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Foot Position In The Deadlift

by Melanie Pavelich
The foot position in the deadlift is key in order for force to be properly and efficiently used to pick up a heavy weight. We will talk about 2 different directions for setting up your feet: feet relative to the bar, and feet relative to the hips/body.
1. Foot position relative to the bar: When setting up for your deadlift, one of the first things to do is step up to the bar. When you do this, you want your mid-foot to be under the bar. Note, this does not mean mid-instep, which is a common mistake. The bar should sit about 1 inch away from the shin.
This positioning is important in order to keep the bar close to the body. If the athlete sets up too far away from the body, some of the pulling power will be dedicated to pulling the bar into the body, rather than upwards.
If the bar is set too far away, this is what will happen: 

By setting the bar up over the mid-foot, the bar path will be vertical, allowing all force to be directed into a vertical pull:
2. Foot position relative to the body: When figuring out how wide you should place your feet, note where your hips are. More specifically, find your anterior superior iliac spine, aka, the pointy hip bones in the front. Your feet should be positioned directly underneath these points. Making sure that your feet are directly under your hips allows for two things:
1) force can be directed in a more or less vertical fashion, without wasted linear force
With the feet directly under the hips, the force through the hips and legs becomes more or less vertical:
If feet are placed too wide, which is common, the athlete creates a force  (A) that is inefficient and does not contribute to a vertical pull.
In order to maximize our pulling power, deadlifters must minimize the amount of force that is dispersed due to incorrect form. One might say this “linear” force can be stabilizing, but a more efficient stabilizing force can be created using torque.
2) Torque can be created in the hips. Torque is created when knees are pressed outwards, and gluteal muscles are activated. What’s torque? Let’s think back to high school physics. “Torque” is defined as the tendency of a force to produce rotation. For example, when we push or pull the handle of a wrench, it produces torque, and the nut or bolt is loosened or tightened. Our Gluteal muscles “pull” on the femur, which creates a rotational torque in the hips. While it may not look like knees are actually moving outwards when watching a deadlift, the outward force is there, creating stability in the hips with the torque produced a vertical force (like the nut or bolt being tightened) , assisting in the lift.
If feet are set up properly for the deadlift, force will be directed more efficiently, without unnecessary stabilizing forces required.


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