A member of one of our CUT classes asked whether or not they should drop their deadlift from the top or lower it down. I think it can sometimes be intimidating to ask questions in class (and admit that you don’t already know things), so any time someone asks a question I like to assume that we have many other members that have thought it but haven’t asked. That means an answer that was previously just heard by that small group needs to get repeated for everyone else in the gym!
She explained that her previous trainer had told her that lowering a deadlift was unsafe on the low back and that instead one should drop a deadlift at the top.
I disagree with this and will explain a few reasons why.
First, I’ll address the safety idea. If it was safe to lift the weight up, it’s safe to put it down. The Eccentric phase (lowering the weight) is the easier part of the deadlift. If it isn’t lifted properly on the way up to the point that the trainer advises ‘just drop the weight’, then something is wrong. The body should follow the same path both up and down during the deadlift, so it should be as safe lowering it as it is lifting it. If you don’t feel comfortable lowering the weight, then I don’t think you’re ready to lift it.
Second, the Eccentric phase of an exercise is a critical part of the movement. By dropping the weight from the top, that phase is skipped and with it, many of the benefits of the deadlift. If you recommend the exercise because of its muscle building properties, then you miss out on the primary portion of the movement that builds muscle. If you tout the deadlift for its functionality, then you miss out on the function of the lift, unless the next time you go to lift something in the real world you plan on just dropping it when you’re done. I guess that’s one easy way to not get asked to help your friends move furniture!
This doesn’t mean you can never let go of a bar. By all means, if you are in the middle of a lift and you feel your technique leave you, then dropping the bar is likely the safest way to get out of that lift. However, you definitely should not go into any exercise planning on having bad form.