Beth Davies Coaching

4 deadlift variations for pelvic organ prolapse

Variations (in ths case for deadlifts) can be super useful if you have pelvic organ prolapse and a) you’re working back up to conventional deadlifts or b) experience symptoms with conventional deadlifts or 3) want to add some variety to your training. 


What is a deadlift?

The deadlift is a compound strength training exercise that involves lifting a weighted barbell or other resistance from the ground to a standing position. It’s considered one of the most fundamental and effective exercises for building overall strength and muscle mass.

Why is it Useful?

The deadlift is incredibly useful for several reasons:

  1. Full-body Strength: It targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making it a highly efficient exercise for building overall strength.
  2. Functional Movement: The deadlift mimics everyday movements like lifting heavy objects from the ground, making it a practical exercise for improving real-world strength and functionality.
  3. Muscle Growth: By engaging large muscle groups such as the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core, the deadlift promotes significant muscle hypertrophy and development.
  4. Improved Posture: Proper deadlift technique requires maintaining a straight back and neutral spine, which can help improve posture and reduce the risk of back injuries.
  5. Increased Power and Explosiveness: The deadlift is not only about lifting heavy weights but also about generating power and explosiveness, making it beneficial for athletes in various sports.

Muscles Used

The deadlift primarily targets the following muscle groups:

  1. Hamstrings: Located at the back of the thigh, the hamstrings are heavily engaged during the lifting phase of the deadlift.
  2. Glutes: The gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body, is responsible for hip extension during the deadlift, providing power and stability.
  3. Erector Spinae (Lower Back): These muscles run along the spine and are essential for maintaining a strong and stable back position throughout the lift.
  4. Quadriceps: The quadriceps, located at the front of the thigh, assist in knee extension during the initial phase of the lift.
  5. Core Muscles: The muscles of the core, including the abdominals and obliques, are engaged to stabilize the spine and maintain proper posture during the deadlift.

Why you are experiencing symptoms with deadlifts

Symptoms during a deadlift can be down to several factors (and it’s worth thinking what “might” be driving your symptoms as your experience will be different to someone else’s). 

Here are the most common causes of symptoms with deadlifting 

  1. creating too much tension or too much pelvic floor engagement/activaton 
  2. activating too much back and not enough core/pelvic floor 
  3. the deadlft (in the current set up) drives the hips back too much and increases sensations (particularly for a rectocele) 
  4. a bracing strategy which increases bearing down versus ‘spreading the load’ across the core, floor and whole body
  5. jumping up in load versus a slower build up 
  6. fear of the movement which drives tension and pressure 
  7. you’re really knackered and sleep deprived and it’s ramping up your central sensitivity 

Deadlift variation 1 - changing the range of movement

deadlift from block

Reducing the range of movement for a deadlift can be a great way of seeing if less hinging helps reduce prolapse symptoms.  I like to use a kettlebell and yoga block (pictured) but you could also place the barbell and plates and blocks or a stack of weight plates. 

Deadlift variation 2 - kick stand deadlift

why use a kick stand deadlift for prolapse

I love a kick stand deadlift for playing around with foot placement, as well as creating a stepping stone between a kneeling hinge and a conventional deadlift. 

Deadlift variation 3 - single leg deadlift

single leg deadlift and prolapse

If a conventional deadlift doesn’t feel comfortable, but you want to feel challenged, a single-leg deadlift may be just the ticket! Research from barbell squats versus single-leg variations, such as Bulgarian split squats, shows that single-leg variations can build strength and size.  Maybe the same is true for deadlifts! Research aside, single-leg deadlifts can be useful in improving stability and core strength. 

Deadlift variation 4 - change your stance

wide stance deadlift

Your deadlift stance is just one aspect we can play around with to assess the effect on your prolapse symptoms. You may have been told to use a narrow stance for squats and deadlifts if you have prolapse. But there is no research to back this up. Given that women have a wider pelvis, a wider stance (perhaps somewhere between conventional and sumo deadlift) may actually feel better than conventional for some deadlifters with prolapse. 

If you have pelvic organ prolapse and you’re finding that your deadlifts are giving you symptoms, check out my programme PROJECT STRONG for lifters and gym lovers with prolapse. 

Beth Davies is a highly experienced personal trainer and coach specialising in female pelvic health, pelvic organ prolapse and exercise. Her programmes educate, empower and support women back to training or their active life, eliminating symptoms and building strength and confidence. She has been featured in publications such as Stylist, Marie Claire UK, Woman & Home, and Metro

Beth’s training and coaching for women with pelvic organ prolapse provides face-to-face personal training in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and online across the UK and Europe. 

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