How do you protect your shins when deadlifting?
Some say that shin scrapes are an expected consequence of deadlifting. But the truth is that hurting your shins is a sign that you need to improve your deadlift form. Deadlifts are a fantastic way to transform your physique or become a better athlete.
But, because the deadlift is so powerful, there is more risk deadlifting than taking a stroll in the park. Improving your deadlift form is hard work, but the results are worth it.
Here are 15 actionable tips to help you perfect your conventional deadlift form:
How to Protect Your Shins During the Deadlift
This post intends to answer this vital question for all who deadlift and want to protect their legs.
#1. Take a jump stance
How would you stand if you were going to jump up as high as possible? You would not take a very narrow stance with your feet close together. And you would not use a wide stance with your feet spread far apart. Your best position to jump as high as possible is with your feet hip-width apart. Try it out. Notice how far apart your feet are when you get ready to jump as high as you can.
That is your best stance for the deadlift.
This position will give you the most significant amount of power to push the floor when you begin your deadlift motion.
#2. Use deadlift shoes
Do not wear running shoes for deadlifting. You want flat footwear with hard soles to deadlift because:
- Deadlift shoes distribute the weight throughout your foot.
- Flat soles reduce the height between your feet and the floor, reducing the distance of your deadlift.
- Every millimeter reduction in how far you must deadlift the bar counts.
- Hard soles give you better stability, which results in better barbell control, and deadlift form.
Running shoes, on the other hand, have compressible soles that do not provide sufficient stability for deadlifting. Running shoes are for running, not deadlifting. Either get the right footgear or deadlift in socks.
Also, if you have any knee issues such as a torn or missing meniscus, (as I do), you must have the most stable shoes possible as soon as you start lifting weights, especially for squats and deadlifts.
Not running shoes
So, get out of those running shoes and into the best deadlift shoes that you can afford. Ruining your knees is not the goal of deadlifting.
Invest in a good pair of deadlift shoes, whether Chuck Taylor All-Stars or the Nike Metcon 4. Do not risk injury.
The 2013 USAPL NJ state powerlifting Champion and the NPC Tri-State Bodybuilding Champion, Ray Padilla, does not have a meniscus in one of his knees.
Ray highly recommends and swears by the Nike Metcon 4. His motto is “No Meniscus, No Problem!”
Ray Padilla's advice -- How to avoid the scraping shins deadlift and other injuries? Get the Right Shoes! Follow Ray on Instagram @eps_training.
Some of the best deadlift shoe options in 2020 are:
- Nike Metcon 4 Cross-Trainer Shoe -- Nike Metcon 4 are the shoes I use for squats and deadlifts. The Nike Metcon 4 is popular with strength and CrossFit training athletes.
- Chuck Taylor All-Stars -- an affordable alternative to replacing your running shoes for deadlifts. Of course, you can wear Chuck Taylors casually, for basketball or squats and deadlifts as powerlifters discovered years ago.
#3. Deadlift pants
Deadlift pants are not the best solution to prevent scraping your shins deadlifting. Fine-tuning your deadlift form is.
There are a few problems with relying on deadlift pants:
- You cannot easily see that the barbell is over the middle of your foot for the deadlift, which is critical to getting the maximum push off the floor.
- If you decide to compete in powerlifting, deadlift pants are not allowed in competition.
- Relying on deadlift pants to protect your shins will not help you better your deadlift form.
However, deadlift pants are an excellent option to protect your shins as you learn how to deadlift.
#4. Deadlift socks are a better investment
On the other hand, deadlift socks are an excellent investment. In contrast to deadlift pants, these are the benefits of deadlift socks:
- You can easily see the middle of your foot for the deadlift setup. A useful cue to judge mid-foot is to set the bar directly over where you tie your shoelaces.
- If you decide to compete in powerlifting, deadlift socks are allowed.
- Deadlift socks do protect your shins and help you focus on improving your deadlift form.
I like and use MOXY deadlift socks. They last long, are comfortable and go over the knee. You can also use soccer socks for shin protection, but the advantage of MOXY socks is that they have additional padding in for better shin protection.
- Ventilator Mesh Top
- Reciprocated Heel and Toe
- MOXY Performance Foot
- Premium Deadlift Protection with extra padding
- 3 Great Styles in one Package
#5. Deadlift shin guards
Another option to protect your shins when deadlifting is to get weightlifting shin guards.
Be aware that you cannot wear deadlift shin guards in powerlifting competitions. But, shin guards are a valuable tool as you master the deadlift.
- ULTIMATE SHIN PROTECTION: Built of strong durable 5mm Neoprene material, providing protection for deadlifts, rope climbs,...
- SAVE TIME - QUICK WEAR AND REMOVE: Takes only a few seconds to wear and remove. No need to take off your shoes
- USE ONLY WHEN NEEDED - DURING WORKOUT: Optimize your workout by quickly wearing our shin guards only for specific exercises...
- VERSATILE AND STYLISH DESIGN: Can be worn all year round, directly on skin or on top of socks, training pants and tights
- ONE SIZE FITS MOST: The shin guards are 11.8 inches (30cm) long from top to bottom with adjustable straps fit 13-19 inches...
#6. Do not squat down to the bar
The deadlift is not a squat. In the squat, your hips go below parallel to your knees at the bottom of the squat. In the deadlift, you keep your hips higher, above your knees. If you attempt to deadlift out of a squat, your shins will be leaning forward past the bar.
