Dumbbell Deadlifts

Paul Leonard and Anthony Coria I remember it like it was yesterday. With scissors in hand my role was to cut the duct tape after it was strategically placed over the hernia, which would be packed under a pair of groove briefs so that heavy deadlifting could proceed. Ric Purchase had one of the strongest lower backs I had ever seen, but the front of his back herniated and he had to manage his injury any way he could. Ric was a minimalistic trainee who did the power lifts and little else. I, on the other hand, practiced the conjugate training philosophy. I feel that this training system has kept me healthy for over 30 years of State and National level competitions. One of my go to conjugate exercises for over all body power is the dumbbell deadlift. I first read about dumbbell deadlifts in the late 80s by reading the fantastic Dr. Ken Leistner’s writing in his Steel Tip publication. As of late, I have seen super strong Nick Best perform high rep dumbbell deadlifts with the 150lbers for upwards of 20 plus reps on his Instagram. Any wonder that he won his class at the U.S. Powerlifting Championships and competes at the World Strongest Man Contests in his late 40s. There are two ways to do the dumbbell deadlift, from the hang or from a dead start beginning each rep with the dumbbell on the floor. From the hang position it is best to do these Romanian Deadlift Style-keeping the back statically tight while all of the muscle building stress targets the hamstrings. The second way to train this lift is to lift each rep from a dead stop on the floor. This dead stop method has allowed me to avoid the duct tape cummerbund because I could feel it strengthen the obliques as well as the glutes and hip musculature. The reason for this growth is the extended range of motion you achieve by pulling the dumbbell plates off floor which are far smaller in circumference than a 45 pound plate. I have always felt that conjugate exercises that tax your body over a longer Range of Motion (ROM), even if using lesser weight, are great at building your body with extra flexibility into certain areas of your body that can get tight solely applying only traditional Powerlifting exercise and ROM. The dumbbell deadlift works with well higher reps as most commercial gyms have dumbbells from 100lbs to 150lbers. I have been fortunate to be a member of such hardcore gyms as Uptown Gym Whittier, Strouds, and the Original Metroflex Gym in Arlington. Strouds had dumbbells to 200 lbs, Uptown had pairs to 225 and Metroflex had them to 250 lbs each. I have finished many a max effort lower body session with reps or even singles with the biggest bells in the house. This makes for a fun and challenging workout that is perfect for impromptu contests with your training buddies. Josh Bryant and myself used dumbbell deads as a key adjunctive exercise when we trained for the US Strongest Man Contest; the result was trap bar deadlifts of 885 and 700 respectively. In the true spirit of the conjugate system you could vary the ROM by doing the exercise from a deficit, from the plates on boxes, with rep tempo variations, and even with mini bands under your feet and over the bell. I have trained trap bar deadlifts and farmers walks for competition and neither exercise has the same exact training effect as the dumbbell deadlift. Give them an honest try and watch your overall body strength improve dramatically.   Paul Leonard