The Jefferson deadlift is a great example of how exercises that look strange but are actually very useful.

It’s strange. There’s a pretty good chance that people will look at you at the gym. But it has a lot of benefits as well.

How did the Jefferson Squat get its name?

The Jefferson squat, commonly referred to as the straddle deadlift, is a barbell squat variation that targets the lower body and helps build muscle. Charles Jefferson, a strongman in the nineteenth century, gave this compound lift its name.

Why do Jefferson Deadlift

The good thing about it is that it gives you a lot of stuff that other huge, heavy, usual compound exercises don’t, according to Dave Dellanave, a strength coach from Minneapolis who set a new record for the Jefferson deadlift by pulling 605 pounds at 200 pounds of bodyweight.

Asymmetry, rotation, hip hinging, and severe loading are all present at the same time. According to Dellanave, the lift is comparable to a trap bar deadlift, therefore the spine is subjected to far less shear force. However, because the lift incorporates rotation, it is a multiplanar exercise that develops asymmetrical and anti-rotational strength. You must activate your deep core stabilizers to prevent your torso from turning to face the same direction as the feet because the feet are spaced apart.

While many of us are aware that multiplanar movements should be used to decrease injury risk and increase general strength, we frequently approach anti-rotational, asymmetrically loaded workouts incorrectly.

The ability to load it heavily, according to Dellanave, is crucial. The majority of people believe that performing heavy deadlifts followed by mild, single-leg kettlebell deadlifts will balance each other out. That is not how the body functions. Therefore, the main advantage is that you can load it heavily.

Spending a few weeks substituting with Jefferson deadlifts may be a good approach to break through a plateau or lessen or eliminate pain if your conventional deadlift numbers are stagnating if they’re creating back pain. This is the procedure.

Working muscles

Large compound lifts like the Jefferson deadlift work practically all of your muscles. It’s a massive full-body workout that will prepare you from head to toe (more or less).

This exercise primarily focuses your posterior chain muscles, just like the traditional deadlift and many other hip-hinge exercises (all the muscles that are on your backside). Almost all of the muscle groups that the traditional deadlift works are mostly worked out. But because of the more upright starting position, this exercise will be easier and less taxing on your back muscles than the original lift. Additionally, your lower body and considerably bigger quadriceps are involved in this lift.

The principal muscles involved:

  1. Glutes
  2. Hamstrings
  3. Lower back

Targeted secondary muscle groups:

  1. Quads
  2. Stabilizer muscles
  3. Trapezius
  4. Upper back
  5. Forearms
  6. Lats

Benefits of a Jefferson deadlift

1. It is a complex workout for the entire body

This exercise is a terrific compound raise for the entire body. Perhaps you’re curious to know what a compound exercise is. Those workouts, then, use several muscular groups simultaneously. Your posterior chain muscles must all coordinate perfectly and symmetrically to lift the weight and complete the lift.

2. Your core, stabilizer, and anti-rotational muscles will all be strengthened

Your entire core will be under a significant load throughout this lift. The muscles in your stabilizer and anti-rotational systems will be trained and strengthened most significantly. Why is it so beneficial to the core? As a result of the barbell’s peculiar positioning (tucked between your legs) during the Jefferson deadlift, it will begin to twist and spin as you attempt to pull it off the ground. To prevent it from happening and to maintain the stability of the bar, your core muscles will need to work especially hard.

3. Your standard deadlift and other lifts will get better

All of your huge lift will increase if you use this lift. Due to the advantages it has for both your core and anti-rotational strength as well as your pulling and physical strength. It will be especially beneficial for your traditional DL since, in addition to improving your physical strength and rotational/core stability, it will also help you improve your lifting form and technique.

4. Your spine and lower back will benefit more from it!

Because of the lift’s significantly more upright starting position than the standard deadlift, there is significantly less spinal loading, which lessens the strain on your spine and lower back. Because of injuries or other back issues, it’s a terrific choice for folks who wish to lessen the strain on their lower back.

5. It involves multiple planes

This indicates that the workout incorporates several movements and operates in more than one direction at once. That is excellent for increasing practical strength.

6. Your imbalanced strength will increase

In actuality, the Jefferson deadlift is an asymmetrical lift. Considering that you are starting with your body in an uneven position. One leg is in front of the bar and the other is behind it when you straddle it. It will be more concentrated on the leading side than the other. It will therefore be fantastic for boosting your asymmetrical strength.

The six additional features and advantages of the Jefferson lift that we have highlighted in further detail above are as follows. However, there are a lot more advantages to deadlifting in general, including:

  1. It will aid with posture improvement.
  2. It will boost your general strength as well as your pulling power.
  3. They are excellent for increasing practical strength.
  4. Excellent for enhancing powerful strength and power during training.
  5. They are fantastic for increasing muscular mass.
  6. They strengthen your grasp.
  7. You’ll have more hip mobility.

