Everyone will have a different hip position when it comes to setting up for the deadlift.
At the same time, the principles that govern where your hips should be relative to the rest of your body and barbell are the same.
So what is the best hip position for deadlifts? The best position for your hips in the deadlift will be both “high” and “close” to the barbell. Athletes with longer legs will have a higher hip position compared with those with shorter legs. As well, heavier athletes will have a wider hip position compared with those who are lighter.
In this article, we will go through:
- Factors that influence your hip position for deadlifts
- Rules to follow when finding your hip position for deadlifts
- Top deadlift mistakes and how to avoid them
Why Is Hip Position Important for Deadlifts
Hip positioning is extremely important for anyone who wants to be deadlifting efficiently especially for powerlifters.
Not having the right position can mean putting you at a mechanical disadvantage of being able to lift as much as possible, spend the minimum amount of effort to lift a given weight, or engage all the right muscles in an appropriate manner.
Having the right hip position will put your leg, hip, and back muscles to work together to produce the most amount of force against the bar.
Having the hip position too high or too low may mean some muscle groups are disadvantaged or you end up traveling too much range of motion to execute the lift.
Interested in learning more about the biomechanics of the deadlift? Check out my other article on What Is The Best Back Angle For Deadlifts.
Universal Aspects Of Hip Position For Deadlifts
There are some basic foundations to where a hip needs to be that will apply to everyone.
Fundamentally, the hip needs to be higher than the knees relative to the floor but lower than your shoulder. As a basic principle, the hips need to be as high as possible but as close to the bar as possible.
If you can achieve this position, it will minimise the range of motion that both of your hips and knees have to travel through. If you can reduce the range of motion involved in the deadlift, it means you produce less overall work to complete the movement.
4 Rules To Follow When Picking Your Deadlift Hip Position
There are going to be overarching principles that apply to how you find your ideal hip position. There are rules that govern where the other parts of your body should be relative to the barbell.
The 4 rules to follow are:
- Armpits above the barbell
- Shins must touch the barbell
- The barbell must be over midfoot
- The lower back must be flat
Armpits above the Barbell
The armpit needs to be directly above the barbell if you look at the deadlift from side-on. As such, the front of the shoulder should be slightly in front of the barbell.
If the hips are too high, the barbell will swing away from you and if the hips are too low, the barbell will swing into you and cause friction.
Check out my article that discusses the best bar path for deadlifts, which explains why you need to keep a perfectly straight bar path.
Shins Must Touch the Barbell
You want the barbell to be as close to you as possible, specifically your hips.
The closer the barbell is to the hips, the less demand the weight imposes on your back, glutes, and hamstring muscles. If you move your hips away from the barbell, it increases the demand for those muscle groups.
So in order for the barbell to be as close to your hips as possible, the barbell needs to be right up to the shin.
However, there is a difference between the barbell touching the shins compared to the barbell scraping your shin. Any scraping of the barbell up the shin will cause friction and cause the deadlift to be harder.
The Barbell Must Be over Midfoot
You need to make sure that the combined center of mass is directly on midfoot throughout the whole execution of the lift.
This will mean that the barbell needs to be directly above mid-foot throughout especially if you are deadlift any weight above your own bodyweight where the barbell contributes more to the overall combined weight of you and the loaded barbell.
If the barbell deviates from mid-foot then you may find that you risk losing your balance and dropping the barbell forward, or if you are able to maintain your balance, then it’s more than likely that you will hit your knees when the bar gets to the mid range.
The Lower Back Must Be Flat
One of the most important rules is to make sure that your hip position allows you to keep your lower back flat.
Not being able to keep your back flat can increase your risk of back injuries such as lower back muscle strains. It may be caused by an improper hip position, or it might be caused by something else. Check out my other article that discusses the round back deadlift.
5 Individual Factors That Affect Hip Position For Deadlifts
So what we just discussed are the general principles that everyone should work with when figuring out their hip position for deadlifts.
Below, I’m going to discuss how hip positions change from person to person based on how they’re built, which include:
- Leg length vs Torso length
- Deadlift style (sumo vs conventional)
- Waistline circumference
- Leg size
Leg Length vs Torso Length
How long someone’s leg length is relative to their torso length is one of the main factors that will influence your hip position in the deadlift. This is going to be something that you cannot change.
If you are a youth athlete who is under the age of 20, then there is a change that this may still be changing for you over time until your body stops growing. So you may find that as you ascend during your teenage years, your hip position in deadlifts may actually change.
If your leg length is long relative to your torso, especially if you have long femurs (thigh bone), then that is going to lead you to have a relatively higher hip position. This will end up looking like your back is closer to parallel to the floor.
If your leg length is short relative to your torso, then what you will find is that your hip position will be relatively lower. This will make your torso look more upright compared to someone with long legs or long femurs.
For the average person, your back position will look about 30 to 45 degrees from the floor.
