Alternatives to Deadlift for Chronic Back Pain Alternatives to Deadlift for Chronic Back Pain

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Thread: Alternatives to Deadlift for Chronic Back Pain

  1. #1
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    Default Alternatives to Deadlift for Chronic Back Pain

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    Good evening Will & Board,

    Hoping this is the correct place. I'll cut right to it: I'm 5'8", 187lb, 40yo male, chronic back pain and QL spasms since age 25 due to disc degeneration and herniation at L5/S1 (I have MRI imaging). Been lifting weights (gym bro silliness from 18-34 until I found SS). Made several attempts at the NLP for years but SQ and DL went relatively nowhere due to the back pain; I would make some very small gains like 20-30 pounds and then reset after a spasm event or just because the pain was so bad and the bar wouldn't leave the floor -- this cycle has continued for 2 years. Essentially I cannot bend over with any appreciable weight in my hands or on my back. I'm stiff as hell when I wake up in the morning (like barely ambulatory sometimes and can barely put my own shoes on) but as the day goes on I loosen up. I know this is classic disc degeneration and being active certainly helps keep things loose.

    Two years ago I started my last attempt at this and went all in: I've worked with two SSCs and read the books/watched the videos (to include your back pain lecture) and all the materials I can find on the matter. I dutifully gained 22 pounds, eliminated extraneous exercises/conditioning and quit running. Unfortunately, my DL is still in the upper 100s. I started high block pulls last year which I managed to get to 275, but those bombed out pretty fast and now I've regressed to barely get 225 off the ground. I gave up on the SQ earlier this year and got a Rhino belt squat. I've made great progress in 4 months increasing that "squat" to 315x1x5 which I hit today. So I know it's not a matter of ability to gain leg strength, but the stress on the low back. I tried Sumo DL; those just suck ass and I don't like them at all.

    Questions are: At what point do I just say I'm wasting my time trying to DL/Rack Pull since the same cycle continues over and over again, only increasing my frustration every time? And since I'm now 40 and well past my lifting prime, would you say just stick with a weight I can manage for a few sets of 5 and hang out there and make jumps as I'm able? Mainly I'd like to just set some expectations for myself, because not training is not an option.

    I do know my leg drive sucks, as no matter how much I try to leg press the floor, I feel like I just end up trying to back extend the weight up just to get my back upright and out of that more horizontal position. I've posted two videos below of my last two pulling sessions. I know there's always something to improve upon, but I don't think my technique is that terrible to be stuck at such low weights for so long. For comparison, my best strict Press is 190x1 and Bench 260x1x5, so you can see why these silly numbers below are bugging the hell out of me.

    DL 185x3 6/18/21 - YouTube DL 185x3 on 6/18/21

    Mid-shin Block Pull 205x2 6/25/21 - YouTube Mid-shin block pull 205x2 today (6/25)

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Which SSCs did you work with?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    South Korea
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben1981 View Post
    Good evening Will & Board,

    Hoping this is the correct place. I'll cut right to it: I'm 5'8", 187lb, 40yo male, chronic back pain and QL spasms since age 25 due to disc degeneration and herniation at L5/S1 (I have MRI imaging). Been lifting weights (gym bro silliness from 18-34 until I found SS). Made several attempts at the NLP for years but SQ and DL went relatively nowhere due to the back pain; I would make some very small gains like 20-30 pounds and then reset after a spasm event or just because the pain was so bad and the bar wouldn't leave the floor -- this cycle has continued for 2 years. Essentially I cannot bend over with any appreciable weight in my hands or on my back. I'm stiff as hell when I wake up in the morning (like barely ambulatory sometimes and can barely put my own shoes on) but as the day goes on I loosen up. I know this is classic disc degeneration and being active certainly helps keep things loose.

    Two years ago I started my last attempt at this and went all in: I've worked with two SSCs and read the books/watched the videos (to include your back pain lecture) and all the materials I can find on the matter. I dutifully gained 22 pounds, eliminated extraneous exercises/conditioning and quit running. Unfortunately, my DL is still in the upper 100s. I started high block pulls last year which I managed to get to 275, but those bombed out pretty fast and now I've regressed to barely get 225 off the ground. I gave up on the SQ earlier this year and got a Rhino belt squat. I've made great progress in 4 months increasing that "squat" to 315x1x5 which I hit today. So I know it's not a matter of ability to gain leg strength, but the stress on the low back. I tried Sumo DL; those just suck ass and I don't like them at all.

    Questions are: At what point do I just say I'm wasting my time trying to DL/Rack Pull since the same cycle continues over and over again, only increasing my frustration every time? And since I'm now 40 and well past my lifting prime, would you say just stick with a weight I can manage for a few sets of 5 and hang out there and make jumps as I'm able? Mainly I'd like to just set some expectations for myself, because not training is not an option.

    I do know my leg drive sucks, as no matter how much I try to leg press the floor, I feel like I just end up trying to back extend the weight up just to get my back upright and out of that more horizontal position. I've posted two videos below of my last two pulling sessions. I know there's always something to improve upon, but I don't think my technique is that terrible to be stuck at such low weights for so long. For comparison, my best strict Press is 190x1 and Bench 260x1x5, so you can see why these silly numbers below are bugging the hell out of me.

    DL 185x3 6/18/21 - YouTube DL 185x3 on 6/18/21

    Mid-shin Block Pull 205x2 6/25/21 - YouTube Mid-shin block pull 205x2 today (6/25)

    Thanks in advance!
    Have you tried working with someone who actually specializes in training / coaching individuals with issues like this?

  4. #4
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    Jun 2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Morris View Post
    Have you tried working with someone who actually specializes in training / coaching individuals with issues like this?
    Yes, I worked with Nick D. via online coaching for 3 months. He taught me a lot and we made some progress, but my back still didn't want to cooperate. I suppose it would have been better if I was closer to TX to work with him in person, but I'm in central Virginia. We dropped the squat completely after a month or so after trying a very reduced load and also high bar. We made some progress with high block pulls but those hit a brick wall right at 275. Intra-set fatigue was and is still a big problem. For some reason I am unable to initiate the leg drive correctly no matter how much I mentally try to. I just end up somewhere in the middle of leg driving and back extending the bar up. Which I fully suspect that is what is causing the back to not feel better because the movement pattern isn't being executed 100% correctly.

    Any suggestions for people in my area?

  5. #5
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    Nick Delgadillo or Nick D'Agostino?

  6. #6
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    Jun 2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by Will Morris View Post
    Nick Delgadillo or Nick D'Agostino?
    Delgadillo

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben1981 View Post
    Delgadillo
    Nick is a fantastic coach, and probably in the top three people I would solicit for coaching services in the future. That said, I think there might be individuals who could provide a more specific area of specialization, especially when dealing with people with chronic pain and low back pain. I'd be more than happy to provide you with some potential choices. Just send me an email to William.morris217@gmail.com

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2021
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    starting strength coach development program
    Thanks will do. Yes I couldnít agree more. His coaching and programming guidance helped me tap more Press and Bench strength I ever thought I had. Itís a shame my back wouldn't permit my other two lifts from going anywhere.

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