Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional – Introduction
Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional: Which Is Better for You?
When it comes to deadlifts, there are lots of different options to choose from.
There is a deadlift style for every training goal!
Popular deadlift variations include:
- dumbbell deadlifts,
- kettlebell deadlifts,
- snatch grip deadlifts,
- Romanian deadlift,
- rack-pull deadlifts,
- deficit deadlifts,
- single-leg deadlifts,
- stiff leg deadlifts,
- trap bar deadlifts – the list is almost endless!
But, despite all of these options, the biggest decision most people have to make is between sumo and conventional deadlifts.
In a nutshell, with the sumo deadlift, you use a wide stance, whereas a conventional deadlift uses a narrower shoulder to hip-width stance.
In this article, we’re going to compare the sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlift so you can decide if one is better than the other for you.
To get the most from either type of deadlift, you need to do them correctly.
This will not only allow you to lift the greatest amount of weight, but it will also minimize your risk of injury.
Let’s cover sumo pulls first.
- Place your barbell on the floor.
- Load it with plates so that the bar is about 9-inches off the floor.
- Step out and into a sumo stance, with your feet around 1.5 shoulder-widths apart, toes pointing outward.
- Reach down and grab the bar with shoulder-width overhand or alternating grip.
- Your arms should be inside your legs.
- Drop your hips, lift your chest, and brace your abs, which is your starting position.
- Keeping the bar close to your shins, your arms straight, and your shoulders pulled down and back, drive your feet into the floor and stand up.
- Maintain a neutral spine throughout the lift.
- Stand fully upright and then push your hips back, bend your knees and lower the bar back to the floor.
- Reset your starting position and lift the weight again.
Sumo deadlift technique explained
Everything else is very similar:
- Keep your arms straight
- Brace your abs
- Do not round your lower back
- Keep the bar close to your legs
- Drive your feet into the floor
- Stand up straight
Muscles used in sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlifts
Both types of deadlift involve similar muscle groups.
The main muscles involved in conventional and sumo deadlifts are:
Quadriceps – the muscles on the front of your thighs, responsible for knee extension
Hamstrings – the muscles on the back of the thigh, responsible for knee flexion and hip extension
Gluteus maximus – basically your butt and responsible for hip extension
Spinal erectors – the muscles of the lower back and, in deadlifts, responsible for keeping your lumbar spine neutral, i.e., slightly arched
Trapezius and rhomboids – the muscles between and across your shoulder blades that pull your shoulders down and back
Latissimus dorsi – the muscles on the side of your upper back, responsible for shoulder extension and adduction
Core – the collective name for the muscles of your midsection, which help stabilize your spine
Hip abductors, adductors vs posterior chain
The only real difference in terms of muscle recruitment between the sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlifts is hip abductor and adductor recruitment.
In sumo deadlifts, your wider stance and externally rotated hips mean the hip adductors or inner thigh muscles, and the hip abductors or outer thigh muscles work harder than when you pull conventional.
In contrast, in the conventional stance, your posterior chain does more of the mechanical work.
So, the muscles used in the sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlifts are very similar.
That means, for the average lifter, these exercises are interchangeable.
After all, they work the same muscles, and both involve lifting a heavy weight off the floor.
But, these two exercises look and feel very different, so you may also find that one of them allows you to pull more weight than the other, or just feels more natural.
Which one is right for you?
You should do a few deadlift training cycles with each one to see which works best.
That said, there are some differences and benefits to each deadlift variation, and knowing them may make choosing the right one for you a little easier.
Conventional deadlift technique explained
Sumo deadlift vs. Conventional deadlifts – differences and benefits
In this section, we’ll compare and contrast the main characteristics of the sumo deadlift vs. the conventional deadlift, so you can begin identifying which one may be best for you.
But, as previously mentioned, the best way to decide is to try them both for a few months and see which one produces the best training results.
Lower back stress
Deadlifts can be hard on your lower back.
Of the two, sumo deadlifts tend to produce the least lower back strain.
Because the wide stance allows you to maintain a more upright torso, reducing the moment arm, which is the distance between the weight and your base of support.
