Hip Pain After Deadlift: 4 Potential Reasons Explained

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
January 9, 2023

Though the majority of pain experienced from the deadlift is in the shins or hands, certain individuals may experience pain along the front or side of the hip - something that indicates an error in form or some other issue with the lifter’s training techniques.

In order to remedy hip pain after or during a deadlift set, it is best to first cease performing the exercise at full working weight, and to then assess the underlying cause behind the pain in the first place.

For the most part, hip pain after a deadlift repetition is caused by poor posterior chain recruitment, either due to an insufficient warm-up routine or incorrect deadlift form execution.

Why Does Hip Pain After Deadlifting Occur?

Hip pain after the deadlift can occur for quite a number of reasons, but is usually indicative of poor form adherence or insufficient preparatory work.

In certain cases, a more serious condition may be the underlying cause behind the pain, such as a muscular imbalance of the posterior chain or tendinopathy as a result of excessive training volume and weight.

1. Poor Posterior Chain Recruitment

The glutes and hamstrings are two large muscle groups located along the posterior of the legs - both of which are responsible for drawing the hips and femur into a state of extension, such as is the case when pulling the barbell from the floor during a deadlift repetition.

deadlift back view

Poor or underactive glutes and hamstrings can either be a result of the lifter failing to consciously recruit these muscles, or because their performance of the deadlift itself is erroneous enough to shift the recruitment pattern of the exercise to a different group of muscles.

In both cases, the culprit behind the hip pain is directly related to execution of the deadlift itself, and as such will be quite easy to remedy once the issue in form or muscular activation has been found.

2. Misaligned Legs to Hips

During execution of the deadlift and similar compound exercises, the shins should be properly aligned beneath the knees in a manner that angles the femurs outwards. 

Failing to adhere to this particular form cue is known as knee valgus or knee “caving”, which can easily result in hip pain as the hip flexor muscles are stretched into a disadvantageous position while under load.

This particular cause of hip pain after deadlifting can be remedied through conscious form correction during the exercise, as well as performing preparatory work so as to better widen the stable range of motion of the hip flexors themselves.

3. Insufficient Warm-Up or Mobility Work

Poor mobility or conscious activation of the posterior chain or hip flexors can result in disadvantageous weight loading, muscles being worked to the point of fatigue or even chronic injury in more severe cases.

This is because the soft tissues of the lower body will not be conditioned to the rigors of heavy lifting, especially for exercises as intense as the deadlift.

Performing hip external and internal rotation movements alongside posterior chain stretches is essential for dealing with hip pain caused by the deadlift, and is advisable even for individuals who do not experience such symptoms from the exercise.

4. Hip “Thrust” at Apex of Deadlift

A common error made in deadlift execution is hyperextension of the pelvis and lower back as the barbell reaches its highest elevation. 

While this is supposedly done to maximize the range of motion of the exercise, there is very little evidence that supports the idea that doing so is beneficial to the lifter’s development. 

Instead, bending in such a manner can directly cause pain and injury of the hips and back, and it is best to entirely avoid this particular deadlift habit - regardless of what sort of benefits it supposedly provides.

How to Fix Hip Pain After Performing a Deadlift

1. Stretch and Warm-Up

The first step to alleviating hip pain after a set of deadlifts is to ensure that you are properly stretched and warmed up prior to even beginning the exercise. This will ensure that the muscles of the posterior chain are recruited appropriately, and that the hip flexors are capable of functioning in a wider range of motion.

Furthermore, some benefit may be seen by performing a release or mobility drill after the workout as well, allowing inflamed or otherwise irritated tissues around the hips to recover more quickly as well as reducing the incidence of your symptoms.

Most importantly, performing movements that utilize the hip rotation, gluteal flexion and hip extension biomechanics are absolutely essential, as it is these movement patterns that are most likely to result in hip pain if limited during the deadlift.

2. Get Checked for Hamstring Tendinopathy

The tendons of the hamstrings muscle group connect directly to the hip joint along the posterior and lateral side, causing pain and stiffness in the general area if they are inflamed or otherwise injured in some way.

Many individuals may mistake this tendinopathy as issues relating to the structures of the hip - a relatively logical conclusion, considering their proximity. 

In truth, it is quite difficult for one to identify whether it is indeed hamstring tendinopathy or some other issue relating to the pelvic structure. As such, consulting a medical professional who may perform a more in-depth test is the ideal solution.

3. Get Checked for Anterior Pelvic Tilt or Lordosis

Several physiological conditions surrounding the pelvic area can result in pain after a bout of intense exercise, especially the deadlift which involves significant force being placed on the hips and lower back.

In particular, conditions such as lordosis or anterior pelvic tilt wherein the hips are rotated or extended in a disadvantageous direction can result in pain and injury when the lifter is performing the deadlift.

anterior pelvic tilt

The methods in which these conditions are remedied will vary depending on their severity and nature, meaning that the intervention of a medical professional is almost always required, as a proper rehabilitation plan must be formed in order to cure these conditions..

4. Deload or Take a Break

Occasionally, overtraining or similar problems in training programming can result in pain along the hips and nearby areas. This is usually a sign that the training program involves excessive volume or resistance targeting said area, and that the tissues therein are inflamed due to chronic overuse.

To combat this, many higher level lifters will take what is known as a “deload” week, where the resistance and volume of their workouts is greatly reduced so as to allow their body to recover despite the fact that they are still performing exercises.

