How Do You a Single Handed Dead Lift? 1920s Style

Image of Thomas Inch Deadlifting

The following post is taken directly from Thomas Inch’s 1920s work, On Strength. Inch, as we have previously discussed on Physical Culture Study, was one of the early and influential British physical culturists. Inch was a weightlifter, weightlifting organizer and a prolific writer. He wrote for several decades with Health and Strength magazine, likely contributed to Arthur Saxon‘s physical culture books and wrote several of his own.

This post comes from Inch’s work with the British Amateur Weightlifting Association (BAWLA). BAWLA was Britain’s first formal weightlifting association. Although it’s early news were quite turbulent – BAWLA disappeared for several years – it nevertheless offered a space of early British weightlifters to compete against one another. Halfway through his book on strength Inch included a comprehensive list of the lifts that BAWLA tested.

Importantly BAWLA was not like modern weightlifting or powerlifting federations. Its remit was not limited to two or three lifts but rather to dozens! Thus it was possible to compete at a BAWLA event in anything from a bent press to a one handed dumbbell press. Many of these weird and wonderful lifts are no longer used. The single hand deadlift is one such example.

If you want an insight into how to impress your gym buddies, or even to try something different in your own training, check out Inch’s thoughts on the one armed deadlift. While some may argue that this is nothing more than a suitcase deadlift, Inch’s description is rather different in application. If nothing else it demonstrates how the Iron Game, and the exercises people use, have evolved.

For this lift you should hold a cambered bar in the hand, which has been previously resined, with the bend away, so that it will roll back into the hand when the test comes along. Hollow the back as shown and use the legs as much as possible, keep on pulling even if you think that the grip is giving away. Don’t forget to press hard on the knee with the disengaged hand.

This lift accustoms one to handle heavy weights and is a fine exercise. To my way of thinking the records are not high and there is plenty of opportunity for lifters to increase upon present figures.

I will pay those interested to study the advice regarding grip development found elsewhere in this book, because the grip plays a most important part. The writer always had a good grip and had it not been for an accident to his knee, would doubtless have put up a much bigger record than that standing to his name, for, as far as grip goes, he has lifted 500 lbs., just under the knee but was unable to stand erect with same.

There are many different ways of holding the bar in the hand, including a useful one with the thumb turned under alongside the forefinger; try various methods until you find which suits you.

I trained an 11 stone 7 pound lifter to lift 440 lbs. single-handed and he lifted with hand dead over the bar.

Source: Thomas Inch, On Strength (London: Health & Strength: c. 1920s).

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