Throwing out my back while deadlifting used to be a once-a-year proposition. When I found the Starting Strength guide for deadlifting a decade ago, I was delighted to learn some thoughtful benchmarks for form. Instead of just grunting max weight off the floor, I had cues for how to set up my deadlift, such as: bar over the midfoot, hips stay high as you bend over to grab the bar, don’t move the bar as you bring your shins forward to touch the bar, don’t drop your hips.
Regardless, even using this setup, I did further damage to my low back, and could prevent repeated injury only by tightening a lifting belt around my waist.
When I embarked on my journey to wring out injury from my routines, I discovered a crucial modification to make the deadlift closer to the weighted hinge it should be. Instead of striving to keep your hips high and nearly stationary throughout the setup – leading to a horizontal back angle, rotate your hips back so that 1) you’re in the best position to squeeze your lower lats and other mid and low back muscles to support your spine, and 2) you can blast out of the bottom using your glutes and hamstrings rather than pulling with your low back. In this way, the stress comes off your low back and you’re focusing on your glutes and hamstrings instead.
This is the most important video I’ve ever made: