Your deadlift form could be immaculate.
The bar is nice and close to your shins.
This gives a near-perfect center of gravity and an effective lift. But, then you experience the dreaded deadlift shin scrape!
OUCH! BLOODY AND BRUISED SHINS!
Yup, bar to shin scrapes are normal even among the best deadlifters.
Like myself, a lot of lifters hate them. So we’ve done some extensive research to figure out the best 10 ways to prevent shin scraping while deadlifting.
Some of which have been tried and tested by us, and others have been observed. But first, we discuss if it is possible to avoid shin contact during the deadlift.
What Exactly Causes Deadlift Shin Bruises
Firstly, to perform a proper deadlift, you have to keep the bar close to the shins.
So, when the bar slides up the shin, it causes a lot of friction. Remember that the bar is made of iron and usually has a rough surface for gripping.
With every rep, you are essentially breaking down more and more skin cells. Over the working sets, this causes the shins to bruise or cut and bleed.
Dedicated gym goers like myself like going in hard. But let me tell you, these scrapes can become extremely painful and uncomfortable. I have even heard of lifters catching contagious blood-related illnesses.
Read more about Experiencing Deadlift Shoulder Pain
Can You Avoid Shin Contact During Deadlifts
Well, let me tell the truth of the matter without sugarcoating it.
If you want a safe and effective conventional deadlift, there is probably no way around contact with your shins.
Chances are that you will get a deadlift shin scrape. This can be followed by deadlift shin bruises and bleeding.
The typical lifter will try and lift the bar away from the shins. But as we know, this would mess up the center of gravity.
It would force back curving for extra leverage to grasp the bar. This is absolutely a recipe for disaster.
Firstly, you could expect some spinal loading followed by spinal injury risk. None of us want to end up breaking our back, just to avoid some bloody shins.
Secondly, it can be more difficult to lift a bar when it is positioned away from the body. The bar would need to travel further to complete the lift.
I can tell you from decades ago newbie experience, that deadlifting like this is less energy efficient and will burn you out. You can never reap the same muscle and strength gains. So how can you avoid deadlift shin scrape?
10 Ways to Fix Shin Bruising from Deadlifts
Unfortunately, there is no way around shin bruises for the conventional deadlift. Also, In the competitive setting, only conventional deadlifts are looked at.
We have put together 10 ways to minimize or even prevent deadlift shin scrapes during workouts.
1. Use Deadlift Variations With No Shin Contact
This one is for the general non-competitive gym goers. You could opt to use some deadlift variations with no shin-to-bar contact.
When I first started lifting, I used the hex bar deadlift a lot. Other variations I used occasionally were the dumbbell and kettlebell deadlifts.
These deadlift variations should still do the trick for muscle and strength gains. But do you know what? No deadlift shins bleeding.
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2. Stand Away From The Bar Before Setting Up
We now know that shin contact during the normal deadlift is unavoidable. This does not mean that we can not control the amount of friction.
Some lifters stand too close to the bar and then end up putting too much pressure and friction on the shins.
You can simply stand 1″ away from the bar before setting up (2). In fact, this will make sure that the bar is just touching the shins and not excessively scraping.
Trust me, this could make the difference between a little deadlift shin scrape and a gash coming down the shin.
3. Wrap The Shin Position of the Bar
I do not see this technique often, but I have used it myself. There was a time when I was deadlifting almost daily. I saw some serious shin scrapes. Basically, the damage was coming in faster than the healing process.
So instead of stopping deadlifts like, I decided to wrap the shin position of the bar with a cloth.
Essentially, I had shin contact with a soft cloth instead of a rough hard bar. This caused a lot less damage to the shins.
You do necessarily have to use cloth. You could opt for anything soft i.e. fat gripz and barbell foam pads etc.
4. Use a Deadlift Bar
A legit deadlift bar has a wide and smooth center. This is the opposite of the Olympic bars rough center knurling that causes a lot of friction.
This in itself can minimize the shin scrape damage. But you must perform the proper hip-width deadlifts.
In most non-powerlifter gyms, I always see people deadlifting with the Olympic bar. Not to say that this is ineffective, but it certainly is less optimal compared to the deadlift bar.
5. Use Baby Powder on the Shins
This is done by many powerlifters and for good reason! With a layer of baby powder, you could expect a lot less friction.
With less friction, there is less chance of rough scrapes and shin damage during deadlifts. Simply, dash powder generously all around the lower leg and shins.
6. Wear Base Layer Bottoms
Base layers are designed for athletic performance. They are relatively cheap, yet very useful. In the case of deadlifting, base layer bottoms act as a layer of protection.
I am not saying that your shins will not get bruised, but they are a lot less likely to get bloody.
7. Wear Shin Sleeves to Avoid Shin Damage from Deadlifts
Some lifters do not like Baselayers. Base layers in my experience, hold a lot of heat and can get itchy. An alternative can be shin sleeves.
For around $10 you could get a pair of shin sleeves that may offer a layer of protection to your shins during a deadlift.
8. Wear High Socks
Wearing high socks i.e. tube socks can also work well. I actually like high socks. They are pretty thick, comfortable, and offer a decent layer of shin protection.
9. Wear Shin Guards to Avoid Deadlift Shin Scrape
Shin guards act as an even stronger layer of protection compared to both shin sleeves and base layers.
You most probably will not get any shin damage with these on. The only problem is that they can be uncomfortable and even affect the pathway of the bar.
10. Wrap the Shins in Clingfilm
You could gently wrap cling film around the shins. Be sure that you do not wrap them so tight that they cut off the blood supply.
This technique can help you get the bar close to the body, yet stop you from friction cuts.
The slippery clingfilm may also help to get the bar up smoother.
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All in all, if you do the normal deadlift, the chances of shin scrapes and damage are high. However, we can work around it and minimize the damage.
We have highlighted 10 different ways of protecting your shins.
- Use Deadlift Variations With No Shin Contact
- Stand 2-3″ Away From The Bar Before Setting Up
- Wrap The Shin Position Of The Bar
- Use A Deadlift Bar
- Use Baby Powder On The Shins
- Wear Base Layer Bottoms
- Wear Shin Sleeves
- Wear High Socks
- Wear Shin Guards
- Wrap The Shins In Clingfilm
The method you decide on will depend on personal preference. I would say that technique #1 is optional #2 is necessary.
Other than that, we recommend trying them all out to see which one is most comfortable and works best for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
For the best form YES! Otherwise, you could mess up the lift.
In most cases NO! The shin damage itself is minimal, but it can still be painful and uncomfortable.
Personally, I have useful disinfectant, then plastered the wound.
I usually recommend the hex bar or Dumbbell deadlift. These don’t scrape the shins.
- BenGoodBrand (2022) “Ripped Shins – Hathbor Björnsson 1,105 501kg World Record Deadlift” Available at:https://youtube.com/shorts/4v-vgFiN1-g?feature=share (Accessed 26/02/2023)
- DavidDiley (2022) “How To Do Deadlift: 5 Simple Steps” Available at:https://youtube.com/shorts/vfKwjT5-86k?feature=share (Accessed 26/02/2023)