Deadlift Variations You Need To Add to Your Arsenal

There are several things that make me really happy:

  1. Watching my kids excel at the things they love to do.
  2. Singing and dancing around the house to embarrass my kids.
  3. Lifting things up and putting things down (i.e. deadlifting).

Few movements make me feel as strong and powerful as the deadlift. Sure I love to squat, but an old knee injury has historically prevented me from making a ton of progress in this lift. I love to swing the kettlebells around, but I don't get the same feeling as lifting 40 pounds more than my body weight straight off the ground!

I program deadlifts in various forms for my clients. Everyone can do some form of a deadlift, and should do some form of a deadlift. Deadlifts help tremendously in hip strength and core strength. Did I mention that a deadlift recruits the entire body? Yep! That's right! From shoulders to calves, the deadlift asks all of your muscles to get in on the action. How many other exercises can boast that?!

In any deadlift, remember you will want to make sure your hips are slightly lower than your shoulders and that your back is in a nice neutral position.

1. Kettlebell Single Arm Suitcase Deadlift

This is great for more core activation, as you will need to fight the urge to lean toward the side holding the weight.

  1. Stand with your feet just inside of shoulder width.
  2. Place the kettlebell on the outside of your foot.
  3. Grab the kettlebell handle, making sure that your hips are slightly lower than your shoulders and your back is in a neutral position.
  4. Activate your lats by thinking of screwing your arm into your armpit.
  5. Begin standing with the kettlebell by grounding your feet into the floor and beginning to rise hips first then knees. 

2. Single Leg RDL

The single leg RDL is great for improving hip stability, glute and hamstring strength, as well as helping to improve balance. You can do this move with a one or two kettlebells or dumbells. I chose to show this move with a barbell.

  1. Grab the bar so hands are about shoulder width apart.
  2. Ground one foot into the floor, keep stable knee softly bent.
  3. Begin bending at your hips, back in a neutral position.
  4. As you bend, one leg will rise behind you. As your leg rises, try not to rotate your hips. Try to keep your hips parallel to the floor.
  5. Don't feel you need to make the bar go all the way to the floor. Just below your knee is fine.
  6. Make sure the bar doesn't pull your shoulders down. Keep you shoulders back through the entire move.

3. Sumo Deadlift

Great for working the inner thighs (your adductor muscles). Some prefer the sumo deadlift to conventional because the lifter is not pulling the bar as far off the ground. Plus, the wider stance gives the lifter a little more leverage.

  1. When approaching the bar, keep legs in a wide stance. Shins should be perpendicular to the bar and feet pointed out.
  2. The bar should be close to your legs.
  3. Hips should be slightly lower than your shoulders and your back should be in a neutral position.
  4. Activate the lats by screwing your arms into your armpits.
  5. Lift through the hips and legs, while grounding your feet into the floor.

4. Jefferson Deadlift

This is the craziest deadlift of them all. This move has actually been around for many years. Fitness pros the likes of David Dellanave and Jen Sinkler have recently brought the Jefferson Deadlift back into rotation. Thank goodness, because I love it!

The Jefferson Deadlift seems more like a squat than a deadlift, as it focuses more on your quads than your hamstrings. The difference between this lift and other deadlifts is you straddle the bar, rather than hold it in front of you. In doing so, it works both the right side and left side of your body separately, like the single leg RDL. 

  1. Step one foot over the bar. 
  2. Turn the back foot out and the front foot slightly out.
  3. The width between your legs is going to depend on how far apart or close together your feet need to be to keep the back heel down on the floor.
  4. As with the other deadlifts, hips are slightly lower than shoulders, back is in a neutral position.

The next time you're at the gym, give these variations a try. Leave a comment below to let me know how you liked these variations. Maybe even take a video and share it below or on my Facebook page! 


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Nancy SherComment