man deadlifting using uppper lifting straps

How to Avoid Common Deadlift Injuries

by Evelyn Valdez

Deadlifts are a go-to exercise for seasoned lifters aiming to ramp up their full-body strength. However, they can be a minefield of injuries if not executed properly. Poor form, excessive weight, or a mix of both can lead to some serious setbacks. But don’t sweat it—these pitfalls are totally avoidable!

We’ve compiled a guide on the most common deadlift injuries, how they occur, and, most importantly, how to dodge them. Ready to lift smart and stay injury-free? Let’s dive in! 

Back injuries

Your back muscles are some of the primary muscles worked during deadlifts, which means that they’re at risk of injury if you’re not careful while lifting, particularly if you’re a beginner who’s just starting your deadlifting journey or an advanced lifter maxing out with heavier weights.

An incorrect deadlift form can result in back injuries such as pulled muscles or tears. Even worse, since your back muscles are the ones protecting your spine, not engaging them correctly can result in a spine injury such as disc swelling.

How to prevent them

The main thing to keep in mind during deadlifts is to keep your spine completely neutral at all points of the movement. Your back should be straight and your back muscles and core fully engaged as you lift the barbell, keeping your shoulders down and back so you can avoid rounding your spine due to the heavy weight.

Additionally, using a lifting belt for deadlifts is a great way to prevent back injuries. The lifting belt will tightly brace your core, giving you additional support to keep your back straight while you exert maximal force during the lift.

Biceps injuries

As you probably already know, there are several ways in which you can grip a barbell when lifting weights. When it comes to deadlifts, overhand and mixed grips are the most common, and while overhand is considered the safest one, a lot of people favor the mixed grip (one hand pronated and one hand supinated).

However, a supinated or underhand grip during a deadlift puts a lot of strain on your bicep muscles, making biceps injuries very common among those who deadlift with mixed grips. These injuries can go from a simple pulled muscle to the biceps being completely ripped off the tendon, which is a nightmare scenario for active lifters.

How to prevent them

Since biceps injuries are mostly due to mixed grips, the best way to avoid them is by using a fully overhand grip during deadlifts, keeping both hands on the bar instead of under. If you insist on using a mixed grip, make sure to switch the supinated arm during each rep so you can avoid overloading the same bicep.

On top of changing your grip, keeping your arms straight during the lift is also essential. Avoid bending your elbows during your deadlifts, as this will put all the stress on your biceps and elbow joints instead of engaging your back muscles.

Knee injuries

You use your leg muscles to stand up during the deadlift as you hold a heavy weight, meaning that your knees are also involved in the process. And while they’re not under as much tension as during other exercises such as squats, they still experience a lot of stress.

Knee injuries are most common in those who have been injured in the past, as well as in active people who overuse their knees and don’t let them recover properly. That said, they can still be at risk even if they’re healthy, particularly around your meniscus ligament.

How to prevent them

Since deadlifts are the heaviest lift you can try, you need to make sure that you’re keeping proper form and avoiding turning them into squats. If you drop too low when picking up the weight, you’ll risk putting additional strain on your knees and injuring them.

It’s also crucial to know how much you can lift and stick to it instead of overestimating yourself. If you’re maxing out your deadlift, make sure that you’re increasing the load by a small percentage to prevent any accidents such as not being able to straighten your knees as you go up. You can also use knee sleeves to add warmth and increase blood flow which in turn will help prevent strains and tears.

Hand injuries

Hand injuries might not sound like something too serious in comparison with other injuries, but your hands are the ones in charge of gripping the bar, so injuring them will completely halt your deadlift progress.

There are two problem areas when it comes to hand injuries: sprained fingers and torn calluses. Your fingers can get injured if you grip the bar wrong, and calluses are very common among active lifters and those who tend to lift heavy, so you need to be careful if you get them.

How to prevent them

To avoid sprained fingers, make sure you’re fully gripping the bar with your whole hand instead of letting the bar hang from your fingers. If the bar keeps slipping out even when using lifting chalk, you might need to do some grip-strengthening exercises. For calluses, simply keep them trimmed and filed so they don’t tear during heavy lifts.

You might also benefit from lifting straps to help you grip the bar correctly, particularly if you’re trying to max out your deadlift. Lifting straps are designed to support you during pulling exercises, securing your hands to the bar so that it doesn’t slip.

Tendon injuries

Last but not definitely not least, one of the more severe injuries you can get from deadlifting is a tendon injury. This type of injury usually happens around your posterior chain where your glutes and hamstrings are, as well as your biceps.

Because tendons have very limited blood flow, they don’t heal nearly as fast as muscles do, so depending on the severity of the injury it could take months before you’re fully healed. This isn’t only painful but it completely halts your progress as you recover, since deadlifts are heavy exercises that shouldn’t be performed while injured.

How to prevent them

Warming up is the first step to keeping your tendons, as well as your muscles and joints, healthy and ready to tackle heavy lifts. If you don’t warm up properly before you perform a deadlift, your body will be too stiff, risking all kinds of injuries on top of a tendon one.

Overloading is another common cause of tendon injuries since you’ll be putting them under extreme tension that your body isn’t ready for yet. This is why progressive overload is so important – it allows you to make progress gradually as your body gets used to heavier weights, preventing possible accidents and injuries.

Achieve Your Deadlifting Goals Safely

If you’re in the middle of a deadlift and you begin feeling uncomfortable or in pain, stop immediately and take a step back to assess what you might be doing wrong. Now you have the information you need to know what might be wrong and reassess your deadlift approach.

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