As a strength coach with over a decade of experience, I firmly believe the kettlebell deadlift is one of the most beneficial kettlebell exercises you can do when it comes to a functional strength training program. It’s also one of my personal favorites — It helps me feel my strongest and has improved my overall athletic ability by improving my power output.
Check out some of the benefits:
Essentially, the kettlebell deadlift is a fantastic lower body and upper body strengthening tool, especially when it comes to your posterior chain.
Strengthening the posterior chain (lats, erectors, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core) is crucial to improving posture and balance. It also makes everyday activities easier, like when we mimic the hip hinge pattern to pick something up off the ground. Training proper form ensures we can perform this action easily and safely.
The deadlift also improves exercises like pull-ups. Working on your pull-ups too? Avoid these 5 common mistakes.
In this article, I'm going to teach you how to perform the KB deadlift as well as the following four variations:
But before I talk about each of these in detail, I want to answer a commonly asked question.
A squat is a knee-dominant movement. A deadlift is hip-dominant.
Move your knees first, keeping your torso in an upright position throughout the whole movement.
Move your hips first so your torso moves from a 45° angle to an upright position and back again. (For more guidance on the hip hinge, check out this article.)
Choose a weight that allows you to perform 3–4 sets of 8 reps with an intensity around 8 out of 10 (1 = lying in bed, 10 = absolute max intensity).
To up the intensity if you don't have a heavier weight, you can increase your rep range and/or slow your tempo to allow for more time under tension. Or if you have a resistance band available, add it to the kettlebell to make it a progressive load.
If the range of motion is a challenge, try elevating the kettlebell. As you get more comfortable, continue lowering the KB until you can pull it safely from the ground.
Important note: You may not be able to get to a point where you can deadlift from the floor — and that’s OK! You will still reap major benefits.
Now it’s time to have some fun with variations!
The kettlebell sumo deadlift helps to target the adductors (inner thigh and groin muscles). The sumo position allows for a smaller range of motion and puts more load on the quads — and less on the lower back — and is thus often favored by lifters looking to pull heavy weight. The structure of a person’s hips and pelvic will often determine how comfortable sumo deadlifts are for them.
Try using two kettlebells instead of one. You can use this deadlifting variation to increase your load, or as an alternative if you have two lighter kettlebells.
This suitcase kettlebell deadlift focuses on anti-rotation strength. As the weight is offset from the center, your core (especially the obliques, in this case) has to work harder to stabilize throughout the movement. This movement pattern also has tons of real-world carryover, like — you guessed it — carrying suitcases, groceries, or a car seat.
The kickstand kettlebell deadlift is another offset deadlift variation that helps develop strength and stability while targeting unilateral strength.
The single-leg Romanian kettlebell deadlift will also challenge your stability and mobility. As a bonus, it works your ankle complex, which makes it a great movement for runners. (Try it with this full-body workout.)
As you’re performing this movement, keep in mind that you are aiming to create a T with your body.
Depending on the weight of your kettlebells, you can also try the movement with only one hand for a further challenge.
Feeling strong? You should!
By mastering those 4 kettlebell deadlift variations, you’re setting yourself up for some major strength gains — and you’re going to notice a positive difference both in and out of the gym.
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