The Barbell Coaching Series: The Deadlift Part 3… Hip Position

Perform the ‪deadlift‬ ? Great! Are you sure you know what to do with your hips before “lift off”? Should they be high… or low… or somewhere in the middle? What if you’re tall or short? Much like Ricky Bobby being interviewed after winning his first race… you’re just not quite sure what to do with those hips before lift off. Well we got you… read on…

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In our previous posts about the deadlift we discussed how to set your feet, grip the bar, breathe, and explained the movement. However, we weren’t specific enough with how/where to set your hips. Since this is something many fitness professionals think they know, but often will admit to grey areas in how they explain hip position, we felt it necessary to dedicate a posts to the hips.


Common hip and body position set up flaws
DL Hips lowHips too low
– In this position, you’re not deadlifting… You’re squatting. The bar will inevitably scrape this shins… Bad… And you will have less than ideal leverage given your shin and torso angle. Oh yeah… And you’re not actually deadlifting.

If the hips are too low the shoulder blades will be behind the bar and will prevent the bar from leaving the ground. If it is light enough, the bar will leave the ground but be in front of the mid-foot, putting the student at a significant mechanical disadvantage. The vertical spine angle will likely lead to scraped shins from pulling the bar “through” the shins.. Remember the deadlift is more of a back exercise and less of a leg exercise.

DL hips highHips too high – In this position, you have poor leverage (quads cannot make a significant contribution) and you will have no choice but to pull with your “low back” putting significant stress on your lumbar spine.

If the hips are too high, the legs will be too straight. This will put all of the stress on the low back and hamstrings and the quadriceps won’t be in a position to contribute. The bar will also swing away from the shins creating a mechanical disadvantage making the bar feel heavier and more difficult to control.

DL Rounded spine


Spine in Flexion (upper back, lower back, or both) – While this technically isn’t a hip position issue, it’s still important to address. With the spine in flexion, shear forces will dominate the spinal column, leaking energy and increasing the chance of injury. If a neutral spine can not be obtained, put the bar up on blocks and pull from a height that allows the spine to be in a neutral position.



We discussed how different anthropometrics impact set up in one our previous posts. For more information how how shin and femur length differences results in differences in set up click here.

Much, much more to come on coaching barbell exercises in the future. Until then…

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