Deadlifting with low hips doesn’t work. If you Deadlift with your hips lower than your knees like on the Squat, you’ll scrape your shins, hurt your lower back and Deadlift less weight. Deadlifts aren’t Squats. Your hips must start higher as if doing a half Squat.
Setup for Deadlifts with the bar over your mid-foot, shoulder-blades over bar and shins against bar. Your hips will be where they should be, not too high or too low. You’ll Deadlift more weight without scraping your shins or hurting your lower back.
Some Deadlifters setup with low hips like on the Squat. Others start with high hips and straighter legs. But in both cases the hips move to medium height once heavy weight leaves the floor. It always looks like a half Squat because that’s the most effective way to Deadlift.
Your Build Impacts Your Deadlift Hip Position
The proper hip position on Deadlifts depends on your build. Your hips will be higher if you have long thighs like me. Your hips will be lower if you have shorter thighs. The length of your arms also impacts your hip position. People have different body-types. The correct hip position on Deadlifts varies therefore too. People with longer thighs like me have to Deadlift with higher hips because that’s more effective for our body-type.
The simplest way to find your proper hip position is by ignoring your hips. Focus on pulling the bar in a vertical line. This is the most effective way to Deadlift because it’s the shortest distance to pull the bar from floor to lockout. To do this you must setup with the bar over your mid-foot, shoulder-blades over bar and shins against bar. This puts your hips where they should be to Deadlift heavy weights effectively.
Do not copy someone’s hip position on Deadlifts unless you have the same body-type. If your friend has shorter thighs than you, and your arms are the same length, your hips will be higher. If you drop your hips like he Deadlifts, your shins will come forward and you’ll bruise them on the way up. If your friend raises his hips like you Deadlift, it will straighten his legs and he’ll struggle to engage them to lift the weight.
Watch out with bad feedback on your Deadlift form. Many people don’t know that hips don’t matter on Deadlifts. The relation bar, shoulder-blades and mid-foot does. They’ll check your Deadlift like they check your Squats: by looking at your hips. But Deadlifts aren’t Squats. There’s no parallel position to reach or start from. You just pull the bar from floor to lockout. If it moves in a vertical line, your Deadlift setup is correct.
Hip Position Deadlifts vs Squats
If you Deadlift like you Squat, with your hips lower than your knees, your knees will come forward. This puts your shins more incline and in the way of the bar. The bar can’t go up without hitting your shins and knees. Your shins will be bruised, hurt and bleed. Shin guards aren’t the solution here. The solution is to fix your Deadlift form by raising your hips. Setup with the bar over your mid-foot and your shoulder-blades over the bar.
Deadlifting with low hips is also ineffective. You can’t lift the bar in a vertical line up because your shins are in the way. The bar has to move around your shins and knees in a C-curve. Moving the bar over a non-vertical line is longer and thus harder. Plus, the bar is moving away from your body to go around your knees. This is harder on your lower back. Deadlifting with low hips can cause back pain and is ineffective for heavy weights.
You can’t Deadlift heavy weights with low hips. Your hips will rise before the weight leaves the floor. They won’t move together if you setup with low hips. Your body knows it can engage your leg muscles better with medium hips. If you don’t let hips rise to medium height, the bar won’t leave the floor. Deadlifts aren’t Squats. Start with your hips at medium height like if you were doing a half Squat.
“But My Coach Told Me To Deadlift With Low Hips Like on Squats!”
Being a coach doesn’t make him right. Some personal trainers and coaches lack practical experience Deadlifting heavy and helping other people to Deadlift heavy. They may have a lot of theoretical knowledge in the form of degrees and certifications. But unless they also Deadlift heavy and help others Deadlift heavy, they lack the practical experience to know when and how to apply what they learned to the Deadlift.
Some coaches hate seeing people Deadlifting with a horizontal back. Especially when they see people with long thighs and a short torso like me Deadlift. They’ll tell you to drop your hips to put your back more vertical and avoid “shear”. What that means: gravity pulls the weight down while you’re trying to lift your hips up. In theory this could result in sliding of your intervertebral discs. An injury to your spine…
But if you’ve Deadlifted heavy, you know this is BS. Your trunk muscles protect your spine and maintain its position when you Deadlift. If it’s too heavy, your back bends. Your discs don’t slide. Dr Lon Kilgore Phd researched this: you need 336lb of pressure for the spinal discs of a cadavar to slide. Your spine can handle even more pressure because unlike the cadavar the muscles around your spine contract to protect it.
If you drop your hips like on a Squat anyway, you’ll hurt your shins and back. Your torso will be more vertical. But your knees will be more forward and your shins more incline. The bar can’t go up without hitting your shins and knees. And since the bar moves further way from your body to go up, the weight is more stressful on your back. Back pain and bloody shins should be enough proof that your coach’s advice doesn’t work.
“But This Guy Squats His Deadlifts and He Deadlifts More Than You!”
What works for an elite Deadlifter may not work for you. Some people are so strong, they get away with lifting with inefficient form. Other people like me are less genetically gifted and lack athletic backgrounds. We don’t get away with Deadlifting with inefficient form. We have to Deadlift with proper form to keep up with (and sometimes surpass) naturally strong guys without injuring ourselves. We don’t guess it. We do what works.
