Too much sitting? Deadlifts can undo the damage and prevent back pain, according to research

Deadlifts have the capacity to undo the damage of too much sitting by working our posterior chain

woman performing deadlift
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether it's too much time in the office, or lots of time slouching on the sofa, our posterior chain gets weaker when we sit for prolonged periods. The 'posterior chain' is the proper name for the group of muscles in our lower back, glutes and hamstrings, and if we spend too much time sitting and too little time using our back and legs, those muscles begin to undergo a process called atrophy, becoming stiff and unused. 

This can give rise to lower back pain. Even if you have one of the best office chairs in our guide, it's important to get regular exercise to avoid the perils of muscular atrophy. To prevent pain in the future, grab a barbell or a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and do some deadlifts. 

Deadlifts, especially heavy barbell deadlifts, get something of a bad rap. Pulling a weight off the floor can hurt your back further if performed with improper form, which is why learning to "lift with your knees, not with your back" is essential, whether you're in the gym or helping a friend move house. 

deadlift in gym

(Image credit: Victor Freitas/Unsplash)

However, ignore the naysayers: learning how to deadlift properly with barbells offers so much in the way of benefits. Research found deadlifts can improve lower back pain in patients, provided that back pain is not of arthritic origin, and is instead a product of poor spine health.

Other studies have found sitting for prolonged periods leads to (you guessed it) poor spine health. Deadlifts can improve and safeguard against this by increasing the muscle in your hamstring, butt and back, developing protective muscle tissue, and strengthening bones.

Further research found "lumbar extensor training" like deadlifts (along with back extension exercises) can reduce lower back pain, adding more credence to the previous reports.

Even if you're not looking to build lots of muscle, and only exercise to lose weight or for mental health reasons, you should give deads a go. They improve your leg and butt to make your legs stronger, which is great for cyclists and runners, and can spark a hormonal response, elevating your base metabolic rate and helping you lose weight. They even improve grip strength, which can help in everything from preventing falls in old age, to carrying the shopping home from the supermarket.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.