How to Modify the Sumo Deadlift With Hip Pain

By djpope

July 17, 2019

deadlift, FAI, femoral acetabular impingement, hip, hip pain, modification, pain front of hip, pain in the bottom of a squat, scale, scaling, sumo, sumo deadlift

As discussed in the previous article, when you’ve got some hip pain, the squat can be the most painful movement in the gym. However, the sumo deadlift is often times the contender for second most aggravating movement.

In the sumo deadlift this pain is also felt right in the front of the hip and can be felt either at the set-up or lock-out of the deadlift

A huge part of getting out of hip pain is unloading the painful injured area to allow it to calm down and heal. If you keep deadlifting through a painful pinch in the front of the hip you risk making it worse over the course of time.

My boss and mentor Mike Reinold has a saying, “addition by subtraction”. Basically if you subtract the movements that are creating pain we end up making progress (addition) where we weren’t before.

That doesn’t mean we have to stop deadlifting when the hip hurts. Quite the contrary, continuing to deadlift in a modified fashion can actually help the hip to heal (and continue promoting those deadlift gainz we want). The magic is in finding the right modification to use to accomplish this.

To help you navigate through the modification process I’ve created principles for the deadlift to help you find the right modification for you when the hip hurts. I’ve also created handy dandy modification infographics to help you navigate the modification waters as well. Before we check that out, here are some basic principles to understand that effect stress in the hip during the sumo deadlift.

Sumo Deadlifting and Hip Pain Principles

Here are 5 principles that increase stress in the hip during the squat:

  1. A Wider Squat Stance and More Toe Out – A wide stance with a lot of toe out reduces the distance the bar has to travel and increases the use of the legs to drive the bar up, but also exposes the hip joint to a more challenging range of motion.
  2. Increased Depth of Deadlift – Most deadlifts are generally pulled from the floor but keep in mind that deficit deadlifts will expose the hip to an even great range of motion thereby increasing stress while partial ranges do the opposite.
  3. Getting Closer to the Bar During the Set-up – Getting closer to the bar at the set-up by driving the knees out wide will place the hip into more abduction and external rotation.  This can be irritating to painful hips
  4. Anterior Pelvic Tilt –  Increasing anterior pelvic tilt will increase compression at the front of the hip during the set-up of sumo deadlifts.  Anterior pelvic tilt is combined with lumbar extension (arching) and can be detected by looking for excessive lower back arching in the set-up of the deadlift.
  5. Aggressive Lockout – Locking out a deadlift by aggressively flexing the glutes and forcing the hips forward places the hip into end range extension combined with external rotation and abduction.  This can be irritating for painful hips.

I also filmed a great tutorial video with my main man Kiefer Lammi to help you understand these principles better:

5 Pro Tips For Reducing Pinching Hip Pain in the Bottom of the Squat

  1. Attempt to modify sumo stance to eliminate symptoms 
    • Decrease amount of toe out
    • Decrease stance width
  2. Limit depth of deadlift
    • Pull your deadlifts from an elevated surface to decrease stress on the hip
  3. Move the hips back from the bar at set-up – Pushing the hips back slightly from the bar at set-up will reduce the amount of abduction and external rotation at the hip and can reduce pain
  4. Reduce anterior pelvic tilt – Ensure your lower back is in a neutral position at the set-up of the deadlift
  5. Don’t lock out aggressively – Make sure you finish each rep with full hip extension but don’t aggressively slam into extension with every rep.

Sumo Deadlift Modification Ladder for Hip Pain – When you are unable to eliminate pain by modifying technique, use the ladder below to find a pain free deadlift variation.

So now you have a plan for your painful hip when deadlifts pop up in your training program. As your pain slowly improves over the next several weeks and months you can also work your way back up this deadlift modification ladder to get back to your previous training routine.

Deadlifts for the masses,