Friday, November 5, 2010

Hips Position in the Deadlift

I mentioned how I was off in my deadlift set-up. I, being ignorant, finally realized what the trouble was.

Between the Romanian deadlifts I had done for an extensive period and the Olympic lifts, my hips were lifting at a high position regularly. This put me at a powerlifting pulling stance. While there isn't anything wrong with it, I'm not a powerlifter.

That wasn't the problem. The problem was I couldn't lower my hips and start in the way I previously was. A cue I tend to give others is to look at the floor in front of you. Funny thing is, I wasn't using it when I was going over my own form.

Let's break down the 3 hip angles. Low height, medium height, and high.

Couldn't find any diagrams decent enough to use, thus Paint to the rescue.
(click to enlarge)

The image above is what I'll be using to describe the different hip positions. It's a crude drawing and not everything is exact/to proportion, but is sufficient to serve the purpose of this post. Torso angle [indicated by the blue line] and line of eyesight [indicated by the dashed red line] are most important to note.
A) Low
This isn't an ideal pulling position. It's akin to trying to "squat" the weight up. Here we can tell the hips are too low due to the angle of the torso being almost completely vertical/perpendicular to the floor.

You can tell your torso is too upright if your eyes are staring directly at the wall in front of you - assuming your neck is in neutral position, meaning you're not craning it upwards but rather it forms a straight line aligned with your spine.

B) Medium
This is where I wanted to get back at. It was extremely helpful to look at the floor a few feet in front of me. My hips naturally fell into the correct position. Previously - coming up in picture C - I felt a tremendous emphasis on my glutes and lower back.

Another way to think of it, I picked up from Bret Contreras, is your body forms a "lightning bolt." If your eyes are looking in the right spot, your neck will be in neutral alignment and you won't be able to look at the wall straight ahead nor the bar under you.

C) High
This resembles a powerlifting deadlift. I simply didn't like my hips being higher up than I was accustomed to. I didn't feel my hamstrings as involved compared to before, and my lower back & glutes were pulling much more.

Here the torso is very close to parallel with the floor and your eyes will be facing the ground directly under you allowing you to see the barbell.
Position A isn't recommended because it's not deadlifting. B & C are fine. However if I'm coaching anyone I recommend B.

Why? Unless they're into powerlifting, I haven't seen a reason to advise it over the other position.

So, how's it feel deadlifting where I was at?

Amazing! I'm comfortably pulling heavy off the floor again with ease and I haven't even become sore yet.

The quest to a 400lb. deadlift begins now.

Have a good weekend everyone.


  1. Position C can be good for those with strong quads, as it is the quads that give the initial pull for most people in that position.

  2. I indeed have mistakenly forgotten that fact. I only recently learned it from Christian Thibaudeau in an article. He went over how his structure was best at pulling in a quad-dominant stance.

    Thanks Peter!


    There's a really swell write up about it there.

  4. Awesome post. It was either him or his brother who did a great instructional series on pistol squats as well.


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