stress is the cornerstone of any great training program, if however this movement has the potential to create further issues through this area and the element of risk is now increased, maybe there is an alternative?
Fortunately the deadlift provides us with numerous variations that can still train the hips and lower back effectively, and we can do this while managing the risk to the trainee. Trap (or Hex) Bar Deadlifts are a variation that is underutilised in my opinion, a great way to train this pattern while reducing the moment arm (and therefore the stress) on the lower back. An elevated Trap Bar Deadlift can further reduce this to allow an even shorted distance between the load and lower back and therefore may be accessible for more people, including those with possible lower body limitations as well.
A less popular but very interesting variation of the deadlift is the Jefferson Deadlift, which places the load directly underneath the hips, all but removing the moment arm at the hips and along with this minimising that stress through the lower back.
If in doubt please grab a Personal Trainer in your club to discuss a variation that may work for you, your body type and can minimise the risk to reward ratio.