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Which Is The BEST Deadlift?

low back pain

The fitness industry LOVES the desert island. You know, questions like, “if you were stuck on a desert island what would be the piece of fitness equipment you would take, the one exercise you would perform, the one workout program you would use?” Well, hopefully, the obvious answer is flippers and a snorkel along with a great swimming program. All jokes aside, I get what the REAL question is all about. People get SO overwhelmed with what everyone on social media is telling them is the best, they don’t know what to think anymore. That stinks!

Does fitness need to think in terms of a Wilson (Cast Away for you young folks, good movie!)

I say it stinks because it makes fitness professionals fall into a few traps. For one, they don’t ever learn that a lot of answers fall on the “it depends” scale and that is frustrating because overall the fitness industry doesn’t give good systems. Sure, we can knock out new exercises left and right or we get comfortable with our 5-6 movements, but we rarely get taught how everything fits together. That’s why I wanted to use today’s post to answer such a question about an exercise people love in the deadlift. What IS the best deadlift?

What To Know About The Deadlift First

Of course there are a few keys to understand about any exercise so we can appreciate how the progressions work. There is an assumption that with the deadlift the key is to keep going heavier and heavier and heaver. That’s how you get “strong” right? Well, kinda sorta? Is going heavier a good way to get stronger, sure, but we have to put it with some context. Beginners definitely benefit from the standard deadlift and building strength in the exercise.

Ultimate Sandbag deadlift

However, they build “strength” through not just muscles getting stronger, but the nervous system becoming more efficient. I like to call this the “riding the bike” effect, you know when you first start riding a bike for the first time you are unsteady but then quickly you get smoother and smoother. The same thing happens when you are learning a new exercise. Is this bad though? Of course not, it has to be done because as we progress the deadlift they have to possess these skills in a very solid way. The bigger question is, “how strong is strong enough?” That sounds stupid in strength training and the deadlift right? I mean, more is always better!

Well, there are a few issues with that thought process. We do know there is a term used in sport and strength science of “optimal strength”. That is strength that once you build that base level adding more weight does NOT improve performance in a chosen activity. Of course the question would then be, how strong is that? How much weight should we lift till we move on to other progressions. Sadly, I’ve looked pretty hard and I’m not aware of any studies that look at optimal strength with the deadlift.

In fact, when you start poking around research journals things can get complicated fast. For example, this 2017 study (you can read HERE) compared a mid thigh barbell and from the floor deadlift with both hex bar and straight barbells with a counter jump movement (a typical movement for measuring power output and has great transfer to many real world activities). The researchers found that the mid thigh deadlift created more ground reaction forces (these are forces that are used to make people run faster, jump higher, what we typically think of as “strong). So, we should use just mid thigh deadlift movements right?


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)

But…they ended up also showing and saying, “the strongest correlations between isometric and dynamic performance were seen between deadlift power ground reaction forces and counter movement jump impulse . These findings are likely because of the different anatomical characteristics between the mid thigh pull and deadlift and the similarity in joint angles between the deadlift and counter movement jump. Therefore, the DL may be an optimal choice for athletes in jump-dependent sports, regardless of bar.”

You see this is where people get stuck, so everything is good and just use whatever it you feel like right? That’s why understanding what the Ultimate Sandbag brings to these movements beyond just instability is so key. The ability to keep lat engagement on ANY hip hinge is vital because our lats work naturally with our core. The lats make large attachments to the spine and pelvis, blending seamlessly with our core overall.


This is one of the great benefits of Ultimate Sandbags in the deadlift or any hip hinge, making this essential connection by using the correct handles (neutral grip) allows us to teach the value of the lats in a very easy to learn way. It is also why our elbow position with the USB is in the Front Loaded position is key in gaining those lats.

Why not just keep going heavier and heavier though? A good way to explain this is thinking about movement like learning a language. A lot of good movement training is having our nervous system learn how to coordinate our body correctly to use the right muscles at the right time. Only going heavier and using the same stance would be like only knowing how to speak a few words. You can say things, you might be able to communicate a bit, but you are very limited in what you can say or express yourself. It may also just be helpful to know that muscles like your glutes and core are largely to work in multiple planes of motion, in other words, this is how your body is designed. So, how do we go about accomplishing this goal?


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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)

Coach Cari Satre shows that we start by first changing where we hold the weight that really sounds odd, but increases the stress on the body. That is because we often don’t consider that where we place the load is in very easy and stable positions. Then we move to our Sprinter Stance which is an incremental change to body position to challenge the posterior chain at a higher level (calves, hamstrings, glutes, low back). Where do we keep going?

Physical therapist, Jessica Bento, helps show how we use different stepping patterns to have progression to our drills. They are just different, but we layer these in a very specific pattern (backwards, laterally, forward, and crossover) to help people understand how this changes the intensity of the deadlift. One of the highest levels of deadlift movements though is not what people think!

Being able to perform some of these patterns as we have a moving weight and trying to create only thoracic movement while keeping lumbar stability as Coaches Cari and Cory show below. The demands of the lower body and core are HUGE and lead to success in getting so much more out of the deadlift. Try working through these progressions to make your training better!

These are topics and in depth conversations we will go over and demonstrate in our 12 week DVRT Rx Low Back Pain course that will begin NEXT week! This week you can save $100 on our program and gain an educational experience like you have never had before! Just go HERE