Lessons Learned From My Deadlifting Experience

I’ve learned a few things from my weekend deadlifting experience.  Unfortunately, what I’ve learned is probably not what you are expecting.  Here comes a rant…

I received a ton of email from people who wanted to know how my back was feeling.  It is as if they wanted me to be injured and unable to walk (thanks by the way), so they could somehow justify the use of bodyweight exercise over free weights.  Here is one message that I received on Tuesday.

I still can’t believe that someone actually wrote this…

“I appreciate that you walk the walk, but haven’t you learned by now that deadlifting is dangerous.  I would have thought you were more intelligent.  I hope you are not out of action for too long after this careless experience.  It is people like you who keep chiropractors in business.  When you wake up stiff and sore, please learn from this experience.”

Sorry folks, but my back feels fine.  I woke up fresh and ready to run.  I actually put in a solid interval workout with Matt Godfrey, ranked #2 by the WBC and the current NABF cruiserweight champion.

Now, back to the topic at hand.  If you are ever wondering why our world is so out of shape, here is one reason.  We live in a world where everyone wants to tell you what to do.  The bodyweight exercisers want to diss weights, and the weight lifters want to diss bodyweight exercise.  The newbie who is uncertain of what to do sees nothing but hostility between the exercise community, and decides to opt out.

Why don’t we become more open and receptive to other ideas?  In all honesty, why does anyone care what someone else does in the gym?  I’d rather see people pumping out high rep bicep curls rather than eating donuts and Bic Macs.

But no, so many people in this industry would rather see someone crippled from a deadlift, so they can somehow justify their own system.  What gives?

Look, I’m all for exercise.  I do a little bit of everything.  I don’t care if you lift weights, sandbags, paint cans or people.  I honestly don’t care.  As long as you are doing something, you are doing more than most of the world.

And here is a news flash to those interested, deadlifts are not dangerous.  Ignorance is more dangerous than any exercise.


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  1. i must admit i was really surprised you actually responded to such the ridicluous challenge, but good on you for totally blowing him out of the water with it.
    my only fear is now there will be a que of assholes challenging you to other feats of strength every five minutes – you may have opened a real can of worms…

    all the best

  2. Actully, no I did not. You must not have followed what happened. Dr. Boots called me a liar, by saying that I couldn’t do something that I said I could do. This was not a random challenge. It was a response to someone who said I was lying.


  3. “Ignorance is more dangerous than any exercise.”
    Best quote ever…. I agree people should stop treating this like it is a war between to cultures, body weight culture and weight lifting culture. They are tools not some ideal. And personally I would like to use as many tools as I please to get to where I want to be.

  4. Ross,
    I am a chiropractor near Washington, DC. I am also a martial arts and powerlifting enthusiast. My best recent deadlift was 505 lbs. You often state that you are sick of internet gurus with no real experience, or what is more commonly known as “armchair quarterbacks.” Well, beware of armchair chiropractors as well. Speaking as an amateur powerlifter, your form with those deadlifts was pretty darn good and you had good bar velocity through every lift. Speaking as a health care professional who sees patients every day for spinal injuries, after viewing the video I absolutely would not have expected you to be injured. It reminds me of another bodyweight enthusiast friend of mine, Matt Furey, who I saw clean and press 300 lbs barefoot without warm up, after having ignored weights of any kind for years. Ignorance is absolutely more dangerous than any exercise. As for the comment “you keep chiropractors in business;” sorry tough guy, it’s the flaccid desk-bound majority who keep chiropractors in business, not the athletes who take care of themselves. Few things get better with neglect. This is especially true of our bodies.

  5. amen, brother. i call deadlifts “lifelifts” (not my coinage – I heard it somewhere else) because the movement is so essential to daily living. especially if you have small children. for those leery of the deadlift, start light, practice good form, and work up. the deadlift is your friend. ross, you are one of the sane voices in real fitness and healthy living. keep up the great work you do.

  6. I agree with the Chiropractor. I’m more into weights than bodyweight training, though I do weighted chins where others in the gym do pulldowns. I’ve done deadlifts in the past myself, but avoided them due to lower back injuries I suffered when I was 11. 20 years ago, out of curiosity, I tried deadlifting, and to my surprise, I put up 420 pounds like it was nothing. Felt fine the next day, too.

    Bob Kennedy, publisher of Muscle Mag International said it best in his book, “Beef it!”, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” I go to an osteopathic doctor. He is amazed that, with my muscle mass, and at age 43, that I have the flexibility that I have. I can go beyond touching my toes, right into a flat palm. As he said, he most of his patients are like the chiropracor’s, people who cannot bend over and touch their waste!

