Kettlebell Deadlift: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

Kettlebell Deadlift: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and How To

The kettlebell deadlift is a powerhouse move that works muscles in the upper and lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. And it can be done with minimal equipment and space, which means it’s affordable and convenient. Plus, doing this one exercise lays a foundation of strength and skills for many other popular and effective exercises.

Let’s do a deep dive into what makes the kettlebell deadlift so great, how to do it right, and variations you can incorporate into your workout routine.

Benefits of Kettlebell Deadlifts

Muscles worked

The main muscles engaged by the kettlebell deadlift are the ones in your posterior chain — basically, all of the muscles on the back side of your body. These include the glutes, hamstrings, lats, erectors, calves, and core.

We depend on these muscles in a big way for many everyday activities and almost all types of athletic activity. Strengthening them also helps reduce the chances of knee and back injuries.

While the posterior chain reaps the biggest benefits, the kettlebell deadlift is pretty close to being a full-body exercise. Your forearm and grip, traps, quads, adductors, lower back, and back extensors all come into play during a rep.

What’s more, you can use variations on the kettlebell deadlift (discussed later) to target certain muscle groups more precisely.

Other benefits

Compared to many other exercises, the kettlebell deadlift is pretty practical. It replicates the mechanics of picking a heavy object up off the floor, just like you would in daily life — so it builds practical strength, not just “glamor” muscle mass.

That means you gain the type of strength, mobility, and balance that helps keep you active and safe as you get older.

Another practical benefit of the kettlebell deadlift and kettlebell training in general is that kettlebells take up less space than barbells and don’t require a rack. In a space-constrained home gym, this can be a major consideration.

Lastly, a lot of us spend too much time sitting down, which can result in poor posture. Kettlebell deadlifts are a great exercise for fixing posture because doing them correctly requires keeping your back straight and letting your legs and posterior chain do the work.

How To Do a Kettlebell Deadlift


To begin, stand behind the kettlebell with your feet slightly wider apart than the width of your shoulders. Take a deep breath and tighten your core. You want to feel tension through your whole body.

Now you’ll want to hinge forward at the waist. This is a motion that beginners sometimes struggle with, but it’s essential in many strength training exercises. Your hips and bottom should move backward, but your back and neck should stay neutral.

Grab the handle of the kettlebell firmly in both hands. Rotate the pits of your elbows so that they face forward. This will engage your lats and middle-back muscles. Hold that tension.

You may also feel tension in your hamstrings at this point. Tighten them up, along with your glutes. This should move your bottom slightly lower.

Exhale and lift the kettlebell straight up, driving your hips forward and coming to a full standing position. Lift with your legs, not your arms or back. Make sure your lats stay engaged so you can keep the kettlebell close to your body.

Squeeze your glutes and shoulder blades, and slowly lower the kettlebell back to the floor. Congrats, you’ve completed one rep.

Avoiding mistakes and injury

Although the kettlebell deadlift is fairly safe compared to other weight-training exercises, you still want to use proper form and technique. Not only does this keep you safe, but it also helps you get the most muscle-building benefit from each rep.

First, the exercise should start with the kettlebell between your ankles. Don’t make the beginner’s mistake of positioning it too far away or you’ll put strain on your back during the lift.

Next, your back should remain neutral or “flat” throughout the rep, with no rounding. Sometimes back rounding is caused by tight hamstrings.

Finally, during the lift, make sure to squeeze your lats and shoulder blades. Forgetting to tighten your lats can result in an injured shoulder and will prevent your lats from getting a workout.

Kettlebell vs. Barbell Deadlift

The barbell deadlift tends to get more attention than the kettlebell deadlift. In fact, when people say “deadlift,” they’re usually talking about barbell deadlifts.

Fortunately, there’s no rule that says you can only do one kind of deadlift, and the kettlebell deadlift has some distinct advantages over barbell deadlifts. Consider including both in your workout routine!

Some experts find that it’s easier to squeeze your lats and shoulder blades tightly in a kettlebell deadlift than in a barbell deadlift, making it easier to get the full benefits of the exercise.

Compared to the barbell deadlift, grip strength comes into play more with kettlebells. This is especially true with heavier kettlebells. This means that the kettlebell deadlift is better for training your forearms.

Even if your long-term goal is to crush barbell deadlift workouts, the kettlebell deadlift is a great choice when you’re just starting out because it allows you to practice the hip hinge movement (also necessary for the kettlebell swing).

Kettlebell Deadlift Variations

As we mentioned earlier, you can perform variations of the kettlebell deadlift if you’re wanting to work on specific areas. Let’s take a look.

Single Arm Deadlift

In the single arm kettlebell deadlift, you use only one hand and arm to hold the kettlebell, as the name implies.

Compared to a normal two-handed deadlift, the single arm variation trains the deep trunk muscles more intensely because they have to work harder to keep you stable.

Single Arm Suitcase Deadlift

In the suitcase deadlift, instead of picking up a kettlebell directly in front of you, you position the kettlebell on the floor at your side with the handle parallel to your feet, then pick it up with one hand like you would a suitcase.

Before you lift, extend your other arm and make a fist with your left hand to help keep your shoulders and hips square.

Like the single arm deadlift, this variation makes your core muscles work harder, especially your obliques.

Single Leg Deadlift

Also called the single leg Romanian kettlebell deadlift, this variation activates your whole body but is especially good for working your ankle complex, so it can be particularly good for runners.

Start by doing a conventional kettlebell deadlift. When you’ve reached the full standing position, with the kettlebell in front of your thighs, move the toes of your right foot behind your left heel. Inhale deeply and engage your core.

Now hinge at the hips, extending your right leg backward until your torso is parallel to the ground. Imagine a T, with one of your legs forming the “upright” part and your other leg and torso forming the “crossbar” part.

Now “un-hinge” until you’re standing tall again. After you complete a set, repeat with the other leg. You can also do this exercise holding the kettlebell in just one hand for a greater challenge.

Sumo Deadlift

The main difference in this variation is your stance. Your feet should be spread wider apart than your hips, and your toes should be pointed slightly outward. Your arms go between your legs during the lift, not outside of them.

The sumo deadlift is great at targeting the inner thigh and groin muscles. Compared to the normal version, it shifts load off the lower back and onto the quads.

Quality Kettlebells for Your Home Gym

So you’re sold on the benefits of kettlebell deadlifts, but what kettlebells do you actually need?

Kettlebells come in two main varieties: competition kettlebells (made of steel) and standard cast iron kettlebells (made of cast iron), commonly found in commercial gyms.

Aside from the differing materials, competition kettlebells usually have a slimmer handle, which makes them better for one-handed movements while the wider grip on cast iron kettlebells is better for two-handed movements.

Now, what about weight? Of course, kettlebells come in a variety of weights, but budget and space might not allow for you to get an entire range.

Some coaches recommend starting with a weight of 33 pounds for men and 18 pounds for women, but this assumes you’re a beginner. People who have some experience with strength training can probably bump that up a bit.

But what if you could get a single kettlebell that grew with your abilities? Titan Fitness offers adjustable kettlebells in both standard and competition styles that use a quick-lock or screw-in design that allows you to conveniently adjust the weight.

Whether you’re just starting your fitness journey or you’re looking for a new challenge, kettlebell deadlifts are a great place to start.

To learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals, visit today. Stay tuned to our blog for more tips on workout techniques and equipment.