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Getting Down to Business with Suitcase Deadlifts

Deadlifts! These are easy, peasy, lemon squeezy! Well, as easy as a deadlift can be, right? Not really. But, kettlebells are great for a traditional or sumo deadlift, because you grip the bell handle rather than the barbell. I love kettlebells for their asymmetry and their unilateral nature, so one of my favorite variations is the suitcase deadlift.

Rather than the weight being forward and in front, the weight is to the side (hence the name suitcase). Hinging forward at the hip, the bell is gripped in one hand. The lats and the back engage, and the core braces. As the hip pushes forward and the torso straightens, exhale, keeping the arm straight, and straighten. Engage the glutes and hamstrings to create the straightening, rather than pulling from the back and shoulders.


It is more common with suitcase deadlifts for people to bend their knees more than a traditional deadlift; that’s largely because the bell and handle are lower to the ground than a barbell handle with weights would be.


Common Mistakes:

  • Squatting: People make it a squat, with all the work coming from the knee and the quads. The way to avoid this is to continue to think about that posterior hip shift and minimizing the knee bend. Place yourself near a wall, and perform a hip hinge; make sure your butt taps the wall at the end of your lift.

  • Twisting: Because this exercise is asymmetrical, if you’re not careful, your body may twist and compensate with the pull of the weight. Avoid this by bracing your core, engaging your lats, squeezing your shoulders blades together, and exhaling as you lift.

  • Uneven Push from the Hips: Often the result of a disengaged core, or weakness at the hip. At the bottom of the lift, squeeze your glutes to make sure they’re firing before you’re ever in motion.


Why bother with suitcase deadlifts? How often do you pick up something with just one arm? Are you wrangling a toddler, a dog, an actual suitcase (do people still carry those?), or a bag of groceries from the ground? Because those are all essentially suitcase deadlifts.



Do you ever get a twinge with those activities? If so, you're probably not using the right mechanics to prevent injury, and you're building an injury down the road every time you feel that twinge. So what we need to do is prepare you for the real world; if we train you with good mechanics in the gym, those are the mechanics you'll when you're out playing, not thinking about it. And that's what I want, for you to not have to think about how you're going to pick something up, but feel confident enough to just do it.


Got questions? Curious about how you can use kettlebells to keep doing the things you love without thinking twice? Contact us today to set up your evaluation so we can get to the root cause of your problem!

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