As an alternative, lifters can also choose to simply abstain from resistance training for a short period - a method that will greatly speed up recovery but may interrupt the course of their progression.

Both alternatives will reduce the incidence of pain caused by overtraining, but will otherwise not correct pain caused by poor deadlift execution or physiological conditions relating to the hips.

5. Draw Barbell Closer to the Legs

Hip pain can also be caused by pulling the barbell from the floor at a distance that is too far from the body, causing the hip to be extended further forward and placing excessive strain on the hip flexors.

deadlift barbell too far forward

Correcting this issue in form is quite easy, as it simply involves placing the barbell closer to the shins prior to beginning the repetition, and should otherwise allow for a more advantageous starting position to be achieved.

6. Hinging at the Hip and Avoiding Hyperextension

For individuals with chronic hip pain as a result of poor hip stability or hamstring weakness, making use of the hip hinge mechanic by beginning each repetition with the pelvis slightly higher can aid in developing explosiveness during the initial pull.

PVC hinge example

This should reduce the amount of stress that is placed upon the muscles of the posterior chain and hip flexors, of which should also reduce the risk of pain occurring after the deadlift set.

Furthermore, avoiding hyperextension of the lower back at the apex of the repetition will also reduce the risk of injury to the same areas. This is done by simply pulling the bar until the spine is aligned at a neutral horizontal plane, without the need to bend further back.

7. Reduce Hip Range of Motion

One way of combating hip pain after a deadlift repetition is to reduce the involvement of the hip, usually by shrinking the total range of motion of the exercise. 

sumo deadlift form

This should have the dual-sided benefit of allowing any inflamed or damaged tissues to recover more readily, as well as aid in reinforcing relevant biomechanics like hip flexion and knee extension.

In order to reduce the range of motion of the hips during the deadlift, you may utilize certain deadlift alternatives that actively shrink the initial range of motion, or otherwise begin the exercise at a higher elevation by altering your starting position.

Pick an Alternative Exercise

In certain cases, a history of injury or simple physical incompatibility may mean that a lifter is better off replacing the deadlift with a similar substitute.

While there are few exercises that can compare to the deadlift in terms of intensity and endocrinological benefit, swapping it out with a movement of similar muscular recruitment can help you avoid hip pain while maintaining the flow of your workout.

Deadlift Alternatives for Hip Pain

1. Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a deadlift variation that involves the arms being placed within the space of the lifter’s knees, rather than outside of them

barbell sumo deadlift form

This creates a more advantageous position and allows for a lower initial stance to be achieved, thereby aiding in hip flexor and posterior chain muscular recruitment at the cost of quadriceps activation.

As such, the sumo deadlift is a suitable alternative for individuals who suffer from hip pain as a result of poor muscular activation or because of recurring knee valgus.

2. Trap Bar Deadlift

For lifters who suffer from hip pain after deadlifting because of poor bar positioning or force distribution, the usage of a trap bar rather than a straight barbell can allow for a far more advantageous position to be achieved without any compromise in muscular hypertrophy.

trap bar deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is especially applicable in cases where the hip pain is directly caused by the lifter overextending at the apex of the repetition, as well as for individuals with trouble finding the correct bar distance during the initial pull of the exercise.

3. Rack Pulls

In order to reduce the involvement of the hips entirely, it is possible to substitute the conventional deadlift with the rack pull exercise instead. This will effectively remove much of the involvement of the hips and parts of the legs, transforming the movement significantly.

barbell rack pull

Keep in mind that the rack pull is quite different from the conventional deadlift, and will reduce much of the training stimulus placed on the posterior chain - meaning it will also require additional lower body work be implemented into the workout.

4. Block Deadlifts

Block deadlifts are the ideal alternative to the conventional deadlift if the exerciser requires a reduced range of motion due to hip pain. 

block pull deadlift

Depending on the severity of the pain and the mobility of the lifter’s lower body, the height of the block may be adjusted so as to maximize the range of motion of the deadlift while still reducing the risk of the injury worsening.

Keep in mind that block deadlifts are not effective for hip pain caused by poor execution, as much of the same form requirements still apply regardless of the elevation of the barbell prior to executing the lift.

Otherwise, block deadlifts are an excellent alternative to the conventional deadlift for reduced hip mobility as a result of injury or muscular weakness.

In Conclusion

Still getting hip pain after a set of deadlifts? Make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly, that you aren’t working your body too hard and that you have no current physiological conditions affecting the muscles of your hips.

If you seem to have tried everything and the pain still persists, it might be time to seek out the advice of a medical professional, as pain around the hips is not a normal effect from performing the deadlift and may indicate an injury has been sustained.

References

1. Martín-Fuentes, I., Oliva-Lozano, J. and Muyor, J., 2020. Electromyographic activity in deadlift exercise and its variants. A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 15(2), p.e0229507.

2. Michaud F, Pérez Soto M, Lugrís U, Cuadrado J. Lower Back Injury Prevention and Sensitization of Hip Hinge with Neutral Spine Using Wearable Sensors during Lifting Exercises. Sensors (Basel). 2021 Aug 14;21(16):5487. doi: 10.3390/s21165487. PMID: 34450929; PMCID: PMC8402067.

3. Ji, Young Sung, and Sukhoon Yoon. “The Effect of Hip Flexor Flexibility on Performing the Conventional Deadlift.” Korean Journal of Sport Biomechanics 30, no. 3 (September 30, 2020): 275–83. doi:10.5103/KJSB.2020.30.3.275.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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