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External Rotation in the Deadlift, Clean and Snatch Set-Up by Kelly Starrett - CrossFit Journal

In CrossFit, Mobility, Videos

April 24, 2012

Video Article

Externally rotating the ankles not only creates the right tension, but it also stabilizes the back and forces the torso upright. Mobility guru Kelly Starrett says the movement is important for the set-up of the deadlift as well as the Olympic lifts.

“I contend that if you turn that foot out as an unconscious compromise, you’re immediately going to collapse through the ankle,” he says. “And that sets me up … so my only plane of force is to rotate in—’cause it’s difficult to rotate out—and there I’ve collapsed and there’s my ACL.”

Cuing “knees out” can accomplish the same effect, Starrett says, citing Coach Mike Burgener.

“I shove my knees out—that allows me to really drop my torso into an upright position, and now I’m just into transition so easily,” he explains. “How do I get out of transition so I can jump longer and have movement options? … I do that with external rotation.”

7min 50sec

Additional reading: Learning the Olympic Lifts: The Stance by Mike Burgener and Tony Budding, published Nov. 1, 2006.

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10 Comments on “External Rotation in the Deadlift, Clean and Snatch Set-Up”


Chris Sinagoga wrote …

Keep 'em coming! Great stuff K Starr!


wrote …

What does Hip impingement mean? thanks


replied to comment from Jackson Yee

The technical description I'll leave to others.
What you'll feel is a pinching feeling in the front of your hips as your thigh is closest to your body, eg at the bottom of a full-depth squat. If your hips aren't externally rotated "stuff" gets caught between the femur and the pelvis and pinches. With the femur externally rotated there's room for all that "stuff" to be out of the way.

What the "stuff" is I'm not qualified to say exactly. It varies from person to person and may be joint capsule, ligament, tendon, muscle or basically any soft tissue unfortunate enough to get caught in that gap.


wrote …

Thank you, Craig. Now I get it. Really appreicate the time you took to help me out.


wrote …

Awesome instruction Kelly. Thank you for clearing that up for me. While I have been trying to find that placement of the foot between over externaly rotated and streight on, it now makes sense to me. Thank you! Keep'em comming.


wrote …

Great stuff!


wrote …

I undersand this feet-forward concept in theory, but it seems to create more knee pain for me. In the feet[forward squat you have torque through ext, rotation of the hip, good stuff, but I seem to feel a twisting force in my knee because of it. Not sure if I'm doing something wrong. At 4:10, Kelly states that he doesn't want the femur pointing in one direction and the tibia pointing in another (ext. rotated tibia on femur), but the feet-forward squat places the tibia in int. rotation on the this mechanically safer/advantageous?


wrote …

I think I just answered my own question:

- mechanisms reported as possibly able to disrupt ACL w/ minimal injury to other structures are:
- hyperextension
- pure deceleration

With all due respect to Kelly, I sincerely appreciate his great contributions to this community. But, I now strongly disagree with this "foot-forward" concept in squatting. With a forward foot and an externally rotated femur, you are creating the twisting motion in the knee that is described above as being a mechanism of injury to the anterior cruciate ligament. Internal rotation of the tibia on the neutral femur creates the same twisting motion as an externally rotated femur on a neutral tibia (forward foot). I believe that the toed-out squat, one where the foot/tibia is facing the same direction as the femur, is safer because it lacks a twisting force through the knee.

I'd love to hear Kelly's or another PT's thoughts on this.


wrote …

Best video by far!!!! And I think I have watched them all. Thank you.


wrote …

Very interesting vidéos. I'm learning a lot!

Granby ,PQ

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