What is a One-Legged Deadlift?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 February 2020
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A one-legged deadlift is a challenging exercise that involves the use of a weight such as a dumbbell or kettleball. This exercise is a variation on a traditional deadlift, in which a person grasps a barbell with both hands while the weight is on the ground; he or she then lifts the barbell without bending the arms — the arms are said to stay "dead" rather than actively moving — and the lifter returns the weight to the ground. A one-legged deadlift involves a similar motion, but less weight is used, and the lifter stands on one leg when performing the motion.

A barbell is not used for a one-legged deadlift. Instead, a dumbbell, which is much smaller and can be lifted with one hand in many cases, is used for maneuverability. A kettlebell can also be used; this small ball with a handle is easy to hold and comes in a variety of weights to suit a particular exercise. A one-legged deadlift starts in a neutral position, with the lifter standing up straight. The kettlebell or dumbbell is held in both hands or in one hand, depending on the lifter's comfort level. Advanced lifters may hold independent weights in each hand for more of a challenge.


Once the person is in the neutral position, he or she will let his or her arms dangle with the weights reaching to about the thighs or hips. The lifter will then place one foot back so the toes are just barely touching the ground, or so the foot is raised off the ground completely. Leaving the toes touching the ground improves balance, and lifters new to this activity should try the exercise with the toes on the ground first. The lifter will then lean forward at the waist and lower the upper body toward the ground. It may be helpful to bend slightly at the knee for added support.

The arms should be allowed to dangle forward, and once the weights touch the ground, the lifter should hold this position momentarily, then slowly shift his or her weight back onto the heel of the foot and begin to move back to the starting position. The one-legged deadlift motion should be repeated for several repetitions to complete the exercise, and then the lifter can alternate legs to work both sides of the body. As the lifter becomes more comfortable with the motion, he or she can try the exercise with more weight, or do more repetitions.


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