Squats and Deadlifts are awesome exercises, but are amongst the most technical you will ever do – in fact books have been written on the technical aspects of the squat and deadlift. They are therefore not without their dangers if performed incorrectly. Here are a few basics to look out for to protect your back.
1. Maintain a neutral posture throughout to minimise sheering forces on the discs. This means, no excessive arching or rounding of the back, with chest held high and head in line with the vertabral column or slightly hyperextended.) If for whatever reason eg poor mobility, weak postural muscles, muscle imbalance, neuromuscular control or previous injury you cannot maintain a neutral posture, seek advise to correct your movement pattern or any deficit before attempting a heavy squat or deadlift.
2. Distribute the weight evenly throughout both feet. (balanced with no rocking back and forward or side to side).
3. During the start of the Deadlift, keep the shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar, with the bar close to the shins and legs bent. The closer the bar is to the body, the smaller the lever, the less the strain on the lower back. This way the bar is also lifted straight up with no deviation during the movement.
4. Before lifting or descending ( in the case of the squat), take a deep breath in to create intra-abdominal pressure for extra suppoort throughout the vertabral column. Exhale during the final third of the lift. If you have a hernia or blood pressure issues, rather seek medical advice before lifting.
5. Never let the hips rise before the shoulders. (Deadlifts and squats)
6. Pull the floor apart with the feet (maintaining even distribution throughout the feet). This helps to recruit hammies and glutes for extra strength and support.
7. During the squat, pull the bar downwards into your shoulders to create additional rigidity for the vertabral column.
Like I say, there is a lot more to it, but these tips will set you on the right path. Remember always perfect form before attempting to push your limits. Heavy lifting is an art that requires hard work, persistance and patience to master.