Your low back, more specifically your lumbar spine, has the ability to move and bear enormous weights (see the 1155 pounds below). This ability is unique when compared to the other regions of the spine. To effectively bear enormous loads, such as 1155 pounds, the low back must be in a stable position. When not in a stable position, low back pain follows.
A Stable Position
The lumbar spine is composed of five alternating vertebrae and intervertebral discs. When stacked appropriately onto each other, these structures form a soft reverse curvature – a lordotic curvature. This curvature allows for stability of the spine.
An Unstable Position
When the lordosis of the lumbar spine is lost – too much or not enough curvature – the spine is unstable. When in an unstable position a person is predisposed to injury and subsequently low back pain.
– Too much curvature
– Hyperextended back
– Not enough curvature
– Rounded back
When the spine is loaded in a hyperlordotic position the structures at the posterior aspect of the lumbar spine, specifically the facet joints, approximate and pinch together. This pinching can lead to facet impingement. This diagnosis leads to low back pain along with pain that can travel down into one’s glutes.
When in a loaded hypolordotic position the intervertebral discs, muscular, and ligamentous structures are a risk for injury because of too much stretch. The stretching of the muscular and ligamentous structures can lead to a lumbar spine sprain/strain, whereas a stretching of the intervertebral disc can lead to a disc injury which are one of three types:
1. Disc herniation
2. Disc bulge
3. Annular Fissure
Lifting 1155 lbs without Low Back Pain
Whether you’re lifting 5 pounds or 1155 pounds the same principle applies to avoid low back pain: lumbar spine stability. If in an unstable position, hyper or hypo, pinched or stretched, the lumbar spine will be at a higher potential for injury.
By far and away, the reason that most of my athletes are unable to maintain appropriate stability in a deadlift has to do with their hip immobility due to a lack of soft tissue extensibility. In other words, because of soft tissue (muscle, ligament, or tendon) restrictions they are unable to either get into a stable position or maintain a stable position.
If you’re one of those individuals who is lacking in your hip mobility I recommend checking out my low back hacks. I outline five great mobility tools in this free handout.
While the likelihood of anyone possessing the absolute strength needed to deadlift 1155 pounds is extremely low, the likelihood of deadlifting any amount of weight without low back is increased exponentially when in a stable lumbar spine position.