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How to Suitcase Deadlift


The suitcase deadlift is a highly effective exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, particularly the core and lower body. It mimics the movement of picking up a heavy suitcase, making it a functional exercise with real-world applications.

In this comprehensive guide, you will know:

  1. What is a Suitcase Deadlift
  2. Proper Form and Technique
  3. Suitcase Deadlift Benefits
  4. Suitcase Deadlift Muscles Worked
  5. 5 Suitcase Deadlift Variations
  6. 7 Suitcase Deadlift Alternatives
  7. Suitcase Deadlift FAQs

What is a Suitcase Deadlift?

The suitcase deadlift is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles in your hips, glutes, hamstrings, core, and lower back. It involves lifting a weight, such as a dumbbell or a kettlebell, from the side of your body in a single-arm movement. The exercise helps improve overall strength, stability, and functional fitness, making it beneficial for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and everyday individuals.

Proper Form and Technique


To perform the suitcase deadlift correctly and minimize the risk of injury, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weight placed beside one foot.
  2. Maintain a neutral spine and engage your core muscles.
  3. Bend at the hips and knees, keeping your back straight, and grip the weight with an overhand grip.
  4. With your core engaged and your shoulder blades pulled back, drive through your heels to stand up straight, lifting the weight alongside your body.
  5. Keep your shoulders square and your hips level throughout the movement.
  6. Lower the weight back down with control, maintaining proper form.

Suitcase Deadlift Benefits

Incorporating the suitcase deadlift into your workout routine can yield numerous benefits, including:

Improved Core Strength: The exercise activates the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, resulting in a stronger and more stable core.

Enhanced Grip Strength: Since the weight is lifted with one hand, the suitcase deadlift challenges your grip strength, improving your ability to hold onto objects in daily activities or sports.

Increased Lower Body Strength: The movement primarily targets the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, promoting strength and muscle development in these areas.

Improved Posture and Spinal Stability: The suitcase deadlift engages the muscles of the lower back, promoting better posture and spinal stability.

Functional Fitness: The exercise simulates real-life movements, making it valuable for enhancing everyday activities like lifting heavy objects or performing physical tasks.

Suitcase Deadlift Muscles Worked

The suitcase deadlift is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups in the body. Here are the primary muscles worked during a suitcase deadlift:

Core Muscles


Core Muscles: The suitcase deadlift heavily targets the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis (six-pack muscles), obliques (side abdominal muscles), and transverse abdominis (deep core muscles). These muscles play a crucial role in maintaining stability and proper posture throughout the movement.

Glutes muscles


Glutes: The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus muscles, collectively known as the glutes, are engaged during the suitcase deadlift. They are responsible for hip extension, which is a crucial part of the lifting motion.


Hamstrings: The hamstring muscles, located at the back of the thighs, work eccentrically to control the lowering phase of the suitcase deadlift. They also contribute to hip extension and provide stability during movement.



Quadriceps: The quadriceps, a group of muscles located at the front of the thighs, work concentrically to extend the knees and straighten the legs during the lifting phase of the exercise.

Erector Spinae: The erector spine muscles, situated along the length of the spine, play a vital role in maintaining a neutral spine position during the suitcase deadlift. They help stabilize the spine and prevent excessive rounding or arching.

Forearm Muscles: As the weight is held in one hand during the suitcase deadlift, the muscles of the forearm, including the wrist flexors and extensors, are engaged to maintain a secure grip on the weight.

While these are the primary muscles worked during the suitcase deadlift, the exercise also activates other supporting muscles, such as the deltoids (shoulder muscles), trapezius (upper back muscles), and calf muscles, to assist in maintaining stability and balance throughout the movement.

5 Suitcase Deadlift Variations

To keep your workouts challenging and avoid plateaus, try incorporating these suitcase deadlift variations:

Suitcase Deadlift with a Barbell

Suitcase Deadlift with a Barbell

This variation allows for greater load progression as you can add more weight to the barbell.

