3 Ways to Improve Hip Pain with Sumo Deadlifts

Do you get hip pain when performing Sumo Deadlifts? We hear more about low back pain when it comes to deadlifting, but hip pain is another common one.

For the brevity of this post, we won’t delve too deep into why pain occurs, but we will provide options for athletes who are experiencing hip pain when they perform sumo deadlifts.

1. Soft Tissue Quality

One factor that can contribute to hip pain when performing sumo deadlifts is soft tissue quality.  Poor soft tissue quality in the areas of:

Rectus Femoris

Adductors

Hip Internal/External Rotators

can be a contributing factor to with hip pain due to the mobility demands of a sumo deadlift.  When performing a sumo deadlift, hip abduction and external rotation mobility is needed more than a conventional or trap bar deadlift.

Before hammering away on self-myofascial release, check to see if you sufficient mobility before thinking you need more.

A couple of quick tests include:

Thomas Test

Normal:

-Thigh reaches table.

-Knee flexed at 90 Degrees.

-Knee in line with hip.

Not Normal:

-Thigh doesn’t reach table.

-Knee doesn’t comfortably flex to 90 degrees.

-Knee not in line with hip.

Hip External Rotation

Normal:

-Heel to Opposite Mid Shin

Ways to improve soft tissue quality in those areas can include:

Another area that can sometimes go unnoticed is Rectus Femoris aka the Quads.  Now, you may ask why the quads could be a contributing factor to hip pain with sumo deadlifts.  Athletes who present with an anterior pelvic tilt or increased tone/tightness in their quads have a propensity to hang out in that anterior tilted position and in turn potentially decreasing mobility at the hip.

By improving soft tissue tone/quality in the quads, this can help to improve hip mobility and decrease the stress and strain on the hip when getting into the sumo deadlift position.

Also, working on hip mobility drills can help.  Drills such as:

½ Kneeling Hip Flexor and Couch Stretches

Quadruped Adductor Rockback

90/90 Hip ER/IR

2.  Starting Position

How you start is how you can finish.  This may not be true for everything in life or lifting, but the starting position in the sumo deadlift can be a key piece of how the lift is performed.

If you are starting in a position such as this:

big arch sumo DL.jpeg

where the athlete or client has an increased extension or arch of their lower back, this can potentially be a contributor to hip pain with sumo deadlifts.

This starting position can place the athlete or client into an anterior pelvic tilt.

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Photo credit: https://dailyhealthpost.com/anterior-pelvic-tilt/

By starting off in this position of anterior pelvic tilt, this can decrease the amount of space at the hip joint due to the orientation of the pelvis on the femur.

This does not mean that every single person who presents with an anterior pelvic tilt will have hip pain with sumo deadlifts.  But, if you do, try setting up in a more neutral position to maximize the space at your hip joint as shown below.

3.  Finish Position

When an athlete is attempting to finish the lift, often times they will “lean back”.

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This idea of leaning back can be something learned over time, can be due to “tightness” in certain areas, etc.  There are various reasons why an athlete may “lean back”, but by leaning back, this piggy backs on the point from before about an anterior pelvic tilt.  

If you lean back, you are going into lumbar extension/hyperextension and creating that anterior pelvic tilt mentioned previously.  By doing this, it can decrease the amount of space at the hip and in some athletes, be a contributor to pain in the hip, but at the end of the movement.

Instead of thinking of “leaning back”, think “stand tall” when coming to the end of the lift.

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By standing tall, you are using your glutes to extend your hips, not your low back, to finish the lift.  Also, by standing tall, you are maintaining a better position from your spine through your hips and maximizing the space at the hip joint.

If you are dealing with hip pain when you perform sumo deadlifts, make sure to:

-Work on Your Soft Tissue Quality

-Check Your Starting and Finishing Positions.

Andrew Millett