The traditional deadlift should be a staple strength exercise in any program, but sometimes you want to mix things up to promote variability in your training. One of my favorite non-traditional barbell exercises is the deadlift side step (DSS).
The Deadlift Side Step
- Greater activation of the glutes. The band activates gluteal fibers that resist hip internal rotation and abduction during the deadlift and Romanian deadlift, and it provides strong resistance during the side step portion of the exercise to increase strength in the frontal plane.
- Greater activation of the quadratus lumborum (QL). The QL is one of the most important muscles to strengthen since it’s a key stabilizer of the pelvis. The side step requires intense activation of the QL muscles to keep your pelvis stable.
- Greater metabolic cost. The DSS requires significantly more muscle activation than a traditional deadlift, which greatly increases the metabolic cost. You might be surprised how quickly you’ll gas during this exercise.
- Less stress to the lumbar spine. I actually came up with the DSS as a way to help athletes overcome low back pain during the deadlift. The side step with a resistance band activates key stabilizers throughout the trunk, pelvis, and hips that spare the lumbar spine during the deadlift portion of the exercise.
How to Do It
- Start with a load that’s approximately your 10-rep max for a traditional deadlift.
- Place a strong resistance band directly above your knees.
- Pull the barbell from the floor, or any resting position that suits your mobility, and then take one step to your right with each foot while keeping your feet wider than shoulder width.
- Next, take one step with each foot to your left, and lower the barbell back to the floor to give your grip a quick break.
- Pull the barbell from the floor again, take one step with each foot to your left, and then one step with each foot to your right. Finally, lower the barbell back to the floor.
That sequence is one “rep.” Perform 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps.