Training

What You Need To Look At If Your Hips Shoot Up From Deadlifting

Updated February 27th 2020; July 16th 2019

Ah, the classic deadlift.

To some people, it may be one of the most intimidating exercises in the gym.

For others, they may view the deadlift as their bread and butter to start their day.

Deadlifting has created a strong community of weightlifters that attracts anyone from sports enthusiasts to those just beginning to dip their feet in the lifting community.

Many of the people in this community are looking to increase muscle size and strength gains;

However, some people may neglect the importance of form and technique when it comes to deadlifting.

For instance, it is often found that a lifter’s hips rise or shoot up when deadlifting.

Depending on your body type and stance, this could be a natural occurrence that does not bring up any concern, or the act of the hips rising rapidly during the deadlift could cause some concern.

Let’s find out why this occurs and how to fix it.

What Is a Deadlift and How to Perform One Correctly (Skip this section if you are already familiar with the deadlift)

The barbell deadlift is a favored, compound exercise that utilizes a pulling force.

It works multiple muscle groups such as the gluteus, legs, and back.

Proper form for the deadlift emphasizes maintaining a neutral lumbar spine, keeping the arms fully extended when at the top of the exercise, and to avoid looking down while performing the movement. 

While the deadlift looks like a simple and basic movement, it can be difficult to keep the body stabilized during the exercise.

To perfect the barbell deadlift it is essential to practice using no additional weight, even if you are not a beginner to establish and make adjustments easier.

Start by standing in front of the grounded barbell, shoulder-width apart.

Next, bend at the knees until you are able to grasp the barbell with your hands slightly outside the range of your knees.

Face forward and brace the abdomen and thoracic spine until the hips and knees are fully extended so that your hips are hinged forward.

Finally, lower the shoulders, bend the knees, and slowly decline until the barbell has reached the floor, then repeat.

Why Do My Hips Shoot Up From Deadlifting

  • From deadlifting too heavy
  • Mental cues are not right
  • Your form and/or setup is not great

One of the main concerns of lifters is the issue of one’s hips shooting or rising up too fast during the barbell deadlift.

As stated by physical therapist Zach Long, this problem is commonly found to be caused by an increase in resistance on the lower back, lumbar spine, and soft tissues involved.

If you have never deadlifted heavy before, your body’s natural inclination would be to round your back so that you can hitch the weight.

If you have been lifting weights for as little as a few weeks, you will clearly know that deadlifting with a rounded back is a recipe for disaster.

With all of this stress on the lower back, it is important to make sure the muscular endurance is supported by other exercises. 

But what if you are still having your hips shoot up even if you are using submaximal weight?

I would suggest you review this video for a quick recap on what a proper deadlift should be.

If you find that that video is difficult to follow, you may want to deconstruct your deadlift and strictly analyze your deadlift.

Essentially, you want to make sure you are deadlifting normally and not using any abnormal cues that will put you in a weak position.

Whether you think a deadlift is a pull, push or a push/pull, it really does not matter (black and white argument here but not important right now).

What is more significant is that you are deadlifting with good form and that it shows in the video.

You can say a deadlift feels good but if the video shows you deadlifting with a rounded back, you are not doing your deadlifts correctly.

The third reason why your hips are shooting up from doing deadlifts is that your setup is not great.

If you dissect your video, you may notice that your hips will rise maybe an inch or two before you start deadlifting.

For those specific lifters, it may be better that you start your hips higher so that you can be more efficient at this lift.

For other lifters, your body position with respect to the bar may need to change.

Some people can get away with standing with the barbell over their mid-foot.

For a lot of beginners, they are instructed to stand so that the barbell is literally against their shins.

As a lifter, you need to figure out what works. And the whole point of having the barbell close to your shin is to have a straight bar path so that you do less work.

You are just standing up with the barbell in your hands.

How To Fix My Hips From Shooting Up Too Fast

The primary solution to fix this is to simply fix your form. Work on starting the hips at a higher point so that the hips shoot up straight away with the chest, together with a neutral spine.

If necessary, try practicing the hip hinge technique (more on this later) with the dowel stick in order to get the movement solid. 

The chest and hips move as one, so if you lead with your chest and keep your hips underneath the bar, it will mentally guide you into the right movement pattern.

In a 2017 research study that compared explosive deadlift to kettlebell training to observe the effect on muscular strength, it was discovered that kettlebell swings and explosive deadlifts had an overall increase in deadlift strength (Maulit 2017).

The Hip Hinge 

The “Hip Hinge” as many weightlifters and Olympic powerlifters like to say is a necessary technique used in deadlifting. 

The hip hinge is the movement during a deadlift when the hips are greatly flexed, and the knees are slightly flexed.

The hips experience a strong bend or “hinge” forward such as rising out of a chair.

It should be a simultaneously connected movement between the hip and knee joints.

The torque forces are stronger in the hip extensors due to their long-distance between the arms and hips.

In the knee extensors, the torque forces are weaker due to their short distance between the elbows and the shins. 

One way to practice the hip hinge is to use a dowel which is a long stick placed from the sacrum to the back of the head, to find the most optimal amount of lumbar flexion and to establish a neutral spine.

Some issues that are common include hyperextending or excessive arching of the spine, or not keeping the dowel in contact with the back.

The latter demonstrates that the athlete is instead flexing from the waist, and not from the hip flexors.

Alan Tyson, a physical therapist had stated in his article “‘Hip Hinge’ to a Healthy Back” stated for athletes, the hip hinge if executed correctly, allows the spine to be more comfortable in a neutral position because the transverse abdominus muscle aids in the stabilization of the thoracic spine (Tyson 2001).

The main muscle groups being targeted in the deadlift are the legs, buttocks, and back muscles.

The specific muscles that are being activated are the erector spinae which includes the iliocostalis, spinalis, and longissimus.

Other muscles that act as synergists which assist in the hip hinge movement include the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, quadriceps, hamstrings, and soleus.

The dynamic stabilizer muscle's keep the body steady and help withstand resistance.

For instance, the hamstrings, gastrocnemius, superior and medial fibers of the trapezius, levator scapulae, and rhomboids all contribute to stabilizing the body during the barbell deadlift. 

Lastly, there are the antagonist stabilizers like the rectus abdominis, and obliques that also stabilizes the body by countering the rotator force of the dynamic stabilizer muscles.

The latissimus dorsi acts as the primary muscle that grips the bar closer to the body to decrease the moment arm. 

Solution 1 - Practice with submaximal weight

You can fix your form by working on submaximal weight for multiple sets each workout.

This usually ranges from 1-5 reps for most general strength programs.

Occasionally, some bold lifters may lift in the 7-10 set range, but that is a different story.

Practicing your form with lighter weights ensures that you ingrain muscle and technique memory

You will become more efficient in performing the deadlift.

You will need less time to warm up and your nervous system can fire more efficiently.

This is one reason why elite lifters and world record holders do not misgroove their deadlifts often, if ever.

They have their form down precisely and you need this trained eye in order to fix this hip rising issue.

Solution 2 - Push down with your feet

Imagine anchoring your feet into the ground while you push the Earth away to stand up.

By using this cue, you are not thinking about pulling the bar and lifting up your hips.

Instead, you are leveraging your hips and performing an efficient hip hinge.

How to keep your hips down during a deadlift

Instead of trying to work on keeping your hips down, it is more effective and efficient for you to start with your hips higher. This way, you are not squatting the weight up and you are actually doing a more efficient deadlift.

In this video, it does a great job of simplifying the entire argument of whether or not you should try to keep your hips downs during a deadlift.

Variations of the Barbell Deadlift

For many lifters and Olympic powerlifters, it can get pretty tedious to perform the same, boring conventional deadlift every day.

Variations allow for a change in difficulty, change in grip, and change in target muscle involvement.

Some popular variations are straight-leg deadlifts, stiff-leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and sumo deadlifts to name a few.

The straight-leg deadlift is a hamstring isolation exercise that is recognizable by keeping the knees and spine completely straight while the bar is lowered until hamstring tightness is achieved.

The stiff-leg deadlift is another isolated exercise that is the same process as the straight-leg deadlift, but instead the knees are bent slightly throughout the entire movement.

The Romanian deadlift utilizes a wider grip that allows for a fuller range of motion during the descent.

One study conducted in 2010 had found that the Romanian deadlift is an exceptional teaching resource for beginning athletes and lifters that allows them to establish and develop correct technique and form (Bird 2010).

Lastly, the sumo deadlift integrates a much wider stance and narrower grip.

The wider stance places the body lower to the floor which reduces the distance the bar needs to be lifted.

Specifically, the sumo deadlift empowers the gluteus maximus and adductor magnus due to the wider stance and deep, hip hinge position. 

Other variations that can make the exercise more comfortable or more difficult include a change in grip.

A mixed grip or alternating grip is used by holding one hand with an overhand grip and the other hand with an underhand grip to increase comfortability and grip strength. 

The Takeaways

There are multiple deadlift variations along with probably hundreds of cues.

What is important to learn is that you need to figure out how to make your deadlift one smooth motion.

It should be just you picking up the weight and lowering it back down.

Your back should be in a neutral position.

Your hips should not be moving.

Instead, lifters should be using the hip hinge to truly optimize their deadlifts.

References

“Biggest Deadlift Technique Mistakes.” The Barbell Physio (blog), October 8, 2018. https://thebarbellphysio.com/top-five-deadlift-mistakes/.

Bird, Stephen, and Benjamin Barrington-Higgs. (2010). Exploring the Deadlift. Strength & Conditioning Journal 2(32), 46. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181d59582.

“ExRx.Net : Barbell Deadlift.” Accessed July 9, 2019. https://exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BBDeadlift.

Liebenson, Craig. (2003). Activity Modification Advice: Part 1—The Hip Hinge.  Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 7(3), 148–50. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1360-8592(03)00039-1.

 “Romanian Deadlift Exercise Instructions and Video.” Weight Training Guide (blog), October 10, 2016. https://weighttraining.guide/exercises/romanian-deadlift/.

Tyson, Alan. (2001). ‘Hip-Hinge’ to a Healthy Back. Strength & Conditioning Journal 2(23), 74. https://resolver-ebscohost-com.ezproxymcp.flo.org/openurl?sid=EBSCO%3aedb&genre=article&issn=15241602&ISBN=&volume=23&issue=2&date=20010401&spage=74&pages=74-74&title=Strength+&atitle=“Hip-Hinge”+to+a+Healthy+Back.&aulast=Tyson%2c+Alan&id=DOI%3a&site=ftf-live

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