Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
May 19, 2024
Master The Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift Technique
by Nick Nilsson

Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlifts

Master The Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift Technique The Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift is one of the most powerful, results-producing exercises you will NEVER see anybody in the gym do until you actually do it yourself! The reasons? First, it's NOT a common exercise, even though it's been around for many years. Second, it's a tough exercise to do! But as you know, the toughest exercises are always the most productive.

The Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift places extreme torque on the core and will help you develop an incredibly tight and powerful midsection. Basically, instead of using both arms and doing a barbell deadlift in front of your body as you normally would, you'll stand BESIDE the barbell and pick it up with one arm.

Imagine reaching down and picking up a suitcase sitting beside you. That's the Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift but, of course, using a heavy barbell!

There will be a link to pictures and a video of this exercise in action at the end of the article.

How To Do It:

First, if you're doing this exercise off the floor, load a barbell with a 45-lb plate on either end. To lift this amount of weight, you should be able to deadlift at least 250 to 275 lbs in a normal deadlift.

If you wish to use less weight for this exercise, set the safety rails in the power rack to just below knee height and load the bar with however much weight you want to use. The reason you'd want to use the rack is, because you're using smaller plates, the bar will start too low to the ground and you'll need to lean over too much to the side to pick it up.

Stand beside the barbell and reach down and grasp it with one hand. When you do the One-Arm Deadlift, you should grip the bar slightly off-center. Your thumb and index finger grip should be about a centimeter (about a half inch or so) from the edge of the center grip surface. This uneven grip will prevent the bar being lifted unevenly and tilting as you are lifting.

The reason for this is that when you grip the bar with one hand, your thumb and forefinger grip area become the main pivot point. If that main pivot point is not close to the real center of the bar, the bar will tilt when you pick it up. By sliding your hand down so that your thumb and forefinger grip area is closer to the real center, you will have a much easier time keeping the bar level.

Master The Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift Technique Before you pick up the bar, make sure your shoulders are level and your entire core area is tightened up very strongly. Pick up the bar, focusing on keeping your shoulders level as much as possible. The weight of the bar on the one side will place an EXTREME stabilizing load on the other side of the body. You will be pushing HARD with the same side foot as you're pulling on the bar, e.g. if you're picking the bar up with your right arm, you'll be pushing hard with your right foot.

Keep your lower back tight and arched as you stand up. Come all the way up to the top position and hold for a few seconds then lower the bar back down slowly. Gripping the barbell with one arm in this fashion is also VERY challenging to the grip. You'll need to hold on tight in order to keep your grip on the bar.

Set the bar down on the floor between reps and relax the core. Re-tighten everything then start your next rep. This exercise should only be done for low reps, e.g. 3 to 5 reps per set. Any more than that and the stabilizing muscles of the abs will become fatigued and cause the torque to go into the lower back instead of the abs, where you want it.

The first time you do this exercise, start with a conservative weight. It's deceptively tough, especially if you've not done a lot of movements that are weighted on only one side. The torque on your core will be a very new thing! The incredible tightness you'll feel all along your side abs the next day will show you just how effective this exercise is.

If you're a strong deadlifter or find your grip strength limits the amount of weight or number of reps you can do, I would DEFINITELY recommend grip assistance in the form of either lifting straps or a product called "1 Ton Hooks." The grip assistance will allow you to use heavier weight and hold onto it longer. It will also prevent the bar from rolling out of your fingers as your grip fatigues.

I would recommend the hooks over the straps in all cases. "1 Ton Hooks" are cast iron lifting hooks that are designed to allow you to hold extremely heavy without worrying about your grip strength. These hooks, in my opinion, should be in the arsenal of EVERY serious lifter and I highly recommend them. To put it in perspective, I've used these hooks to do partial deadlifts with more than 900 lbs and the hooks held up fine!

Give the Suitcase-Style One Arm Deadlift a try in your next back workout - I can promise you'll either be thanking me or cursing me for the next two days after you do it! Your entire core will be worked in a way it has NEVER been worked before.


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