Mastering the hip hinge to prepare for the deadlift & move it with confidence


As a physio who works with athletes, many of which are women, teaching the hip hinge and deadlift is essential. I use it with almost every single athlete in pain. For a number of reasons. Including, that this lift, unlike many others, works basically all the things: the shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings, knees, ankles, feet. Pretty much all of it. But with a fair bit of time working in sports, I have found that women are either uncomfortable with the hinging exercise, or simply nervous about doing it with a lot of load. Others, are frankly, afraid of the bar.

Being afraid of the bar is totally normal, particularly when you haven't been trained how to perform the lifts in a way that maximizes the use of the proper musculature. The truth of the matter though, is that no matter how you try to pick up a bar for a deadlift (despite what some will tell you), you WILL eventually adapt and it will get easier. While lifting mechanics can be helpful towards optimizing your muscle recruitment, there is little to show us that “poor” lifting mechanics actually harms us. So, I’m going to take this quick opportunity and say that perfect lifting technique is not required to perform a deadlift.

As a new face at the gym, I remember heading towards the bar and feeling utterly embarrassed about my lack of skill. And I say that, as a physiotherapist and as a previously trained division I athlete who was lifting weights regularly and using the bar regularly. Gym-timidation is real, particularly for women. As with anything though, when it comes to lifting or recovering from injury, I encourage the mantra "don't let fear stop you." Movement exploration and curiosity are the spice of life.

“Don’t let fear stop you.” Movement exploration and curiosity are the spice of life
— Dr. Ellie Somers

Here, I aim to help you gain confidence with the deadlift. To give you some tools to practice with and to help get yourself moving towards the incredible feeling of pulling a heavy or heavy-ish weight off the ground.

1) Practice first

The first thing that I recommend is simply practicing the movement of the hip hinge. You can do this using a pvc pipe as seen in the picture below. Most gyms should have these handy, but if they don't, a nice broom stick at home works wonders. You'll want to put the PVC pipe along your spine, touching your head, between your shoulder blades, and your tailbone. Keeping the pipe in contact with each touch point, you'll drop your shoulders forward and push your hips backwards.

If you do this movement and attempt to keep your knees straight, you'll notice a little tension that might build in the back of your legs, specifically your hamstrings. In the deadlift we want to optimize that tension, but bringing your hamstrings to a full stretch like this doesn't end up providing them with the best way to contribute to the motion. As such, when you start to hinge, you also want to think about slightly bending your knees. That will help to shorten the hamstrings, bringing them into their optimal position for maximal loading.

What I’ve noticed in rehab, is that this is where folks can start to get a little confused. I often see the tendency for an athlete to fall into a squat BEFORE they hinge. Ultimately this is seen when an athlete bends the knees first, instead of the hinging the hips. The deadlift is not a squat, but can be confused for a squat when the movement technique being used isn’t maximizing the use of your muscles in the boot-ay. So, work towards diving those hips back FIRST when you're practicing.

Hip Hinge Comparison.jpg

2) Add load slowly

Once you’ve practiced the hinging motion with a PVC pipe, it’s time to add a little load. You can do this a number of ways, but an easy starting point is with a weighted bar. This just a heavy-ish bar found in most gyms. You’ll still get the feel of holding a barbell, while also adding a little load. You can practice this movement, by propping the weighted bar onto two stair steps and then moving into your deadlift/hinge position and pulling it upward.

Adding weight slowly can help you gain confidence,  as well as help to build tissue tolerance, giving your body time to adapt. By doing so, when you approach the barbell for the first time, you won’t be in a situation that makes you unable to walk the next day. As long as you are relatively consistent with your practice lifting weights, you’ll likely be able to lift the weight of a barbell (typically 45 pounds), in no time.

3) Lift the barbell 

Once you’ve had the opportunity to practice with the pipe and the weighted bar, you can now consider moving to the barbell. Lifting the bar is exactly like what you’ve practiced and now you’re ready. The movements are the same, so continue practicing under the new and heavier load in a way that feels good to you. Practice makes progress, not perfection.