    Take it from a weightlifter who has been training for 30 years — whatever it takes for you to get in shape — free weights or bodyweight — the point is to do something to get in shape!

    At 43, people mistake me for 30!

  7. Ross, I have to disagree about the specifics of this exercise.

    I deadlifted as my favorite exercise for a couple years, then in one lift (in this case, dumbbell deadlifts with nowhere near one rep max) badly injured my sacroiliac joint: 6-seconds I wish I could have back.

    Years later, it acts up on occasion. On my recent vacation, it hurt so much I could not move or get out of bed for a couple days and was in varying degrees of stiffness and pain for longer. I only got through it with the help of the most amazing woman in the world who I had travelled to see. She looked after me in a very loving way.

    So… I think this exercise is risky. For the admittedly significant amount of benefit you get, you could substitute other safer movements with or without weights. Unless you’re a power lifter, I’d do core strength training movements like variations on the plank and hip bridge, etc., even with a weight vest… rather than crank out deadlifts.

    Most people who deadlift won’t get injured, but if you do, expect it to be serious.

  8. Deadlift are THE reason my back is back in shape, healthy , strong and I could move again…. Deadlift was the cure for me trust it or not.

  9. Ross,

    Then there are those who criticize bodyweight training, weightlifting and any other form of intense exercise. These people use words such as “overtraining” to justify their own pathetic laziness.

  10. Ross,

    I agree with you, so many people are, as Dave Tate says, “majoring in minor sh*t!” Nit-picking on little things and not taking into consideration the big picture which is for most people, to get moving!
    I believe there should be a balance in training, unless you’re an elite athlete and need to concentrate on specific strength qualities. For the majority of people, it’s just to do something instead of sitting in front of their computers all day!
    Stay strong and keep up the great work!!


  11. I’m a wrestler/coach and I injured my back snowboarding (fractured L-4) in 1997. I tried physical therapy, I tried yoga, I tried chiropractic. I tried everything. It wasn’t until I got into lifting (2005) that the pain started to fade. My back is as good as it has been in a long time and I owe part of that to deadlifts and front squats.

    You can add “the human factor” to pretty much anything and make it dangerous. If you lift smart, your only real concern will be finding more weight to put on the bar.

    Awesome vid, Ross.


  12. Everything is dangerous if you have bad form/execution. I injured myself in the deadlift because I was careless and sloppy. Performed correctly, it is a very useful exercise, no doubt about it.

  13. Deadlift is a phenomenal movement, that is safe and efficient. Ignorant people confuse personal stupidity (poor form, current injuries, etc) with the inherent dangers of the exercise. When done properly deadlifts are beyond great. Also with so many variations there’s no reason why it cant be done in some manner. It’s a very natural movement that’s also as ‘functional’ as it gets.

    On a personal note deadlifts helped rehab chronic back pain. Now deadlifting 3+x bw i am stronger than ever.

  14. It’s all about RESPECT, and clearly some people don’t have it. Most probably never will. Those type of people pleasure themselves by arguing over the internet on topics they are either too ignorant to research, or flat-out not willing to accept.

    I think the bottom line should be to better yourself, no matter how you do it. Shouldn’t people use the tools that best suit them for the job? Seriously, what gives?

    I’m personally more of a “beat-down and toughen-up” type of guy. When I’m being pushed by someone else I can outperform most of my peers, but when I’m by myself it’s hard to get motivated. It’s mindset.

    So whenever I hear of someone like Ross, who can train BY HIMSELF because he has the MOTIVATION AND DISCIPLINE to do it, and push himself to the limit each and every time, I give him a round of applause.

    Keep it up Ross, you’re doing an excellent job. Realize that these people need to mature and grow some balls. Screw them.


  15. Different exercises can be used for different goals. Both weight lifting and bodyweight exercises can be used to reach these goals. There is no one size fits all when it comes to exercise. The dead lift is not dangerous if done properly, as has been stated. Great video, Ross, and great dead lift indeed!

  16. Like Dr. Hicks, I’m a practicing chiropractor in the Wahington, DC area. I agree with him and with Ross 100% on this. My practice is not full of people who have injured themselves doing dead lifts. It is, however, full of people who lead mostly sedentary lifestyles and who are completely deconditioned. Those people are the ones who are at the greatest risk for developing spine-related problems. If I had to rely on the injured deadlifter market to keep my office going, I’d starve.

