3 Awesome Deadlift Progressions for Beginners (VIDEO)

New to the deadlift? Try these three progressions to nail the form and build overall strength.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a great deadlift isn’t built overnight. The deadlift is simplistic in nature, but it’s also a movement that can easily go wrong and lead to injury when form isn’t accounted for. A solid deadlift is built upon many things, but two standout form characteristics include a strong hip hinge and a solid set back. 

Often times, when a deadlift’s form goes wrong, it’s due to one or both of these characteristics having faulty movement patterns. This is why, as a beginner, it’s so incredibly critical to nail and understand what it means to hinge at the hip, while setting the back respectively. In our video below, we breakdown three great movement progressions for the deadlift beginner.

  1. Kettlebell Deadlift Off an Elevated Surface
  2. Kettlebell Deadlift
  3. Trap Bar Deadlift

The three movements chosen are performed in an ascending order starting with the easiest first to ensure that mechanics are understood before deadlifting with a barbell. Check out the video and the movement’s form tips below!

Author’s Note: As always, progress at your own rate and if you’re having trouble with form even after trying multiple variations, then it might be wise to enlist a coach or trainer. 

Deadlift Progressions for Beginners

1. Kettlebell Deadlift Off an Elevated Surface

Why We Love It: This movement is awesome for teaching the hip hinge and set back mechanics in a limited range of motion. If you’re brand new to deadlifting, then this is a great starting point to build the mind, muscle, and movement connection required to properly deadlift.

  • Step 1: Set a kettlebell at the edge of two 45lb bumper plates.
  • Step 2: Take a stance similar to your normal deadlift with the toes lightly making contact with the plates.
  • Step 3: Push the hips back with a slight knee bend, maintain a neutral torso, grip the kettlebell and contract the lats.
  • Step 4: Take a deep breath and lift the kettlebell until the hips are at extension (squeeze the glutes!).
  • Step 5: Initiate the descent by pushing the hips back and returning the kettlebell to the same spot on the plates.

Programming: For beginners, use this deadlift variation with higher reps and lower weight to focus on form. It’s also a good idea to perform these with a slow tempo to ensure true understanding of the mechanics required for the deadlift.

2. Kettlebell Deadlift

Why We Love It: The kettlebell deadlift is fantastic for both beginners and experienced athletes. Beginners can utilize this movement to increase the range of motion of their hip hinge a bit more, and really start to work similar movement patterns to the barbell deadlift. Experienced athletes can use this exercise in circuits or for tempo work when needing extra time under tension.

  • Step 1: Set a kettlebell on the floor.
  • Step 2: Take a stance similar to your normal deadlift with the kettlebell falling roughly in-line with the mid-foot.
  • Step 3: Push the hips back with a slight knee bend, maintain a neutral torso, grip the kettlebell and contract the lats.
  • Step 4: Take a deep breath and lift the kettlebell until the hips are at extension (squeeze the glutes!).
  • Step 5: Initiate the descent by pushing the hips back and returning the kettlebell to the same spot on the floor.

Programming: For beginners, this deadlift variation can be used as a main deadlift movement, or as an accessory to strengthen mechanics. Experienced athletes can use this movement for burnouts, tempo focus, or even mechanical work.

3. Trap Bar Deadlift

Why We Love It: Trap bar deadlift deserve much more love than they’re often given. This movement is a great hybrid between the conventional deadlift and the squat, and can be very useful for beginners truly starting to load their hips and posterior chain. Also, this movement is great for nearly every athlete involved in sports.

  • Step 1: Take a stance in the trap bar similar to your deadlift stance.
  • Step 2: Grip the trap bar in the middle of the handles and aim to line the mid-foot up with your grip.
  • Step 3: Push the hips back with a knee bend, maintain a neutral torso, grip the bar and contract the lats.
  • Step 4: Take a deep breath and lift the trap bar until the hips are at extension (squeeze the glutes!).
  • Step 5: Initiate the descent by pushing the hips back and returning the trap bar to the same spot on the floor.

Programming: Beginners and experienced athletes can use trap bar deadlifts as their main lower body movement for a workout. Also, trap bar deadlifts can be performed for any rep range and intensity depending on your training goal (strength, power, endurance, etc!).

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake holds a Master’s in Sports Science and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. Currently, Jake serves as the Fitness and Training Editor at BarBend. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and has spoken at state conferences on the topics of writing in the fitness industry and building a brand.

As of right now, Jake has published over 1,300 articles related to strength athletes and sports. Articles about powerlifting concepts, advanced strength & conditioning methods, and topics that sit atop a strong science foundation are Jake’s bread-and-butter.

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