A personal trainer doing a suitcase deadlift

Build functional strength with suitcase deadlifts

Posted by for Strength

Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: suitcase deadlifts.

Few exercises compare to a deadlift for building all over strength, which is probably why there’s so many variations of the move. These include barbell deadlifts for those who like to lift heavy, sumo deadlifts which put emphasis on the glutes and Romanian deadlifts to target the hamstrings

One of the less-common variations, however, is the suitcase deadlift. This move is a great exercise to include in your training if building total body, functional strength is your goal. 

What is a suitcase deadlift?

A suitcase deadlift is, essentially, a one handed deadlift. The name refers to the fact that you carry the weight on one side of your body, as though you’re picking up a suitcase (the old fashioned kind, not a wheelie case). They’re great because…

They build stability: when we do unilateral work by loading up a single side of our body, our muscles work harder to stabilise. Here, your core will be working in overdrive to lift the weight without collapsing over to one side. 

They’re a functional movement: stacking a weight unevenly on one side improves your day-to-day movement because not everything your pick up off the floor in real life is as perfectly balanced as a barbell.

They build full-body strength: working upper, lower and grip strength. 


Suitcase deadlift is a full body exercise, targeting muscles including: 

  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Shoulders 
  • Wrists 
  • Lats
  • Back


  1. Place a kettlebell or dumbbell at the outer edge of your right foot. 
  2. Stand up tall with your feet shoulder width apart.
  3. Brace your core as you hinge at your hips and slightly bend your knees to come into a deadlift position. 
  4. When your right hand can reach the weight, grab hold of it. You may want to put your left arm out parallel to the floor to help you balance.
  5. Squeeze your glutes and keep your core engaged as you press through your heels to come back to standing. Make sure you come up in a straight line and aren’t letting your shoulder or hips drop to the right. 
  6. Lower the weight back down by hinging the hips again. 

Keen to improve your form? Check out our How To library to see exactly how the experts do over 100 of the most common strength training exercises.

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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