Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physical Fitness Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for physical fitness professionals, athletes, trainers, and those providing health-related needs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've started using deadlifts for lower body work a few months ago and, despite having read a lot of descriptions and watched all the videos I can find, I think I am doing something wrong. When I deadlift, I find that the bar keeps kitting my shins and knees, both on the way up and on the way down. This occurs even when I use very light (warm-up) weights. I am trying to keep my spine straight, proper bar position, and pushing through my heels, but this seems to cause the bar to want to go through my shins on the way up, and to "clip" my kneecaps on the way down. (The result is a lot of bruising, and chunks of missing shin skin.) This forces me to lean forward somewhat to allow the bar to clear my knees, which means I end up using my lower back when the bar is quite near the ground, rather than at the top half of the lift. I am hoping that this is a sufficiently common problem that someone might be able to discern what I am doing wrong from this description and point out my error. So my question is this:

What is wrong with my deadlift technique that might be causing me to bruise my shins and knees like this?

share|improve this question
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Bruised shins and knees are probably more of a sign of good technique than bad technique. For most deadlifters, scraping is the big nuissance, and it's when you start altering your form to avoid the scraping that you start getting into problems.

Perfect form could lead to a bit of bruising, but the bruising shouldn't be too severe, because you shouldn't be knocking the bar into your legs, but rather, be sliding the bar against your legs.

This site offers 5 Ways to Eliminate Shin Scraping on Deadlifts:

  1. Check Your Technique.
  2. Wear Long Pants.
  3. Wear Long Socks.
  4. Use Athletic Tape.
  5. Shin Guards.

For a very comprehensive discussion of deadlift technique from a powerlifting perspective, I recommend taking a look at The Deadlift Exercise Form and Technique Guide.

In the videos at the above link, you will see several lifters using the ideal solution to the scraping problem: talcum powder (baby powder).

If you're not looking for it, you might not notice, but you should be able to see that the fronts of their legs are white, covered in talcum powder. Notice, this is not the same lifting powder that is on their hands.

For reducing the scraping on the legs while deadlifting, the name of the game is to "reduce friction." If you can reduce the friction to the point where the bar is sliding against your legs rather than scraping, you won't get nicked up nearly as badly.

Unfortunately, using talcum powder is not a practical solution for most workouts. It makes a big mess, most gyms don't allow it, and you probably need somebody else to apply it on your legs for you. (If you get it on your hands, it will affect your grip on the bar.)

So, the more practical solutions are on the list above, and I'll add one more little tip:

Choose a bar with smooth knurling.

Knurling is the roughed up pattern on the bar that helps you get a better grip. Especially if you're using lifting straps, you can sacrifice knurling to save your shins.

If you work out at a gym that has lots of bars to choose from, invariably some of the bars have smoother grips than others. If you're really lucky, you can find a bar that has knurling that doesn't line up with your legs when deadlifting.

share|improve this answer
    
Nice answer @Derek! –  Ivo Flipse Aug 26 '11 at 9:29
    
Excellent advice/answer! –  Meade Rubenstein Aug 26 '11 at 12:27
1  
I'm already wearing long socks and, in the winter, track pants, but I'll give tape (or, failing that, shin guards) a try. At least until I can get access to a PT. Thanks very much. –  james Aug 29 '11 at 3:00
add comment

Derek's answer sounds spot-on, but I've personally found the following hierarchy in fixing my lifting technique:

  1. Using words to describe the issue
  2. Using video to have people critique my form (see Rippetoe's forum and the CrossFit forums, for two)
  3. Getting an in-person form check from someone who lifts
  4. Getting in-person coaching from a qualified, active coach

Specifically, I've found that the last two are nearly equivalent in helpfulness, whereas the difference between 1 and 2, and again between 2 and 3, is enormous. Getting in-person help is an order of magnitude more relevant than any internet answer, video or not.

share|improve this answer
1  
You're right that it would be best if I could get a professional to check out my technique. Hopefully one day. Thanks very much. –  james Aug 29 '11 at 3:01
add comment

Well it is hard to tell what's wrong without seeing you doing deadlifts, but the first thing that came to my mind (because I've seen it elsewhere), is that you probably straighten your knees too late while lifting and bend them too late while lowering the weights.

Of course it would be best to ask a trainer. If you can't do that you should probably watch one or two of your videos again and focus on when these guys straighten and bend their knees, then really focus on that while you do it.

Hope that helped.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.