Practice makes progress NOT perfection
Picture on the left: December 2016, Picture on the right: July 2017

Picture on the left: December 2016, Picture on the right: July 2017

There is nothing quite like the feeling of lifting a heavy object off the ground. As you progress and gain confidence with the bar itself, you can start to slowly add weight at a level that feels good for you. Adding weight will also facilitate muscle recruitment where you want it...the lower back, the glutes and the hamstrings. But now, you have the confidence and wherewithal to do it and feel like the badass that you really are!! Remember, this all takes time! Strength gains and confidence to use the barbell don't happen overnight, but with consistency and commitment they will. 

**It would be advised that if you DO have an injury, you consult with your physio or medical provider before you attempt to lift something heavy.**

Thanks for reading!!

Cheers all,


Dr. Ellie Somers

Your sports physiotherapist



SisuPT News!


I'm so excited to announce the opening of our new facility inside the Magnuson Athletic Club!! Take the tour here!



We're Open.jpg

Boutique workshop on October 8th

A Woman's Guide to Running Pains:

From tendinopathies to stress injuries, navigating pain during or after running can be a frustrating journey. This event is to help you gain clarity on these things to become a more empowered and resilient runner. Understand best practices to maintain a healthy body, progress long distance running safely and to feel confident with where to go when seeking help. A brief presentation with information on some of the best bang for your buck exercises, how to manage strength training when training for endurance, and how to know when it might be appropriate to pull back when experiencing pain. Light snacks will be provided. BYOB.

This event is FREE but will be limited to 15 people.

Please rsvp to Location details will be provided via email with RSVP.

Reflections after the Women in PT Summit

Reflections after the Women in PT Summit


It’s been a bit over 2 weeks since the Women in Physical Therapy Summit in NYC and I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences but have been having a hard time. Returning home after one of my favorite events of the year, I was left with a renewed sense of self, insightful introspection, mindfulness and vigor. Speaking at the summit was an incredible honor and the intense gratitude I feel is beyond what words can describe. But I issued a call to action and when I got home, I felt frozen. There were so many people who came up to me after my speech to commend and thank me for my bravery, courage, and vulnerability in sharing my story. My gratitude for this little gesture is exactly why I spoke to the powers of amplification. For many, I know it took a small act of courage to approach me and for that, I am forever grateful. You all are the reason I wanted to share. 

The question of what defines a woman leader seems to be lingering in a lot of minds after this event and I wanted to share some thoughts on this. The google definition of "leadership" is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. The definition of "leader" is the person who leads a group of people or organization. While I do believe that leadership requires action, the definition of a leader, for me, is somewhat restrictive and narrow.

Here’s the thing, if you’re a woman, you possess the capacity to lead. This seems obvious in my mind and I’m sure in many of your minds as well. What I find restrictive in this definition, is that I believe women need to define leadership in whatever way they choose, and in accepting your own definition of what taking action is to you, you embody what being a woman leader means. We are all unique and have a story to share if we should choose to share it.

Speaking up, stepping out, amplifying, being bold, whatever it is, there is a place for you to do it. If you aren’t the type of person to be loud in the stereotypical way, that is yours to own. What is important in all of this, is knowing that YOUR voice matters to progress for women. I had several folks say to me that they’ve never thought of gender as an issue in their experience as a woman PT. What a fortunate place to be!! I wish we could all say the same but statistically speaking, we can’t. It’s vitally important to recognize this as a place of privilege.  And with privilege, comes great responsibility to understand your power to influence significant and meaningful change. To HEAR what others are saying and empower women to lead by facing their fears and being unabashed about the feathers they might ruffle. OR it might be helping women to feel empowered to BE THEMSELVES!

Speaking up and amplifying is often a catalyst for other women to be emboldened themselves. I am firmly rooted in the premise that change does not happen without some disruption. In physical therapy, disruption as a woman (and maybe even a man, but more likely for women) definitely comes with challenges as it is often seen as unprofessional. And while I believe this is likely true for most professions in some capacity, as a PT it seems to me that being professional carries a weight that can often restrict my own understanding of myself at times. I'm constantly in a battle with my "disruptive" self and my "professional self." Two boxes that feel too small. Molds demanding to be broken.

Much of my frustration as a young professional is a direct result of the adversity I have experienced. And what is important for me and for everyone to realize is that not everyone has had similar experiences. One of the driving messages for me after the summit, is that it is absolutely essential for stories to be heard and for us to allow each person to live their story as they see fit. By accepting that each person has a different definition of success, of womanhood, of feminism, of leadership, we empower each other to be ourselves. is absolutely essential for stories to be heard and for us to allow each person to live their story as they see fit.

