What Exactly is a Sumo Deadlift?
Sumo deadlifts are one of several types of deadlift variations. For example, there are:
- Stiff leg deadlift which is also known as straight leg deadlift
- Romanian deadlifts
- Trap bar deadlifts aka hex bar deadlifts
- Conventional style deadlift
- 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. The Sumo deadlift requires a much wider stance with your legs outside of your arms. Much like the stance of a sumo wrestler.
Feet are beyond shoulder width apart, and sometimes as wide as by the collars of the bar.
Despite the fact that 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”, and 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 who is an 11-time world champion. Dr. Cohen can sumo deadlift 4x her bodyweight which is remarkable. You will get a good idea of how to deadlift sumo style with great tips:
Why Sumo Deadlifts Are So Good For You
The sumo deadlift vs conventional causes a great debate because many argue over how much range of motion is being used to perform either lift. However, the main focus should be what benefits you with performing each specific deadlift type. There are several sumo deadlift benefits for you especially when they are placed within an established training program, and those that pull conventional even do this method for a variety of reasons.
What are the Most Important Sumo Deadlift Benefits?
The advantages of the sumo deadlift go beyond the ability to pull more weight. During this stance, you are able to initiate more leg drive utilizing your hip strength and glutes with greater emphasis. You are also using your adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings muscle greatly on top of your entire posterior chain. This is why many of those that pull with a wider stance have large backs still.
When executed properly muscle building with this exercise is mainly focused on the lower body. As opposed to the upper body which is worked more extensively by the conventional deadlift. This gives you a better idea of how to program them for training purposes. Basically, if you are looking to increase the size of your legs then sumo deadlifts are the variation to perform instead of just squats.
You can also benefit from the wide stance through strength and conditioning. The feet placed wider and angled out activate explosiveness along with mobility. Many have a weak groin muscle and can help strengthen it this way.
Sumo Deadlift VS Conventional Deadlift
As mentioned there is more to the differences than just foot placement. The different muscle groups being utilized make a big impact on your training program. For example, as mentioned you would perform sumo deadlifts when it comes to a lower body day, but for conventional, it is actually the big lift for your back focused day.
In addition, the wider stance width puts you closer to the floor. This 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 pull is that it emphasizes the use of your spinal erectors as a dominant source for power and strength, which leaves them easily sore the following day. This will affect your squats and even bench press when it happens – leaving your training program possibly ruined. You may be able to pull conventional two days of the week while sumo three or more depending on leg conditioning.
Sumo deadlifts change the way everything works because you place less of the load on your lower back. The reason for this is because similar to rack pulls, your torso is able to be in an upright position from your feet pointed out at a greater angle. This upright position also allows you to keep your chest out to activate your lats better while squatting into the pull.
Even if you pull conventional the sumo style we are focused on will help improve them. 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 your back strength will decrease pulling this way.
Conventional deadlifts do not really 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 a wider stance. Sumo style is harder to clear the floor, but once the weight moves you can lockout faster. Conventional you will notice clears the floor fast until you reach the region around your knee joints.
How to Perform a Sumo Deadlift
Let’s take a look and see how to perform the sumo stance:
- Step up to the loaded bar on the floor with your shins close and stand wider than normal.
- Feet should be beyond shoulder width apart and angled outwards 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 under.
- If you use an alternating grip, switch sides every now and then for balance.
- While grasping the bar, pull the slack off by leaning back on your hips squatting further into the position.
- Maintaining this position, inhale to brace your core and begin pulling the weight up by driving your feet into the floor just like squats.
- As the bar is rising, think of pushing your butt down.
- This 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 back down to the floor by pushing your hips back and letting the bar down to the floor.
A Quick Sumo Deadlift Tip
A quick tip for making sumo deadlifts more effective for muscle building is squeezing all your muscles when in the locked-out sequence of the lift. Also by controlling the weight down taking approximately three seconds for the weight 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.
The Most Effective Way to Sumo Deadlift for Muscle and Strength by Jeff Nippard
Final Thoughts on Sumo Deadlifts Benefits
More people know about the benefits of conventional deadlifts than sumo deadlifts. But, you can see that there are plenty of benefits to receiving when it comes to the sumo deadlift. You will definitely be able to develop your lower body strength and muscles by utilizing this stance. This is not to say switch over from conventional pulls, but rather to use both styles to be well rounded and keep your training programs changing for greater results.
A good tip for this exercise starts at 50% what you normally pull for conventional. This allows you to get used to the sumo pulls technique while also having enough weight to possibly cause the form to break when not executed properly. Another would be to do a good warm up first that focuses on your hips, quads, glutes, and groin muscles. This is definitely necessary to get the benefits from sumo deadlifts without getting injured.