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I saw a post on IG recently with a young woman trainer explaining how to set up for Romanian deadlifts. She recommended starting with your feet about hip distance apart. As often happens when a woman speaks, some dude was quick to jump in and tell her that she was wrong, and people should use shoulder distance instead because the width of your hips varies depending on your size.

His opinion reflects a common misconception about what is meant by hip or shoulder distance in fitness. When we say to set up hip distance apart, we don't mean at the width of the outside of your hips; we mean the width of your pelvis, like the actual bone structure. This is meant to be a starting point. It should not be seen as a hard and fast rule. The appropriate distance for your feet to be apart will likely vary a bit depending on your specific biomechanics (i.e. the shape of your pelvis, proportions of your femur relative to your shin and torso, etc). "Hip distance apart" should be a starting place, and a place for mindfully & attentively exploring how the movement feels in your body.

It's a skeleton. It's just standing, not doing anything very fun but demonstrating how the shoulders are a bit wider than the pelvis.

Furthermore, since hip distance is just a starting point, and shoulder distance is (if you're going by bony landmarks and not outside measurements, which is what you should be doing) not that different anyway, it likely makes sense to just use the landmark that is logical and utilitarian. I'm going to line my overhead press up with shoulders. In deadlift, I'll line my feet up with hips and my hands relative to shoulders. That cue is much easier to feel and explore in your body. Trying to think about foot position relative to shoulder width is a little...weird. And not cool, fun weird, just weird weird.

A photo of Jess deadlifting at a powerlifting meet. She has green socks and a black singlet on and her face is very red because she is working for that lockout!

In this photo of me deadlifting, my feet are definitely wider than my pelvis, and probably a little wider even than the outside of my hips. That is not wrong, this set up works well for my particular body and gives me a more stable base than a narrower stance. Part of the beauty of attuned movement is noticing how things feel in your body. This is part of what is so rad about trauma informed movement. Trauma separates you from feeling connected to your body. Attuned movement puts you back into feeling what is happening within your body. Three cheers for interoceptive awareness!

ANYWAY, my point here is mostly this: if you wanna be pedantic on the internet, at least be frickin' right. We're not using laser distance meters and x-rays and shit to measure our bodies and establish specific distances. Cues like hip or shoulder distance should be a place to begin your exploration! Please don't anyone tell that dude about sumo deadlift, it might blow his mind.

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