Desert Island Exercise

Oh deadlifts, how I love thee, let me count the ways…


1, 2, 3… 10 examples, of many more (so many deadlifts, so little time ⏱️), each with their own unique benefits.



Deadlifts are my “desert island” 🏝️ exercise.

Deadlifts are a compound, core exercise, powered primarily by hip extension and knee extension – glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, and stabilized by the core and back.  This exercise transfers over to many movements of daily living (we’re all familiar with the old adage “lift with your legs, not with your back”; i.e. picking up grocery bags 🛒, moving furniture 🛋️, shovelling snow ☃️, etc.), and they’re excellent at developing the “hip hinge” for powerful athletic movements (think  jumping, running 🏃🏽, sprinting, kicking… the list goes on…).  An unrivalled exercise in strengthening the posterior chain (muscles and fascia on the back side of the body, literally from head to toe), they build overall strength in extension which will counteract the “rounding” or “hunching” that many of us have succumb to from our daily lifestyle activities and habits.

Need I say more? 🤔

This is not a “monkey see, monkey do” 🙈 exercise
– it’s one of the best exercises, and safe, if performed correctly, but can be contraindicated if done incorrectly (injury alert!).  Always consult a professional trainer/coach to learn the (many) intricacies of this lift so you can reap the multitude of benefits it has to offer.


Deadlifts are 70% set-up/30% lift, be mindful every rep.


In a nutshell 🥜 (general cues for all lift variations):
  • Hinge hips and flex knees to descend with a full inhale for maximal-intra abdominal pressure to support the spine.
  • Neutral spine (don’t round the back!).
  • Neck/spine in-line.
  • Chest up, shoulders back & down, strong back to hold the weight.
  • Brace the core, exhale to lift, push the Earth 🌎 away with your feet, then focus on the glutes to extend the hips.
  • Stand tall, open the chest and shoulders, best posture, coactivate the glutes and core to stabilize the pelvis and back.
  • Carry the load as close to your centre of mass as possible throughout the lift.
Specifics of deadlift variations from the above video:
  • Conventional Deadlift –
    • Hip width stance, deep hip hinge, grasp bar outside stance.
    • Great for power development and a precursor to Olympic style weightlifting.
  • Sumo Deadlift –
    • Wider base (no specified width – lifter preference),  foot turnout to open hips, grasp bar inside stance.
    •  Wide stance has functional crossover (how you might set yourself to pick-up something heavy from the floor).
    • Open hips allows for more upright torso = less shearing forces on spine.
  • Jefferson (Straddle) Deadlift –
    • Straddle bar, both feet 45º, shoulder width or slightly wider apart, but keep torso facing forward.  Mixed grip – front hand palm-up/rear hand palm-down.
    • Excellent multi-planar lift for asymmetrical and anti-rotational strength, and produces less shearing forces on the spine than a conventional deadlift.
  • Romanian Deadlift (RDL) –
    • “Top-down” deadlift.  Feet hip to shoulder width apart, grasp bar outside stance.  Focus on deep hip hinge with less emphasis (little to no) bend in knees.
    • Very effective at targeting hip extensor strength (esp. glutes and hamstrings), while limiting the involvement of the often dominant quadriceps, which helps bring balance to these muscle groups.  Excellent for core strength, benefits the low back, and increases hip mobility.
  • Hex Bar Deadlift – 
    • Stand inside hex, centre load with your centre of mass, feet hip to shoulder width apart.  Bar is grasped on handles in the high or low position with a neutral grip.
    • Load placement allows for a more upright torso position resulting in less shearing forces on the spine, plus greater knee flexion for more emphasis on quadriceps.  Neutral grip allows for a more externally rotated shoulder position = less stress on shoulders.
  • Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift –
    • Similar to the hex bar, stand with the load centred with your centre of mass, a kettlebell on either side, and same neutral grip.
    • The same benefits as the hex bar apply, plus due to the fact that two separate weights are being held (i.e. both hands are not fixed to a single bar), more overall stabilization is required.  This lift can also be performed unilaterally (with just one kettlebell), which increases the stability challenge of an unbalanced load and anti-lateral flexion demands (obliques, quadratus lumborum, and erector spinae!).  Also a great strengthening exercise for the avid traveller 🧳
  • Kettlebell Jumping Deadlift –
    • Hip to shoulder width stance, single kettlebell centred in stance, grasp with double overhand grip.  Exhale and extend hips explosively to jump vertically.
    • Excellent for power development!
  • Kettlebell Single Leg Ipsilateral Deadlift –
    • Stand on a single leg and grasp kettlebell with a neutral grip on the same side (ipsilateral).  Keep knee soft but limit the amount of knee flexion throughout (greater focus on posterior chain).
    • Great for improving balance, single leg hip extension/strength, hip mobility, core coordination (anti-rotation and anti-side flexion), plus promotes synergistic strength between shoulder, core and hip.
  • Landime Deadlift –
    • Stand with feet shoulder width or slightly wider apart.  Centre the end of the barbell with stance, and grasp barbell with a double underhand grip.
    • The fixed barbell and bar angle allow for a more stabilized lift plus upright posture, and therefore, safer lift.  Combined with a deep hip hinge, this lift is great for controlled power development of the posterior chain.
  • Single Leg Contralateral Landmine Deadlift –
    • Stand perpendicular to end of barbell.  Stand on one leg, the leg furthest from the barbell, and grasp the bar with the opposite hand, hand closest to the barbell (contralateral) with an overhand grip.
    • All the same benefits as the kettlebell single leg ipsilateral deadlift apply.  Also, the contralateral challenge strengthens the anterior oblique sling that connects the shoulder to the opposite hip via the core (obliques), which is important for all athletics, martial arts, dance, etc.
BONUS!  The Inverted Bodyweight Deadlift

This is a new favourite – a closed chain variation that uses your bodyweight for resistance.  It doesn’t target the hips and lower extremities, but it’s a great way to target the back and core, and the back mechanics transfer well to improve the standard weighted deadlifts outlined above.


Lifting heavy things off the floor feels good.  💪🏽

Just Sayin’. jared

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