A spine specialist weighs in on whether or not deadlifts and farmer walks can make you shorter.

It seems logical: You have 315 pounds pulling down on you.

Therefore, over time, this will cause the vertebral discs of the spinal column to become closer together, making you shorter—a shorter spine due to compression from all that deadlifting.

Farmer’s walks are similar in that a lot of weight is pulling down on you.

And even though the amount of weight in the farmer’s walk is a lot less than what that same person deadlifts, the farmer’s walk may also last a lot longer than any given deadlift set—up to a few minutes.

Can the Deadlift or Farmer’s Walk Cause Height Loss?

“There’s no current research showing heavy exercises such as the farmer’s walk or deadlifts decreases the overall height of a full-grown adult,” begins Dr. Jeff Langmaid, DC, founder/owner of The Evidence Based Chiropractor, LLC, in Tampa, FLA, a research-based marketing and practice growth company that serves thousands of chiropractors across the world.

“Additionally, no research has conclusively determined that exercise decreases overall height. We naturally get shorter over time, as discs dehydrate as we age.”

Men in their 20s and 30s have been known to swear that they’ve shrunk in height (one to one and a half inches) since starting a deadlift program (even squats, too).

On the other hand, some men will assert that they’ve gained an inch in height since starting these exercises.

The height gain is simply the reversal of bad posture, which can be improved with the deadlift and squat, as these exercises strengthen the entire posterior chain of musculature.

But height loss?

Dr. Langmaid continues, “Each and every day, we stand upright against gravity, and each day we lose overall height. Any exercises that load the spine — or place increased load on the spine — have the potential to advance the decrease of height.

“The good news is that each night when we go to sleep, those discs regain a majority of that height, so we start each day fresh and new.”

What about decompression exercises?

“Nothing shows that decompression after completing deadlift exercises will immediately restore height, but, certainly, decompression can be a good thing to do if one is performing exercises that are consistently loading one’s spine.

“Decompression, whether on a fraction table or inversion table, provides axial distraction of the disc space and stretches the disc.

“Doing so can increase amount of fluid hydration and nutrients that transfer across the disc space and decrease intradiscal pressure.”

Perhaps after every, or some, deadlift sets, you should immediately do a dead hang on a chinning bar. The squat cage should actually have handles for chinning.

If you must jump up to reach them, then use a stool, since you may not want to jump right after a nasty deadlift set.

If the Smith machine is nearby, you can set the bar at its highest point and dead hang from there (bend the legs).

Another option is to do several sets of dead hangs at the very end of your workout.

Jeff Langmaid, DC
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: Shutterstock/Ajan Alen