Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Hips Rising Early in the Deadlift

by Mia Inman, PhD, SSC | July 27, 2021

how to fix hips rising to early in the deadlift

At the start of the deadlift the lifter is taught to initiate the pull by extending the knees – “cued” to push the floor away. This elicits a strong contraction of the quadriceps which, assuming efficient force transfer through the kinetic chain, results in the barbell leaving the floor. At the same time, the hamstrings and glutes anchor the pelvis/back angle so that the back angle starts to become more vertical as soon as the bar leaves the floor, shortening the moment arm between the hip and bar, reducing the muscular force required to pull the bar to lockout.

Inefficiencies occur when the hips rise up at the start of the pull, the knees extend too quickly, and the back initially becomes more horizontal, before later becoming vertical. A more horizontal back angle can increase the moment arm on the hip/back (if the hips go up and back) or push the shoulders forward of the mid-foot (if the hips go straight up). In the former case, this multiplies the force of the load and makes the deadlift feel heavier. In the latter case, this will change the angle of the arms and the lats pulling on the humerus, make it difficult to keep the bar on the legs, and may result in a missed lift. In either case, there may be increased difficulty in maintaining the spine in extension.

Your hips may be leading at the start of the pull if they were too low to begin with. If you start with the wrong setup, your body will self-correct to a mechanically efficient position to allow a heavy deadlift to be pulled from the floor. However, let’s assume the correct start position, with the bar over mid-foot, the shins against the bar, the shoulders just ahead of the bar, and the hips at the correct height.

Recently, as one of my lifters was completing one of his warmup sets, his hips rose and knees shot back and he essentially performed a stiff-legged deadlift. I tried some of the more common cues to solve the problem:

“Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes” (to anchor the back angle).

“Keep your chest up” (to promote an increasingly vertical back angle from the start of the rep).

I also cued him to “Squeeze up harder.” If he does not squeeze his chest up hard enough to take the slack out of the bar, his arms, and his torso, the force from his leg drive will not be efficiently transmitted through the kinetic chain, and the bar won’t move from the floor. Something has to give as a result of that leg drive, and that can be the elbows straightening out, the hips prematurely rising up, or the back rounding.

Since none of the above cues worked, I told him:

“Freeze your knees. Push the floor.”

We want the knees to extend at the start of the pull, but just enough to allow the bar to travel up in a straight line. (In that sense, “freezing” the knees is a bit of an overcorrection cue.) Employing this cue, he controlled the gradual extension of this knees as he pushed the floor away, just enough to keep the bar against his legs as the bar traveled up in a straight line, resulting in an efficient deadlift.

“Push the floor” is a critical part of this cue. If the lifter actually freezes his knees in place, then “pulls” the bar from the ground, he will pull the bar around his knees. This introduces an unnecessary moment arm into the equation, and is inefficient.

If you have issues with leading with the hips (assuming you are in the correct starting position), try “Freeze your knees. Push the floor” and see if that helps.

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