Why People Hate Deadlift WODs

Dead Lift at CrossFit Ann Arbor


The deadlift is the single most important lift. Since I have made an effort to improve my deadlift, I’ve noticed all my other lifts improving. But there seems to be a major community issue with the deadlift.

Last week’s CrossFit Open WOD was 14.3

8 minute AMRAP:
10 deadlifts, 135 / 95 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
15 deadlifts, 185 / 135 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
20 deadlifts, 225 / 155 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
25 deadlifts, 275 / 185 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
30 deadlifts, 315 / 205 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch
35 deadlifts, 365 / 225 lb.
15 box jumps, 24 / 20 inch

This has generated the most complaining about a workout I have heard since I began CrossFit almost 2 years ago.  Everyone seems to hate the deadlift. Everyone is complaining about how bad their backs hurt. Everyone seems to be a giant idiot when it comes to deadlifts.

I think because the deadlift is the one lift lift where you will pull the most weight off the ground than any other which creates some psychological incentive to just load up with out care. I’m guessing because it’s not overhead, your knees won’t explode, and you just want to have a giant number you think if you can fit the plates on and if you can stand up, you’ve succeeded.

That’s horribly incorrect. Just pulling the weight off the ground is not enough to call it a successful lift. There are many things that go into the deadlift.  Here are instructions according to: CrossFit.com (PDF)

One of the key’s to the deadlift is that at no point in the lift should you see any rounding of the back. AT NO POINT -> ANY ROUNDING.

What’s wrong with this picture from the Open 14.3 announcement?

rounded back dead lift


As I was watching all I could think about (aside from the fact that her white shorts are named Pamela) was that poor girl’s back is going to explode. Of course your back is going to get destroyed if you round out like this! If you can’t keep your back locked in and safe for a given weight, you can’t do the weight. A straight back standard should be set for the deadlift just like getting your hips below your knees for a wall ball to count. I know, impossible to judge. But there are smart people out there who can figure things like that out.

The only thing wrong with the deadlift is the idiots deadlifting wrong. If your coaches let you lift heavy things with horrible form, it’s ok to blame them too, but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your body. I think it’s very irresponsible of the community to talk about how much they hate deadlift workouts because of how terrible their backs feel afterwards. They should be complaining about how much they hate when they load the bar up way too much and can’t lift properly.

For the record, I did 14.3 Friday and again the following Monday. I went as hard as I could both times, and my back wasn’t noticeably sore at all. Sure, my number of reps weren’t that impressive, but I did add 5 reps when I tried it again on Monday.

Here’s a video from CrossFit demoing the deadlift from the coaches perspective. I find it very helpful, and if you follow the teachings here, you will be able to safely and happily deadlift like any other lift:

The deadlift is so important, and so important to do right. Just look at all the muscle groups it works!

From Wikipedia:

The deadlift activates a large number of individual muscles:

  • Torso
    • Front
      • Abdomen
        • Rectus abdominis (under aponeurosis)
        • Abdominal external oblique muscle
        • Abdominal internal oblique muscle
    • Back
      • Iliocostalis
      • Intertransversarii laterales lumborum
      • Latissimus dorsi
      • Levator scapulae
      • Longissimus
      • Quadratus lumborum
      • Rhomboideus major
      • Serratus posterior superior
      • Serratus posterior inferior
      • Splenius cervicis
      • Teres Major
      • Trapezius muscle
  • Legs
    • Quadriceps
      • Rectus femoris
      • Vastus lateralis
      • Vastus intermedius
      • Vastus medialis
    • Hamstrings
      • Biceps femoris muscle
        • long head
        • short head
      • Semitendinosus
      • Semimembranosus
  • Hips
    • Gluteal muscles
      • Gluteus maximus
      • Gluteus minimus
    • Piriformis
    • Superior gemellus
  • Forearms
    • Flexor digitorum profundus