I tried the Jefferson lift and it comes much more naturally to me than conventional deadlifts. But I can't find any quality research on this lift. I am especially interested in muscle activation and risk of back injury.

  • Natural or easier? :p – Kneel-Before-ZOD Jan 21 '15 at 23:45
  • Both! But by "natural" I mean that I feel efficient with very little research and form tweaking. Whereas I've spent a lot of time researching and practicing conventionals and they still feel awkward. – default.kramer Jan 22 '15 at 1:20
  • Guess there isn't much if any. I do know that both Dan John and Bret Contreras work this into their routines. – Ellocomotive Jul 16 '15 at 20:59

This is a great question. David Dellanave, a well-known coach, 2012 world-record holder in the Jefferson deadlift, and the author of Off the Floor: A Manual for Deadlift Domination, has a pretty good page has this to say about the "why":

Let’s get the reasoning for doing this awkward looking lift out of the way first. Here’s the short version: because you’re weak. Maybe that’s not entirely fair, but I’d be willing to bet it’s true that you are weak outside the ranges of motion that you’re accustomed to. For most people, these are very sagital-plane dominant squats and deadlifts.

The benefits: doing Jeffersons will help strengthen your conventional deadlift; Dellanave also says it can benefit people with back pain but I don't have any evidence to support that.

  • Everyone is "weak" at exercises they don't do, I think it takes a little more than that to justify prioritizing one movement over another. – Eric Jan 29 '15 at 22:02
  • I wouldn't say that DDN prioritizes Jeffersons over conventional deadlifts; if you read the linked article or his book, you'll see that he views them as an alternative and/or accessory lift, not a replacement. While I don't want to put words in his mouth, I don't think he's saying "do Jeffs because you are weak at doing Jeffs"; he is saying "do Jeffs because your body is almost certainly weak in off-center movements and strengthening those movements will help your conventional deads." – paulr Jan 30 '15 at 12:27
  • Thank you for your answer. I don't doubt that Dellanave is very strong, but deadliftoffthefloor.com is just painful to read. For example, "Discover How A Skinny Computer Nerd From Minnesota Uncovered A Little-Known Secret That Skyrocketed His Deadlift From 245 Pounds to Over 600 Pounds." And "A New York Times Best-Selling Fitness Author Was PISSED That I Wouldn’t Share This Information." This writing style destroys his credibility for me. – default.kramer Feb 8 '15 at 19:27
  • The marketing lingo, while over the top, is sadly typical of what most fitness coaches who sell training over the Internet are doing. His occasional email newsletters, and the book itself, are of much higher quality. – paulr Feb 9 '15 at 19:22

I've been doing the Jefferson lift for years. I suffer from frequent sciatic pain due to slight scoliosis, and I find this lift to be the most back friendly of the the Squat/Deadlift type exercises. Would like to see a "Delavier" type comparison between the conventional DL and the Jefferson, but I find it to a be a move I can do with little or back stress.


I do Jeffersons, wouldn't dream of doing regular deadlifts as I have lower back pain issues. I would think that legs and hamstrings are more brought into action by Jeffersons as I get lower to pick the barbell.

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