“Cocaine Deadlifts” for Back Pain

Deadlifts for Back Pain

Our client and Intern, Joel Rasmussen, once suffered a severe back injury from falling off a ladder and dealt with constant low back pain, especially while lifting. His coach, Will Morris, DPT, prescribed THIS deadlift variation… and the pain improved significantly.

Joel coined this variation a “cocaine deadlift,” because he said it felt so good that it was like cocaine for his back.

What is a “Cocaine Deadlift?”

The “cocaine deadlift” is basically a very slow and controlled Romanian deadlift with a pause, hovering the bar about 3-4 inches above the ground.

The set up is exactly the same as a normal, conventional deadlift (learn about the 5 step set up here).

  1. Stance
  2. Grip
  3. Shins to the bar
  4. Set the back in extension
  5. Drag the bar up the shins

Once the bar is locked out, breathe again and reset your low back, then slide the bar down your shins with lots of control and pause when the bar reaches 3-4 inches above the ground. Drag the bar back up your legs to the lockout. Repeat for a number of reps.

The DPT Explains

The reason Will prescribed this deadlift for back pain or injured backs is because he noticed these clients would rush through the eccentric portion of the deadlift – when the bar returns to the ground. When they rushed, they would often allow their back to round and lose back extension.

Originally called a “top down pause deadlift,” this variation allowed Will’s clients to move through a large range of motion while addressing the piece of the deadlift that caused pain.

Programming Tips

Choose a weight that is relatively easy, something that you can do with perfect form. You might want to consider hiring a coach if you’re unsure about your form. It is imperative that your back is set in normal anatomical extension to be successful with this exercise, and with all deadlifts.

Perform sets of 2, 3 or 4 and continue working up in weight, keeping your pain below a “3” on the pain scale.

Replace all deadlifts in your program with the “cocaine deadlift” until your back feels good enough to go back to a regular deadlift.



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