  17. Hey Ross,
    If you go to the computer gaming forums, you will see the xbox fans telling the playstation fans how much their systems suck and vice-versa. You might think that “hey, they’re young and just a little immature to realise it doesn’t matter.”

    Then you can go over to the photography forums and hear the nikon users tell the canon users how much their cameras suck. These forums are usually blokes of adult age and upwards.

    Then you come over to the training forums and hear the same old bull from the same old view point.

    It’s not about what’s best. It’s about being right. Or even more to the point, fear of being wrong. This US and THEM syndrome happens with most things and really is just a sign of insecurity. If you’re not one of US, you’re one of THEM.

    As someone who has trained for the last 21 years with a mixture of free weights AND body weight exercises, it really doesn’t matter. Both are risky because everything we do involves risk. Sure, I’ve had minor pulls and strains along the way with my training, nothing serious, but at 42, I am able to lead a full and very active life and enjoy a number of very hard sports. If I had sat on my arse for the last twenty years and done nothing, I would probably be overweight and be ready for my first heart attack by now, like most of my friends who I went to college with.

    I do know what you mean about people trying to tell you what to do though. I remember many years ago when my wife didn’t have the strength to do chins and she was doing 130lb pulldowns instead. A guy went up to her and said, “If you keep using such a heavy weight you will get big muscles.” “I know,” she said, “why do you think I’m doing this.”



  18. Some good points. Can’t believe people actually said stupid shit about deadlifting. Good work Ross, and thanks for the insight Dr.

  19. hahaha. nice finish Dr. Hicks. im glad their are people like this dr boots character. it gives ross a reason to make another video. watching ross dominate life helps me suck it up and get after it.

  20. Hey Ross

    It’s good to see you’re still taking names, but I need to inform you that exertion is dangerous. Breaking a sweat can cause injury and take years off your life. You should have known that. From now on you should sit on your couch (if you don’t have one you need to get one) with the only logical reason of getting up is to stock up on cupcakes and butterscotch candies.

  21. Deadlifts can be dangerous if you arent vigilant about proper form. I have tweaked my back on numerous occasions because of it.

    That being said- Deadlifts are a great exercise just be careful when you do them!

  22. Hey Ross,

    I know what you’re talking about. People who see me train, like my parents or friends, also say I will be crippled when I’m 50. They just say that stuff because of their ingnorance, to justify their own believes and because of lack of motivation to do the same type of training.

  23. For this one, I’ll add my title. Ross, I’m a Chiro (and an RKC too) and I totally agree with you, Dr’s Hicks and Myers.

    Weakness (often due to)inactivity and poor posture resulting from sitting and slouching hours a day into the masses coupled with poor movement patterns is far and away the largest cause of injured backs.

    I’m not a powerlifter but I thought your lifts looked good too.

    To paraphrase a great powerlifter “Deadlifts aren’t bad for your back, how YOU deadlift is bad for your back!” (the generic you, not you Ross, I’m sure you get my meaning but for those who didn’t)

    I also agree the challenge was obviously well within your abilities (so you were not at all being reckless) and was well worth responding to.

    Rock on, man!

  24. Ross,
    I am a physical therapist (in CT … I used to live near you believe it or not and worked at Rockville Hospital!) and I can tell you that in 12 years of practice treating mostly back injuries, I have only treated one person who injured himself deadlifting (and his was a reinjury of a previous ligament tear that occurred doing martial arts). The single most common mechanism of injury for the clients that I saw was bending over to pick up something off the floor (a newspaper, a pencil, etc) using improper mechanics (ie straight legs, bending at the waist). 99% of these people were sedentary and had sedentary jobs. As part of their rehab, I teach all of my clients to pick things up off the floor properly … or deadlift, you might say!
    Keep up the great work … you are inspiring!

  25. That video was very inspiring. My back has never felt greater than when I started deadlifting! The proper fitness modality is all of them, or some of them, or one of them depending on one’s goals and needs. Any of them is better than nothing.


  26. Ross, good stuff bro. I have two herniated discs at the L4, L5 area at the age of nineteen. I am also a power lifter (crossing over into combat sport now). I did not hurt myself doing deadlifts (best deadlift is 720 and best squat is 804) I hurt it because of a drunk driver who rear ended me. Every trip to the chiro and physical therapist was filled with people injured at the job lifting up paper clips from the floor.

    If I didn’t dead lift, squat, or do heavy lower back and core training (heavy good mornings etc) and wasn’t in good physical shape I’m sure I’d have much more wrong with me then two herniated discs and having a strong posterior chain definately helped with the rehab.

    Keep it strong everyone.

    -Mike Pelosi

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