If your hips shoot up prior to the barbell leaving the floor in the deadlift then it can be a serious problem for your strength and performance. You’ll place a lot more loading demand on your low back and have a hard time locking the weight out.
So how do you fix your hips shooting up in the deadlift? Here are my top 5 tips:
- Build Your Knee Extensor Strength
- Adjust Your Stance To Increase Quad Activation
- Understand Your Optimal Back Angle
- Activate Your Legs Prior To Initiating The Pull
- Ensure The Barbell Is On Your Shins When You Start
Before discussing these solutions in greater detail, let’s first talk about why your hips shoot up in the first place. Based on these reasons, you’ll implement specific fixes so that you can develop a stronger bottom position in the deadlift.
When you’ve finished this article, you’ll want to supplement your knowledge with my other article on: Is Your Deadlift Weak Off The Floor (Try These 7 Tips).
Hips Shooting Up In The Deadlift: Why Is This A Problem?
A lot of lifters don’t really care too much about the finer details of their deadlift technique.
They believe that so long as their deadlift strength is increasing, they don’t need to be too concerned about whether their hips are shooting up in the deadlift.
I’m assuming if you’re here, then that’s not your approach to training, and you want to try and be as technically efficient as possible when deadlifting.
It’s true that you can continue to get stronger with less than optimal technique, including having your hips shoot up prior to the barbell leaving the floor.
However, the problem is that at some point you’ll hit a strength plateau and you’ll find yourself always failing the deadlift below the knees until you address this issue head-on.
There are two reasons why you should be concerned about your hips shooting up in the deadlift:
First, your lower back needs to work a lot harder
When your hips shoot up in the deadlift, your back angle becomes more horizontal to the floor.
The more horizontal your torso angle becomes in relation to the floor, the greater your lower back needs to work to lift the barbell. This is a common deadlift mistake that I see.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if your lower back is strong. However, at some point, your lower back will be doing work that your other muscle groups should be doing.
So it’s less about your lower back is being ‘overworked’, and more about your other muscles not contributing to lifting the barbell, which will decrease the amount of weight you can lift overall.
Check out my article on the Optimal Back Angle For Deadlifting.
Second, you’re in a bad position to lock the weight out
Let’s say your hips shoot up off the floor in the deadlift and you manage to get the barbell to the knees, you’ll still have a problem of being in a less than an optimal position to lock the weight out.
This is because if your hips shoot up off the floor in the deadlift, then by the time the barbell gets to the knee, your shoulders are in front of the barbell and your hips are at it’s greatest horizontal distance to the barbell.
The greater the horizontal distance of your hips to the barbell, the harder your glutes need to work to close this gap in order to lock the weight out.
In other words, if you can reduce the distance of your hips to the barbell when the barbell is at the knees, then your glutes won’t have to work as hard to finish the pull.
So if you can prevent your hips from shooting up in the start position, it will leave only a modest distance that your hips need to travel to finish the pull, rather than the maximum distance possible.
Why Do Your Hips Shoot Up In The Deadlift?
The following are the most common reasons for why your hips shoot up in the deadlift. After explaining these reasons, I’ll go into practical ways to fix it.
From my experience, if your hips shoot up in the deadlift, they’re also going to shoot up in the squat as well when you drive out of the bottom position. This will put you in a good morning squat position, which I covered in another article.
Having weak quads is the #1 reason for why your hips shoot up in the deadlift.
Regardless if you find some of the other reasons below applying to your deadlift technique, it’s almost always the case that someone who has their hips shooting up will have some level of quad weakness.
The first movement off the floor in the deadlift should be extending the knee. The primary muscles responsible for knee extension are the quads. So if your quads are weak, and can’t extend the knee to initiate the movement, then your body will search for leverage elsewhere to try and get the barbell moving.
So, this is when your hips shoot up to place greater loading demand on your glutes and lower back to try and assist with the weaker quads that can’t do their job properly off the floor.
Now that you know that having weak quads is a factor to your hips shooting up in the deadlift, you need to have a stance that allows you to activate your quads properly.
Having the wrong stance can actually decrease the amount your quads can be activated, and will automatically shift the loading demand to other areas of your body, causing your hips to rise too quickly off the bottom.
Wrong Hip Position
Sometimes your hips shoot up at the bottom of the deadlift because your hips are in the wrong position to begin with.
This is often the case for lifters who start with their hips too low in the start position.
This is when you ‘sit your hips back’ when setting up the bottom position, which treats the movement like a squat rather than a deadlift.
Then, when you pull on the barbell to initiate upward motion, your hips naturally want to rise faster than the barbell because they are not in the correct position and it feels unnatural to have them that low.
Being Too Relaxed In The Start Position
If you don’t actively get tension on your leg muscles prior to initiating the pull of the floor, then your hips may shoot up, especially if you have weaker quad muscles.
The deadlift is a different movement compared with other powerlifting exercises like the squat and bench press. This is because the squat and bench press have an eccentric range of motion, which gets tension on the muscles before exploding out of the bottom position.
However, in the deadlift, you don’t have an eccentric range of motion. You are literally pulling the barbell from a ‘dead stop’. So without flexing your muscle and getting ‘tight’ in the start (prior to lifting), your body is more likely to get out of position once the barbell starts moving.
Barbell Is Not On Your Shins To Begin With
If the barbell travels away from your body, you will feel your body-weight shift forward onto your toes, and to regain stability/balance, your hips rise up in order to activate the low back and hamstrings.
