Body Proportion Effect on Deadlift

Have you ever wondered why certain weightlifters appear to thrive in specific exercises while performing averagely in others? The key often lies in their body proportions, significantly influencing their performance. 

Regarding the deadlift, your body’s structure and proportions play a pivotal role in determining your starting point and the distribution of leverage on various joints. In this Muscle and Motion article, we will delve into how your body’s unique structure and proportions can impact your deadlifting technique and help you decide which type of deadlift might be most suitable for you.

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Why is it important?

The barbell deadlift is a popular exercise and one of the three lifts in competitive powerlifting. Given the impact of individual body structure on the initiation of the deadlift, it’s crucial to recognize that there isn’t a universally “correct” way to begin the deadlift. The variation in our body structures leads to differences in how we initiate the deadlift, making it important to understand and accommodate these differences.

Before proceeding to read this article, we strongly recommend that you first read our article on proper deadlift technique. The information provided in that article will provide a valuable foundation for understanding the content presented in this one.


The influence of body anthropometry on deadlift starting position 

When thinking about the starting position for a deadlift, the appearance and execution are significantly shaped by a lifter’s body proportions. Many factors can affect how this initial position appears, including arm length, hip mobility, pelvic structure, etc. In this article, our emphasis will be on two key factors that can influence your deadlift starting position:

  1. Limb length
  2. Torso length

It’s important to note that conventional deadlifts may not always be the best approach to address these factors. What might seem like limited mobility or flexibility could actually be due to your body’s unique anthropometric characteristics, which can restrict your ability to achieve certain positions? Let’s delve into each of these factors and seek potential solutions.


Textbook deadlift torso leg relationship 

Before we begin, it’s important to grasp the textbook starting position for a standard Deadlift. In this scenario, the individual has a balanced proportion between their leg length and torso. The barbell should be positioned at the midpoint of the foot, and the shoulder blades should be aligned directly above the barbell.


In a study conducted by Hales in 2020, researchers examined how the lengths of a person’s torso, legs, and arms relate to their overall height. The study found that if your torso accounts for more than 32% of your total body length or your legs make up more than 49% of your overall body length, it can impact your deadlift technique.

To check the ratio between the torso and the leg, use a measuring tape and measure:

  • Torso length: Start at the hip bone and measure to the top of the head
  • Leg length: Start at the hip bone and measure to the floor.

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Long Legs Or Short Torso 

When an individual has proportionally longer legs compared to their torso, their hips are positioned considerably higher than what is typically seen in the textbook deadlift form.

To align their shoulder blades over the bar and the bar over the center of the foot, such individuals need to maintain a more horizontal torso orientation, and their hip joints will begin in a more flexed position. This body position may make it difficult for an individual with a short hamstring to do the deadlift properly. 


Long Torso Or Short Legs

In contrast to the previous scenario, when an individual has a proportionally longer torso compared to their legs, it leads to their hips being notably lower than what you’d typically observe in the standard deadlift form.  Additionally, their knees will be in a deeper flexed position, requiring them to rely more on leg drive to lift the weight.

Were you aware that a study Published in the J Sports Sci Med. Sep 2019 suggests that individuals with proportionally longer torsos may have an advantage when it comes to achieving higher one-repetition maximum (1RM) results in sumo squats?!

In summary, it’s essential to acknowledge the distinctive anthropometric traits of each individual and adjust your approach accordingly. Instead of adhering strictly to a textbook deadlift starting position, focus on providing safer and more personalized techniques and knowledge to your trainees. Regardless of whether you possess longer legs or a shorter torso, there’s a deadlift variation that’s ideal for you.


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Written by Uriah Turkel, Physical Therapist and Content Creator at Muscle and Motion. Uriah’s areas of expertise are anatomy, kinesiology, sports rehabilitation, gait analysis, rheumatology, and pain neuroscience.

Muscle and Motion
Muscle and Motion
“Muscle and Motion” is one of the most complete resources on muscular and anatomical dynamics in the world. Our staff includes physical therapists, movement experts, fitness trainers, and highly skilled animators. This enables us to provide you with the most advanced and accurate programs in the world of movement anatomy.