Suitcase Deadlift with Dumbbells

dumbbell suitcase deadlift


Using dumbbells or kettlebells instead of a barbell adds an element of instability, further engaging your core muscles.

Suitcase Deadlift to Single-Leg Deadlift

Suitcase Deadlift to Single-Leg Deadlift

After completing a suitcase deadlift, transition into a single-leg deadlift by extending one leg backward while hinging at the hips, maintaining balance and stability.

Suitcase Carry

Suitcase Carry

Instead of lifting the weight, carry it for a distance while maintaining proper posture. This variation targets your grip strength and stability.

Suitcase Deadlift with Resistance Bands

Suitcase Deadlift with Resistance Bands

Attach resistance bands to the weight and step on them, increasing the resistance and intensifying the exercise.

7 Suitcase Deadlift Alternatives

Barbell Deadlift

Barbell Deadlift


The barbell deadlift is a classic compound exercise that targets the same muscle groups as the suitcase deadlift. It involves lifting a barbell from the ground while maintaining proper form and engaging the core, glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift


Similar to the suitcase deadlift, the sumo deadlift focuses on the lower body, particularly the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Instead of a single-arm lift, you'll use both hands to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell between your legs with a wide stance.

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift primarily targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It involves hinging at the hips while holding a barbell or dumbbell, keeping your legs slightly bent and emphasizing the stretch on the hamstrings.

Single-Leg Deadlift

Single-Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift challenges your balance and stability while targeting the same muscle groups as the suitcase deadlift. Stand on one leg and hinge at the hips, lowering the weight towards the ground while extending the opposite leg behind you.

Farmer's Carry

Farmer's Carry

The farmer's carry is a functional exercise that improves grip strength, core stability, and overall body strength. Simply hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and walk for a designated distance or time while maintaining proper posture.

One-Arm Row

One-Arm Row

The one-arm row targets the back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. Use a dumbbell or kettlebell and bend forward with one hand supported on a bench or knee, then pull the weight up towards your torso, focusing on squeezing your back muscles.

Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is also known as the hex bar deadlift or the trap bar squat. It involves using a specialized barbell that has a hexagonal or diamond-shaped frame, allowing you to stand within the bar rather than behind it. This unique design provides numerous advantages and makes the trap bar deadlift a popular choice among strength athletes, powerlifters, and fitness enthusiasts alike.

Remember to choose exercises that align with your fitness level and goals. Incorporating these alternatives can add variety to your routine, prevent plateaus, and target the desired muscle groups.

Suitcase Deadlift FAQs

Q1: What equipment do I need to perform suitcase deadlifts?

A: To perform suitcase deadlifts, you will need a weight, such as a dumbbell or a kettlebell, that you can lift with one hand. Choose a weight that challenges you but still allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.

Q2: How do I determine the appropriate weight for suitcase deadlifts?

A: Start with a lighter weight and gradually increase the load as you become more comfortable and confident with the exercise. It's important to maintain proper form and avoid straining or compromising your technique by using excessively heavy weights.

Q3: How many reps and sets should I do for suitcase deadlifts?

A: The number of reps and sets will depend on your fitness goals and current fitness level. As a general guideline, aim for 8-12 reps per set and perform 2-4 sets. Adjust the weight and repetitions based on your individual needs and preferences.

Q4: Can beginners perform suitcase deadlifts?

A: Yes, beginners can perform suitcase deadlifts. However, it's important to start with lighter weights and focus on mastering the proper form and technique before progressing to heavier loads. If you're new to strength training, consider working with a qualified trainer to ensure you're performing the exercise correctly.

Q5: Are suitcase deadlifts only for building strength or can they help with fat loss?

A: Suitcase deadlifts are a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making them beneficial for both strength building and fat loss. These exercises can increase overall muscle mass, which in turn can boost metabolism and contribute to fat loss when combined with a balanced diet and regular cardiovascular exercise.

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