Back in April 2007, I reported how I injured my back doing a dead lift. It was and still is (by far) the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. There hasn’t been a single gym visit since that I haven’t thought about that morning.
The dead lift is the single best exercise one can do. I had years of experience doing the exercise. My form was solid. Where did I go wrong? After almost two years of reflection and research, I think I now have the answers.
- Running Shoes – I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. In fact on my deathbed, in my Rosebud moment, I will utter the words – don’t wear running shoes in the free weight room. From May 2001 – February 2006, I did dead lifts wearing no shoes in my home gym. My feet were planted as I pulled the weight. I wasn’t standing on sponges. When I returned to the Glitter Gym, I wore running shoes. This caused my back to round and was the major factor in my injury.
- Early Morning – According to Art De Vany in the article Sports and Spines, when we wake up the discs in our back are fully hydrated and as result we are 0.7 inches taller. Pulling on the spine in the first hour after waking increases your chances of disk herniation, since the discs are swollen. When I had a home gym, I did my dead lifts at 3 PM. When I started up at the Glitter Gym, I lifted first thing in the morning. My spine was still asleep.
- X-Ray – I had an X-Ray done on my back in 2005. It showed the spacing between 2 discs to be very small. I’m not sure this was a factor, but it couldn’t have helped.
- Strength Imbalance – In the last 2 months, I have discovered a major strength imbalance. Over the years, my left leg has gotten much weaker in relation to my right leg. Compound movements are great for overall fitness, but they can sometimes disguise imbalances until it is too late.
- Form Change – The dead lift is like mountain climbing. Most of the injuries happen on the descent. In EVERY OTHER exercise, you want a controlled descent. If you try and control the descent of a dead lift too slowly it will pull your back out of position. This is especially true for a taller person. By the time the weights are by the knees, the weights should (almost) be dropped. This is fine if you have a home gym, but slamming weights down will get you thrown out of a Glitter Gym. When I started lifting at the Glitter Gym, my safe (and loud) dead lift descent was replaced by a slower and less safe descent.
Me dead lifting with no shoes in July 2002.
I now think I know exactly what went wrong on April 7, 2007.