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Building Muscle and Strength with The Sumo and Conventional Deadlift

The Sumo and Conventional Deadlift are both excellent ways to build strength. Considering that you will be able to lift more weight with the deadlift (in either form) that any other barbell movement, it stands to reason that this needs to be an essential part of your training regimen.

In comparison to a Conventional Deadlift, the Sumo Deadlift requires a much wider stance with the weight pulled from the floor with the arms positioned inside the legs. Both are highly technical lifts if you want to do do them well. Both will give you plenty of bang for your buck.


The best way to find which type of Deadlift is optimal for you is to train each one specifically for a few months at sub-maximal loads and stick with the one that is stronger and more comfortable for you. You can use each respective training period to pinpoint weaknesses. Your hip structure impacts your strength and comfort in the conventional and sumo deadlift much more than factors like your height and/or the length of your limbs.

During this time make sure to use a decent pair of lifting shoes such as the adidas Powerlift 3.1 and be consistent, so that you will ensure that you collect fair data about each trial. These will also provide you with a solid platform to generate power and force from.

For power and performanceSource: adidas
For power and performance

Neither lift is ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ than the other, it comes down to individual preferences, but conventional pulls are a little easier on your quads, and sumo pulls are a little easier on your back. Hip extension demands are nearly identical between the conventional and Sumo Deadlift variations.


Most lifters and athletes tend to gravitate towards the conventional Deadlift, but it is worth taking the time to discover if the Sumo Deadlift is in fact even better for someone of your build and qualities.

Sumo Deadlift Pull
Sumo Deadlift pull

Advantages of the Sumo Deadlift

  • Powerful exercise to help develop your hips and entire posterior chain
  • Doesn’t require as much ankle or t-spine mobility
  • Perfect for those with poor mobility who can’t get in the proper position for conventional deadlifts
  • It shortens the range of motion of the pull
  • It works your hips more
  • It’s less stressful on the low back

Typically the sumo deadlift is suited for a lifter that has more of a typical “squatter” build. People with thicker legs and hips can typically pull sumo well.



Start with a moderate stance until you feel confident with the foot positioning. The Sumo Deadlift is typically harder to get moving off the floor and easier to lock out, so don’t go so wide that you can’t even get the bar moving. Get your toes pointed towards the plates so that your femur and kneecap are in line with your toes. Root your feet into the ground.

Sumo Deadlift set up young male athleteSource: Zamuruev
Get set up correctly!

Hip position

Ideally you want to get your hips as close to the barbell as possible to improve leverage. think about getting your hips in a low enough position that you can keep your back straight whilst maintaining hamstring tension.

Body behind the bar

You want to keep your chest up with shoulders over the bar as you lift. Wedge the hips in, rather than trying to stand.

Boris Shieko “Imagine that you were deadlifting in a very narrow corridor with a wall about ½” in front of your knees and chest and ½” behind your butt. As you get to the bar, don’t let your knees, chest or butt touch the wall.”


Shoot the hips through. Focus on driving your hips into the bar to finish with a smooth lockout.


The adidas Powerlift 3.1 is a breathable, supportive shoe built with a stable, comfortable fit.

Green Powerlift with legsSource: adidas
Lift from a solid foundation

The lightweight synthetic upper provides durability and support, while a midfoot strap secures the fit. I have lifted in these for a while and am continually impressed by the outstanding durability that the Adiwear outsole and tough materials provide.

conventional deadliftSource: adidas
Stylish and functional

They are a great choice for Deadlifting as the solid sole makes it easy to generate power and to root your feet into the ground.

adidas powerlift 3.1 soleSource: adidas
Sole view


Advantages of the Conventional Deadlift

  • Develop a powerful posterior chain
  • Build solid full body strength

Great form is absolutely essential for both types of Deadlift. The fastest way to increase your Deadlift is to improve your form. Lifting with poor form will probably result in injury or a complete lack of progress. By pulling more efficiently, you can use your muscles more effectively and lift heavier weights.

This results in more strength and muscle gains. The best way to improve your form is by practicing Deadlifts with proper form. Sounds obvious but it’s true.


Walk to the bar

Stand with your mid-foot under the bar. Your shins shouldn’t touch it yet. Put your heels hip-width apart, narrower than on Squats. Point your toes out 15°.

Grab the bar

Bend over without bending your legs. Grip the bar narrow, about shoulder-width apart like on the Overhead Press. Your arms must be vertical when looking from the front.

Bend your knees

Drop into position by bending your knees until your shins touch the bar. Do NOT let the bar move away from your mid-foot. If it moves, start from scratch with step one.

Lift your chest

Straighten your back by raising you chest. Do not change your position – keep the bar over your mid-foot, your shins against the bar, and your hips where they are.


Take a big breath, hold it and stand up with the weight. Keep the bar in contact with your legs while you pull. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top. Lock your hips and knees.


  1. Never bend your elbows
  2. Keep heels hip width apart and narrower than your squat stance
  3. Your bar path should trace a vertical line over your mid-foot (when viewed from the side
  4. Maintain a neutral lower back
  5. Keep your traps relaxed, don’t shrug at the top


When it comes to the grip, there are many variations depending on the preferences of the respective athlete and the type of Deadlift they are using.

Mixed grip

This means that one hand is pronated (pointed inwards, overhand) and the other is supinated (pointed outwards). Experiment to find which way feels more natural to you. This will give you a solid, secure feel on the bar, and will stop any rotating of the barbell during the lift.

Overhand Hook Grip

This involves both hands being placed in a pronated position, with both thumbs locked into place by hook grip. Hook grip is the technique where you grip the bar with your thumb and palm before locking it in place by wrapping your thumbs over the top.

hook grip technique
Get your Hook Grip right and you will improve your lifts

Hook grip will enable you to lift heavy weights securely. At first it feels tremendously uncomfortable as your thumb is crushed into place, but you will get used to this.

Double Overhand Grip

This is the same as the above lift, minus the hook grip. You will simply not be able to hold onto as much weight with this method, but it is a great way to train your grip strength as well. Many lifters use this method in their warm up sets, and switch to another method once the weights start stacking up. Give it a go.

Green adidas powerlift 3.1Source: adidas
adidas Powerlift 3.1 in raw green / ash green

Lifting with straps

Straps help to stop your grip becoming the limiting factor when you Deadlift. Don’t use them all the time though. You don’t need them on lighter lifts, so be intelligent about when you choose to use them in your training.


To improve your lockout, try using hip-hinging exercises such as:

  • Pull throughs,
  • RDLs,
  • Hip thrusts
  • Barbell glute bridges

Banded Deadlifts and even clean pulls can be useful for improving power from the floor, and try Deadlifting from blocks to strengthen your lifts from as many different angles as possible. Snatch grip Deadlifts are also especially taxing and effective as well.

Even if you are not as familiar with the Sumo Deadlift, don’t write it off as it may even be a more effective way for you to lift. Otherwise, alternating between the different Deadlifting variations will help you to improve in new ways.

Enhance your lifts now

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