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Jefferson Deadlift Guide | How To, Benefits, and Mistakes

There’s no debating the fact that the popular strength sports brand Massenomics has made the Jefferson Deadlift a household name. This deadlift variation had almost been lost in the history archive until Massenomics unearthed it.

In fact, Massenomics holds a Jefferson deadlift contest every year where they give prizes away to contestants that enter. As someone who can appreciate all deadlifts, the Jefferson deadlift has been a fun exercise to experiment with.

In my Jefferson deadlift guide, I’ll cover how to perform this exercise with Tanner from Massenomics, cover some benefits of Jefferson deadlifts, and two mistakes to avoid.

The Jefferson deadlift involves performing a deadlift while straddling the barbell. Typically, the Jefferson deadlift will be a little more leg-dominant compared to something like a conventional deadlift which is more hinge-dominant.

Jefferson Deadlift Guide

How To Jefferson Deadlift

Establish your stance

The first step of nailing your Jefferson deadlift is to establish a strong stance that’s individual to you. For Jefferson deadlifts, you’re going to straddle the barbell and assume an “L-like” position with the feet.

Your stance width and foot position can vary a bit and you’ll want to play with different setups to see what feels best for you. The big thing is making sure you feel comfortable and strong with your stance and setup.

How To Jefferson Deadlift Step 1 Stance

Make sure as you establish your stance you’re centering the barbell under the hips. This will help keep the barbell balanced and prevent it from hitting the legs when you go to lift the weight.

Squat down and grab the bar

Once you’ve established your stance, you’ll then establish your grip. For Jefferson deadlifts, it’s the dealer’s choice on what grip you like to use. I’ll typically go overhand or hook grip, but you can also use mixed grip if that’s your preferred.

In general, a narrower grip where the hands are more vertical to the ground typically works well because it will give you more barbell clearance as you lift the weight.

How To Jefferson Deadlift Step 2 Grip and Squat

When you bend down the grab the barbell think “squat” and use the legs. The Jefferson deadlift will be more leg and squat-dominant compared to a conventional deadlift which is typically more hinge-dominant.

Lift and lock out

Once you’re ready to lift the weight, brace based on the load that you have on the bar, make sure your hips are centered with the barbell, and drive the legs into the floor while maintaining a more upright torso position.

The barbell should ideally not hit your legs as you perform reps and it should land around the center of your body. If you’re making contact with the barbell at the top, try bringing your grip narrower.

How To Jefferson Deadlift Step 3 Lockout

To bring the weight down, use the same squat pattern that you used to pick the weight up. Ideally, the barbell will land in a similar position to which it started.

Remember, no two Jefferson deadlifts look the same and this exercise can be really fun because it can help you learn how to self-organize with a different movement pattern that you’re not used to.

Coach’s Note: Shout out to Tanner from Massenomics for being the model athlete in the how-to for this article. Make sure you also check out our Jefferson deadlift collab video!

Jefferson Deadlift Benefits

The Jefferson deadlift is not a conventional or routinely used deadlift style. However, that doesn’t mean it’s void of benefits. Below are a couple of awesome Jefferson deadlift benefits to keep in mind.

1. It’s a Fun and Challenging Deadlift Variation

For the Jefferson deadlift, there’s a case to be made about how it can be useful for training from an asymmetrical loading context and how it requires the torso to work through a different range of motion.

However, I think the biggest benefit of the Jefferson deadlift is that it’s a fun and challenging exercise. At times, strength training can be a little boring regarding the movement patterns we’re working through.

How To Jefferson Deadlift

For example, I get tired of performing deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts every week and it can be really fun to change things up. The Jefferson deadlift will be a movement pattern that most don’t likely perform on a regular basis.

Let’s be real, when was the last time you had to pick something up by straddling it? This foreign movement pattern will cause you to have to self-organize accordingly to ensure you’re able to lift the weight on the barbell safely.

