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How Valuable Is The Deadlift?

sandbag training

sandbag training

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration, DVRT Shoulder Course, DVRT Pelvic Control Course)

I’ve always felt a bit of an outsider to how a lot of people tend to look at strength. It all started as my life of a swimmer, where strength training didn’t play a huge role in our training (it probably should have but not how most people more than likely think). As a physical therapist, my concern wasn’t hitting personal records in a lift, but getting people moving, feeling, and performing in life. As someone who has been one to deal with serious injuries like 5 spinal disc herniations and completely torn rotator cuffs (happening from sports). So, when I hear people rave and say that everyone has to do any ONE exercise, I think we are setting up unrealistic expectations. A great example is the deadlift!

I think this quote by renowned strength coach, Mike Boyle, sums up many of my thoughts on the subject of the deadlift. Many may miss Coach Boyle’s bigger point which is how heavy do we need to go on a deadlift and is the movement or the exercise more important? In DVRT we always speak about the movement not the exercise. So, a deadlift is a hip hinge, but a hip hinge doesn’t have to be a deadlift. Probably going to another level, a deadlift (if we focus on movement) has so many layers to it beyond how most ever explore.

I’ll share this from my own personal experience. Because I didn’t come from a sport that had barbell work as a priority, because I work in a field that isn’t focused on just lifting numbers, and because I am someone who has battled chronic pain for many, many years, the barbell deadlift wasn’t something I was really interested in or found much need in prioritizing.

Does that mean I don’t believe in the deadlift? Well, depends how we speak about the movement. Like Coach Boyle, do I believe you should be able to have some foundational strength in a deadlift, yes. Do I believe you have to get caught up chasing numbers and forget about the bigger picture of movement strength training, no?

So, when I started working with Josh ten years ago, my goal was to be healthy, to feel better, and yes, I wanted to fit and strong. However, with those other factors in my head, Josh didn’t force me into barbell deadlifting. He taught me foundations of the hip hinge and then we worked on my focus on the pattern, not the exercise, in many different forms.

There are many ways I strengthen my core and glutes here and work the hip hinge in different patterns.  

The result? Well, one day in the gym I asked Josh, “so what do you think I COULD barbell deadlift?” He kinda shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know probably around 225.” That was almost 1.5 times my bodyweight. Hmmm, being a former athlete I felt the competitive side slip in and I wanted to find out! Josh was pretty surprised, but agreed to walk me through attempting to see what my barbell deadlift really looked like.

We built up slowly (at the time we were still addressing instability of my low back), and to much of my surprise, Josh was right (don’t tell him I said that!).


Josh got my first time going over 200 pounds, I did think it was pretty cool. More cool though that this was the FIRST time I was doing barbell deadlifts!

Maybe I could have kept going, but I thought I had accomplished what I wanted. It was just great reinforcement of what we always say about DVRT, which is that we don’t want you to get good at “sandbags”. We want to teach your body skills that make you great at basically anything you want to do!

What will shock most people about my deadlift is that I rarely used weight higher than a 60 pound Strength Ultimate Sandbag. It was manipulating the same principles we speak about all the time in DVRT. Holding position, body position, and plane of motion to a large degree.

How can this look in a workout? Here is one of my favorites that I love to use to demonstrate we can train hard AND smart! 

Learning and focusing upon movement and how to use my body smarter gave me great strength. However, not only did it allow me to lift a good amount of weight on the barbell, the fact that I had accomplished this while working on my other goals that were MORE meaningful to me, made me even more excited.

The point of sharing this story with you is that sometimes we share ideas in DVRT that sound good, but we get pulled on the other side of wondering, “will I REALLY get strong though?” The simple answer is YES! Just as importantly, if not more so, is the fact you will get stronger while moving and feeling better. That is what we really want to achieve with the people we are working with and are entrusting us to help achieve their best!

Learn more about how DVRT is changing how people train smarter and better. Save 25% with coupon code “save25” HERE. Below is an example of how Jessica built this great combination of strength, power, stability, and mobility.