Starting to see some guys working out with Russian swings used heavy dumbbells or self made kettlebells.. Guys be swinging around over 300 pounds for high reps.

This looks like a really cool exercise that tires you out really fast. Tried with half of my bodyweight and my back was burning hot and pumped about to explode in like 6 reps, my shoulders an arms were starting to fatigue after like 15 reps in.

Surely the deadlift let's you lift more weight, but what's the point if it only works my back and lower body? Never got an arm workout from deadlifts but it seems I get a good whole body workout from a few swings.

I'm also considering clean and snatches or atlas stone lifts but they seem too technical, is it even possible to learn then without a trainer just by following tutorials or should I just focus on what I know?

And at this point, are deadlifts even worth it?

  • I would argue that deadlifts work nearly every muscle in your body, being the best compound exercise out there. But I am willing to be proven wrong! Oct 20, 2020 at 20:57
  • @ThatOneNerdyBoy someone ever git big arms/chest/shoulders from deads?
    – user34224
    Oct 21, 2020 at 22:46
  • 1
    @Bes why should someone try to build their chest and their glutes with the same exercise? Oct 22, 2020 at 10:43
  • @Bes Strong? Yes. Big? No. That is why it is a compound exercise. I don't know of any compound exercise that will make every muscle it works "big", per se. However, that is not the point of deadlifts, nor should it be the point of any exercise. Isolation is for being specific, compounds are for general strength. Oct 22, 2020 at 13:31
  • @ThatOneNerdyBoy squats, dips, pull ups, rows, bench press, vertical presses, farmer walks... All those compound movements grow multiple muscle groups.
    – user34224
    Oct 22, 2020 at 13:39

1 Answer 1


Two perspectives.

1. It depends

Whether deadlifts are worth it if you're already doing heavy swings depends on what you're training for. The swings get more of your arms, but I don't deadlift for my arms much. I don't mind that they increase grip strength and require some bicep activation but that's not the point.

Are you trying to sweaty that works the whole body? Is your goal to get tired fast? Then swing. If you're trying to develop maximal strength in your posterior chain, lats, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, then deadlift.

Use the tool which helps you achieve your goals.

2. Deadlifts are worth it

Maximal strength

Swings are great, but the deadlift is something else. It's definitely possible to avoid the deadlift and still build incredible maximal strength, but the people who do tend to either train like madmen or be genetic outliers. People who do cleans, snatches, Atlas stone lifts, and very heavy swings but not deadlift tend to train with high frequency and intensity. They can trust their back strength for those other lifts. If you're not particularly athletic and strength-trained, I recommend some caution with lifts that involve a lot of back strain in positions that can easily become compromised, as the fast and odd lifts do.

Parts of the body

Surely the deadlift let's you lift more weight, but what's the point if it only works my back and lower body

The point is working the back and lower body against greater resistance? That's why most people deadlift--for maximal strength in their back and lower body. Those parts of the body are much stronger than the arms, so if one does an exercise that taxes the arms, it might not challenge the muscles behind the hinge movement. Consider the fact that you maybe should want to train maximal strength in your back and legs rather than use a "cool exercise" to get a whole-body pump going. Some people call this the distinction between "training" (improving yourself systematically) and "exercising" (getting sweaty & tired without a concrete plan).

Drawbacks of only doing explosive exercises

Say you don't care about maximal strength. That's valid! But the swing is a fast, dynamic, explosive exercise. The deadlift can improve and use those attributes, but is much more slow and controlled. This makes it a good weapon to have in your arsenal for when you're feeling sluggish or beat up but still want to train. Truly heavy swings require more coordination to stay injury-free than a similarly challenging deadlift, because there's less room for error while hitting reps at a fast clip.

I wonder if the people you see swinging 300 pounds were able to do so by deadlifting too. It's likely they did.

The deadlift is the deadlift

I also firmly believe that people who have never pushed their deadlift don't have the experience necessary to understand its benefits. It's just not possible to explain, the same way words are insufficient to communicate the feeling of cardio fitness or the feeling of properly executing highly technical gymnastic or dance movements. To legitimately compare the deadlift to other exercises, you must train it to at least a baseline level, which I consider to be double bodyweight for men who are at least semi-athletic.

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