Jefferson Deadlift Benefits

In this context, this is when the old saying, “Be an athlete,” comes into play. It’s fun to try and figure out movement patterns as you go and to play with positions to see how you’re body executes when put into a unique situation.

2. You’re Honoring Thomas Jefferson

As the age-old tale goes, Thomas Jefferson was the original Founder of the Jefferson Deadlift. As told by Massenomics, in the basement of the White House, Thomas Jefferson found himself longing for a different type of exercise.

After one thing lead to another, he decided to eventually straddle a barbell and hoist it from the ground forever changing the deadlift game and creating another deadlift variation.

Jefferson Deadlift Benefit

If you can’t tell, this benefit is a little tongue and cheek. However, I do think there’s merit in continuing the lore of the Jefferson deadlift because it adds a little flavor and humor to this exercise.

Jefferson Deadlift Mistakes

When it to Jefferson deadlift mistakes there are typically two mistakes that you’ll want to avoid. In many cases, the “mistakes” that come along with Jefferson deadlifts sort themselves out as you train this exercise more.

1. Not Centering the Barbell

The first mistake to avoid with Jefferson deadlifts is not centering the barbell with the hips and your center of mass. If you’re bumping your legs when pulling the weight, then your center of mass is likely off.

Jefferson Deadlift Mistakes Barbell Centering

Make sure you check your stance and foot position, then as you squat down to grab the barbell you ideally want the hips directly over the bar. On that note, you’ll want to also account for your mechanics when doing Jefferson deadlifts.

For example, if you hinge a lot in this exercise, then you may find that starting the barbell a little forward versus directly under the hips allows you to lift the weight without bumping your legs and finishing with it centered.

2. Hinging a Little Too Much

There’s nothing wrong with adding a little more hinge to your Jefferson deadlift if that feels natural and stronger for you, however, there’s a fine line you’ll want to pay attention to when doing so.

Jefferson Deadlift Mistakes Too Much Hinge

In many cases, I think some lifters default to hinging more because they hear “deadlift”, but in reality, the Jefferson deadlift is a little more squatting in nature regarding your leg position and how much knee flexion you’ll need.

When in doubt, play with reps with different degrees of hip and knee flexion to see what feels best for you. At the end of the day, we want to avoid lifting straight up with the back, so adding a little more leg involvement is never a bad call.

3. Going Too Heavy Too Fast

The last mistake that I want to cover and this is a mistake that stems from my own inability to taper my own progressions sometimes is to not load your Jefferson deadlifts crazy fast right out of the gate.

Jefferson Deadlift Mistake Too Fast Too Quick

Like any new exercise, give yourself a little time to learn it and expose yourself to the stressors it’s going to create on your body. Jefferson deadlifts are a little more squatty, so you’ll likely be able to lift a fair amount.

However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should right away. Feel out the exercise and if you feel confident and strong in the positions you’re moving through, grip and rip it. For most lifters, though, ease in. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the point of a Jefferson deadlift?

The Jefferson deadlift will train your legs, core, back, and grip. However, I'd argue that the main point of Jefferson deadlifts is to perform them for fun and to expose yourself to a different movement pattern.

What is the heaviest Jefferson deadlift ever?

The heaviest Jefferson deadlift to date is 910 lbs and it's held by Mark Rosenberg also known as deadliestlift on Instagram.

Takeaway Thoughts

While it may be unconventional in nature, the Jefferson deadlift can be a fun exercise to perform and explore. More than likely, you’ve never performed this deadlift variation and I think it’s worth a try at least for one workout session.

The ability to adapt and self-organize to complete successful reps for various exercises is one of the beauties of training in general. As my dad used to say, “Be an athlete”.

This saying takes many forms and in the context of Jefferson deadlifts, it means, you know what you need to do with the barbell, now figure out how to position yourself to do it safely.

If you have additional questions about the Jefferson deadlift, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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