Introduction to the Sumo Deadlift
Sumo deadlifts are only one of several deadlift variations.
For example, there are:
- Stiff leg deadlifts which are also known as straight leg deadlifts
- Trap bar aka hex bar deadlifts
- Resistance band
- Dumbbell deadlifts
And sumo-style deadlifts!
Sumo and conventional deadlifts are when you pull the weight directly from the floor to the standing position.
Sumo deadlifts have become quite popular over the past decade, and that is because pulling sumo allows you to use more weight and train more efficiently.
What Is A Sumo Deadlift?
The Sumo deadlift requires a much wider stance with your legs outside of your arms and toes pointing out.
Much like the stance of a sumo wrestler.
Feet are beyond shoulder-width apart, and sometimes as wide as the collars of the bar.
Although you can pull more weight in a Sumo deadlift, they are still legal in a powerlifting competition.
Outside of the wider stance, the sumo deadlift requires the same conditions to complete a satisfactory lift as conventional, such as:
- A competitive powerlifter must start the deadlift within one minute of the announcer saying, “the bar is loaded.”
- You must complete the deadlift with shoulders back and full knee extension.
- When you finish the lift, the head referee will say “down,” at that point, you lower the barbell to the ground.
- You must keep both hands on the barbell.
- Never drop the barbell to the ground.
Check out this excellent video on how to sumo deadlift featuring @steficohen, an 11-time world champion.
Dr. Stefi Cohen sumo deadlifts 4x her body weight, which is remarkable.
You will get a good idea of how to deadlift sumo style with great tips:
Why Sumo Deadlift?
The sumo vs. regular deadlift causes debate since people argue which lift is more challenging.
However, the primary focus should be on what benefits you with performing each specific deadlift type.
There are several sumo deadlift benefits when used within an established training program.
Those who pull conventional style even do the sumo deadlift variation for a variety of reasons.
Sumo Deadlift Benefits
The advantages of the sumo deadlift go beyond the ability to pull more weight.
#1. You can initiate more leg drive utilizing your hip strength and glutes with greater emphasis.
#2. Also, the sumo deadlift targets your:
- quadriceps, and hamstring muscles, and
- the entire posterior chain, which is why many of those that pull sumo style have more massive backs.
#3. When appropriately executed, this exercise focuses on building muscle mass in the lower body, as opposed to the upper body, which is worked more extensively by the conventional deadlift.
This difference gives you a better idea of how to program sumo and conventional for training purposes.
#4. If you are looking to increase your legs’ size, sumo deadlifts are the variation to perform instead of just squats.
#5. The feet placed broader and angled out activates explosiveness along with mobility.
#6. Many people have weak groin muscles and can help strengthen them this way.
#7. Best of all, the sumo deadlift results in less shear force on your lumbar spine, which is why some physical therapists use the sumo deadlift to rehab back injuries. ¹
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Sumo Deadlift VS Conventional Deadlift
As mentioned, there is more to the differences than just foot placement.
The different muscle groups targeted makes a significant impact on your training program.
For example, you would perform sumo deadlifts when it comes to a lower-body day, but for convenience, it can serve as the primary lift for your back-focused day.
Also, the broader stance width puts you closer to the floor.
This position significantly reduces the distance to travel for the sumo vs. conventional deadlift.
Another distinction is that your arms are outside your legs in the conventional deadlift.
Whereas your arms are inside your legs in the Sumo deadlift, as mentioned above.
The biggest downside to the conventional deadlift is that it emphasizes the use of your spinal erectors as a dominant source for power and strength, which can leave them sore or worse – vulnerable to pain or injury.
Any injury will affect your squats and even bench press when that happens – negatively impacting your training program.
You may be able to pull conventional one or two days of the week while sumo two or three depending on leg conditioning.
Advantages for Your Back
Sumo deadlifts change the way everything works because you place less of the load on your lower back.
This reduction in back stress is because similar to rack pulls, your torso can be in an upright position because your toes point out at a greater angle.
This vertical position also allows you to keep your chest out to better activate your lats while squatting into the pull.
Even if you pull conventional, the sumo style will help improve your regular barbell deadlift.
Having stronger hips is one reason, and the other is because your quads and glutes develop and learn to activate.
The lats and traps get used equally, so there is no reason to be scared that your back strength will decrease from lifting sumo style.
Conventional deadlifts do not carry over to the sumo stance aside from strength and muscle activation with your hamstrings.
Other than this, not much else will help you pull well while in the sumo stance.
Sumo style is harder to lift from the floor, but once the weight moves, you can lockout faster.
Conventional, you will notice clears the floor quickly until you reach the region around your knee joints.
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How to Perform a Sumo Deadlift
Let’s take a look and see how to perform the sumo stance:
- Step up to the barbell with your shins close and stand wider than normal.
- Your feet should be beyond shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing out, angled 45 degrees or more.
- Align your chest, shoulders, and arms with the barbell.
- Do not lean your chest or shoulders over and beyond the barbell.
- Keeping your torso upright with a neutral spine, squat down to grab the bar towards the center of your legs.
- Ensure your shins touch against the bar, but are vertical to the ground.
- Use a double overhand or alternate grip, where one hand is over the bar, and the other is underneath it.
- If you use an alternating grip, switch sides now and then for balance.
- While grasping the barbell, pull the slack off by leaning back on your hips and squatting further into it.
- Maintaining this position, inhale to brace your core and begin pulling the weight up by driving your feet into the floor like squats.
- As the bar is rising, think of pushing your butt down.
- This cue will help you to use your hip extension and hip drive to complete the lift.
- Keep driving your hips forward until you are fully locked out at the knees, hips forward, and glutes squeezed.
- Lower the weight by pushing your hips back and letting the bar down to the floor.
- As always, wear the best deadlift shoes and shin guards to prevent injury and protect your legs.
Learn how to sumo deadlift from Dr. Stefi Cohen
A Quick Sumo Deadlift Tip
A quick tip for making sumo deadlifts more effective for muscle building is squeezing all your muscles in the lift’s locked-out sequence.
Also, by controlling the weight down, take approximately three seconds to settle back onto the floor.
Both tips will activate your muscles more effectively for growth.
The squeezing portion focuses mainly on quads and glutes, while the lowering phase your hamstrings and spinal erectors.
Watch the sumo deadlift movement pattern – by Jeff Nippard
Sumo Deadlift – Final Thoughts
More people know about the benefits of conventional deadlifts than sumo deadlifts.
But, you can see that there are plenty of benefits when it comes to the sumo deadlift.
You will be able to develop your lower body strength and muscles by utilizing this stance.
This advantage does not mean that you should switch over from conventional pulls but instead use both styles to be well-rounded and keep your training programs changing for more exceptional results.
A good tip for this exercise starts at 50% what you usually pull for conventional, which allows you to get used to the sumo pulls technique while also having enough weight to cause the form to break when not executed properly.
Another would be to do a proper warm-up first that focuses on your hips, quads, glutes, and groin muscles because proper hip abduction and hip external rotation are critical for a successful sumo lift.
A proper warm-up is necessary to get the benefits from sumo deadlifts without getting injured.
Remember, if you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to work out!
To sum up, the regular and sumo deadlift are two fantastic compound exercises that build strength over your entire body, and both movement patterns can change your body dramatically.
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