A majority of individuals shy away from the deadlift because it causes them to have lower back pain. This is rather common because during a deadlift the center of gravity is placed in front of the person’s base of support. This causes the core to have to tighten and places a lot of stress on the exerciser’s lumbar region.

Most often, the lower back pain that is associated with this movement is a result of muscle imbalances, a weak core, and faulty recruitment patterns. But, there are times it can be a structural issue.

Some people are too tall, have structural damage to the spine, or nerve impingements such as sciatica that cause this lower back pain. If you fall into this category (with the exception of being too tall) I would suggest talking with your physician prior to working out.

I also understand that once you get the green light, you will need some alternatives to the deadlift. Here are some options and ideas you can use moving forward.

The Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift can be a good option for individuals with lower back and lumbar issues. During a sumo deadlift the weight is closer to your base of support which limits the amount of stress on the lumbar region of the spine. This movement is also great for taller athletes because it allows their knees to bend without impeding the path of the bar. Check out this video by Elliott Hulse for some further clarification on the differences between the conventional and sumo deadlift!

Romanian Deadlift

stiff leg deadlift sldl

The Romanian Deadlift allows you to work hip, back and thoracic extension while eliminating the portion of the movement that is focused on knee flexion and extension. Because your knee remains stiff, all of the stress is focused on the muscles of the glutes, hamstrings and lower back. These muscles are the main movers in the deadlift.

The Romanian Deadlift variation will allow you to develop the muscles associated with the deadlift while dramatically reducing the amount of weight on the bar. The reduction in weight will dramatically reduce the stress on the lower back and allow you to work the entire posterior chain.

For even less stress on the back, perform this movement with dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you the freedom of mobility. By placing the dumbbells closer to your sides, you can further alleviate stress on the lower back.

If the above movements are too painful, try doing these movements in combination with one another.

Prone Cobras

Prone Cobra Exercise

Prone cobras are a great posterior chain movement. The major drawback with this movement is the fact that you cannot increase the resistance easily. You can hold a plate across your chest, but this tends to be difficult because there is not a lot of room between you and the floor.

I would suggest holding the movement at peak contraction for approximately 3 seconds. During this hold, focus on activating and squeezing the glutes, lower back, scapula adductors, and latissimus dorsi.

Glute Bridges

glute bridges

This is a great way to isolate the glutes. Try holding the bridge for as long as you can or try doing sets for reps. It is a bit easier to add weight to this movement as compared to the cobra, but it still is more challenging than I would like.

glute bridges weight

Looks a bit awkward right?

The best option to increase resistance is doing the movement on one leg. The first example above shows an illustration of how this movement is completed. While performing glute bridges, remember to focus on the mind/muscle connection…. that means squeeze those glutes baby!

Hopefully these deadlift alternatives give you some ideas as to how you can work your posterior chain without doing conventional deadlifts.

Remember, if there is a will there is a way, sometimes you just have to figure out how!