Single Arm DB Frontal Plane Deadlift

With Coach Kennedy

With summer just around the corner, many are now taking action to be ready for the summer ahead. With that said, we get to a point where exercise can be repetitive and while we may not want to make huge changes, for various reasons….sometimes small ones make all of the difference. While the prime focus remains the same, the benefits can greatly increase.

The Single Arm (SA) DB Frontal Plane Deadlift is a great example of taking a fundamental exercise and by adding in a second plane – frontal – it now becomes a multi-planar movement deadlift. Multi-planar deadlifts, to my knowledge, are very rarely done, but don’t take my word for it, just look around any gym, studio etc.…you’ll definitely see plenty of deadlifts being done, but in the sagittal plane, and with barbells.

Let’s chat benefits of your deadlift. When beginning with the barbell on the ground, it places your upper leg group of muscles into a lengthened position. This means they receive no “pre-stretch”. In other words, they are already lengthened so we can’t take advantage of elastic energy, and it forces us to create strength from a fixed starting position. We call it “starting strength”.

Think of a lineman in football. Think about pushing a car out of the snow. We don’t have the ability to load and preload as we would when we’re performing a squat. We can control and load on the way down and then reverse with momentum if we like (elastic energy). That makes coming back easy in comparison to stopping at the bottom for a few seconds then coming up…getting out of your car, your chair. I think you get the point.

The deadlift is great for preparing the body for lifting. It’s a reminder that it’s all in the legs, not in your back! It’s an example, even though it’s a linear movement, of how you need to sequence the feet with your core and upper body for the safest and strongest lifts. It’s integrated as far as I’m concerned, it’s closed chain, and its benefits transfer to life and sport. That makes it functional.

Now, once we add the element of using a single DB and throw a second plane into the mix we add additional benefits: I’ll discuss two.

  1. Using the single DB now means the body needs to create equilibrium. One side is loaded, the other is not. This means a stronger focus on proper core activation in a contralateral pattern (x-cross body) and integration of the entire kinetic chain to help create stability. Stability drives force and safety. As well, because we are moving in two planes we are also creating strength and tissue resiliency in those multiple planes. That means when you go down, or twist around to pick something up you’ll GREATLY decrease the chances of injury. Remember…you’re only strong in the direction you train.
  2. Lastly, it’s fun. It gives participants a sense of power, control, accomplishment and strength when they lift! That means they stick to exercise, which is the Prime Directive. Get people moving.

Exercise Execution:

Begin by standing with feet hip width apart, soft knees, core braced, shoulders set (elevate, protract, depress) while holding a DB in your right hand. Take a lateral step with the left leg towards your left. As your foot makes contact with the ground, create a small bend in the knee (just as you would in a stiff legged deadlift), hinge at the hips and go into your deadlift. Once you reach the bottom of the lift, begin hinging at hips, lift the left foot slightly off the floor as you reverse the movement and end up back into your starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides.

Exercise Protocol:

I find that when performing movement based/ multi-planar exercises like this they work best based on time. Generally, 30 seconds per side. Yes, you can also count reps if you like – generally, 6-10 per side.

Apply exercise based on your client’s fitness level.  In other words, regress and progress as required.

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Coach Kennedy (Kennedy Lodato) is a 27-year veteran of the fitness industry with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for teaching and running his CK Mentorships, CK Private Coaching sessions, and Fitness Educator of LIVE education to the fitness industry.

Before pursuing the role of Fitness Educator, he occupied the positions of Personal Trainer, Sport Conditioning Coach, and Personal Training Manager. Kennedy is a three-time recipient of the canfitpro PRO TRAINER of the year award, co-founder of the CFEA (Canadian Fitness Education Alliance), and master instructor for various industry companies including canfitpro and EBFA Global (Evidence Based Fitness Academy). For more information visit