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Jefferson Deadlift Explained & 5 Reasons Why You Need It

Jefferson Deadlift…What is it?

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of the Jefferson deadlift before. Wow, that’s a lot of hands. But fear not. You are definitely not the only one out there. 

If you’re looking for a lift to change up your routine, either at home or in the gym, then the Jefferson deadlift could be precisely what you’re looking for. 

Read on to learn more about it and find out why you need to ensure this is part of your program going forward.

What Is The Jefferson Deadlift?

The Jefferson deadlift, also known as the Jefferson lift, Jefferson squat, or straddle deadlift, is considered a classic lift that originated in the late 1800s and was named after Charles Jefferson, a circus strongman. 

Its popularity has waxed and waned since that time but continues to be embraced by a growing number of athletes and trainers in the lifting world. It is a non-conventional deadlift that helps attack a variety of muscle groups while minimizing the strain on your back relative to standard deadlifts and squats. 

The reason for that is due to the rotational movement introduced by this deadlift variation through its stance. Because of how it is performed, the hips and obliques get more involved and take pressure off the back because of the reduction in hinging (bending over) movement.

So now that you know what the Jefferson deadlift is, how do you do it? 

That’s another great aspect of this lift. Because of its unconventional nature, there is no “set-in-stone” way that everyone has to do it. Instead, it has built-in flexibility, so you can tweak it until it feels right for you. 

However, the basic setup is simple.

Pick Your Weight

You are going to be using a barbell similar to a conventional deadlift. Given the awkwardness, you will feel the first time you try this lift, start with a lighter weight to be conservative and work your way up as you get more comfortable. You will not be able to lift as much as you do with a standard deadlift, so take that into consideration.

Straddle The Bar

To start with, just pick a stance with one foot on either side of the bar and position your feet at a 45-degree angle to the bar. If you’ve ever wrestled, boxed, or played a sport where you started in a “ready” position with one foot in front of the other, you’re going for that kind of feel. If you haven’t, just start where you don’t feel too spread out.

Grip The Bar

Now it’s time to get your grip. Squat down toward the bar, rotate your upper body slightly, and grab the bar, keeping your hands under your shoulders. Most experts recommend a mixed grip where your front hand will be facing out, and your rear hand will be facing back. But like with most aspects of this lift, whatever grip gives you the most comfort is what you should go with, so feel free to experiment.  

Stand Up

Now that you are down with the bar in hand, before you stand up, make sure your feet and legs still feel comfortable in that position. If so, just stand up. Then put it back down again and repeat. 

Congratulations, you’ve done the Jefferson deadlift!

Things To Think About

  • If your back heel is coming up off the ground, move that foot forward
  • Keep your spine reasonably straight, like with a squat
  • Make sure your knees don’t collapse inward when you do the lift
  • Don’t lock out your knees before your hips finish the movement
  • Keep your grip in line with your shoulders, not outside of them
  • Make sure to switch forward legs with each set to maintain balance and train both sides evenly –  the only exception is if you experience pain when switching legs
  • Narrow your grip if the bar is coming up too high between your legs
  • Experiment, experiment, experiment – find your proper leverage (feet spacing, hip height, grip, etc.)

What Are The Benefits Of The Jefferson Deadlift?

The Jefferson deadlift offers many fantastic benefits, typically how it works with unconventional exercises since more muscles get invited to the party! 

Here are a few of the primary Jefferson deadlift benefits.

Multiplanar Exercise

Unlike squats and traditional deadlifts, the Jefferson deadlift offers asymmetrical and anti-rotational strength training. With the former exercises, your legs are in line with each other and are equally engaged, so neither benefits more than the other, and your core doesn’t get involved. 

However, with the Jefferson, since your legs are staggered, they each get worked harder when you switch your legs for each set you do. In addition, because of the staggered stance, when you perform the lift, your body will want to rotate to stay in line with your feet so your core gets engaged to keep your chest facing forward.

Lightens The Load On The Lower Back

Due to the staggered stance and by keeping a vertical line with your chest, you help keep your center of gravity over the weight. In addition, the legs and hips are actively involved in the lift. All these working together remove the back pressure you have in standard deadlifts.

It’s Self-Correcting

Since there is no perfect way to do the Jefferson deadlift, you can find the right leverage for your body as long as you aren’t doing something outside your limits. Just keep tweaking the different components of the lift to see what allows you to do the lift comfortably. The flexibility is ideal!

Heavy loading

You can still load up the Jefferson deadlift with heavy weights, which magnifies the lifting benefits of this exercise. This makes it perfect for use in your garage gym.

5 Reasons You Should Try The Jefferson Deadlift

  1. It can help you eliminate back pain if you are experiencing it. Not only is it easier on your lower back compared to a conventional deadlift, but it’s also back pain medicine because it is a multiplanar exercise.
  2. The foot position from the staggered stance mimics a fighter’s, boxer’s, or wrestler’s stance, so doing the lift will help build power in that engagement stance.
  3. The Jefferson deadlift can be an excellent pivot from a low bar squat and standard deadlift program if plateaus have been reached or the body needs variety.
  4. Due to the rotational aspect of the lift, it’s an excellent exercise to work the oblique muscles.
  5. It’s a great additional quad exercise to build strength.

Final Thoughts

Even though you may feel a bit goofy doing this lift at first, and you will, the Jefferson deadlift is an exercise worth building into your lifting program, either on a permanent or rotational basis. It has benefits that will help you improve your gains and help round out overall muscle performance. And if you need any help building this into your program, let us know.

Good luck with your gains!