Programming to Fix Low Back Rounding in The Conventional Deadlift
Remember to watch the YouTube video FIRST before reading this section. I discuss the technical changes as well as explanations as to what exercises help fix this problem which you must understand before reading this section!
In this blog I will pick up where the YouTube video left off and give you recommendations on programming to fix this problem that I use with my own clients! Now I will say this process will be MUCH more efficient if you have a coach but I realize not everyone can afford that. For those who can’t feel free to read on below.
Advanced Exercise Selection
As mentioned in the video we are concerned with two things to fix excessive lumbar flexion (low back rounding). Weakness in the low back specifically with isometric strength. THIS DOES NOT MEAN active low back strength, there is a huge difference. The ability to maintain a contracted position resisting the back rounding is different than producing concentric force through the low back. Basically we want you strong enough to hold your back in place and not let it move when the deadlift is wanting to flex the low back over. To strengthen this we need ISOMETRIC based exercises that mimic the lift we are doing but isolate the function we are seeking more than regular deadlifts. The other fix will be technically cueing a better back position using the cues we discussed in the YouTube video. Combined together this will get us to the results we seek and here is where I will layout how to program with these goals in mind. First lets discuss the main exercises we will use.
Below I am writing down a list of exercises that help build isometric low back strength in the deadlift that have maximal carryover. These are exercises we will use for direct weakness training that target the specific function of isometric rigidity of the lumbar spine (low back). I want you to choose one exercise from the A category and one from the B category that feel the most natural. Use the ones where you can easily cue and maintain your back position the best. I personally like Block pulls however you can use a variety here and find what works best for you. If you do not know which feel best because these are knew to you, spend a few weeks testing them out before trying.
A. Block Pulls
A. Beltless Wide Grip Deadlifts (biassing an extended back)
A. Good Mornings (preferably with an Safety Squat bar)
B. Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
B. Stiff Leg Deadlifts to The Floor (SLDL, optional deficit if mobility is good)
B. DB RDLs
Now I want you to choose one exercise from this list as well. These exercises are aimed at teaching you to maintain low back rigidity. They are more specific in nature and aim to alter the main deadlift in a way that allows you to focus on back position while still pulling heavy and from the floor in a similar manner to how youre heavy deadlifts will go.
C. Tempo Deadlifts (2,x,2 this means two seconds up, no pause at top, two seconds down)
C. Top down tension deadlifts (walk the deadlift out of a rack and start from the top. Descend down controlled and soft touch the weight without losing position ensuring you maintain a perfect low back position. Deload the full weight but do not lose tension or tightness and come right back up under control ensuring the low back doesn’t budge)
C. Beltless deadlifts (ensure you do not allow a single rep with low back flexion)
C. Beltless paused deadlifts (2 sec. pause)
Filming Your Lifts
Below I will explain what you will do with these exercises. However first I want to stress the importance of filming your exercises and what you are looking for! Always film from a side angle showing the whole body when it comes to seeking info on back positioning with the deadlift. You should be able to see from head to toe and a clear view of the low back during the whole lift. When performing the exercises you have chosen you MUST AT ALL COSTS ensure you never do a single rep with poor back positioning. This is what the film is for. Now this means you may have to do a lot of extra warm-ups to practice the slightly moderately heavy weights with the new form. It means you will have to actually film warm-up sets even to ensure you are doing this correctly. Without a coach the responsibility is on you and you have to learn exactly what to look for. Here is the check list
- Is the low back remaining near neutral/in an improved position than before? If yes continue going up in load, if no retake the set and if no improvement go down in load.
- Is the low back maintaining position throughout the whole lift? We don’t necessarily need perfect neutrality but we need to maintain whatever position you create at the start.
- Are the legs driving and knees remaining flexed until the hips lock? This is key for taking tension away from the back.
A exercise: 2×8 @ rpe 6
B exercise: 3×10 @ rpe 7
C Exercise: 1×5 @ rpe 8
2×5 @ -12-14%
A exercise: 3×7 @ rpe 6
B exercise: 3×9 @ rpe 7
C Exercise: 1×4 @ rpe 8
2×4 @ -12-14%
A exercise: 4×6 @ rpe 6
B exercise: 3×7 @ rpe 7
C Exercise: 1×3 @ rpe 8
3×3 @ -12-14%
A exercise: 2×5 @ rpe 6
B exercise: 3×6 @ rpe 7
C Exercise: 1×2 @ rpe 8
2×2 @ -12-14%
skip exercise A
B exercise: 2×6 @ rpe 7
C Exercise: 1×1 @ rpe 9-10
Explaining The Programming
What we have above is a 5 week cycle that brings you to a heavy single with the variation you chose for exercise C. This will allow you to practice a heavy lift but with new good form. Through the 5 weeks the reps taper down mostly by 1 rep per week and the set volume changes. At first the total set volume increases week to week with a big deload the last couple weeks before the heavy single. The goal here is to learn to pull heavy with good form using the variation that helps you focus on low back rigidity. I cannot stress enough HOW IMPORTANT it is to approach the RPEs that are written with ONLY using load that allows you to pull reps with the back positioning we are wanting. Rate your RPEs by how many reps do I have left WITH the form we are seeking in mind. Not all out exertion. If done correctly you will quickly find your strength with the technical changes catches your old strength without the technical changes.
Now it is worth mentioning this may take multiple training cycles to improve substantially and it is also worth noting that you HAVE to practice this with the competition style deadlift. I recommend after running this specialization phase trying out a full deadlift program but done with the new technical changes in mind. Our group coaching or a program from one of the Prime coaches can help a ton. You can also use any cookie cutter program. You will want to ensure you approach this exactly the same with the aim to never allow a bad rep in training. If you can’t maintain back positioning try again or go lighter.
If you’d like help from one of our coaches feel free to reach out with questions. We can be reached by email at Brendan@prime-strength.com