Few exercises have as much general taboo as the deadlift.
The standard deadlift involves lifting a loaded barbell off the floor. You start squatting down in front of the barbell and move to standing while holding the bar.
This is an over simplification of the exercise because there are various techniques, grips and stances.
Work with high school athletes and then tell their parents you have them perform deadlifts and I bet you get a negative reaction.
People fear and loath the deadlift due to its reputation as a spine crusher. The truth is that the move is a natural or primitive pattern we develop at a young age and then lose through our modern lifestyles.
If you watch a small child try to lift something heavy, they execute a proper hip hinge without being told how.
The hip hinge is the cornerstone of the deadlift; it is using the back of your hips and legs to lift (referred to as the posterior chain).
By doing this, your low back is locked into neutral so it is used as a core stabilizer instead of a prime mover.
The injuries happen when it is reversed and the low back is used as the prime mover and its yield is exceeded.
This typically happens with poor form or too much weight, sometimes both.
When the hip hinge pattern is restored, the deadlift can then be used to increase strength with this movement. The deadlift can be performed with:
Weight in one or both arms
Single leg or both legs
All these variations can be done without excessive load and risk to the back.
For the athlete, this strength is paramount in preventing injury and improving performance.
In the regular person, this is needed for everyday lifting, such as groceries.
Many people with low level back pain can help abolish the pain by just relearning the hip hinge as it takes the strain off of the low back with lifting and bending.
So do not fear the deadlift, embrace it and take the time to perfect it in order to have a healthy back.