Deadlift Style (Sumo vs Conventional)
Whether you choose to deadlift sumo style or conventional style is up to you and is something that you can change. Depending on whether you choose sumo or conventional, will influence the hip positioning during deadlifts.
For the conventional stance deadlift, your hips are higher and further away from the bar as your legs are closer together. This will also lead to your back angle being closer to horizontal. Subsequently, you will find more demand on your posterior chain muscles such as your hamstrings, glutes, and back.
For the sumo stance deadlift, your hips are more open, lower, and closer towards the bar as your legs are wider. This will lead to your back angle being closer to vertical. You will also find that there is a greater demand on your quads and groin muscle i.e. your hip adductors.
The waistline or waist circumference is going to have an influence on how open your hips are going to be regardless of whether you are pulling sumo or conventional.
Having a larger waistline or even being in a larger weight category, may mean that you need to open your hips up to make room for your abdomen when you hinge to get into the bottom position of the deadlift.
Opening your hips will mean widening your legs and stance. If you do not take this into account, you may find that your hips will tuck underneath meaning your lower back will round.
Having a smaller waistline can mean you can keep your hips more closed, thus meaning you can have a narrower stance.
Height will have a small contributing factor to the general hip position for your deadlift setup.
Being taller may mean that you will have a slightly more open hip position leading to your stance being somewhat wider too.
If you are a shorter athlete, you are going to be able to close your hips a tad bit more leading to a narrower stance as a consequence.
Leg size refers to the general circumference of your thighs. If you have larger legs, then you are likely going to need to open your hips up. This will consequently mean that your hips will be in a slightly lower position and closer to the barbell. Your stance will end up being wider.
If you have smaller legs, then you can have a more closed hip position and thus narrow your stance. This will mean that your hips will be higher and further away from the barbell.
5 Deadlift Hip Position Mistakes
We will now go through common deadlift hip position mistakes, what may happen in these scenarios and how to deal with those issues.
The 5 common deadlift hip position mistakes are:
- Hips Too High
- Hips Too Low
- Inconsistent Hip Position From Rep To Rep
- Hips Rise Before Barbell Leaves The Floor
- Hips Tuck Under Before Barbell Leaves the Floor
Hips Too High
Having your hips too high will increase the distance between your hip extensor muscles such as glutes and hamstrings, and the barbell. This will increase the demand on these muscle groups to execute the deadlift and at the same time take away the demand on the quads.
This will make it less efficient for your hip extensor muscles. Telltale signs that your hips are too high are that you may find that your shoulders are too far in front of the bar, your shins are too vertical or your shins are not close enough to the bar.
To fix this, you want to lower the hips to the point where you can stay close to the barbell, have your armpits above the bar, and back straight.
Hips Too Low
If your hips are too low, you may find yourself “squatting” the barbell up where you put too much effort on both your knee extensor i.e. quads, and hip extensor muscles. If you deadlift with your hips too low, you may find yourself shoving your hips up as you are about to execute.
The reason why this may happen is that your body will move into the optimal position that is most mechanically and energy-efficient for the execution of the deadlift.
Telltale signs that your hips are too low are that your hips are almost at knee level, your shoulders are behind the bar, and that the barbell is kicked forward to being above forefoot.
To fix this, you want to tilt over the barbell more and keep the barbell back a bit so that your hips can rise more.
Inconsistent Hip Position From Rep To Rep
If you have an inconsistent hip position from rep to rep, this may be due to different reasons. It could be that the weight is too heavy, in which case, you need to reduce the weight to a load that you can manage well.
It can be due to not having appropriate footwear because you ideally need to be wearing flat footwear in order to be able to feel your whole foot uniformly planted on the floor. Having running trainers is not appropriate.
Hips Rise Before Barbell Leaves The Floor
There can be different reasons why your hips rise before the barbell leaves the floor.
The first reason may be that you are keeping the pressure too far back onto your heels where the tension moves away from your legs and onto your hips and back.
Another reason may be that your leg muscles, specifically your quads, may be a weakness in the deadlift.
For this reason, you may consider training these muscle groups in your accessories.
Hips Tuck Under Before Barbell Leaves the Floor
If your hips tuck under i.e. go into a posterior pelvis tilt and your lower back will consequently round.
It may be the case that your hip extensors are generally a weakness and are no longer able to work well in that bottom position.
It may also be that you do not know how to brace well during the deadlift and so there is no tightness and rigidity in the core.
Another reason may be that the pressure is too far forward onto your toes, in which case in order to solve this issue is to move the pressure on your foot closer to the back of the heels.
Finding the best hip position for deadlifts for your body shape is something that you need to prioritize very early on as it is important to get your technique right as soon as possible. Training with poor technique is going to reinforce and engrain poor technique, which will take time for the learned movement pattern to be undone. Having poor technique will be inefficient or even increase your risk of injury so its best to make sure you get it as right as possible from the get go.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com