Mastering the Suitcase Deadlift

Suitcase deadlift

Understanding the Suitcase Deadlift

Mastering the Suitcase Deadlift! The suitcase deadlift is a fundamental exercise that targets the muscles of the lower body, specifically the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. It is a variation of the traditional deadlift, but with a slight twist. Instead of using a barbell, the suitcase deadlift is performed using a single dumbbell or kettlebell, held in one hand beside the body, mimicking the action of lifting a suitcase.

The suitcase deadlift is a compound movement that not only strengthens the lower body but also engages the core and improves grip strength. By incorporating this exercise into your workout routine, you can develop functional strength and improve your overall performance in daily activities.

Benefits of Incorporating the Suitcase Deadlift into Your Workout Routine

  1. Improved Core Stability: The suitcase deadlift requires you to engage your core muscles to maintain proper form and balance. This exercise helps strengthen the muscles of your core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae, leading to improved stability and posture.
  2. Increased Grip Strength: Holding a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell on one side of your body challenges your grip strength. As you progress with the suitcase deadlift, your grip strength will improve, making it easier to perform other exercises that require a strong grip, such as pull-ups and rows.
  3. Enhanced Lower Body Strength: The suitcase deadlift primarily targets the muscles of the lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. By regularly performing this exercise, you can increase your lower body strength, leading to improved athletic performance and functional movement.
  4. Improved Balance: The unilateral nature of the suitcase deadlift requires you to maintain balance and stability throughout the movement. This exercise helps identify and correct any muscular imbalances between the left and right sides of your body, leading to improved overall balance.

Suitcase Deadlift vs. Traditional Deadlift: What’s the Difference?

Mastering the Suitcase Deadlift
Traditional Deadlift

While both the suitcase deadlift and the traditional deadlift are effective exercises for developing lower body strength, there are a few key differences between the two.

  1. Load Distribution: In the traditional deadlift, the load is evenly distributed on both sides of the barbell. This allows for a balanced and symmetrical movement. On the other hand, the suitcase deadlift involves holding a single weight on one side of the body, creating an offset load. This challenges the core and forces the muscles on one side of the body to work harder to maintain stability.
  2. Grip Placement: In the traditional deadlift, the grip is placed outside the legs, with both hands holding the barbell. In contrast, the suitcase deadlift requires a single-handed grip, with the weight held beside the body. This grip placement places greater demand on the muscles of the forearm and hand, leading to increased grip strength.
  3. Muscle Activation: While both exercises target the same muscle groups, the suitcase deadlift places a greater emphasis on the muscles of the core, specifically the obliques and the muscles that stabilize the spine. Additionally, the suitcase deadlift activates the muscles on one side of the body more than the other, helping to correct any imbalances.

Proper Form and Technique for the Suitcase Deadlift

To perform the suitcase deadlift with proper form, follow these steps:

  1. Set Up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Place the dumbbell or kettlebell on the ground beside your right foot, slightly in front of your toes. Keep your spine neutral and engage your core.
  2. Grip the Weight: Bend down and grip the weight with your right hand, palm facing your body. Maintain a firm grip on the handle.
  3. Lift the Weight: Keep your back straight and engage your core as you lift the weight off the ground. Drive through your heels and extend your hips, standing up straight. Keep the weight close to your body throughout the movement.
  4. Lower the Weight: Reverse the movement by bending at the hips and knees, lowering the weight back down to the starting position. Maintain control and avoid rounding your back.
  5. Switch Sides: After completing a set on one side, switch the weight to your left hand and perform the same number of repetitions on the opposite side.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Performing the Suitcase Deadlift

To get the most out of your suitcase deadlifts and prevent injury, be mindful of these common mistakes:

  1. Rounding the Back: One of the most common mistakes during the suitcase deadlift is rounding the back. This can put excessive stress on the spine and increase the risk of injury. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, keeping your chest up and shoulders back.
  2. Using Too Much Weight: It’s important to start with a weight that you can comfortably lift with proper form. Using too much weight can compromise your technique and increase the risk of injury. Gradually increase the weight as your strength and form improve.
  3. Neglecting Core Engagement: The suitcase deadlift is a core-intensive exercise, and neglecting to engage your core can lead to poor form and reduced effectiveness. Focus on bracing your core throughout the movement, maintaining a stable and neutral spine.
  4. Lifting with the Arm: The primary force should come from your legs and hips, not your arm. Avoid using your arm to lift the weight, as this can strain your shoulder and elbow joints. Instead, think of the arm as a lever, with the leg muscles doing the majority of the work.

