Four Deadlift Progressions You Should Master Before Using a Barbell

Just like you wouldn't run a marathon without proper training, you can't expect to lift a loaded barbell off the floor without good technique.

deadlift progressions

Photo by Christina Chu

When people ask me what my favorite exercise is, I don’t hesitate when I say that it is the deadlift. This exercise is the king of all hip hinge exercises, or the flexion of the hips with a neutral back. It not only strengthens your posterior chain, or the backside of your body (hello glutes!), it also utilizes your entire body, like your shoulders and your core. However, this lift can be difficult to learn, and thus, may result in injury if not performed properly. Below are five deadlift progressions I use with my clients to safely work your way up to a full barbell deadlift off the ground.

Many of these progressions use a kettlebell. If you’re looking for even more ways to incorporate kettlebells into your routine, check out this circuit here.

1. Rear Kettlebell Hip Hinge

Holding a light kettlebell (5-10 pounds) behind you with your arms relaxed, perform a hip hinge with slightly bent knees. Think about pushing your hips back while maintaining a straight spine. The kettlebell behind you will keep your shoulders pulled back. Try this for 15 reps in front of a mirror to check your form.


2. Kettlebell with a Yoga Block

Perform the same hip hinge, this time with a medium kettlebell (12-25 pounds) in front of you. It should land directly between your feet on the yoga block. It’s important to practice this limited range of motion with great form before moving on to the next progression. Try this for 10-15 reps.


3. Kettlebell only

Eliminate the yoga block, maintaining a straight spine and squeezing your glutes at the top. You do not need to reach the ground, but make sure to establish control of the weight. Try this for 10-15 reps.


4. Trap Bar Deadlift

Step into the hexagon and hold onto the handles, as if you were picking up two suitcases. Plant your feet about hip-width or slightly farther apart and pull your hips back into the hinge. Squeeze your glutes forward to a full standing position, and lower back down. Try this for 8-10 reps.

5. Barbell Deadlift

Align the arches of your feet at hip-width or slightly farther under the barbell. With a grip of your choice, lock your shoulders back, take a big breath in, brace your core, and stand tall. Drive your hips through at the top by squeezing your glutes and keep your shoulders pulled back. Try this for 6-10 reps.

Did you practice your deadlifts? Tag us at @BeWellBos and @ChristinaYChu on Instagram to share your workout!