Deadlift Variations

The deadlift is the first key to unlocking infinite kettlebell movements. It builds a strong posterior chain and is one of the most functional movements in workouts and everyday life. 

LEARN DEADLIFT VARIATIONS

The Deadlift

Use the traditional deadlift as the basis of a number of other kettlebell lifts. Next, use some of the variations to also work on other muscle groups.

 

The Traditional Deadlift

Strengthens

Hamstrings, glutes, upper & lower back, forearms, hands

Set Up

Stand with feet about hip width apart and the kettlebell directly between the feet. Fold at the hips to grab hold of the handle of the kettlebell with both hands, bending through the knees slightly and maintaining a neutral spine (including the neck). Set the upper back by pulling shoulders down & away from the ears. The shoulders should be at hip height or slightly above

Key Points

Drive through your heels to engage posterior chain, hips and shoulders as you come back to standing position. All should rise together and the PUSH should come from the legs rather than a PULL from arms/back. The deadlift should be orchestrated by driving down through your heels into the floor to produce force to push you upward, rather than using your upper body to pull the weight up. Once you reach standing position, hinge at the hips once more as you bring the bell back down to the starting position for the next repetition. 

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Sumo Deadlift 

Strengthens: Hamstrings, glutes, back, core

Set Up: Wide stance with toes angled out (knees tracking toes), bells between legs

Key Points: You can play with width and how far toes are pointed out, just making sure knees track the toes throughout the lift. The heels in should provide extra squeeze on the glutes.

Kickstand Deadlift 

Strengthens: Hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Use single arm deadlift to bring bell up to your side. Bell is in opposite hand of your balanced leg

Key Points: Keep a neutral spine just like on a regular deadlift. Slight bend in the standing leg. Think about hinging at the hips, NOT bending forward through the back. 

Single Leg Deadlift

Strengthens: Hamstrings, glutes

Set Up: Use single arm deadlift to bring bell up to your side. Bell is in opposite hand from the leg you are balancing on. Slightly pigeon toe the back foot, which will help keep hips level.

Key Points: Keep a neutral spine throughout, just like a traditional deadlift. There should be a slight bend in the standing leg. Think about hinging at the hips, NOT bending forward and rounding the back. As a consequence of hinging at the hips, the bell lowers to the ground. Maintaining a neutral spine position is more important than the bell hitting the floor. An effective modification is to bring the floor up by using a box to shorten the distance the bell has to travel. 

 

The Deficit Deadlift

Strengthens: Hamstrings, glutes, upper & lower back

Set Up: Feet hip width apart placed on platforms elevated 1-2 inches, bell between feet, neutral spine including neck, weight in heels, shoulders above or in line with hips, slight bend in knees

Key Points: Only utilize a deficit height that allows you to keep your spine neutral; this will depend on your hip and hamstring flexibility (you may also need to bend through the knees more to maintain neutral spine). Drive through your heels to engage posterior chain, hips and shoulders as you come back to standing position. All should rise together and the PUSH should come from the legs rather than a PULL from arms/back. The deadlift should be orchestrated by driving down through your heels into the floor to produce force to push you upward, rather than using your upper body to pull the weight up. Once you reach standing position, hinge at the hips once more as you bring the bell back down to the starting position for the next repetition. 

 

Key Points To the Kettlebell Deadlift

The Kettlebell Deadlift is the basis of all other kettlebell movements. This movement strengthens hamstrings, glutes, upper & lower back, forearms and hands.  Not only does it strengthen your entire body but it also has several real world applications like picking up or lifting anything from the floor, it is the basis for the famous kettlebell swing and strengthens your back. Additionally, it teaches you how to use legs and back in sync to prevent injury while working out. 

To complete the kettlebell deadlift, set up with your feet hip width apart, kettlebell between your feet and keep a neutral spine. A neutral spine means keeping your spine straight and in line with your neck rather then caving or arching your back (demonstrated above). Place your weight in your heels with your shoulders above or in line with hips and a slight bend in knees. You must know how to hinge first. 

Drive through your heels to engage posterior chain, hips and shoulders. All should rise together and PUSH from the legs rather than PULL from arms/back. This should all be orchestrated by the driving of power down through your hills to drive you upward rather than using your upper body to pull the weight up.  

Make sure to avoid these Common Errors: Leaning too far back on the finish, rounding the back, kettlebell too far in front, hips rising before shoulders, squatting instead of hinging.

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