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kettlebell deadlift

Kettlebell Deadlift: How-To, Benefits & Variations

If you’re getting tired of doing the same old exercises in every session, why not change it up and incorporate a kettlebell deadlift? Deadlifts are a highly effective exercise and there is not just one variation of the movement. 

In this article we will cover:

You can ensure that after this article, you will be confident in performing the kettlebell deadlift while avoiding any injuries or mistakes. But just before we begin, if you have a passion for fitness that you wish to share, be sure to check out our level 3 personal training course here. Alternatively, you can browse through all of our courses by downloading our prospectus.

One more thing, don’t forget to download your FREE 16-week home strength training programme below!

What Is A Kettlebell Deadlift?

A kettlebell deadlift is similar to what you probably know as a regular deadlift, the only difference being the equipment used. It is a lower body movement that builds strength, particularly in your hamstrings and glutes. 

To do this kind of deadlift, all you need is one kettlebell. If you’d like to try a double kettlebell deadlift, then you’ll need to grab a pair of kettlebells. Whilst setting up a barbell deadlift can take a little longer than you hope for when having a quick workout, this kettlebell alternative makes for a movement that is effective and easy to do with minimal equipment and space.

As you’ll see just below, this is a relatively basic movement, so let's get into how to do a deadlift with a kettlebell. 

How to Perform a Kettlebell Deadlift

Performing a deadlift with a kettlebell is pretty simple, you can do this at home or in the gym with ease as you need is a single kettlebell. If you’re new to this exercise, you can practice the movement with a lighter weight first.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing a kettlebell deadlift yet, try starting by using an empty bar. This will help you to get the hang of the correct movement before moving onto a heavier weight. Now, let's see how to get set up properly.

Set up

Set up this deadlift by using a kettlebell with a light weight if you’re new to the exercise. If you’re a regular gym goer who is familiar with deadlifts and you want to push yourself a little more, choose a weight heavy enough to challenge you but not so heavy that you can’t keep to good form. 

You should have a comfortable amount of room and preferably a mirror in front of you so you can analyse your posture.

Starting Position

  • Begin with your feet around hip distance apart and your kettlebell on the ground in the middle of your feet, in between your ankles.
  • Your legs should be straight and toes should be facing forward with a slight turn out to either side.

Execution 

  • From the starting position, hinge the hips so your back is flat and your body is at a 45º angle.
  • Ensure your chin stays neutral.
  • Bending your knees, grasp the kettlebell in an overhand grip.
  • Your hands should be next to one another.
  • With your core tight, engage the glutes to stand up straight.
  • Lower the kettlebell back down the ground by bending the knees and hinging the hips.
  • Repeat the steps for the recommended sets and reps.

Sets & Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked:

  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Erector spinae

Common Mistake to Avoid

Squatting: Though the leg movement may feel similar, there is a key difference between a deadlift and a squat. If you’re looking for guidance on a kettlebell deadlift for beginners, you may make this easy mistake so remember to:

  • Hinge the hips 45º.
  • Use your glutes.
  • Work your lower back.

Now before we move onto all of the great benefits of a kettlebell deadlift, check out our article for a free full-body kettlebell workout for any fitness level here.

Benefits of a Kettlebell Deadlift

Now that you’re aware of what a kettlebell deadlift is and how to conduct one, you may want to know about the benefits of this particular exercise - well, here they are! 

#1 Builds Muscle Mass

When performing a kettlebell deadlift, muscles are pushed to their limit. Deadlifts are a key indicator of strength, and are popular among powerlifters and those training for strongman competitions. 

Many people shy away from the deadlift due to the pressure it can put on your lower back, however, so long as your technique is correct and you work the weight up gradually, you should be lowering the risk of injury.  

The deadlift is an overall compound movement so though you won't be isolating muscles to gain super definition, you will be bulking overall and building all round strength. This kind of practice makes isolation exercises even more effective, as you can build the strength in the compound movement and prepare your muscles for an isolated exercise.

This can improve your overall strength and muscle mass as a compound movement such as a kettlebell deadlift typically allows for a heavier weight than you would use in an isolated movement. Essentially, you risk wasting energy on an isolated exercise if you perform this first, whereas a kettlebell deadlift can see you lift more, achieve more and prepare for a more effective isolation exercise; all of which result in greater strength and muscle mass. 

For more information on kettlebells benefits and uses click here for our article.

#2 Varies Your Workout

There isn’t just one kettlebell deadlift variation, there are plenty that you can perform to ensure your workouts stay exciting and motivating every week. With an exercise like the deadlift, it can become modain performing the same movement, with the same weight, day after day.

So, with the kettlebell deadlift you can count on plenty of variations to keep your workout routines exciting. This can include:

  • Double kettlebell deadlifts
  • Kettlebell suitcase deadlift
  • Kettlebell deadlift high pull
  • Kettlebell sumo deadlift
  • Kettlebell romanian deadlift

So if you want to change up your exercise routine, you can have a different variation of kettlebell deadlift 5 days a week! You can find instructions and how-to’s of these exercises in our variations section a little later.

#3 Burns Plenty of Calories

Like any exercise, doing a deadlift with a kettlebell can torch calories.

Kettlebell deadlifts in particular however can be performed with heavier weights than your average compound movement. So, more weight equates to more effort, more effort leads to a greater energy expenditure - in other words, calories.

You can always manipulate the weight that you are working out with, if you want to burn more calories yet aren't quite ready to jump up a weight, simply increase your reps. This way you can still push yourself without needing to overcompensate.

This means that trying to up your weight could put you at higher risk of injury as you just may not have the strength for such as of yet - so, be patient. This doesn’t mean that you won’t burn as many calories, you can still work incredibly hard on a kettlebell deadlift with high reps and feel the burn!

There is a positive outcome of this too, as you may feel stronger by the time that you do choose to raise the weight if you practice increasing the reps slowly, but surely. 

If the aim of your fitness journey is to lose or maintain weight, head to our article on the best tips on how to maintain weight loss here.

#4 Increases Bone Density

Another great benefit of performing a deadlift with a kettlebell is that it can help you to improve and build your bone density.

You may be wondering how this works, so allow us to explain. In the same way that muscles and tendons react to physical stress, your bones do the same. Exercise, and in particular strength and resistance training, builds muscle, and alongside this, they increase tendon strength, bone density, and tensile strength.

There is evidence behind this too, as one study found that 24 weeks of resistance training, of which included deadlift exercises, was effective in increasing bone mineral density in young healthy men.

So, whilst you might have assumed that exercises like a kettlebell deadlift only benefits the odd muscle or too, they actually benefit many aspects of your overall bodily function. 

#5 Strong Posterior Chain

One of the key benefits of performing regular kettlebell deadlifts and contributing to your resistance routine is the strengthening of your posterior chain.

For optimal spinal stability, a strong posterior chain is essential. This consists of the back of the body, more specifically the lower back, the glute muscles, hamstrings and the calves. So, by performing kettlebell deadlifts, you can strengthen these areas ultimately boosting your ability in:

  • Balance
  • Posture
  • Power 
  • Boosts overall athletic performance

By having a strong posterior chain, you will find that your power in explosive exercises will increase. Also, you will find injuries could become a little less common as you have strength on your side. 

Kettlebell Deadlift Variations & Alternatives

You may remember previously when we mentioned some new variations of the kettlebell deadlift  that you can try, and so below you can find exercise guides for 5 different variations that you can do either at home or in the gym. All you will need is two kettlebells at most, yet for most you will only need one.

#1 Double Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlifts

Single leg kettlebell deadlift exercises are super popular in those improving their balance, coordination, and of course overall strength. This exercise requires practice and maybe even trying the movement out without a weight if you’re new to the exercise; this way, you can become accustomed to the weight distribution.

Set up

Simply find yourself some space and grab two kettlebells of the same weight. Place the equipment in front of you and get prepared for the starting position.

Starting Position

  • Grab the two kettlebells with a neutral grip in each hand.
  • Stand up straight with the kettlebells by your side, like you would with bags of shopping.
  • Ensure your feet are shoulder width apart.

Execution 

  • From the starting position, push the hips back.
  • Raise the right leg and lower the arms and torso.
  • Ensure your back is straight and engage your core.
  • Slight bend in both your stabilising and lifted leg.
  • Perform on both sides.

Sets and Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hips
  • Core
  • Back Stabilisers
  • Trapezius
  • Shoulders

Common Mistake to Avoid

Going too fast: This exercise brings the best results when performed under a controlled manner. You should avoid rushing this kettlebell deadlift variation as it could hinder your balance performance, meaning you have a lack of control and thus, could easily fall forward.

Before we continue, why not take a look at our articles all about kettlebells below:

#2 Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift

Next up on our handy guide on how to do a kettlebell deadlift is the suitcase variant. This is known as the kettlebell suitcase deadlift and requires just one single piece of equipment and a little space. So let's see how to get set up for this exercise. 

Set Up

Begin this deadlift with a kettlebell by your side. Ensure it is heavy enough to pose resistance but not so heavy that you strain your opposite side. 

Starting Position

  • Stand with your feet around hip distance apart and toes faced forward.
  • Ensure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground and pick up your kettlebell with your right arm in a neutral grip. 

Execution

  • From the starting position, lower yourself into a shallow squat.
  • Keep your spine neutral and right arm extended (this is the arm lifting the kettlebell).
  • Push up and hinge the hips so your back comes up straight, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat on either side for the recommended sets and reps.

Sets and Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Erector spinae

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Lifting a weight too heavy: Due to this kettlebell deadlift relying on a side load, you should avoid lifting too much weight. Though you may be used to a heavy kettlebell when the weight is distributed evenly, you should cut this in half to avoid any strain on the opposite obliques.

If you’re want to know about more benefits of deadlifts that aren’t specific to kettlebell variations, click here.

#3 Kettlebell Deadlift High Pull

A varied kettlebell deadlift for beginners doesn't have to be boring, this is a great alteration to hit not only your posterior chain but even your upper body - all in one movement. So let’s find out what you need to get started.

Set Up

Start this exercise with a single kettlebell, this requires some level of upper body strength depending on how heavy you wish to lift, as you will be raising it to your chest. This exercise will hit the deltoids of the upper body so if you are strong in that area, push yourself and go for a heavier kettlebell.

Starting Position

  • Start with your feet shoulder width apart and ensure your toes are facing forward.
  • Pick up your kettlebell with both hands by the horns using a pronated grip.
  • Your arms should be extended before getting into the movement.

Execution

  • Hinge the hips forward 45º and lower the kettlebell to the ground.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back flat .
  • Drive the heels through the floor and extend the knees, hips and torso to a standing position.
  • Simultaneously, lift the kettlebell to upper chest level
  • Keep your elbows high and reverse the movement to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the recommended sets and reps.

Sets and Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked

  • Trapezius
  • Deltoids
  • Adductors
  • Quadriceps
  • Rhomboids
  • Glutes
  • Hamstring

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Knees in front of the toes: You should avoid allowing your knees to reach over your toes as this puts unnecessary strain on your knee joints. You should find stability in your heels rather than your toes, ensuring that your knees do not track forwards as you perform the exercise.

#4 Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

The kettlebell sumo deadlift is a popular variation, it works the hip flexors which is slightly different from some other variations we have come across. This is great on a leg day as you will target every inch of the upper leg muscles.

Set Up

Set up this exercise by simply grabbing yourself a kettlebell, you should be able to lift more weight than say a one arm variation like the aforementioned suitcase deadlift. This is because you can grip this weight with both hands. So, find some space and get ready to start.

Starting Position

  • Begin with a wide stance, placing your feet more than shoulder width apart.
  • Your toes should be facing out at a 45º angle with heels planted firmly into the ground.
  • Have your kettlebell ready to be lifted in between your toes. 

Execution

  • Lift the kettlebell with both hands using a pronated grip.
  • Using the hips lower yourself so your knees are bent and arms are extended.
  • Keep a flat back.
  • Drive the heels through the floor, extending the knees and hips.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat for the recommended sets and reps.

Sets and Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked

  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector spinae 
  • Trapezius

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Thrusting the hips forward: The kettlebell sumo deadlift requires control, and though it might feel like thrusting the hips forward is natural, you should instead use your trapezius to pull the weight back to the starting position. This avoids the hip thrust motion and helps you to lift the weight with control. 

#5 Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift

Finally, our last popular variation is the Romanian deadlift with a kettlebell. This is one exercise that requires two kettlebells and the movement may feel familiar to a deadlift you would perform with a barbell. So, let’s see how to get set up.

Set Up

This is a double kettlebell deadlift so test out the weight beforehand as you will need to have good grip strength in both of your hands. You should find some space and get to work!

Starting Position

  • Begin by holding onto one kettlebell with a neutral grip in each hand and standing up straight.
  • Your feet should be shoulder width apart.

Execution

  • From the starting position, keep your core strong and hinge the hips.
  • Lower the weights to the ground so they are in front of your toes.
  • Your back should be straight.
  • Extend your arms without locking at the elbows.
  • Ensure you have a slight bend in the knees so you feel a stretch in the hamstrings and glutes.
  • Pull back up to the starting position and repeat for the recommended sets and reps.

Sets and Reps: 8-10 reps, 3 sets.

Muscles Worked

  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Latissimus Dorsi 
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Erector

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Lifting too heavy: For this Romanian deadlift kettlebell exercise ensure you distribute the weight evenly, and that is not too heavy - a weight too heavy could hurt your shoulders and cause a jerking motion, this could potentially cause unnecessary muscle strains and pulls. 

Before You Go

Thankfully, by now, you should be well aware on how to correctly perform a kettlebell deadlift. Don’t forget to vary up your routines with different alternatives so you can reap all of the benefits of the kettlebell deadlift, without getting bored.

Before you go, if you want to get into the fitness industry, be sure to check out our level 3 course in personal training here. Or, you can view all our courses on offer here in our downloadable prospectus.

Written by Kimberley Mitchell

Editor

Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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