In the last article, I wrote about 5 common deadlift mistakes that most don’t even realize they are making. There’s one more that I didn’t include as I felt it needed an article of its own…
The Dreaded Rounded Back
This is very common in beginner lifters or lifters who haven’t taken the time to correct this weakness early on. Before I go on, there will always be a few outliers who can pull (or squat or bench) differently and still do well without getting hurt. Remember, we can’t compare 90% of the population to the 0.5% that are outside the bell curve.
So what happens (if they make it this far) is they now have a 600+ pound deadlift (or 315+ for a girl) and don’t want to take 2 steps back in order to fix the issue. So they keep getting stronger with excessive rounding and it’s a never-ending cycle of bad habits. This is generally a strength issue that will take time to build and correct, although mobility and other issues can have a role as well.
Now, before we go too far, I know all the internet guru deadlifters will say, “Well, look at (insert big name lifter pulling 900+ pounds)… his back rounds!” Yes, any time you get to near max or maximal weights, there is bound to be a little technical breakdown. He’s pulling damn near 1000 pounds!! However, these people are also strong enough to be in an imperfect position, still pull well and not get hurt. If you’re generally too weak and have a major breakdown, that’s when problems occur.
So, apart from being an injury waiting to happen, why is rounding of the back so bad? Picture this: you see someone ripping a heavy deadlift off the floor. The weight shoots off the ground with a ton of speed. Their back instantly rounds. Then suddenly the bar gets to just short of lock out and it stalls. So close, but can’t even lock it out. WTH??
When the back rounds like that, the pelvis is tipping posteriorly. The “hips” and glutes are already forward, so by the time you get close to lockout, you have taken the glutes out of the picture – they can’t be used to finish the lift! Sure, your back might be strong as hell, but you’ll continue to miss (or get hurt) if you don’t fix it.
A few things to look into:
- Tightness/ mobility issues at the hip, hamstring, calves (preventing from getting in the right position to begin with)
- Weakness of the hips/hamstrings (hips need to hinge back and take the load)
- Weakness of back’s static strength (ability to hold a neutral position while the hips do the work)
- Inability to use abdominals to help stabilize (but this is usually secondary to a bigger issue)
Take a step back and look at your technique. Also keep in mind that leverages play a role (some lifters will definitely use more back) and so does bar positioning (rack pull vs. deficit pull vs. pull from the floor). But if you have an understanding of how the hips are to work in conjunction with the back and legs, you can avoid some major disasters. It always sucks to have to go two steps back but when done properly, you’ll benefit greatly from a bigger and better pull.
Great article. I do have one question: When you mention back rounding do you mean upper or lower back? If you mean lower back, then I agree with you that it takes a step back to correct weaknesses and form flaws to ensure back safety. On the other hand if you are talking about upper back rounding, I have to completely disagree with you there. Many if not all elite deadlifters utilize upper back rounding. I agree if you physically fold from not enough core strength that can be an issue.