The best practice while deadlifting is to keep the barbell as close to your body as possible at all stages throughout the range of motion.
If you don’t, you’ll feel like you’re falling forward, especially under heavy weight.
As a result, your hips shoot up to prevent you from falling forward when the barbell leaves the body.
5 Tips To Fix Your Hips Shooting Up In The Deadlift
Now that you know why your hips may be shooting up off the floor in the deadlift, we need to discuss the more practical aspects of “what to do” about it.
There are 5 strategies to implement when your hips are shooting up in the deadlift.
You don’t need to implement each one of these into your training as it will depend on the reason why it’s happening in the first place.
So once you’ve identified why you’re weak, you can select the training strategies below that relate to your specific situation.
Here are my 5 tips to stop your hips from shooting up in the deadlift:
1. Build Your Knee Extensor Strength
If your knee extensor strength is lacking, then your hips will shoot up in the deadlift. As such, you need to build stronger quads.
Rather than doing isolation exercises like the leg extension machine, I would opt for more specific exercises related to the deadlift and squat that place a greater loading demand on the quads.
Here are my top three quad-dominant powerlifting variations:
Deficit deadlifts are when you stand on small risers or plates where you are increasing the range of motion off the floor anywhere from 2-4 inches.
If you are increasing the range of motion you need to pull off the floor, your knees will naturally need to bend further to get into that position. As such, your quads will have greater activation.
Pause deadlifts are when you initiate the pull but pause for 1-2 seconds around 1-2 inches off the floor.
The goal of this movement is (1) give your quads greater time under tension through the pause, and (2) to practice keeping your hips in the proper position as you pause the barbell (i.e not rising faster than the barbell).
Front squats place a greater loading demand on the quads compared with the back squat.
The problem with the front squat is that there can be a high technical barrier if you’re a beginner lifter. As such, I wrote another article on the best Front Squat Alternatives.
2. Adjust Your Stance To Increase Quad Activation
In order to activate your quads better in the deadlift, which will help prevent your hips from rising too fast out of the bottom position, you need to be in the proper deadlift stance.
The biggest error you can make is standing with your feet too far apart.
If your feet are outside of shoulder-width in the conventional deadlift, then you’ll start placing more emphasis on your low/mid back and glutes rather than your quads.
This is the opposite effect that you want if your hips are shooting up.
As such, the widest your feet should be apart is shoulder-width. If your feet are wider than this, bring your stance to shoulder-width and see if your hip position looks better.
In fact, some top-level deadlifters like to set up their feet slightly narrower than shoulder-width. So you could also experiment with going narrower if you feel like it’s helping.
3. Understand Your Optimal Hip Position
In order to stop your hips from shooting up too fast in the deadlift, you need to make sure your hip position is in the right spot to begin with.
You want to avoid starting with your hips too low.
Your hips are too low if your thighs are parallel to the floor (or lower) in the start position, and you feel like you’re ‘squatting the weight’ from the bottom.
The optimal hip position is going to vary based on the length of your torso and legs. Overall though, your hips should be in a position that allows your shoulders to be slightly in front of the barbell in the start. This will also help keep the proper deadlift bar path once you begin the movement.
If you set up your shoulders correctly in relation to the barbell, then your hips will naturally be a bit higher and your torso will be somewhere around 45-degrees parallel to the floor (more bent over if you have long legs, less bent over if you have short legs).
Then, when you initiate the pull off the floor, your hips won’t feel like they need to shoot up to get in the proper position. This is because they are already in the right position from the get-go.
If you have long limbs, check out my article on Deadlifting For Tall Guys.
4. Activate Your Legs Prior To Initiating The Pull
To activate your quads off the floor, you need to think about cueing them so they are turned on prior to initiating the lift.
If you simply pull the barbell off the floor without actively engaging your quads, then the chances your hips shoot up out of the bottom is higher.
There are two cues you should use:
First, think about taking the slack out of the barbell (click to read my complete guide).
In short, taking the slack out of the barbell is when you slightly pull up on the barbell to create tension between you and the barbell prior to executing the lift.
Second, think about ‘pushing the floor away’ to start the pull. If you think of the deadlift as a ‘push’ rather than a ‘pull’, you’ll use more quads vs glutes off the floor. This will ensure your torso and hip angle remains unchanged when the barbell is traveling from the floor to the knee.
Check out my full article on Deadlift Cues.
5. Ensure The Barbell Is On Your Shins When You Start
Keeping the barbell on your shins will put you in the best possible position to use your quads off the floor.
If the barbell doesn’t start on your shins, it will be harder to pull the barbell back toward your body once you’ve initiated the pull. So, it’s important that prior to pulling the barbell you push your shins into the barbell (without rolling the barbell forward).
Then, to keep the barbell on your shins as you start the movement, you need to flex your lats and keep them engaged. If the lats are not engaged, it’s easier for the barbell to pull you forward and break contact with the shins.
Sometimes lifters get bothered that the barbell scrapes their shins. If this is you, you’ll want to check out my review of the best shin guards for deadlifting.
If your hips are shooting up in the deadlift the primary reason is that your quads are weak.
A quad weakness could be due to simply having underdeveloped muscles, or because your current deadlift technique prevents you from activating them to the greatest extent.
To solve this problem, implement quad-dominant exercises and then ensure you’re standing in a shoulder-width stance, not having your hips too low, pushing the weight with your legs off the floor, and keeping the barbell on your body the entire time.