People do all kinds of things when they setup for Deadlifts. Some Squat into their Deadlifts with low hips. Others start with high hips and then drop down (more about this below). But once heavy weight leaves the floor, everyone’s hips move to medium height. Because this brings your shoulder-blades over the bar and your mid-foot. It engages your legs and keeps your shins/knees out of the way of the bar. It’s more effective.
Example: Mikhael Koklyaev. He Squats into his Deadlifts before he pulls the weight. The bar is over his mid-foot, shoulders over bar. Pulling from this position is ineffective. He can’t engage his legs and would hit his shins. That’s why he raises his hips before the weight leaves the floor. Here it looks like a half Squat. His shoulder-blades are over the bar which moves in a vertical line over his mid-foot. This is proper Deadlift form.
If pulling the bar with medium hips is more effective, why not start there? Why Squat into the Deadlift with low hips first? Koklyaev was an Olympic LIfter for years. Olympic lifters often Squat like he does before cleaning or snatching the bar. This dynamic start loads your leg muscles and creates a stretch reflex. It increases speed from the floor so you can pull heavier weights. But it’s only effective for experienced lifters.
Here’s why: less skilled Deadlifters who try to Squat into the weight make technical mistakes. Your shins can push the bar away from your mid-foot. Your hips can rise too much or not enough. You can get the timing wrong. Koklyaev gets everything perfect because he has practiced this for years. The less experience you have, the more you can make errors. Squatting into the weight isn’t worth it if it makes you Deadlift with bad form.
Deadlift using the static start. Setup with shoulder-blades over bar, bar over mid-foot, shins against bar. Your hips will be perfect. You’ll have better form because you don’t need to worry about raising your hips at the right time. Better form increases your Deadlift. Keep practicing and the proper hip position will become automatic. After several months try Squatting into it and see if it helps. I prefer starting with high hips, see below.
Deadlifting With High Hips for Stretch Reflex
Many world champion Deadlifters setup with high hips. They start with straight legs and the bar over their mid-foot. Right before they pull it, they drop their hips by bending their knees until their shins touch the bar. This boosts strength by using the stretch reflex. High hips stretch your glutes and hamstrings. Your muscles contract harder in response which makes the weight easier to Deadlift. The challenge is getting the timing right.
Example: world champion Andy Bolton starts with high hips and the bar over his mid-foot. He drops his hips to the correct position and raises them again. He drops them a second time, and raises them again. He drops them a third time and then lifts the bar. When the weight leaves the floor, his shoulder-blades are over the bar, bar over mid-foot, shins against bar. This is the proper Deadlift form position.
Another example: world champion Benedikt Magnusson. He also starts with high hips. But he sets up with the bar in front of his feet. He then rolls the bar to his shins, drops his hips to the correct position and pulls the bar. All of this happens at the same time. When the bar leaves the floor his shoulder-blades are over the bar, bar over mid-foot and shins against bar. This is the proper Deadlift form position again.
World champion Mike Tuchscherer does this as well. He starts with higher hips on every rep, and drops them right before he Deadlifts the weight. When the bar leaves the floor, his shoulder-blades are over the bar and the bar goes up in a vertical line over his mid-foot. I also setup with high hips on Deadlifts and drop them right before I pull the weight. I can Deadlift heavier weights when I use this technique.
Every skilled Deadlifter who starts with high hips drops them when the bar leaves the floor. Nobody pulls with straight legs because it’s ineffective for Deadlifting heavy. The easiest way to push the weight from the floor is by straightening your legs. You can’t do this if your hips are high and your legs already straight. Pulling with high hips forces your lower back to do all the work. This increases the risk of injury.
The challenge with starting with high hips is therefore the same as when Squatting into the weights first. Timing is tricky. The less experienced you are, the more you’ll make mistakes. You can fail to drop your hips enough. Or you can drop them too much and push the bar away from your mid-foot with your shins. Pulling from your mid-foot with straight legs is ineffective. Proper form is more important than the stretch reflex.
Forget about high hips if you’re just starting StrongLifts 5×5. Focus on setting up the bar over your mid-foot, shoulder-blades over the bar and bar against shins. Your hips will be at the perfect height. Spend months pulling from this position. When you can set your hips consistently where they need to be, try starting with high hips to use the stretch reflex. If it causes you to Deadlift bad form, stick with the static setup.
Hips Rising Too Soon on Deadlifts
Hips rising faster than the bar is ineffective for Deadlifting heavy. It puts your hips high and legs straight when the bar is still on the floor. Straight legs means you can’t straighten your legs anymore to lift the weight. You have to do a stiff-legged Deadlift with your lower back doing all the work. This can hurt your lower back. And it’s less effective for Deadlifting heavy weights because you can’t use your leg muscles properly.
Don’t let your hips rise before the bar leaves the floor. Stop trying to pull the weight and start thinking pushing. Push the floor away as if doing the leg press. Keep your hips in position by squeezing your glutes and hamstrings. Keep pushing your feet through the floor until the bar moves. Once it does, keep the bar over your mid-foot and pull it in a vertical line. if you do this correctly, your hips and chest will rise at the same time.