The Jefferson deadlift is a somewhat forgotten variation of the conventional deadlift. It was once a popular old-time strongman exercise that was the go-to and favorite exercise of many (even the legendary Bruce Lee was a big fan of it). The lift was invented by a strong man named Charles Jefferson, and it gets its name from there as well. It’s also known as the straddle, or just the Jefferson lift.
The exercise is actually quite a strange sight, at least for anyone who hasn’t seen or heard of it before. Because at the beginning of the lift, the athlete actually straddles or mounts the barbell so it would be between his/her legs. And then they pull the bar up from there.
This deadlift might look strange and weird but don’t judge a book by its cover. The Jefferson deadlift has many benefits and a few advantages over the conventional DL. It’s a heavy multiplane compound exercise that will train your whole body on multiple levels.
What makes this lift a little more unique is that it will increase both your functional and overall strength and at the same time, it will increase your antisymmetrical and anti-rotational strength.
The Jefferson deadlift is a large compound lift that trains and works almost all of your muscles. It’s a huge full-body exercise that will train you from your head to your toes (more or less).
Like the classical deadlift and many other hip-hinge exercises, this lift primarily targets your posterior chain muscles (all the muscles that are on your backside). It trains mostly all the same muscle groups as the conventional deadlift. But compared to the original lift, this exercise will place less effort and load on your back muscles thanks to the more upright starting position. Also, there is a much larger quads and your lower body involvement in this lift.
The main muscle groups targeted:
- Lower back
Secondary muscles groups targeted:
- Stabilizer muscles
- Upper back
How to do the Jefferson deadlift
- Start by straddling the barbell. Place one of your feet in front of the bar and the other one behind it.
- The stance you are in should be about shoulder-width or slightly wider. And your feet should be positioned at about a 45-degree angle relative to the bar.
- The weight has to be centered between both of your legs.
- Squat down and grip the barbell. Use a mixed grip (this will help you keep the bar more steady during the lift). The width of the grip should be about shoulder-width.
- Keep your back straight and your head in a neutral position.
- Brace your core and tighten your abs.
- Start pulling the weight up. Drive through your heels. To do so push your feet strongly into the ground, imagine pushing through the floor.
- Make sure your knees don’t collapse or start pointing inwards.
- Fully extend your body and your hips.
- Lockout your hips and hold for a second, then reverse the movement and lower the bar back to the floor.
Tips and Recommendations
- Start off whit a lighter weight. When trying out the Jefferson deadlift for the first time, start with lighter loads and slowly increase it as you get more familiar with the exercise and your form gets better.
- Keep your core engaged. Keep your core engaged and your abs tight for the whole exercise to avoid the bar from rotating.
- Keep you back straight and your head in a neutral position. Otherwise, you will be placing extra stress and pressure on your spine, which might result in injuring yourself.
- Use a mixed grip. A mixed grip means you use an underhand grip with one of your hands and an overhand grip with the other. That will help you keep the bar steady and avoid any rotation of the barbell.
- Switch your grip between reps or sets. Between sets, reverse your grip to avoid developing any asymmetries.
- Switch your lead side. Switch your lead side between every set to work and train both of your sides equally.
- Do not bounce the weight off the floor. Stop at the bottom and lift from a dead-stop.
- Lower the weight slowly and in a controlled manner. In order to reduce the risk of injuring yourself, when lowering the barbell, do it slowly and keep it controlled. Don’t do any sudden movements.
- Keep your back flat. Do not arch your back or let it round out. Keep it flat for the entire lift. Because a rounded or an arched back will place a lot of stress on your spine and lower back and might cause injuries.
- Play around with the width of your starting position. To target different muscle groups, you can change the width of your position. A wider starting position will shift the focus more on your glutes.
- Keep your feet grounded. Don’t let the heel of your back leg come up. If you do, then you will start loading one leg more than the other.
- Make sure the bar is centered between your legs. The lift should load both of your legs symmetrically and equally. If the bar isn’t centered between them, you will start to favor and load one of your legs and sides more than the other.
Jefferson deadlift benefits
It’s a full-body compound exercise. This exercise is a great full-body compound lift. You might be wondering whats a compound exercise? Well, those are exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. For this lift, all of your posterior chain muscles have to work in symmetry and perfect symphony to lift the weight up and complete the movement.
It will train your core, stabilizer, and anti-rotational muscles. This lift will place quite a lot of load on your entire core. Most importantly, it will train and strengthen your stabilizer and anti-rotational muscles. Why is it so good for your core? Well, the Jefferson deadlift has quite a strange barbell placement (tucked between your legs), and when you try to lift the barbell off the floor, it will start to twist and spin, or at least it will try to. Your core muscles will have to work extra hard in order to stop that from happening and to keep the bar steady.
It will improve your conventional deadlift and other lifts. Using this lift will increase all of your big lift. Both because of its benefits on your pulling and physical strength and your core and anti-rotational strength. It will be especially great for your classical DL because, in addition to the rotational/core and other physical strength gains, it will help you develop and better your lifting form and technique.
It’s better for your spine and lower back! This lift has a much more upright starting position than the conventional deadlift, so it has decreased spinal loading compared to the regular version, which means there is a lot less stress on your spine and your lower back. That means it’s a great alternative for people who want to decrease the load on their lower back because of injuries or other back problems.
It’s a multiplanar exercise. Which means its an exercise that works in more than one direction at a time and combines multiple movements. That is great for building functional strength.
It will improve your asymmetrical strength. The Jefferson deadlift is actually an asymmetrical lift. Because at your starting position, you are placing your body in an asymmetrical position. When you straddle the bar, you have one leg in front of it and the other behind it. The leading side will get more focus than the other. That means it will be great for increasing your asymmetrical strength.
Above we brought out in detail the six more specific advantages and benefits to the Jefferson lift. But there are many more benefits to deadlifting in general such as:
- It will help you improve your posture.
- It will increase both your pulling strength and your overall strength.
- They are great for building functional strength.
- Great for training and increasing explosive strength and power.
- They are great for building muscle mass.
- They improve your grip strength.
- It will improve your hip mobility.
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