Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Deadlift

“There is no reason to be alive if you can’t do deadlift.” ~Jón Páll Sigmarsson, former strongman and powerlifter

The deadlift is a fundamental movement pattern that we all used as toddlers and children. As we sit often in school, we develop poor posture and movement patterns and lose the ability to properly perform this movement. The deadlift is a hip-hinging movement that uses your hips and legs to lift a heavy object off the ground with your upper body. It is a pre-requisite to many advance lifting exercises.

Movement description

Place a kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart and with your feet pointing forward. Bend your torso forward at your waist, and bend your knees slightly. Shift your weight slightly to your heels.

Grab the kettlebell firmly with your left hand and place your right hand over your lumbar spine to make sure that your spine does not round or move.

Push your legs against the ground and push your buttocks forward, bringing your torso upright to lift the kettlebell off the ground. Keep your arm hanging in front of your body with the kettlebell in hand. Maintain your back extension and your chest open, but do not hyperextend your spine or round your shoulders forward.

Lower the weight toward the ground by reversing the hip-hinging movement. Perform two sets of 5 to 8 reps on each hand.


Deadlifts strengthen your buttocks and abdominal and spinal stability. It does not train for hamstrings or superficial lower back strength as indicated in textbooks and mainstream media. The idea behind the deadlift is to improve the movement pattern and to be able to lift the weight properly, not to train muscles.

Contraindications: Do not perform this exercise if you recently had any surgery or have any musculoskeletal diseases or disorders, such as herniated discs, spondylosis and arthritis. Check with your physician or therapist before starting any exercise program.

Expert Insight: Physical therapist and strength coach Gray Cook, co-founder of Function Movement Systems, recommends that you use a weight that you cannot lift with your upper body alone. If you use too light of a weight, then you would most likely compensate by lifting with your shoulder and arm rather than using the leg and hip drive of the deadlift technique. Start with a weight that is equivalent to a heavy luggage or a pre-school child (between 25 to 50 lbs).

Variation: One arm kettlebell deadlift.


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