Suitcase Deadlift Variations and Progressions

Once you have mastered the basic suitcase deadlift, there are several variations and progressions you can incorporate into your training program to continue challenging your muscles and making progress.

  1. Single-Leg Suitcase Deadlift: This variation involves performing the suitcase deadlift while balancing on one leg. It further engages the stabilizer muscles and improves balance and proprioception.
  2. Deficit Suitcase Deadlift: Perform the suitcase deadlift with the weight on an elevated surface, such as a step or platform. This increases the range of motion and places greater emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Suitcase Carry: Instead of performing repetitions, walk with the weight held in one hand, focusing on maintaining an upright posture and engaging your core. This variation improves grip strength, core stability, and overall muscular endurance.
  4. Progressive Overload: As your strength improves, gradually increase the weight of the dumbbell or kettlebell. This progression ensures continued muscle growth and strength gains.

Suitcase deadlift

Incorporating the Suitcase Deadlift into Your Training Program

To effectively incorporate the suitcase deadlift into your training program, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Frequency: Aim to perform the suitcase deadlift exercise 1-2 times per week, allowing for adequate recovery between sessions.
  2. Sets and Repetitions: Start with 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form throughout each set. As you become more proficient, you can increase the intensity by adding more sets or increasing the weight.
  3. Progression: Gradually increase the weight or difficulty of the exercise over time to continue challenging your muscles and making progress. This can be done by increasing the weight, performing advanced variations, or reducing rest periods.
  4. Rest: Allow for adequate rest between sets to recover and maintain proper form. Rest for 1-2 minutes between sets, adjusting the rest period based on your fitness level and goals.

Tips for Maximizing Your Suitcase Deadlift Performance

To maximize your suitcase deadlift performance and reap the benefits of this exercise, consider the following tips:

  1. Warm-Up: Prior to performing the suitcase deadlift, warm up your muscles with dynamic stretches and movements to increase blood flow and prepare your body for the exercise.
  2. Focus on Technique: Proper form is crucial for the suitcase deadlift. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine, engaging your core, and using your legs and hips to generate force.
  3. Start Light and Progress Gradually: Begin with a weight that challenges you but allows for proper form. Gradually increase the weight over time as your strength and technique improve.
  4. Engage Your Core: Throughout the movement, focus on bracing your core and maintaining a stable spine. This will improve your overall stability and prevent excessive stress on your back.

Suitcase Deadlift Workout Example

Here is an example of a suitcase deadlift workout that you can incorporate into your training routine:

  1. Warm-Up: Start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging or cycling, to increase your heart rate and warm up your muscles. Follow this with dynamic stretches for your legs, hips, and upper body.
  2. Main Workout:
  • Suitcase Deadlift: 3 sets of 10 reps (each side)
  • Single-Leg Suitcase Deadlift: 3 sets of 8 reps (each leg)
  • Suitcase Carry: 3 sets of 30 seconds (each side)
  • Deficit Suitcase Deadlift: 3 sets of 12 reps
  1. Cool Down: Finish your workout with 5-10 minutes of light cardio to gradually lower your heart rate. Follow this with static stretches for your legs, hips, and lower back.

Remember to adjust the weight and repetitions based on your current fitness level and goals.


The suitcase deadlift is a highly effective exercise for developing lower body strength, improving core stability, and increasing grip strength. By mastering the proper form and technique, avoiding common mistakes, and incorporating variations and progressions, you can maximize the benefits of this exercise and take your fitness to the next level. Whether you are an athlete looking to enhance your performance or a fitness enthusiast seeking functional strength, the suitcase deadlift is a valuable addition to your training program. So grab a dumbbell or kettlebell (dumbbell suitcase deadlift), perfect your form, and start reaping the benefits of the suitcase deadlift today!


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