Last updated on November 8th, 2022 at 04:38 pm
Who else wants to know, “How Do I Stop My Shins From Bleeding When I Deadlift?”
I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there.
It’s deadlift day, you’re pumped and ready to go.
You are solely concentrated on lifting as heavy as possible and hitting a new PB.
However, half-way through your first working set you notice the bar scraping against your shins and the sight of blood.
Not something that you want to see.
So, allow me to explain what’s going on here and how to stop your shins from bleeding when you deadlift.
How Do I Stop My Shins From Bleeding When I Deadlift?
Fix the following technique issues to stop your shins from bleeding when you deadlift. Firstly, don’t have your hips too low at the beginning of the movement, i.e. a squat stance as opposed to a deadlift stance, otherwise the bar will automatically scrape against your shins. You should also ensure that you pull the barbell up in a straight line rather than back towards you. Plus, you shouldn’t try to get your torso vertical too early when you deadlift.
1. Are Your Hips Too Low?
Now I know many people wear bleeding shins in the gym like a medal of honour.
But trust me, it doesn’t make you more alpha or stronger than anyone else.
Basically, bleeding shins from deadlifts is not a good look, and furthermore it shouldn’t be happening.
I know there are certain YouTubers and “Fitness Influencers” who advocate scraping shin deadlifts, but personally I’m not a fan.
Okay, you may scrape your shins once in a while when you deadlift, although this is typically a sign that you need to fix your form.
It’s a Deadlift Not a Squat
The form issue that most commonly causes this to happen is having your hips too low at the start of the movement.
In effect, you are starting the deadlift in a squat position.
This does actually make me laugh a little whenever I see it (sorry).
Typically, I’ll see people in the gym drop into a perfect squat in order to deadlift, but when it comes to actually squatting with a bar on their back they never sink that low.
The deadlift is a hip-hinge movement, so your hips will need to be higher at the beginning of the movement.
You can always tell if you’ve sunk your hips too low with the deadlift.
Your shins will usually be at more of a forward angle than they should be and your knees will be excessively bent so that they are ahead of the bar.
So, when it comes to pulling the bar from the floor you’re automatically going to scrape the shins and then you’ll have to go around the knees with the bar.
Talking of knees, and somewhat related, I’ve also written about why you often feel deadlifts in your knees (and NO, I don’t mean from banging the bar into them).
Basically, as you address the bar push your butt back, which in turn will automatically bring the knees back.
You should never at any stage be in the bottom squat position when you deadlift.
2. Are You Pulling the Bar Back?
Another extremely common form error with deadlifts is pulling the bar back rather than straight up.
In fact, you’ll often see someone literally fall or rock back as they begin the movement.
It’s almost as though if the bar wasn’t there to counteract their weight they’d fall straight back onto their butt on the floor.
Basically, as soon as you pull the bar back towards you the shins come far more into play during the movement.
There are a few reasons why you may be tempted to pull the bar back.
Firstly, you’re trying to build momentum, and you’re potentially pulling more with the upper body and arms, as opposed to using your glutes and hams to lift the bar.
Secondly, when you set yourself to deadlift, the starting position of your head and body is way over and ahead of the barbell.
So, this will require you to rock back slightly as you begin the lift.
This is actually okay, as long as you lift the bar up in a straight line, but more often than not you’ll end up pulling the bar back towards you.
And this of course will see the bar scrape against your shins.
Finally, and probably most frequently, you’re not aligning the bar with your mid-foot.
Basically, whenever you deadlift, you should place your feet on the floor so that the bar is in line with the middle of your foot.
And then throughout the entire movement the bar should remain in line with your mid-foot.
So, in effect you are pulling the bar up in a perfect straight line.
If you start with the bar in line with your toes, or even further forward, you’ll need to pull the bar back and up in order to protect your lower back.
And this of course will typically see the bar scrape against the shins.
If you start with the bar any closer than mid-foot then you’re quite clearly going to scrape the shins again, and will probably draw blood too.
So remember, the bar should start at mid-foot level and it always goes up and down in a perfect straight line (or as near as possible).
3. Are You Trying to Get Your Torso Vertical Too Soon?
Because you are mainly using the glutes and hamstrings, plus the hip hinge movement, to get the bar up your torso should remain at the starting angle until at least the bar is around knee-level.
Obviously, your height, limb length, etc. can play a part in the angle of your torso when you deadlift.
However, there is a tendency to try to get the torso into a more upright position far too quickly.
In fact, I’ve often seen people have the bar literally an inch off the floor and then suddenly their torso straightens into a more vertical position.
By doing this your stance has potentially turned into more of a squat position, so you now know there’s more likelihood of hitting your shins and drawing blood.
Plus, this also tells me that yet again the upper body and arms are being used more to lift the weight.
Your torso should become vertical and upright in a more natural manner.
The way I like to visualise the deadlift (and perform it) is that my hands are simply hooks and nothing more.
All the force to lift the bar is coming from my lower body.
I am not pulling with my arms or using my lats.
My glutes and hamstrings are working in unison with my hips to get the bar up.
Plus, my feet are literally leg pressing through the floor.
By following this method my torso will become vertical far more naturally as the bar comes up.
By trying to force your torso into an upright position too early you’ll end up in a squat-type stance, as well as pulling the bar back towards you.
Another way to look at it is that you want your shoulders to remain over the bar for as long as possible.
You can check out Alan Thrall’s fantastic video, which covers this and the other points I’ve mentioned.
Plus, some further tips on how to deadlift correctly so you don’t end up with bloody shins, or worse, an injury.
4. Do You Really Need “Protection”?
I just wanted to add a really quick note about “protection”.
I had a quick trawl through various online forums to see what others were saying about bleeding shins from deadlifts.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much focus on proper form, but rather about protecting yourself while you deadlift.
The advice ranged from wearing pants or tights.
It went on to mention wearing shin guards, or even creating your own shin guards from cut up plastic bottles.
And then we had the mention of tall socks, stockings, etc.
Look, how you dress in the gym is down to you, and has nothing to do with me.
However, if you require some form of “protection” to perform a bog-standard gym exercise, surely you must realise that you’re doing something wrong.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon to scrape your shins when you deadlift.
However, a few quick fixes to your technique will soon stop this from happening.
So, rather than turning up at the gym looking like an ice hockey player perhaps check your deadlift form first.
The reason your shins are bleeding from deadlifts is down to a number of form errors. In order to stop this you should ensure that you don’t start the movement with your hips too low. Plus, make sure that you pull the bar up in a straight line and not towards you. Finally, you shouldn’t be allowing your torso to become vertical too early during the movement.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.