Advice & Suggestions

  1. Begin by using a lighter weight. Start with lesser loads while performing the Jefferson deadlift for the first time, and then gradually raise them as you become more accustomed to the exercise and improve your form.
  2. Maintain core engagement. To prevent the bar from rotating throughout the exercise, maintain a strong core and tight abs.
  3. Maintain a neutral head position and a straight back. If you don’t, you’ll be putting extra strain and pressure on your spine and risk hurting yourself.
  4. Employ a mixed grip. When you utilize a mixed grip, one of your hands is used underhandedly while the other is used over handedly. This will enable you to maintain the bar’s stability and prevent the barbell from rotating.
  5. Alternate grips during exercises or sets. Reverse your grip in between sets to prevent asymmetries from forming.
  6. Change the lead side. Every set, switch which side is the lead side so that both sides are equally worked and trained.
  7. Avoid lifting the weight off the ground. At the bottom, come to a complete halt, then elevate.
  8. Reduce the weight gradually and steadily. Reduce the chance that you will hurt yourself by lowering the barbell carefully and under control. Avoid making quick movements.
  9. Hold a flat back. Avoid letting your back curve out or arch. Throughout the entire lift, keep it flat. Because having a rounded or arched back would strain your spine and lower back, which could lead to ailments.
  10. Experiment with changing the starting position’s width. You can alter the width of your position to focus on certain muscle groups. It will be easier to see your glutes if you start from a wider position.
  11. Maintain your footing. Avoid raising the heel of your back leg. If so, you’ll begin loading one leg heavier than the other.
  12. Ensure that the bar is in the middle of your legs. Your legs should be loaded equally and proportionately by the lift. You will begin to favor and load one of your legs and sides more than the other if the bar is not centered between them.

What to Do

Grab the bar beneath your shoulders, straddle it with your feet at shoulder width or slightly wider, and then rise up. As you begin to pull, be careful that your knees don’t cave in and that your weight is evenly distributed between both feet.

You can test out various grips, but make sure you keep your balance by switching your front and back feet for an equal period of time. (Dellanave just switches up his setups.) If you have severe asymmetry, such as scoliosis, there is an exception to this rule: in that instance, it is recommended to train your more comfortable side after getting permission from your doctor.

The Jefferson should resemble a squat more than a hinge, similar to the trap bar deadlift. (In fact, the Jefferson squat is another name for it.) In a hinge motion, if you lean heavily forward, you might not have enough leverage.

According to Dellanave, each person’s leverage varies depending on their anthropometry; whereas some people achieve results that resemble a trap bar deadlift with a slight twist, others lack the necessary leverage and experience results that are considerably more rotating. The nature of lifting is that no two lifters move in precisely the same way. The good news is that there is no one “right” technique to perform the lift, so each individual is free to choose the most effective method of leverage for themselves.

“Because it’s so unusual, most people feel comfortable experimenting with it and determining the best posture for themselves,” he explains. “With traditional lifts, people always try to fit a round peg into a square hole because they think there are so many lifts that need to be a certain way. You can experiment a little more to determine what works for you using the Jefferson deadlift.

Common Problems

Letting the back foot’s heel lift up is the most typical form error. This indicates that the lifter is leaning more heavily on one leg than the other and isn’t solidly planted with both feet.

Despite appearing uncomfortable and unbalanced, the Jefferson should load both legs quite evenly. If it isn’t, the lifter is probably putting their foot in too deep as they stand up. Better results can be achieved by bringing the feet closer together while maintaining a shoulder-width or somewhat broader distance between them.

When Should You Do It?

As we said above, it’s a great way to train the legs and back without putting too much stress on the spine. Dellanave has found that focusing on the Jefferson for a few weeks can help many of his clients with back pain go back to regular deadlifts without pain.

It is also a great way to get past strength plateaus.

When powerlifters aren’t competing for a while, coach Dellanave recommends they practice with low reps and a Jefferson posture instead of their usual deadlift stance. “That will last for around four weeks. If they’ve hit a deadlift plateau, getting stronger in a different stance and improving their best sumo and best Jefferson will break them out of it.

Last but not least, bodybuilder Kai Greene loves the exercise because, at the very least, it’s a killer accessory movement for building the quads.


Its quirkiness is its strength. It’s one of the few anti-rotational and asymmetrical motions that allow for the lifting of significant amounts of weight, it fits well into strength training and powerlifting regimens, it’s gentle on the back, and it adds some variety to the traditional squat, dead, and bench rotation.

Enjoy the looks when straddling the bar. You can be weirdly proud of your Jefferson deadlift.


Shakir Hasan is a fully qualified personal trainer and award winning writer, with a decade’s worth of experience under his belt. He has helped hundreds of people to meet their dietary and fitness goals, writing exercise and nutrition plans to suit any and every requirement. Shakir founded ThisIsWhyIamFit as a way to share his vast knowledge of exercises, diets, and general fitness advice.

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