Back Rounding on Deadlifts?

One question I get asked a lot is “Did I round my back?”

I usually answer with “How did it feel?”

I ask this because people respond differently to positions. Some people are very strong and comfortable with a more “rounded” back. This is a common position for wrestlers. They train the muscles in this position all of the time on the mat. Some more than others, but that goes for everybody.

There is a lot of fear around rounding your back in the weight room. There is more to pain than “if you round your back it will hurt and if you keep it flat it won’t”. While people have pulled a muscle or gotten a sore back after rounding on their heavier attempts, it’s important to take a more individualized approach with your training.

So here’s my plan for deadlifts:

  1. Understand that the back will be sore. Those muscles feeling “locked up” and “immobile” seems to cause extra discomfort. But just like any other muscle, if you stress the muscle tissue then it will feel sore in recovery.

  2. Stay consistent with technique. Have each warm-up set and working set look similar. While a slight deviation is bound to happen with heavier weight, it may be helpful to keep the technique consistent from rep to rep.

  3. Warm up and progress slowly. Be focused and engaged during your sets. Ask yourself “How did that feel?”. Keep sets feeling good with the bar moving at a normal speed.

  4. Track and measure the sets, reps, and weight. You’ll try some deadlifts, see how you felt after, and better understand how it might affect you. If you were uncomfortable after, try lowering the weight or the number of deadlifts that you did. Repeat the process.

These tips are individual to you. People have different amounts of stress, different bodies and structures, and everyone is strong in different places. Rounding or not rounding should not be everything.

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