The model/actress/activist posted an Instagram video over the weekend of her demoing a weighted deadlift variation called “alternating suitcase deadlifts” that delivers a great core—and total-body—challenge. “And it never stops,” Campbell writes as the caption. “Keep up your grind.”
You can check out the video via @naomi here:
The point of this exercise, Campbell's trainer Joe Holder tells SELF via email, is to train the body to maintain proper form despite shifts in resistance. [Holder originally shared this move on his Instagram, @ochosystem, in October.] A unilateral (one-sided) loaded drill that includes a hinge pattern (in this case the deadlift) is a great way to train this sort of total-body stability.
The move, a beginner-friendly version of a deadlift, works your core and other muscles in your upper and lower halves.
“Seeing how the body responds to changes in its environment while still connected to base pattern is important,” Holder writes in the Instagram post that originally shared this move. “Strength is cool, but if you can’t apply it in a dynamic environment (like in life + sport), what good does it do if tension can’t be altered and controlled[?]”
In other words, doing certain variations on classic exercises, like these alternating suitcase deadlifts, is a great way to test and challenge your body in new ways and build strength that translates into everyday life (a concept known as functional exercise) and variations in movement you may need to make.
“The body has to get used to being dynamic and not just doing stagnant movements, especially when most people do not have time to do egregious strength work or maximal work, but instead want to get their body feeling better and moving well,” Holder tells SELF.
That’s where this alternating suitcase deadlift comes in. First and foremost, it is “a good beginner’s move” that can help people become comfortable with the technique for proper deadlifting, James Brewer, NYC-based certified personal trainer and certified Spin and TRX instructor, tells SELF. In a regular deadlift, you typically lift much more weight (think 45 pounds or more), which makes the OG move a great glute and hamstring strengthening exercise—but also ups your chances of inadvertently straining your back. These alternating suitcases deadlifts, on the other hand, involve much lighter weights, which reduces the strength demand on your lower half and diminishes your risk of hurting your back.
Yet just because you are using lighter weights doesn’t mean the move is easy. The alternating weight component creates a challenge for your core (more on that in a minute), working multiple muscles in your trunk, including your rectus abdominis (what you think when you think abs), transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscles that wraps around your sides and spine), and your obliques (muscles on the sides of your stomach). It also works both the front and backside of your lower half, including your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Lastly, it may not look like an upper-body exercise, but holding the weights does work your shoulders, Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based certified personal trainer, tells SELF. This move can truly be considered a total-body exercise.
Also, because the weight is lighter, you are able to perform these reps at a faster pace than with traditional deadlifts, Brewer adds. This can make the movement more of a cardio challenge, he explains.
By alternating which hand holds the weight, you are upping the stability challenge.
As you shift which side holds the weight, you increase the strength demands on one side of your body, particularly in your legs and core. The weight will naturally want to pull you to one side, and your goal—and the main challenge of this move, like Holder mentioned—is to counteract that imbalance and maintain good form.
If you’re holding the weight in your right hand, for example, you have to press down extra hard with your right foot to lift both yourself—and the weight—back up to standing, Mansour explains. You’ll also need to engage the right side of your torso from the lower ribs down to the hip bone to keep yourself steady and balanced, she says. At the same time, you’ll need strength on the left side of your waist to make sure your hips stay even and to prevent yourself from leaning over to your right side.
To reap these said total-body benefits, you need to take your time with each rep, Mansour adds. “You have to go slow to feel this in the abs.”
Here’s how to do the move:
Pick a set of light weights. Mansour recommends 3 to 5 pounds. If you don’t have weights, you can use a set of similarly weighted objects at home, like water bottles or sandbags, suggests Brewer.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips and grab one weight firmly in your right hand and place the other weight slightly in front and out to the side of your left foot.
- Engage your abs and hinge forward at your hips to push your butt straight back as you lean your upper half forward. Keep your back straight (not arched or rounded) and your arms straight.
- Looking straight ahead, keep leaning forward with your upper body until you can place the weight slightly in front and out to the side of your right foot.
- Once you’ve let go of the weight, pick up the weight on the left side of your body with your left hand.
- From here, press down evenly with both feet to return to standing while holding the weight. Keep your gaze fixed ahead.
- This is one rep. Repeat, this time setting the left weight down and grabbing the right weight.
- Do 10 reps (5 on each side). Rest and repeat two more times, for a total of 3 rounds of 10 reps each.
Make sure you press down evenly with both feet as you stand up, Mansour stresses. This “will help you maintain balance and send the work up [from your feet to your midsection] so you are working your core,” she explains. You should also keep your weight in your heels as much as possible, adds Brewer. This will help engage your glutes and hamstrings.
To make the move easier, you could alternate between reps with weights and reps without weights, suggests Brewer. You can also switch up the tempo of this move by descending for four counts and ascending on one powerful count, Brewer adds.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative by changing up other elements of this move. “Not only can you change the weight for this exercise but also tempos, ranges of motion, placement of weight, etc., for a bit of extra fun,” Holder writes in the caption. “Try it out!”