Low Back Pain with Cycling? Learn to Deadlift

by Devin Blessing, DPT, OCS

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Low back pain is one of the most common areas of pain experienced by cyclists, for obvious reasons. Many cyclists spend 10+ hours sitting in a flexed position on their bikes every week. Add this to the hours spent sitting in a car, at a desk, on your couch or at the dinner table and you’ll find that a large percentage of your week is spent in that same flexed sitting position. This leads to tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings and lower back along with weakness and disuse of our stabilizer muscles that frequently results in low back pain.

So how do we “undo” all of that sitting? Enter: the deadlift.

You can stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings and lower back all you want, but to accomplish real change, you must load these tissues. The deadlift strengthens your posterior chain (think hamstrings, glutes and back) and moves you in the exact opposite direction of that sitting position that so many of us spend far too much time in. Here is a series of exercises to help learn the deadlift and start implementing it into your program.

Kneeling Hip Hinge

The key to a good deadlift is learning to properly hinge at the hip. You can start with the kneeling hip hinge since it takes the lower leg out of the exercise and allows you to focus on your hips and spine position. Keep your core tight and work on maintaining the same spinal position throughout the motion. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

Hip Hinge w/ Stick

Using a stick while learning to hip hinge in standing can provide a good external cue to maintain a good spinal position. You should feel a gentle hamstring stretch at the bottom of the movement. Again, squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

Kettle Bell Deadlift

The kettle bell deadlift is a good way to start loading your hip hinge before doing a conventional deadlift with a barbell. By placing the kettle bell between your feet, it keeps the weight close to your center of mass which makes it easier to learn the movement. Follow the same principles as with the previous two exercises by maintaining a neutral spine position and squeezing your glutes at the top. Think of pushing the ground away from you with your feet as you lift the weight.

After you’ve worked your way through these exercises, you should be ready to start adding the deadlift into your strength training program. If you stay consistent, you’ll see improvements in back pain during your next long ride.

Need help getting started? Schedule an appointment with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy and we can help guide you on your path back to pain-free cycling!

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