If you have issues with your lower back, the barbell sumo deadlift could be your best choice.
Quadriceps vs. hamstring/glute involvement
While both exercises involve both of these muscle groups, the more bent over position in conventional deadlifts means that they tend to work the hamstrings and glutes more.
In contrast, the upright torso position in sumo deadlifts suggests that they are more quad-dominant.
Range of motion
Sumo deadlifts involve a shorter range of motion than conventional deadlifts.
The wider stance puts you closer to the bar, so you don’t have to bend over so far.
Also, you don’t have to lift the bar as high to reach lockout.
Because of this, sumo deadlifts are popular with competitive powerlifters looking to lift the greatest amount of weight.
Of these two deadlift variations, proper sumo deadlift form requires greater flexibility than conventional deadlifts.
If you aren’t flexible enough, you’ll find adopting a wide enough stance very challenging.
Even though tall and short lifters can do both deadlift variations, shorter lifters are often more suited to conventional pulls, and taller lifters usually do better with sumo.
While this is a generalization, if you are a tall lifter, you may find squatting down to do conventional deadlifts harder than the wide stance sumo version.
For building muscle
With a bigger range of motion, and more lat, erector spinae, and posterior chain involvement, conventional deadlifts are better for building muscle than sumo deadlifts.
That’s why conventional deadlifts often feature in bodybuilding back and posterior chain workouts, but sumo deadlifts don’t.
For lifting the heaviest weight
With their shorter range of motion, sumo deadlifts may allow you to lift more weight than conventional pulls.
That said, the heaviest deadlift in history was pulled conventional, and by a very tall lifter, which goes to show there are always exceptions to the rule.
But, in powerlifting meets, sumo deadlifts are often more popular than conventional pulls.
World Record Deadlift 501kg 1104.52lbs by 6’9″ tall Hafthor Bjornsson
Ease of learning
Conventional deadlifts are probably easier to learn than sumo deadlifts.
A lot of lifters only progress onto sumo, having tried conventional pulls first.
Conventional Deadlifts are quite intuitive; it’s how most people bend down to pick up an object off of the floor naturally.
Sumo pulls are less natural and may require more coaching to master.
In the world of strength and conditioning, coaches love to compare exercises to determine which one is best.
But, for sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlifts, this argument is really very pointless.
That’s because, for some lifters, the conventional pull will work the best, but for others, pulling sumo will produce better results.
It’s different strokes for different folks.
Try them both to see which one is right for you.
But, not for just a workout, a week, or a month.
Instead, commit to a full training cycle and see which one produces the best results.
It will take time to learn each one, so you can’t expect instant results.
Sumo deadlift vs. conventional: Recommended gear
All you really need for deadlifts is a suitable barbell and a stack of weight plates.
That said, there are a few additional items that might make your workouts safer, more enjoyable, or more productive.
- Increase Life of Gym Kit
- Protect Your Floor
- Reduce Impact Noise
Deadlifts, sumo or conventional, aren’t just hard on your body; they can be hard on your floor too.
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Proper deadlift technique involves keeping the bar very close to your shins.
It shouldn’t drag up your lower legs, but accidents can happen, and they hurt!
For more deadlift shin guard details, see the 5 Best Deadlift Shin Guards on the Market Today in 2020.
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Deadlifts are hard enough without having to contend with the weights sliding off your bar.
These Olympic Barbell Clamps are light and easy to use and can be fixed or removed one-handed, making adding or removing weight plates much easier.
Use in conjunction with your deadlifting barbell.
What is The BEST Type of Deadlift? (Choose Wisely!)
Sumo Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlifts – Final Thoughts
Whatever you are training for, deadlifts will help you get there faster.
Sumo and conventional deadlifts are different, and most lifters should experiment to see if one is more productive than the other.
A lot of exercisers may even want to do both variations – and why not, as they’re both GREAT exercises.
However, because of things like height, limb length, flexibility, training goals, and injury history, you may find that one deadlift suits you much better than the other.
And that’s okay too.
Whichever one you choose, deadlifts are still one of the best exercises you can do, and there is no clear winner in the sumo deadlift vs. conventional deadlift argument.
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