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I'm trying to ascertain if my lower back is a weak point for me and my legs are strong, or that it is just that my deadlift technique is missing something.

I've been doing deadlifts once a week for about 6 weeks. I've built up to a maximum of 80kgs (176lbs), though yesterday I've been doing about 20 of these and 20 60kgs beforehand. I'm a beginner, but I do a lot of other exercises including squats and using the hamstring curl machine. I'm confident my legs are pretty strong.

As I have read, the deadlift uses most of your body and is a great compound exercise. Indeed the lift is from the power in the legs. However, my legs never ache after doing deadlifts, rather it is my mid to lower back.

I can lift the weight off the ground happily, putting the weight down is a problem and is when I feel a pull on my back - my knees are in the way. Should the bar be sliding down my thighs and over my knees, pressed against the skin?

So, after doing deadlifts should my legs ache the next day or just my back?

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Deadlift 101 is probably one of the better deadlift guides. The answers to your questions are "yes, there's probably something wrong with your deadlift" and "the weakest muscles will ache the most".

The biggest issues from what I'm reading in your question and what I imagine you are doing is that:

  • You're hip hinge technique needs help
  • There's a good chance you have some excessive rounding in your lumbar as you fatigue

Another good resource would be Alan Thrall's video with 3 deadlift tips: https://youtu.be/AHiSvajoans

Some quick advice would be:

  • Do one heavy set of 5
  • Do 5 back off sets at 50 kg less of 3 (two less than the heavy set reps)
  • Focus on firing your glutes
  • Contract your lats before you pull
  • Stay tight until you have the bar on the ground
  • Don't be so gentle putting the bar down
  • Brilliant, i like this - a plan I can work to. The last point especially - I am very considerate to others in the studio downstairs so have been gentle. Thank you! – VictorySaber Aug 11 '15 at 8:07
  • Getting some rubber mats can help (some). However, a lot of your low back pain will be from slowly putting the bar down. I get that sometimes you have to. In my first gym they had octagonal plates, and if you just let the bar go down the plates would shift and wretch the back. Just try to find a good balance. – Berin Loritsch Aug 11 '15 at 12:10
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Your hamstrings should ache a little bit, but I would say your lower back should probably ache more. Also, deadlifts are a very dangerous exercise if not performed properly so I would highly suggest checking your form to prevent serious injury; sometimes aching can be normal but other times it may be a sign you're doing something wrong.

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