Back Rounding

Many Olympic lifts are made or missed the moment the bar separates from the floor. During this initial pull from the ground, it is crucial that the back stays completely flat and the lifter keeps a slight arch in their lower back.

Many times lifters set themselves up in a good start position, but then lose their back posture as the weight leaves the ground. Most of the time this is due to a weakness of the posterior chain and, more specifically, the spinal erectors.

To find the moment the lifter loses their position, a coach should instruct the lifter to deadlift the weight. Once deadlifted, the athlete must then set their back and slowly bring the weight back to the floor in the same position you would hold for a snatch or clean. At some point, usually below the knee, you will see the athlete’s lower back give way and begin to round. This moment, where their back begins to round, shows the coach and athlete that this is the position in which they become weak.

The coach and athlete must now work on the weakness from this position and all positions below. One method is to set up blocks for the weight to sit on which allows the bar to start at the position of the body where the lower lumbar curves. The athlete then performs snatches and cleans from the blocks, reinforcing proper lower back positioning. It would also be beneficial for the athlete to perform pulls from these positions. As the weeks go by, the athlete and coach slowly lower the blocks. They must only lower them to a point that is very difficult for the athlete to keep their back from rounding. Once this positioning is found, the athlete must constantly drill this position and lift from this height with proper back positioning. It is far better to reinforce good position with proper loads than to overload the weight, causing the athlete to lose proper back posture. Once the athlete is proficient from a higher position, the coach can slowly lower that position, reinforcing the correct lower lumbar curve.

Other exercises that will help strengthen the lower lumbar region and keep the back from rounding are:

  • Eccentric deadlifts
  • Deficit pulls
  • Pause front squats
  • Planks
  • Hyperextension hold