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Best Guide to the Sumo Deadlift – Benefits, Muscles Worked, Technique Tips and More

Raise your strength game and skills.

Everything you need to know about the Sumo Deadlift, an occasionally controversial, often misunderstood and always excellent barbell strength exercise.

What is the Sumo Deadlift?

The Sumo Deadlift is a variation with a much wider leg stance than the conventional Deadlift.

Lifters perform the exercise with their hands inside the thighs, instead of outside as in the case of the latter.

Due to the reduced range of motion many athletes can pull more weight with the Sumo Deadlift

Table of Contents

Benefits of the Sumo Deadlift

Muscles Worked by the Sumo Deadlift

How to Sumo Deadlift with Proper Technique

What is the Difference Between Conventional and Sumo Deadlift?

Should I Use Conventional or Sumo Deadlift? Which One is Best for Me?

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

Variations of the Sumo Deadlift

Sumo Deadlift FAQs

Benefits of the Sumo Deadlift

Check out these reasons why you need to include the lift in your training.

The Sumo Deadlift Builds Impressive Strength and Muscle

Like any Deadlift variation the Sumo is an excellent way to build strength, muscle and mental fortitude.

It will significantly improve pulling power because it allows you to lift more weight (in most cases) than other types of Deadlift. Shifting higher loads will, of course, make you stronger.

When you change back to conventional Deadlift you will notice how useful this new strength will be, especially in the top lock out portion of the lift.

The Sumo Deadlift Places Less Stress on the Lower Back

In order to perform the lift correctly you will need to adopt a more upright torso position. The positioning of your feet will force you into this posture if you want to complete each rep.

This places much less stress on the lower back, which in turn is great for any lifter that wants to limit stress to the lower back or target different parts of the pulling motion. This will also help monitor training volume to the erectors and strengthen the core in a slightly different way.

The Sumo Deadlift is Beginner Friendly

The wide stance of the Sumo and the narrow arm position reduce the range of motion for the barbell.

Lose-fat-maintain-muscleSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc
Challenge yourself

This means that most people can lift more weight with this style. As discussed above, there is also less stress placed on the lower back, and these elements combine to make the Sumo generally favoured by beginner lifters.

The Sumo Deadlift Works Emphasises Muscles in Different Ways to the Conventional Deadlift

The Sumo places more pressure on the glutes because of the internal hip rotation. The inner quads (vastus medialis) must also work harder than during the conventional Deadlift.

This is because of the wide foot placement. Knowing this, you can then decide what you want to develop and strengthen and which Deadlift form will be the best tool for the job.  

Muscles Worked by the Sumo Deadlift

The Sumo works the following muscles:

  • Lower Back (Erector Spinae)
  • Back Muscles and Traps
  • Hamstrings
  • Quads
  • Glutes

Lower Back (Erector Spinae)

The vertical torso position tests and improves the lower back muscles.

Back Muscles and Traps

The Sumo is not just effective for developing the Erector Spinae but will enhance your entire back. The Trapezius must work hard to balance and control the load as well.

Hamstrings

The wide foot position and angle of the hips place great emphasis and stress on the hamstrings. You will build a strong and powerful posterior chain with the Sumo Deadlift.

Quads

The Sumo variation forces the quads to work even harder than the conventional, trap bar or Romanian Deadlift.

Glutes

During the bar path of the Sumo Deadlift the hips are placed in external rotation.

This means that the glutes need to fire and work hard as well. If you want to build stronger glutes then the Sumo is one of your best bets.

How to Sumo Deadlift with Proper Technique

  1. Adopt a wide stance and set your feet up pointing out at 45-degree angles
  2. Reach down and grip the bar (pronated or mix grip)
  3. Bend at the hip and establish a solid straight back to get into the starting position
  4. Inhale and brace your core, glutes, grip and body
  5. Lift the bar by driving through the floor with your feet and keep your chest proud
  6. Lift until full extension
  7. Lower the bar back to the floor
  8. Exhale
  9. Repeat for the pre-determined number of reps

Training Tips

Make sure your feet and legs are wide enough apart that you can easily place your arms between them.