That is a great way to scrape your shins. You need to keep your legs out of the path of the bar.
Ideally, your shins will be almost perpendicular to the bar. When you deadlift, the bar will maintain contact with and glide over your legs. Not dig in and gouge your shins. But how do you get down to the bar? The answer is to hip hinge, which means to move your hips back as far as you can, which will cause your hands to drop down to your knees.
Imagine it and try it. When your hands are at your knees, now lower yourself to the bar. Your hips will still be above your knees, as if in a half squat.
#7. Think of your arms as hooks
Grip the bar with your arms just outside of your legs. Remember to keep your arms straight with no bend in the elbow. Never try to deadlift with your arms.
Think as if you are carrying two suitcases at your side.
You will carry them, with straight arms, using the strength of your lats and back.
You stabilize the deadlift weight with your arms.
Do not lift the weight with your arms, rather deadlift using your entire body. You are going to lift by first pushing the floor with your feet and then driving your hips forward.
Ben Pollack explains proper deadlift setup and engaging your lats
#8. Lift your chest and engage your lats
At this point, your position is:
- in front of the bar,
- in a jump stance,
- bar over the middle of your foot,
- hands just outside your legs
- Line up the barbell over where you tie your shoelaces as a cue that you are mid-foot.
- Hips higher than your knees as if in a half squat.
- And your elbows are locked to ensure your arms are straight.
Now lift your chest.
Lifting your chest will automatically straighten your back.
You must never deadlift with a round back. Only deadlift when your back is flat.
Engage your lats by thinking you are bending the barbell around your body.
#9. Think vertical leg press
At this point, you are ready to deadlift. Your shoulder blades are straight over the bar. You are sitting back a bit, as you will see in the video below. Your weight is evenly distributed on your feet, not on your toes.
The following is one of the best tips I ever read about the deadlift. And I first heard it from Jeff Cavaliere.
Start your deadlift motion by pushing against the floor from the middle of your feet just as you push on the leg press machine. Push the ground with your feet. Think of pushing against the floor.
As the barbell rises, you keep in contact with your shins. The next best tip is to keep your lats engaged by imagining you are bending the barbell across your body.
You will feel the barbell gliding over your shins.
You are not banging against your shins. Your shins act as a guide, a track for the barbell to ascend.
Watch Jeff illustrate this concept of the deadlift as a leg press in his deadlift setup video.
#10. Push with your legs, do not pull with your arms
Another way of saying the same thing, but that might resonate with you. Think knee extension and not a hip extension. If you initiate the deadlift with hip extension, you will try to pull the bar off the floor. You will use your arms and back and try to pull the weight up, which is dangerous for your biceps and lower back.
The solution is to think of knee extension.
Knee extension is the leg press, as described above. Instead of starting the deadlift with your hips, you start with your knees. Pushing the floor from the middle of your foot will make it easier for you to deadlift.
Think of how hard you push the floor to do pushups.
You need to push the floor likewise to start your deadlift. Stop trying to lift the weight without pushing against the ground first.
Powerlifter Alan Thrall Explains How to Prevent Bloody Shins when Deadlifting
#11. Deadlift straight up -- not back
As the barbell rises, think that you are deadlifting in a vertical line off the floor. You are not dragging the bar into your shins and pulling the bar back. You are lifting, deadlifting the weight in a vertical line. The vertical line is the shortest distance from your deadlift set up to standing upright with the weight.
#12. Drive your hips when the barbell reaches your knees
The next phase of the deadlift is to drive your hips. When the barbell reaches your knees, drive your hips forward. This way, you will be using the power of your hips, back and lats to straighten up while holding the weight. Do not arch your back at the top of the deadlift. Stand straight for a moment and then lower the bar.
#13. Lower the barbell in the same way
Hip hinge and move your hips back till the barbell reaches your knees. And then lower the barbell to the floor.
#14. Stop bouncing
Stop bouncing the barbell off the floor to use that momentum to get more reps. The deadlift is a lift of dead weight off of the floor. Not bouncing the barbell off the floor.
When the weight gets heavy, bouncing the barbell can lead to injury, such as tennis elbow. I know now because I did it, so you don't have to.
Instead, lower the barbell, reset, and deadlift, as explained above.
#15. Practice Makes Perfect
In your next deadlift workout, use light bumper plates to practice perfect deadlift form. Bumper plates are the same size as standard 45-pound iron plates but are available in weights as light as 10 pounds. As a result, bumper plates are an excellent tool to improve your deadlift form and prevent unnecessary injuries. Great deadlift form is how you avoid bruising your shins while deadlifting.
Deadlifting every day you workout will help you work on your form. You can deadlift every day you train, but you cannot go heavy every day. Daily heavy deadlifts will be too much for your central nervous system to handle.
How to Protect Your Shins When Deadlifting -- Final Thoughts
Scraping your shins on the deadlift is painful and can result in bloody limbs. Learning how to deadlift with great form is the best protection for your legs. As well as avoiding the risk of other injuries when deadlifting.
Perfecting your deadlift form should be your goal, not how much weight you can deadlift.
Even if you do not deadlift heavy, you still gain many health and fitness benefits from deadlifts. I lost 75 pounds in 6 months just from real food, squats, deadlifts, and pushups. And believe me, at 63 years of age with a torn meniscus, I do not deadlift heavy.
This post gives you 15 actionable tips to protect your shins when deadlifting.
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