A person of any height can have disproportionately long femurs.

These will interfere with deadlift mechanics, but there are ways to make the most of this genetic disadvantage.

The long femur problem is not a function of overall body height.

It’s about femur length relative to torso and shin length.

My femur length seems to be a few inches longer than my torso, but what’s more striking is that my shin bones should be longer, relative to my femurs.

These proportions put me at a biomechanical disadvantage with the deadlift, especially since my arm span is only equal to my height or maybe one-half inch more at most, though I haven’t had this formally measured.

Let’s put it this way: The length of my arms certainly serve no advantage in the bench press.

I can pull 245 x 4 (I’m a woman), and I never use straps, gloves or chalk.

Why Long Femurs Interfere with Efficient Deadlift Form

It’s simple: Long femurs (again, relative to torso and especially shin length, regardless of height) force your hips further behind the barbell.

This forces you to lean forward more to reach the barbell, placing your back in a stressful position — which for some people, is nearly parallel to the floor in the start position of the pull.

With your hips sitting way back, you just have no choice but to compensate by leaning forward more to get your hands to the bar.

If you have wickedly long arms along with the lengthy femurs, you won’t need to lean forward as far to reach the bar.

How to Deadlift with Long Femurs and Short Shins

Some people swear by the Sumo style. Others endorse a variation of the conventional style: wider foot placement, but not as wide as Sumo.

Some suggest turning out the feet with the standard style, to trick the body into thinking the femurs are shorter.

I’ve studied my profile in a mirror, experimenting with these variations.

If my feet are wide but not Sumo, there’s pretty much zero difference in the “uprightness” of my back.

If I pull Sumo, my back is only a little bit more upright, and it’s very awkward on my hips.

Due to the long femurs, Sumo forces a lot of engagement of the hamstring-glute tie-in. Not pretty.

Sumo style deadlift may work well for some people with long femurs. Shutterstock/ Oleksandr Zamuruiev

Turning my feet out doesn’t change anything, either. So my advice is to find the form that you feel most comfortable with.

For me, my feet are close together. I have the most power and comfort this way. My hands are close together, just inside my knees.

The irony is that few people deadlift this way, and would probably find it difficult. But my body feels as though it’s in its strongest position this way.

Tweaking Deadlift Form with Long Femurs (and Short Shins)

If your shins are short relative to your femurs, keep reading! Freepik.com

Learn how to tolerate the barbell rolling up along your shins.

You’re already leaning out further than you should be, due to the long femurs forcing your hips way behind the bar, but you have no choice.

And the only way to offset this (which isn’t much) is to roll that bar along your shins, so that you’re not leaning forward any further than you absolutely have to.

My shins sometimes have mild bruises on them. I have perfected this roll so that it’s not klutzy or uncontrolled.

Your shins will have to be covered with sweats, leggings or socks.

  • Next, no matter what you do, keep your shoulders above hip level.
  • Do not round your back.
  • Fight to keep the lumbar area slightly arched. Just fight for this.

Concentrate on driving upward with leg power while your lower spine is stabilized.

Make sure your knees don’t buckle or cave inward as you pull.

Are there any exercises that will help with the deadlift?

I do not improve with the deadlift by doing rack pulls, “deficit” deadlifts, hex bar (trap bar) pulls or dumbbell deadlifts.

Hex deadlift

However, you should try these because what doesn’t work for one person may be a godsend to another. 

Getting stronger in the back squat should help — but that’s probably not what people with long femurs and short shins want to hear.

One sure way to get better with the deadlift is to keep training in this movement.

What if you have T-rex arms along with those long femurs?

There’s not much more you can do than to follow the guidelines here and also consider hiring a powerlifting coach.

Other Factors that Influence Efficiency with the Deadlift

Ratio of fast twitch fiber to slow twitch, integrity of spine, tendon insertion length, grip strength and size of hands.

If you have long femurs and especially short shins, you can still learn to do a pretty good deadlift.

Just never get into the habit of rounding your back.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Maridav