Mastering dead lift can tap our hidden superpower

As a kid I would read comic books and watch superhero cartoons. I thought it would be cool to have a latent superpower that I could practice and develop over time. I could then use my mastered ability to save the day and win the girl. 

We all have a superpower. It may not be as cool as flying or turning green and smashing things but it can help save the day. Believe it or not, the hips are an undeveloped power we can tap into. 

Hip extension is the straightening of the leg at the hip. If you stand up from a seated position, then you have extended your hip. Hip extension is powered primarily by the gluteal and hamstring muscles. These muscles are made to be strong and support load. 

Hip flexion is also important to developing your hip superpower. Flexion is the opposite of extension. It is the bending of your leg at the hip. If you bend your hip, walk up a step or are in the bottom position of a squat, that is flexion.

Mastering these two functions of your hips will open up worlds of movement possibilities. To do that, I like to use the medicine ball. Most gyms have them in one form or another. Some have the soft, black and gray ones, and others will have some that are more dense. Either ball will work for today’s exercises.

The medicine ball dead lift is a weighted version of the dead lift earlier featured using a PVC pipe. The PVC pipe was used to aid in mastering form and range of motion without using weight. The medicine ball version is a good progression because medicine balls generally don’t weigh more than 20 pounds. Because they are round, they are more awkward to work with than PVC or a bar. This nuance makes them very transferable to daily life. Life is more likely to require you to lift something of a light to moderate weight with odd shape, than a heavy ergonomic shape. Things such as cases of water, groceries by the armful, kids, spare tires out of the trunk.

The medicine ball also does a good job of helping the body get into correct position to lift an object off the ground.

The ball is about hip width apart in size, and when you bend down far enough to pick it up, you demonstrate a fair degree of hip mobility. It also keeps the shins vertical because your elbows get in the way if they are too far forward. The only thing you have to consciously remember is to keep your back straight, head neutral and core tight.

The butt muscles are the main drivers of the dead lift. When you are set up in the bottom position, squeeze the glutes and stand up. Where many people get into trouble is lifting with their backs.

Add the bad form of having the spine rounded while lifting with the back and it becomes the perfect storm for pain.

The medicine ball slam is a fun exercise. It works hip flexion. If you notice the photos, Laura’s final position is a position similar to a dead lift starting position. I verbally cue my athletes to throw with their hips first. When people first try this exercise they use their arms to slam the ball into the ground, totally forgetting their hips even exist. Recruit the hips by pushing the butt back and then throwing with the arms. This will give more power to the slam. After you try a few to get the feel for it, really give the medicine ball what for. You’ll feel great after your set.

The prerequisite for performing the slam is the dead lift. How else would you get the ball overhead? Master the dead lift before moving onto the slam.

I use these two exercises back to back in a superset fashion to really drill in hip control.

Not to mention they are good at making a person tired. Maybe it is just me, but lifting something overhead and slamming it down with a new “power” seems kind of “super.” 

  Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at If you are a Las Vegas trainer and want to share your love of fitness as a guest coach, please contact him. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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