Keep the barbell against the legs and body throughout the full range of motion.

Keep your lats fired and strong at all times.

What is the Difference Between Conventional and Sumo Deadlift?

There are major differences between the conventional and Sumo Deadlift. Understanding these will help you know when to use each variation depending on your body type and goal.

These are stance, bar path and muscle stress.

Stance

The Sumo utilises a much wider stance than the conventional Deadlift

Bar Path

The Sumo Deadlift has a shorter bar path and range of motion than the conventional Deadlift.

Muscle Stress

The Sumo places more stress on the glutes and quads than the conventional Deadlift. The latter also places more stress on the lower back (spinal erectors).

Should I Use Conventional or Sumo Deadlift? Which One is Best for Me?

Both the Sumo and conventional Deadlifts are hugely effective compound exercises.

The easiest way to find which one you prefer is to try them both. Train both types equally for 2-3 months then see how you feel at the end of the training experiment.

Ask yourself which feels more natural, stronger?

Also find out which feels best for both submaximal (around 70-80% of your 1RM) and 1RM attempts.

sumo deadlift vs conventional deadliftSource: Unsplash
Stay strong

After this time, you will earn a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the movement and how that fits to your personal preferences and body shape.

You can also use the numbers you gain (submaximal and 1RM) from lifts to make deductions about your own strengths and weaknesses.

For example, if your conventional Deadlift feels stronger with submaximal loads, but your Sumo 1RM is higher, then you can deduce that your back is weak. 

On the other hand, if your Sumo lift is better with submaximal loads, but your conventional 1RM is higher, then it is fairly probable that your quads are weak.

Generally speaking, if a lifter is on the shorter side with shorter arms, then the Sumo Deadlift may not be the best variation for them.

Sumo Deadlift Alternatives

Add these alternatives into your training.

1. Rack Pull

The Rack Pull is a fantastic alternative that will enable you to load up the barbell with some heavy weight and practice a specific portion of the lift.

The limited range of motion is a great way to add variety and alternate stimulus into your training.

The extra weight that you can rack will help build muscle and strength.

2.Barbell Hip Thrusts

Barbell Hip Thrusts are another excellent way to enhance and challenge the hamstrings and glutes.

They are a great addition to any leg training or posterior chain day session.

The improved strength benefits have applicable and real carry over effects to your Sumo Deadlift as well.

Note: The Barbell Hip Thrust can place a great deal of stress or discomfort on the hips so use a pad if you need to.

3.Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is one of the best exercises to torch your hamstrings. You can also easily substitute the barbell for dumbbells or kettlebells if you want to keep your body guessing.

Variations of the Sumo Deadlift

Try these additional variations as well.

Sumo Deadlift FAQs

Got more questions?

Why is Sumo Deadlift Cheating?

The Sumo Deadlift is not “cheating”. A common misconception, some people seem to think of the Sumo as a cheating version of the conventional Deadlift. This is an erroneous idea.

The Sumo Deadlift has a shorter range of motion but, exactly like other forms of Deadlift, has all the excellent strength and muscle building capabilities as the big compound lifts.

Why is Sumo Deadlift so much Easier?

The Sumo Deadlift is sometimes seen as technically easier than conventional but this does also depend on personal anatomy.

 The Sumo is easier on the lower back because of the angle of the torso during the lift. It is not easier on the glutes and quads, which have to work harder than during a conventional lift.

Is Deadlifting Sumo Better?

Honestly, both lifts are excellent in their own respective ways. We would recommend doing both in order to maximise your gains, strength and progress. Use your knowledge to know when and why to use the different lifts.  

Both deadlift variations are safe as long as you use proper form.

Can you Deadlift More with Sumo?

Most athletes can lift more with the Sumo Deadlift because it requires a shorter range of motion. However, Sumo demands more hip, glute and quad strength and conventional requires greater lower back and hamstring strength.

The Sumo Deadlift

If you enjoyed this article and want to further your strength knowledge and gains then check out these guides to the Zercher Squat, Hack Squat, Close Grip Bench Press or Bulgarian Split Squat.

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