I have had countless mentors tell me to be careful about what I say, who I say it to, how I say it, where I say it. One of my beautiful flaws is that I am quick to react. I respect the notion that professionalism is an important aspect to my career, but I reject the notion that because I’m a physical therapist I am not allowed to be politically engaged, emotionally charged, frustrated or empowered through feminism. I am allowed all of those things and more...and so are you.

Until gender equity is achieved, my definition of being a woman leader is one that allows me to never be ashamed for being what I am or what I hope to be: A Badass Woman. I'm taking action on being myself. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be fighting the good fight. I am proud to be lifting other women up to do things that they want to do, even if it means potentially sacrificing an opportunity for myself to do it. I am proud to be a woman leader and I will own that word as long as I choose. Because that choice is mine to make.

As I woke up on Sunday morning, the day after the summit, I realized that in being surrounded and accepted just as I was by a group of women I respect and admire, I was able to accept and notice that I am allowed to feel the way I do and so are you. I am allowed to exercise my ridiculous desire to drop an F’bomb or have a damn opinion. I am allowed to be angry that men amplify the shit out of each other and don’t seem to think of women when they do so. I am allowed to be upset when folks want me to quiet down, sit down, settle down, calm down. I will not do any of those things because, I’m not going down anywhere, I’m going up and I’m doing it, as me, a WOMAN leader.


5 quick warm-up exercises for the adult soccer athlete

Let's face it, unless you are a professional level athlete, warming-up before you step out onto the pitch as an adult is a bit of a rag-tag activity.

7 Ways to Reduce Risk of ACL Tear in Young Soccer Players

7 Ways to Reduce Risk of ACL Tear in Young Soccer Players


ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries are not fun and if you've ever had one, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Tearing the ACL can keep an athlete sidelined for months...even years! What's more, is that the results of surgery are not great either. Studies show us that only about 55% will return to their previous level of play, about 30% will tear the ACL agin, and many of these athletes may end up with osteoarthritis later in life. 

The good news, is that we know there are effective techniques to help reduce the risk of ACL tear by a rate of 50-80%. Finding ways to reduce this risk in our young soccer players is important towards keeping them engaged in sport. And while we cannot prevent all injuries from happening or even predict when injuries will happen, we CAN be more proactive in our efforts to foster healthier youth athletes. 

1) Get them training under load

One of the first and most important things you can do to help mitigate ACL injury risk would be to get the athlete training under load. There is a strong caveat to this though, and that is to say that it is HIGHLY recommended they do so under the trained supervision of a physical therapist, fitness coach, experienced personal trainer, or performance coach. Load is great for young athletes, but the quality of their movements is key towards injury reduction of ANY kind. I'm here to debunk the myth that young athletes should avoid weight training. They can and should be doing it, as long as there is direct supervision and proper coaching involved. 

2) Teach them how to get low

Participating in any sport that contains quick changes of direction requires a stable platform from which to work. What I see with young athletes is simply a lack of awareness of where their body may be in space. This results in a general low tone approach to movement and ultimately can be a precursor towards getting hurt. Getting low and practicing getting low requires some training, but it can pay off markedly. Research indicates that a risk factor for ACL tear might indeed be poor landing control and mechanics. 

Below is a video of a simple exercise known as the "squat jump." The squat jump is an easy place to start for understanding what "getting low" means. Getting low requires good control through the knees, hinging at the hips and smooth transitions from squat to jump and back again. 

Squat jump

3) Have them practice kicking the ball with both legs

When I ask soccer players which leg they think is their dominant leg, 9x/10 they'll say it's their kicking leg. And while that leg is their dominant kicking leg, it's the leg that they're planting with that becomes the dominant one. Some research shows us that leg dominance is a potential risk factor for ACL injuries. That favoritism can lead to muscular imbalances. The sooner a young athlete is working with both legs, the more likely they are to be dominant on both sides. Which is good for their career as a player, and also quite possibly pretty good for their legs.  

My left foot became much stronger AFTER my ACL injury in high school. Now, I am confident with both legs.

