Is Barbell Deadlifting Inherently Dangerous?
I’ll be the first to say that “absolutes” are not a wise idea in the world of fitness or strength and conditioning. That being known, if I had to choose one exercise that is worthy to be considered the foundation for every other exercise it would be the deadlift, and by a landslide.
This fact applies to everyone from a 10-year old to those entering their 10th decade. No matter if your goals are centered on just functioning better in daily life, performance, or purely on building your physique, you will be better by mastering the loaded hip hinge. And, when it comes to athletic preparation, the deadlift pattern will serve to reveal potential problems, help correct those impairments, and develop the foundation that most every athletic attribute is built on.
That’s a lot of value to be placed onto a single exercise, especially considering how many different exercises will be included in a total training program. Yet, this invaluable exercise can also be considered the “double-edged sword” of training. If you asked 100 people, who are at least familiar with strength training, which exercise is the most likely to cause an injury (or the one they typically avoid), you likely hear “the deadlift” 75% of the time.
The key to the “absolute” statement in the opening paragraph about the value of the deadlift is in clarifying that it’s an exercise not limited to the traditional tool of choice, the conventional barbell.
With over 33 years experience as a performance strength coach, I will not be the one to condemn the barbell. The fact that its lifespan began in the 19th century deserves respect. However, even in individuals with optimal health of the spine, joints, and connective tissues, there can be contraindications with certain barbell exercises.
The primary reason the barbell is considered the standard in strength training is due to its availability, loading capacity, relative simplicity, AND tradition. However, an individual’s personal arthrology does not give a rat’s ass about these factors.