The hip shift is something I ought to quickly define, though perhaps I will add a video just below to show you what I mean. The hip shift is a lateral movement of the hips to bias the strength of either one leg or one side of the body. The hip shift isn't a beginners problem, it tends to be as a result of incredible leg development, in fact I tend to see it in some of the best lifters ever: Naim Sulegmanoglu, Ilya Ilyin (watch how he shifts on his final attempt), Om Yun-Chol to name a few...
There is a similarity between these lifters that I believe explains the hip shift...
Just looking at the thumbnail of this video you can see what I'm talking about when it comes to the hip shift. Naim, a lifter about whom it is almost impossible to argue is NOT the greatest of all time, biases his right leg.
Interestingly, the leg biased during the hip shift is also the leg that these lifters step out with in the jerk. This front leg takes more of the load and so it is of no wonder that it develops a little more than the back leg, though only slightly.
So what is the similarity with these 3 lifters?
So what is the similarity with these lifters? They have incredibly long spines in relation to their height. Not only do they have long spines, but they have short femurs. Historically this is the body type most coveted by weightlifters, though Lasha Talakhadze recently said that he believes his long limbs give him an advantage. Regardless, those with the body proportions of Naim, Ilya, and Chol, tend to have incredibly strong legs in relation to their backs. And it is true, these three athletes boast some enormous front squats. In a recent interview Ilya said that he had front squatted 290kg. It isn't unheard of for top weightlifters, especially those with similar proportions, to squat more than they deadlift and even front squat the same or more than they deadlift.
Why does the Hip Shift occur?
So back to the hip shift. When standing up from a heavy clean most athletes will lean their torso forward as they stand so as to take some of the load from their legs to their back. A great example of this is the great Khadzehimurat Akkaev. With a lifter like Akkaev whose spine is short in relation to his height, a lean forward of a few degrees doesn't cause the shoulders to actually move too far ahead of the hips. For a lifter with a long torso however, an inclination of the same angle will cause the shoulders to travel much further forward relatively putting a huge strain on the lower back. The moment arm is much greater.
So it is in the best interest of these 3 lifters (Naim, Ilya, and Om) to shift the weight laterally rather than forward or backwards along the frontal plane. This is of course only to stand up through a sticking point. When the weight is light all top lifters stand straight up without any deviation of their torso in any direction. It is only during the sticking point that we see lifters shift their body weight in any way they can to stand up. Ilya is so strong and so crisp with his technique that we almost never see him reach a sticking point and thus shift. If however he misses the bounce and so ends up recovering the clean from a dead stop, he shifts his weight laterally.
Good or Bad?
The lateral shift is not a bad thing. These three lifters are world record holders... The hip shift allows them to go on setting world records. In an ideal world I'm sure these athletes would be so balanced that they don't end up favouring a side, but the effort it would take to achieve that is better spent snatching and clean & jerking.
People mix being healthy and being a top athlete too often. Is the hip shift something to correct as a recreational lifter? Of course. It will improve your quality of life after lifting. But Naim, Ilya, and Chol are interested in one thing - Olympic gold medals, regardless of the health risks.