My left foot became much stronger AFTER my ACL injury in high school. Now, I am confident with both legs.

4) Jump jump!

Plyometric and neuromusulcar training programs have been proven to be the most effective at reducing injury risk, as well as improving movement quality in young athletes. The important part with these programs is that quality movement is queen. These programs consist of jump training, proprioceptive and balance activities, movement training and are repetitive in nature. Practice, practice, practice. Movement is a skill. As such, that skill needs to be trained, improved upon, and engrained into the body and mind. An additional bonus to this type of movement, is increased speed and agility! Jumping is fun AND productive!

Plyometric training requires quick response time while maintaining good form and mechanics. Before you consider adding jumps to your routine, be sure you have worked on good movement control with the basics first, such as the squat and the squat jump. 

5) Teach the child the importance of recovery

Here's the deal. I see this time and time again. Kids are playing year round sports so young that they are not properly understanding the importance of recovery. What I mean by recovery is simply teaching kids that their bodies AND their minds, need the opportunity to chill out or change things up a bit. There is a reason that professional level athletes take time off. And while they might still be training in the off season, it's an opportunity for them to recovery. They're taking the opportunity to recharge. A large body of evidence is showing us that early sport specialization leads to faster burnout and even more injuries. Recovery can mean rest, but it can also mean simply engaging in another sport for a while to change it up and keep things variable. Taking time to learn new skills is a valuable thing for a growing athlete. 

6) Find a physio ie. physical therapist (physio sounds better doesn't it?) to work closely with your child or their team/club

One of the most important things you can do is to get a good physical therapist well-versed in this issue to start working with your kid's soccer club on implementation of prevention strategies. Many of the strategies are simple warm up techniques that can be used with your child's team in practices and before games to prep their body for their sport. Research shows us that consistent implementation of these warm ups reduces injuries by 60-80%!!! Beautiful. 

7) Mindfulness.

Now, this one is a bit of a funny one because I've thrown it in here on my own accord. But I have very good reason to do so!! So much of the literature is showing us that a person's mental capacity to overcome, or one's psychological readiness, is paramount after sustaining an ACL injury. I have a theory (and theories are like farts, so do with it what you will), if we get kids being more mindful of their bodies, of their well-being, of their MINDS, injuries will go down. There, I've said it. Mindfulness isn't something we have been teaching our kids and if they're serious about their sport, you better believe that it's better to learn this young than it is to learn it old. Many professional level athletes use mindfulness before their games to prepare and be ready. A fair bit of evidence shows us that this actually helps! If we start to imagine success before we go out onto the field, maybe we'll be more successful as a result? That's my theory anyway.

Kids are incredible humans. They're some of the most quickly learning and adaptable creatures in the world. Well I don't know if that's true, but it should be. The main point here is that if we catch them young, catch them early and teach them these wonderful things, their risk for injury is likely to go down. And if you manage to do some of these things yourself, well then good on you! The same is likely true for you too, as much of this is very directly applicable to adult athletes. 

Thanks for reading. Happy playing. 


Dr. Ellie Somers, Physical (err Physio) Therapist


Balancing the biomedical with the biopsychosocial

Balancing the biomedical with the biopsychosocial

"We’re painting a picture together and progressively moving towards a deep, belly gut feeling that they are beautiful"

My post-op ACL bias is a personal matter

My post-op ACL bias is a personal matter

My knee will never be the same, but that doesn't mean the rest of my life has to suffer because of it.

Advocating for better care after your concussion

Advocating for better care after your concussion

Advocating for better care after your concussion

Why the word "rest" makes me cringe

Why the word "rest" makes me cringe

“Oh, my body needs to rest to heal.” I call bullsh**.



The concept of amplification comes from...

Running, the knee's best friend.

I hear it often, “running is bad for my joints.”

Returning to Sport after ACL Reconstruction

Returning to Sport after ACL Reconstruction

If there’s one thing to know about knee injury in youth soccer, it’s that tearing the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is common and is often devastating for a young, driven athlete.

Kids in Chronic Pain

Kids in Chronic Pain

Fear Avoidance Model with modifications by Dr. Somers

3 Things to Consider when Managing a Young Athlete with Lower Back Pain

When a young athlete begins experiencing lower back pain, it becomes important for those around that athlete to consider...