Suitcase Deadlift

How To Do A Single And Double Suitcase Deadlift
By Alli McKeeFebruary 19, 2016

Suitcase Deadlift Exercise

Suitcase deadlifts are one of many deadlift variations that can be performed, and are great for strengthening the musculature of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings), hips, and core. When the single kettlebell suitcase deadlift is being performed, it is a great core stability exercise that trains the body to resist lateral flexion.

The suitcase deadlift is a fantastic deadlift variation to perform when you don’t have access to a whole lot of weight. This exercise is a similar movement to picking up a suitcase off the ground, except that you are going to pick up the kettlebell up off the ground.

Equipment needed:

You need one or two kettlebells to perform the kettlebell suitcase deadlift.

Ability level:


Beginners should start out by mastering the hip hinge movement. This can be done with a broomstick or wooden dowel. You have two options. One is to position the broomstick so it’s touching your tailbone, upper back, and head, and to perform Romanian deadlifts. The second is to hold the broomstick like you would a regular barbell, and perform Romanian deadlifts. With this variation, the broomstick should travel up and down your legs and along your body the entire time. With both of these variations, if you are hinging your hips properly, the dowel will not leave the points of contact on your body. The band pull-through is another great option for beginners who are looking to master the hip hinging movement.

Once beginners have mastered the hip hinge, they can start out with a single or double kettlebell suitcase deadlift. If they lack the mobility to perform the exercise from the ground, they can set up the kettlebell(s) on steps, boxes, or weight plates, and can perform the exercise this way.


Intermediate lifters should perform the suitcase deadlift towards the beginning of the workout as it is important to perform these exercises when you are mentally and physically fresh. If a full body workout is being performed, any of these deadlifts for women can be paired with some type of pushing or pulling movement, but don’t pair it with any exercise that will compromise grip strength, or one that will fatigue the core muscles. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the suitcase deadlift.


Women who are comfortable with the one or two kettlebell suitcase deadlift variations that I described above may choose to use these deadlift variations as well as increase their weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). They can also perform trap bar deadlifts. Lighter suitcase deadlifts can also be used as a specific warm-up to prepare the body for heavier deadlift variations with the barbell. These deadlift variations may also be used as part of a conditioning circuit, but only once a high level of technical proficiency has been achieved. Lifters can also perform negative reps and really focus on the eccentric component.

Benefits of Suitcase Deadlifts:

How a woman chooses to use the suitcase deadlift is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general suitcase deadlifts can be used to do any or all of the following:

  •  increasing lower body strength, primarily in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing upper body strength in the lats, traps, upper arms and forearms
  • increasing core strength in the erectors, scapula stabilizers, and the anterior core
  • building muscle, especially in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing athleticism and sports specific performance
  • increasing your ability to perform daily tasks
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • increasing flexibility

How to perform a Suitcase Deadlift:

I am going to describe the single kettlebell suitcase deadlift:

  • Place one kettlebell beside you so it is lined up with the center of your feet
  • Your shins should be in a vertical or near vertical position.
  • Set your feet so they are about hip width apart. You can keep your feet so they are pointing straight ahead, or can angle them out a slight amount.
  • Lower yourself down to the kettlebell by hinging/pushing your hips back and pulling your body down to the kettlebell.
  • As you push your hips backwards, keep your spine neutral (do not bend at the waist and do not round your upper back), and keep your chest up (but do not over arch your back).
  • Your hands should be just on the outside of your legs.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach), lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and press your body away from the ground using your legs. A deadlift that is properly executed is a pressing motion, not a lifting motion.
  • Lock out at the top by extending your knees, squeezing your glutes, pushing your hips into the bar, and bracing your core.
  • Create tension in your upper body by squeezing your upper arms into your arm sides. You can even pretend that you are crushing something in your armpits. Also, bring your shoulder blades together and down and pretend that you are tucking each one in the opposite back pocket of your pants.
  • Make sure that your weight remains on the mid-back portion of your feet but keep your toes down, particularly your big and baby toe. This will dramatically improve your stability, and ability to perform this exercise.
  • For the duration of the exercise, it is imperative that you do not allow your rib cage to flare or lower back to arch. You will accomplish this by actively tucking your rib cage towards your hips (closing the space in your midsection) and keeping your core braced.
  • Lower the kettlebell by hinging your hips back, not by rounding your back. Your spine should remain in neutral alignment for the duration of the exercise.
  • The kettlebell should travel right along your leg and side of your body the entire time (make the kettlebell paint your body).
  • Keep your chin tucked and neck in neutral alignment. Many lifters make the mistake of looking up.
  • Reset, and repeat.
  • When you deadlift, wear flat shoes, or bare feet.

Video Transcription: 

Suitcase deadlifts are a fantastic way to challenge yourself on deadlifts when you don't have access to a whole lot of weight. It is just what it sounds like: like you are picking up a suitcase off the ground, except that you are going to pick up the kettlebell up off the ground. You are going to set the kettlebell right down by the center of your foot. You are going to follow the exact same deadlifting patterns. A big deep breath in through the nose, blow your air out through your mouth, breathe in again, so that you get that intra abdominal pressure, you are going to push back into your hips. When you feel your hamstrings kind of catch, you are going to squat down as you continue to push back into your hips the rest of the way to grab the bell. You are going to grab it in just one hand and you are going to stand up with it. Reverse the motion to put the weight back down and stay there for a moment and stand back up.

The reason that this is so challenging is because you are only holding the weight on one side, and that is going to make your body limited to this side, so you are resisting that lateral flexion when you are lifting the weight up. You can also do a double suitcase deadlift with kettlebells if you dont have access to a trap bar.As you can see, it is very similar. You are standing in between the handles, the handles are right outside of your legs and you are going to pick the weight up. This is a double deadlift. You can also do suitcase deadlift with barbells but keep in mind it is important to master the kettlebell first, as doing it with a barbell is extra challenging, because if you don't get your hand in exactly the right spot the weights are going to tip on you.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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